Young street musicians of the 19th century: two escapees from child slavery

The articolo tells the story of Bernardo Roselli. Fu un ragazzino di 8 anni quando arrived negli Stati Uniti dall’Italia. Era controllato dal suo padrone, Saverio Gallo. Rosselli arrived da bambino per lavorare. Per due anni, dovette suonare il violino nelle strade di New York per i soldi e dovette dare tutti i soldi a Gallo. Dopo due anni, fuggì da Gallo e visse una vita difficult, cercando i lavori per campare. At 30, Roselli has a great career as a musician. Fece tanti spettacoli, specially a Los Angeles dove screwed by an adult. L’articolo continued con altre story strazianti di qualche ragazzini che furono maltratti quando arrivedrono negli Stati Uniti.

Italians had to deal with various stereotypes on the way to full acceptance in the American melting pot. Even today, some say we haven’t “melted” yet. The iconic barrel organ player with his monkey and pewter goblet is a holdover from the days when vendors of all types and nationalities lived on the streets. A tragic phase of this very public job saw Italians as young as nine begging as traveling musicians on street corners in New York and other major cities.

Sadly, children arriving from Italy in the 19th century were often entangled in a system that mimicked slavery. The traffic in exploited Italian children was so extensive that between 1855 and 1874 over 100 advertisements appeared in the New York Herald for the return of “lost” Italian boys. They were child musicians, musicanti vagabondi, who had escaped their exploiters, not their families.

$50 reward — LOST, ITALIAN BOY, ANSWERING ten-year-old Bernardo Roselli. New York Herald, July 8, 1869.

Bernardo Roselli was born on February 13, 1859 in Saponara in the Province of Basilicata. Her 30-year-old father, Marco, is listed as a contadino on the birth certificate. After arriving on the steamer Bellona on July 24, 1867, eight-year-old Bernardo traveled with a group of 32 other Italians, most of whom listed their professions as artists or musicians on the ship’s manifesto. Thirteen of the Italian passengers were male and only one was female. The other 19 members of the group were boys under the age of 10 who had been kidnapped or hired out to maestri by their parents. One of the adults accompanying the children was Saverio Gallo, later revealed to be Roselli’s padrone, who soon coerced the young boy into playing the violin on the streets of New York.

Roselli fled on April 28, 1869, after enduring two years of servitude. His maestro, listed as S. Gallo de Elizabeth St., ran an ad for a $30 reward in the May 7 edition of the Herald. The advertisement noted that Roselli was portly, wore a “military cap” and danced while playing the violin. The youngster must have been a particularly talented performer as Gallo repeatedly posted awards for the runaway’s return to his Elizabeth Street address over the next 11 months. His advice bears a distinct resemblance to the rewards once offered to runaway slaves.

After successfully fleeing his master, Roselli remained in New York. Years later, a July 21, 1889, article in the New York Sun detailed his employment at Antonio Tiscanzo, an “entrepreneurial boss” based on Baxter St. just three blocks from Gallo’s former haunt. The article, “Music on Excursion Boats,” reports that the now-adult Roselli and a handful of other Italian musicians paid for the exclusive right to perform on the ships of the Iron Steamboat Company, a major passenger carrier to Coney. Island. Performers made a living by “passing the hat” at onboard concerts. Income was sufficient for artists to own comfortable homes and support families.

By 1890, Roselli had moved his family to Los Angeles, where he began working as a fruit seller to supplement his performance income. By 1920 he had given up the music business altogether to concentrate on his fruit business in Los Angeles. A family portrait from later years shows the once hunted boy in the happy company of his wife and 11 of his 13 children. While Roselli’s fate seems to have ended on a high note, many children forced into the role of traveling street musician died prematurely separated from their families in the city’s crowded slums.

“I come here for a strange race. I want to know if you can help me find out who I am. Levi Malona, ​​1886.

In 1886, 24-year-old Levi Malona shows up at Castle Garden asking immigration officials to reveal his lost identity. He reported that he and his brother were kidnapped as children in Italy and the two were brought to the United States when Levi was six years old. Once they landed in New York, her slaver kept the two in a house with other boys, possibly on Rose St., where the youngsters were assigned to beg on the streets of the city.

“We were treated with the utmost cruelty. He taught us, with many floggings, to play the violin a little and to sing, and sent us out to beg in the streets. We had to stay out till midnight, walk the streets and sing and play every day in all weathers, and if we didn’t bring home enough money to please the padrone he would beat us and send us to sleep without eat nothing. He was a devil. Some of the boys died in his care.

After two years under the brutal control of the padrone, Malona escaped without her brother. Staying away from the city, the fugitive sought freedom in the countryside, where he eventually found work in Elton, NY. After accumulating some savings, he returned to Castle Garden with the goal of learning the basic facts of his past and reuniting with his brother.

“I know that I was born in Italy and was robbed there as a child, and I know that the name they call me by is not my real name. I want to know where I am from. was taken away and if any members of my family are still alive in Italy or in this country.

Fortunately for Malona, ​​Castle Garden officials and others took her plea seriously. An informant familiar with the case suggested that Pasquale Angorola Covello, an Italian whose sons were stolen from him in Basilicata, was Malona’s father. A “Rafaelo from Grozzia” appeared as the possible kidnapper. On November 1, 1878, the Italian Consul in Le Havre telegramd the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children of New York regarding the imminent arrival of Raffaello Di Grazia, notoriously known in Italy as the “King of the Padrones”. In no time, the police found the culprit landing in possession of several young children who were not his. They immediately arrested him. In great detail, reporters covered Malona’s fate and that of many other enslaved Italian youths. Herbert Monachesi, a reporter for The New York Times, said there were at least 8,000 children in the city under the control of the padrones.

But change was in the air. The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty was formed in 1875 and embarked on a program of legislation to end child labor and other forms of exploitation of minors. That same year, the Fabbri, a wealthy Italian couple, contributed generously to the Children’s Aid Society, with the goal of building the Italian School on Leonard St. in New York’s famous Five Points neighborhood. The new four-story building housed classrooms, a music room, and indoor plumbing with a toilet and bathroom that could accommodate 40 children at a time.

By the 1930s, child labor laws, compulsory school attendance, and the federal government’s ban on the padrone system had ended the sordid practice of trafficking “little harp slaves.” In a further blow to begging and music, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s declaration in 1935 banned barbarism players from city streets. Moreover, an alarmed public in Italy reacted strongly to the damage caused by child traffickers to the pride and international reputation of the young nation. In a series of legislative measures, beginning hesitantly in 1873, Italy finally banned the emigration of itinerant child artists and their employment on Italian soil.

Bernardo Roselli family

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