Italian History Chronicled On The Pages Of The Express-Times

In 1850, when the population of the then “borough” of Easton, PA was roughly just about 7,250, The Easton Daily Express presented its first afternoon edition to the community.

Housed on the third floor at 147 Northampton Street in Easton, the publication is credited with being the oldest newspaper in Northampton County. It would be just thirty-five years after the Easton Daily Express printed its first afternoon paper from its original location that Giovanni Garbarino would open a business in Easton, just under a block from where the newspaper is in operation today.

Garbarino also carries the distinction of being the first Italian to settle in Easton and, although noted as being a fruit dealer, Garbarino’s main presence in the area of Fourth Street in Easton was his ownership of a peanut stand.

Italian History Chronicled

The influx of Italians into the small Easton community did not go unnoticed by the city’s daily paper. In 1889, the June 29th edition of The Express, as it was called by that time, included an article about the Italian immigration into the area:

“The Italians who were brought to Phillipsburg, NJ a week ago to work on the town sewers have all returned to New York. The padrone who brought the men is still in town and intends going to New York
in a day or two to bring out another gang to work on a new reservoir at Pen Argyl.”

And, just two months later, more pertinent news relative to the Italians in the community was chronicled in the August 7th issue of the paper where it was brought to light that the Italians who were working in the area were being mistreated by people of their own culture:

“As is well known, the Italian section bosses reap rich harvests in the Lehigh Valley from the men under their control by charging them a percentage of all goods they buy.”

This was followed by another, more poignant, report of violence and discrimination of Italians that occurred in the area of Altoona, PA that appeared in the paper on March 26, 1894:

“A mob of three hundred men and boys went to the edge of the city where seventy-five Italian laborers were at work and with sticks, stones and pistols drove them into the woods. One was so severely injured with a pistol wound in the neck, another so badly beaten, that it was feared he might die, others severely hurt. The men attacked were brought there by a Philadelphia contractor to work on the electric railway connecting Altoona and Bellwood.

Their rate of pay was seventy-five cents a day. Local laborers to the
number of fifty or more demanded that the contractor discharge the Italians. When he declined, the riot started. The rioters drove the Italians to Bellwood, nine miles away, first setting fire to the shanties
where the Italians had been housed. Returning to Altoona, the rioters repaired to the Italian quarter, notifying the residents that they must leave at once.

Many obeyed the order immediately and more agreed to leave. The mayor and sheriff called the mob together, begging them not to go further on this matter. Promises were made that all Italians would be discharged and only resident laborers would be employed on the road. Though their words had a somewhat quieting effect, a very ugly feeling
lingered.”

In the early 1900s The Easton Express continued to provide its readers details about the ever-growing number of Italians who were making the area of Easton and its surrounding communities home.

In fact, the front page of the paper’s September 14, 1907 issue carried this headline, “Separate School For Little Italians – Teacher To
Be Assigned To Instruct Them In Taylor Building”. The story that followed gave even more indication of the influx of Italians to Easton:

“In accordance with a suggestion made by Superintendent Cottingham, the Easton Board of School Controllers last evening voted to establish a school for the special instruction of the Italian children of the city. There are now thirty-nine of them attending school. Of that number, nineteen of them are unable to talk English.

The special school for the education of these youthful foreigners is to be located in the Taylor building on South Fourth Street. In explaining the matter, the Superintendent stated that there are twenty-one Italian pupils in the schools in the Taylor building.

The remainder of the thirtynine are scattered about the city. It was told that it would be much better to have all of these children in
one school than to have them in different rooms where, because of their inability to understand the English language, they interfered with all the schools in which they are pupils. The arrangements will not require additional school or increase the Board’s expenses – merely place all the Italian children in one school.”

The publication business in Easton in those early days was not without its competitors. Although the Easton Daily Express was the most recognized daily publication in the community, Easton also had one Italian weekly newspaper called “L’Amico” which meant “friend”. Founded over seventy years after the introduction of the Easton Daily Express, Easton resident Antonio Grifo and Almo Landi, who was from New Jersey, began their own Italian language weekly publication in 1922. This newspaper was printed entirely in Italian, except for “

A column in English to attract younger people”. Easton’s Italian weekly paper was incorporated a little over fourteen years after its introduction to the community, changing its name to “L’Aurora” with Antonio Grifo still as owner and publisher.

The paper had a circulation area that included six counties in Pennsylvania as well as Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. Unfortunately, the demise of the community’s only Italian newspaper occurred during war time. The publication, whose offices and publishing plant were located on the southwest corner of Ferry and West Streets, ceased publication in 1942, citing a lack of personnel sufficient to continue in its publication efforts

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