It was a long, hard journey to the United States in the early 20th century, but even a successful voyage did not guarantee that the immigrant would be able to enter or stay. Deportation was a threat. When immigrants were deported, it could be because of serious crime like murder or petty crime like theft. The files stated “excluded as a person having been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude.”
But how to stop immigrants from reentering under different names or identities? When they were deported, they were photographed, and their physical characteristics were recorded in writing, from their hat size to the condition of their teeth. (Only Chinese immigrants were also consistently photographed by the authorities, and they resented this suggested link between themselves and criminals.)
Why were these two individuals, Francesco Zaccaro and Dubas Wasyl, deported?
Zaccaro (“small, thin lips, medium chesnut mustache”) arrived from Italy on the SS Hamburg on February 17, 1907, and was headed to his mother-in-law’s house in New York City. However, he was deported and back on the SS Hamburg just three days later. He was excluded due to his crime of moral turpitude: He had served eight days in prison for “applying vile names to a woman.”
“Attachments,” the current exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC, tells the stories of some of the millions of people who have entered and left the United States.
One visitor, Pasquale Taraffo, came to the United States three times—once for a concert tour of New York City and California in 1928–29, once as a crew member of a ship that docked in New York in 1933, and once for a concert stop in New York in 1935.
Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1887, the musician began giving guitar concerts at age nine. He eventually switched from the traditional guitar to the harp guitar, a 14-string instrument mounted on a pedestal. Taraffo started touring abroad in 1910, performing on his own and with other musicians. Known as “the Paganini of the guitar”—a reference to the legendary Italian violinist—he was wildly popular around the world and especially in South America.
When he came to the United States, he applied for a visa based on artistic abilities, and probably had to submit evidence of his exceptional talent in order to enter the country. Photo postcards of Taraffo with his harp guitar, along with a handbill for his 1926 concert in Corregio, Italy, were found, but these documents were separated from any of his other documents, mixed … [ Read all ]