POINT Chapter 15 Meeting - May 2013

POINTers In Person
Lou Costello Chapter 15

Northern New Jersey

Pursuing Our Italian Names Together

August 3, 2013


The Northern New Jersey chapter of POINTers In Person met on August 3, 2013 at  the Elmwood Park Municipal Building.  Twenty-five people attended. 

Maria Carparelli (#2100) opened the meeting by reminding members that those interested should sign up for another research trip to The New Jersey State Archives in Trenton, and a visit to the Italian American Museum in lower Manhattan and the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum in Staten Island, NY.    

Carolyn McNamara (#4772) alerted the chapter about an important notification found in the Summer 2013 issue of POINTers Magazine conveying that POINT will cease operations  December 31, 2013.  POINT (Pursuing Our Italian Names Together) was organized in 1987 as a network of members interested in Italian genealogy.  It was well ahead of its time to realize the importance of networking for genealogical pursuits.  POINT encouraged the formation of local PIP (POINTers In Person) chapters in 1992.  As of 2010, there were 29 chapters of PIP throughout the U.S..  However, 14 of these became inactive.  Each chapter is independent of POINT and can continue to meet.  The entire Italian genealogical establishment owes a debt of gratitude to Dr. Tom Militello, the founder of POINT, who together with the help of his wife, Phyllis, kept this network thriving.  The NJ Chapter of PIP also gives its great thanks to Dr. Tom for his foresight, thoughtfulness and perseverance in the creation of a quality endeavor.

Al Marotta (#1018) told the chapter about an April 15, 2013 New York Times article which featured the Italian American Museum.  The director of this museum in the “Little Italy” section of Manhattan plans to demolish its historic 1885 building, which once housed the Banca Stabile and lent immigrant Italians money they needed for steamship tickets to the U.S.  Although the complex consists of three brownstones, he believes that the space is too small.  He wishes to sell the building to a developer and hopes to relocate the museum to a bigger rent-free space inside whatever structure replaces it.  The museum, which has a $250,000 operating budget, has run deficits every year since it bought the building in 2008.  Al also made the chapter aware of a February Wall Street Journal article which told of some Italian legislators who wish to ease citizenship rules, which are among the strictest in Europe.  This is important because non-citizens are barred from practicing most professions, including law and medicine.  Currently, Italian citizenship is based on blood lines and not territory.  Citizenship is a concession and not a right; the government can reject any application for citizenship easily.  Among the proposals is to give immediate citizenship to all people born in Italy; including immigrant children who are born in Italy or who complete their schooling there and to lower residency requirements to five years (rather than the current ten years) and require school attendance.  “Resident immigrants” have increased twelve-fold since 1991 and is about 7.6% of the population (4.5 million) and about 500,000 of them were born in Italy. Over ⅔ of Italians favor granting automatic citizenship to those born in Italy.

Effective July 1, 2013, the NJ State Archives will search and certify vital records through December 1912.  The NJ State Office of Vital Statistics and Registry will regularly transfer all records older than 100 years to the NJ State Archives annually.

Maryanne Graham (#3654) presented the treasurer’s report.  The chapter has 30 active members. 

Dr. Vincent Parrillo, a Sociology professor at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ and an author of numerous works, introduced his PBS (NJTV) documentary, “Gaetano Federici: Sculptor Laureate of Paterson”.  This film was aired in April 2013.  Dr. Parrillo was the creator and narrator of this work which was co-produced with Jaroslaw Ziaja.  The chapter viewed this film after which Dr. Parrillo shared many interesting details about Gaetano Federici and the making of this production. 

Dr. Parrillo grew up in Paterson and as a young man often walked around that city among its numerous statues and art, but at such a young age never gave it much thought.  However, he soon grew to appreciate Paterson and its art and was motivated to make this film because he had a story he wanted to tell.

Paterson, NJ was established by the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures which Alexander Hamilton founded in 1791 to promote the harnessing of energy from the Great Falls of the Passaic River (in this town) to manufacture domestic products in order to obtain economic independence from Great Britain. Paterson was created as the first planned industrial city in the U.S. Its mill industry, included the first water-powered cotton spinning mill and first continuous roll paper mill in NJ and paved the way for the production of cotton textiles and silk fabrics, as well as the first American steam locomotive, Colt revolvers and submarines.  These mills were the source of many inventions.  There were always plenty of immigrants to work the mills. Paterson was never known as “an artistic city”; yet, it was the only city to focus its attention on one artist.

Gaetano Federici (1880-1964) was a native of Castelgrande in the Province of Potenza in the Basilicata region of Italy and emigrated with his mother to the “Silk City” of Paterson in 1882 to join his father and settle in the area.  He was a student of Mechanical Arts in Paterson High School where he was known as “Tom Fredericks” to hide his Italian heritage.  Mr. Federici was apprenticed to the great sculptor, Giuseppe Moretti, in New York City in 1897.  Moretti was a sculptor of public monuments in marble and was the first to use aluminum and bronze in art.  Federici assisted Moretti in creating the world’s largest cast-iron statue, “Vulcan”, first shown at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO, and then moved to Birmingham, Alabama.  This sculpture was modeled in a church in Passaic.  Previously, he was invited to exhibit his work as a student at the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo, NY.  Federici also was a member of the NY Arts Student League.

A devastating fire destroyed over 450 major buildings in 1902 in Paterson and a few weeks later a flood from the Passaic River, caused by a broken dam, damaged the area.  This was followed by a 1903 tornado which left many ruins in the city.  Widespread strikes at the mills sparked more trouble.  The mayor refused outside help and said that city could rise from the ashes on its own.  Federici’s dedication to Paterson was best revealed when he chose to return and stay in this city, where his family lived.  Perhaps his desire was to rebuild the city and decorate her beautifully.  At least forty of his creations can be found in the area, both indoors and outdoors.  He declined many opportunities outside Paterson.          A notable exception was the Church of Our Lady of Loretto in Brooklyn which was built by Armezzani, Federici & Sons of Paterson in the Roman Renaissance style in 1906.  In addition to reliefs, Federici created a sculpture of St. Paul and one of St. Peter in 1907 for this church.  He also made statues for the National Opera House in Havana, Cuba.

The 1920s kept Federici busy with local commissions for public monuments, most with dramatic impact, and with Church commissions, War Memorials and Funereal art.  Since plaques were less expensive than statues for the clients to commission, he worked during the Great Depression with this medium and often captured “locals” for faces.  Hinchliffe Stadium, one of the three Negro League stadiums still standing in the U.S. and where Abbott and Costello performed, features some of his plaques.  The city made him Commissioner of Schools for Paterson and put him on salary, so he could continue his art (including making didactic sculptures for the schools) during this economic downturn.  He made plaques depicting music, literature, history, nature/animals, etc.  Lou Costello, actor and comedian, was a family friend and Federici made a bust of this Paterson native.  Most of his works were made in three sizes to help with experimentation and variations.  Federici’s  “Spirit of the Resurrection” (1936) is considered his most expressive work.  Once it was part of a fountain and is now located at the entrance of Laurel Grove Cemetery in Totowa.  His last major commission, at the age of 76, was a statue of the first bishop of the Paterson Diocese, Bishop Thomas H. McLaughlin (1957).  Then due to failing health, he created smaller works for friends and family.  
When asked how he created such beautiful works, he would reply that he had “eyes on top of the fingers.”

Five generations of the Federici family attended the debut of this film at William Paterson University.  

              Future meetings will be held on:
                                                            November 2, 2013

                                                            February 1, 2014

                                                            May 3, 2014

                                                            August 2, 2014

                                                            November 1, 2014 

Next Meeting

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