The biggest wave of Italian immigration to America began in 1890, comprising mainly agriculturalists with a few artisans and craftspeople making the journey as well. New Italian immigrants to Pittsburgh quickly established tight-knit communities formed according to their home region in Italy. Unlike most other immigrants, almost 50% of Italians repatriated, returning to Italy with their hard-earned money to buy land and settle back into farming. Those who stayed have made a mark on Pittsburgh culture, from the Mineo’s vs. Aiello’s pizza debate in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, to die-hard football fans who called themselves “Franco’s Italian Army,” to the restaurants, groceries, and bars of Bloomfield and the Strip district.
Many of the objects in this Time Capsule are sourced from the Senator John Heinz History Center’s Italian American Collection. Founded in 1990, the History Center’s Italian American Program manages one of the largest repositories of Italian American artifacts and archives in the United States. It is dedicated to documenting, preserving, and interpreting the history and culture of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Italian American community through exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and community outreach.