Italian-born explorer Henri de Tonti is important to Illinois history

Dec 05, 2023 723

BY: Bill Dal Cerro

Chicago Buildings Commissioner Matthew W. Beaudet’s beautiful op-ed on Native American culture via Chicago history is spot-on. Bravo. I do have one caveat, though: Henri de Tonti, while associated with French exploration, was actually Italian (Enrico), a native of Gaeta, located between Rome and Naples. As Italy wasn’t a fully reunified nation until 1870, many Italian explorers like Tonti farmed their talents out to other nations.

For example: John Cabot (real name: Giovanni Caboto) sailed for England in 1497. Amerigo Vespucci sailed for Spain (1497) and then for Portugal (1504). Alessandro Malaspina, who mapped out the West Coast from California to Alaska, sailed for Spain in 1789. And Giacomo Beltrami, a native of Bergamo, Italy, worked for many European cities before breaking out on his own to America, where he noted the source of the Mississippi River in 1832.

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