11.3.6 How Barrels Are Made, Italian-Swiss Colony, Asti, California
Shows seven coopers at work on wine barrels at the Italian-Swiss Colony in Asti, California. Print reproduced from postcard; title from caption in white letters.
Carefully examine the "How barrels are made" photograph and the wine label image (Source 7), as well as their captions. One image shows coopers making wine barrels at the Italian Swiss Colony in Asti, California. The other image is a label that was used on the wine bottles produced by the Italian Swiss Colony. What do these images reveal about the lives of Italian immigrants in the United States? Between 1880 and 1924, more than four million Italian immigrants came to the United States. Most were "pushed" for economic reasons, unable to find work in their home country. Hoping to come to the United States and work for a short period of time so they could return home to support their families, many southern Italian (and especially Sicilian) immigrants were overwhelmingly male. The vast majority of Italian immigrants settled on the East Coast and found work doing unskilled or semi-skilled industrial labor; a smaller group settled in California doing work that these images depict. How did Italian immigrants build businesses and communities in America? How does this photograph, along with the anti-Catholic cartoon (Source 5) work together to explain how Italian Catholics experienced life in the United States?
Ask students to carefully examine the images in Sources 6 and 7 and their captions. One image shows coopers making wine barrels at the Italian Swiss Colony in Asti, California. The other image is a label that was used on the wine bottles produced by the Italian Swiss Colony. In 1881, Andrea Sbarboro founded the agricultural community for Italian immigrants. The Italian Swiss Colony became a leading producer of wine in California. Use the photograph to help students explore how Italian immigrants established orchards, vineyards, and other successful businesses in the United States. As students analyze the significance of this image, be sure to contextualize that the vast majority of Italian immigrants did not settle in California. Of the more than four million Italian immigrants who came to the United States between 1880 and 1924, most settled in urban areas east of the Mississippi River and found work in industrial centers. This image of California Italian immigrants along with the anti-Catholic cartoon in Source 7 provide opportunities to discuss with students how this immigrant community overcame discrimination and built thriving Italian American communities.