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Tag: immigration

Plucked from our records: Pasquale Taraffo and the Harp Guitar

 

This photograph of Pasquale Taraffo found in the National Archives.

“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 ]

An Orphan of the Holocaust

Michael Pupa, age 12. (National Archives)

His parents were victims of the Nazis when he was only four, and he and his uncle spent two years hiding in the forests of Poland, waiting until the end of World War II.

But the ordeal of Michael Pupa was far from over. He became a “displaced person,” or DP, moving from one DP camp to another until 1951, when Michael, by then 12, and his cousin were flown to the United States and sent to a home for refugee children, then to foster homes in Cleveland.

Michael Pupa’s story does have a happy ending, and it is told in a new exhibit that opens at the National Archives on Friday, June 15, called “Attachments: Faces and Stories from America’s Gates.”

Curator Bruce Bustard says the exhibit draws from millions of immigration case files in the National Archives holdings to tell a few of these stories from the 1880s through World War II.

“It also explores the attachment of immigrants to family and community and the attachment of government organizations to immigration laws that reflected certain beliefs about immigrants and citizenship,” he says. “These are dramatic tales of joy and disappointment, opportunity and discrimination, deceit and honesty.”

Of the individuals chosen randomly to be included in the exhibit, only Michael Pupa is alive, and he and his family … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: When Irish mustaches are smiling

Patrick Joseph Kennedy, circa 1900. From the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston KFC 2706 (PC 245)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

With all the hoopla over the upcoming release of the 1940 census on April 2, we haven’t really been thinking about facial hair all that much.

But then fellow National Archives staff member Jeannie (of the OurPresidents tumblr blog) sent me this photograph, and genealogy, facial hair, and St. Patrick’s Day all came together.

The mustachioed and bespectacled man to the left is Patrick J.  Kennedy, the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy and—like many Americans—the child of Irish immigrants.

His mustache, while of Irish descent, was grown in the United States.

JFK’s great-grandfather was Patrick Kennedy. He left his work as a cooper in his hometown of Dunganstown, County Wexford, and made his way to the United States and settled in Boston.

In 1849, Patrick married another Irish immigrant, Bridget Murphy, who also came from County Wexford. But after just nine years of marriage, Patrick died and left Bridget a widow with four small children. The youngest was Patrick Joseph “P.J.” Kennedy, JFK’s grandfather.

P.J. continued the family line by marrying Mary Augusta Hickey, whose parents were also orginally from Ireland. The couple lived in East Boston and their son, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, was born on September 6, 1888.  He was John F. Kennedy’s father.

Many Americans can trace their … [ Read all ]

“I’m 15 and I feel like 80″

On today’s date in 1964,  “Introducing the Beatles” was released. It was the Beatles’ first album in the United States.

For Janelle Blackwell, the album would have dire consequences, aging her 65 years. In April of 1964, she wrote to the U.S. Labor Department, ending her letter with the statement  “I’m 15 and I feel like 80.”

What could cause a teenager to feel like an old woman?

The answer is surprisingly bureaucratic: The immigration status of the Beatles.

Thousands of teenagers had been sent into a froth of distress over the new rules put in place for foreign entertainers by the U.S. Labor Department in April 1964. Misleading newspaper reports started rumors that the Beatles would not be allowed back into the United States.

For Janelle, these reports were too much. Sickened by the thought that the mop-topped foursome could never step foot on American soil, she and three friends had to stay home sick from school. Janelle used her time to write a passionate argument to the Labor Department in favor of her band. Even if they had done something improper, she said, “you must all agree the teenagers of the U.S. want them back.”

Fortunately for Janelle and her fellow American teenagers, the rumors were cleared up, and the Beatles were able to return on several occasions.

It’s been a while since I was a teenage girl, … [ Read all ]

Ellis Island on the West Coast

Photograph of Immigrants Arriving at the Immigration Station on Angel Island (ARC 595673)

Photograph of immigrants arriving at the Immigration Station on Angel Island (ARC 595673; 90-G-152-2038)

For the thousands of immigrants from Europe, the entrance to America was through Ellis Island. As they sailed by New York City, they could see the Statue of Liberty standing in the harbor like a watchful guardian.

For immigrants from China and the Pacific Rim, another type of guardian awaited them in San Francisco Bay. They would need to pass through Angel Island.

From 1910 to 1940, Angel Island was the main entry point for China and the Pacific Rim (and many non-Asians).  But the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, meant to severly restrict the immigrantion of Chinese nationals, meant that Asians entering through Angel Island had to pass difficult interogations. Quok Shee was detained for two years before being released to her husband, Chew Hoy Quong. Other families had to pass tests that proved they were in fact from the same village.

These interrogations were recently recreated from Federal immigration files held by the National Archives at San Francisco as dramatic perfomances for a special centennial commemorative ceremony at Angel Island Immigration Station.

The Archivist attended the ceremony—you can read more about his experience and Angel Island on his blog AOTUS.… [ Read all ]