In the last decade of the 19th Century, tens of thousands came to the United States in the largest wave of immigrants to the U.S. Previous immigrants had come from mostly Northern European countries, such as, England, Wales, Ireland, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. But in what is called the “third great wave” the immigrants were from Southern Europe—they were Slavs, Jews, and Italians. The largest of those groups to emigrate were the Italians—over 3 million poured into the United States between 1900 and 1915.
In 1905, an organization called “Figli d’Italia” or “The Order of the Sons of Italy in America” was founded by Vincenzo Sellaro in New York City. The aim of the organization was to help ease the transition for the Italian immigrants from their homeland of Italy to their new homeland. The aid provided included helping newly arrived Italians learn English, find jobs, gain citizenship, get an education, and receive health and death benefits. Lodges sprang up wherever there were pockets of Italians who needed assistance.
The logo for the organization depicts a striding lion in a circle. Three words—Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity—are displayed underneath the lion and the name of the organization encircles the illustration.
Found in cemeteries where Italian immigrants and their descendants are buried are bronze metal markers that mimic the Order’s logo with the centerpiece being the lion. The top of the circle displays the name of the organization and the bottom identifies the individual lodge and location of the lodge.
In this example in the St. Michael’s Cemetery in Jamaica Plains, the name of the lodge—Loggia Filippo Mazzei—and its lodge number –1930—and emblazoned in the bronze medallion standing next to the grave of an Italian immigrant as a testament to the pride of Italian ancestry and to the Order’s philanthropic work.