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Flor Guitron Navarro

UNST: Portland
November, 4 2014
Jews and italians in 1910 were only about 5 percent of the total population in
Portland. (Oregon History Project) Most jews and italians that settled in portland were
single men looking for work to either bring their family or go back to their country to
marry. Between 1900 and 1910, the Italian population grew fivefold to over 3,000
(Multnomah County Census)
Many immigrant groups started to travel to Portland because of the railway jobs.
Portland had extensive railroad yards and many sawmills, which provided unskilled
work for Italian men. (William Toll) However those jobs started to become scarce. Word
of mouth among relatives caused a lot of people to pursue a job in Portland. Men used
personal contacts to find work. (William Toll) Some people decided to settle in to
Portland like the Italian family of Vito Ericco. They moved to Oregon expecting money
trees (Gerry Pratt) Ericcos Family moved to Portland because his brother-in-law had
told him about many job opportunities.
However, this families expectations of Oregon weren't met. Like other families
once the jobs were scarce they were left poor and unemployed. The great expense of
bringing labor across the continent, plus the availability of Chinese and Japanese gang
labor, precluded the need for the commercial recruitment of Italians. (Humbert Nelli) In
the case of Ericcos family he had bills to pay, 4 kids and a wife to feed, times were
extremely hard.

However, immigrants didn't give up they fought hard to make a living. Italians
were even more tenacious than Jews. (William Toll) In Ericcos case he put an ad in the
newspaper not only to help him but his son and daughter as well to find a job. Prior to
the 1920s, sons from Italian households generally entered the labor market at levels only
slightly higher than those of their fathers. The great majority of employed Italian young
women were able to find clergical sales work in a rapidly expanding occupational
category but the numbers involved were very small. (William Toll) Leonardo states that
only hopes now for work, washing dishes, gardening, or at anything. (Gerry Pratt) as
for Anna she will also wash dishes, do housework, or sew if given the opportunity.
(Gerry Pratt)
Almost three-fourths of Italian heads of households who remained in Portland
through 1920 had been laborers, skilled workers, or service workers in 1910, and the
great majority did not improve their occupational level through 1920. Most Italians
didn't have a chance to advance in the work force simply because they didn't speak
English. He doesn't speak English, but you could almost understand his words just by
watching his face. (Gerry Pratt) It couldve also been the fact that the American society
was alien to the parents. (Max Simmons)
Residents of South Portland remember their families as having been intensively
integrated into ethnic, social, and occupational networks, but as having chronically low
incomes. (William Toll) Due to the fact that unemployment was high among Italians
they had to go to other alternatives to be successful in Portland. One step was as Ericcos
family did send their kids to work and/or also get help from relatives. Most immigrant
families needed income from persons in addition to the male head of household to meet

expenses For South Portlands Italians, whose male occupational profile was virtually
identical with the profile for most other cities, the source and incidence of outside support
was virtually identical. (William Toll)
As for Vito Ericco he ...was quick to explain that he will not go hungry. His
brother-in-law, a retired Spokane restaurant owner, will see to it he eats and is housed
with his family until he finds work. (Gerry Pratt) Most Italian families, like their
counterparts in larger cities, had more need for outside income than did their Jewish
neighbors. (William Toll)
Portland at the time was a land of prosperity were many either made their fortune
or found their misfortune. Perhaps the Great Depression retarded the ability of Italian
skilled and service workers at a still early stage in their life cycle, because unemployment
among them was far higher.(William Toll)

Citations Page:
Toll, William. "The Italian and Russian Jewish Settlements." Oregon History Project.
Oregon Historical Society, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2014.
Interview with Max Simmons, March 7, 1975, Jewish Historical Society of Oregon.
Humbert Nelli, From Immigrants to Ethnics: The Italian American (New York, 1983), 79.
Dorsett, Queen City, 174-175
Yans-Mclaughlin, Family and Community, 52; Briggs, Italian Passage, 116
Toll, William. "Ethnicity and Stability: The Italians and Jews of South Portland." JSTOR.
University of California Press, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
The studies and surveys of Portland, Oregon, 1935 (mimeographed reports), Oregon
Collection, University of Oregon.