Becoming American: The Italian Immigrant Experience in Cayuga County

June 9 – September 24, 2017

Thousands of Italian immigrants settled in Cayuga County in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The exhibit focused on the journey from the “Old Country” to the new world, the challenges met by the immigrants, and contributions of Italian-Americans in building the city we live in today.   Scores of local families contributed to the exhibit by loaning photographs, documents, family heirlooms, domestic items, employment artifacts and much more to help tell the stories of the courageous people who crossed the Atlantic to make new homes in upstate New York.


“Never under any condition should this Nation look at an immigrant as primarily a labor unit. He should always be looked at primarily as a future citizen and the father of other citizens who are to live in this land as fellows with our children and our children’s children. Our immigration laws, permanent or temporary, should always be constructed with this fact in view.”
-Teddy Roosevelt, 1917

Introduction

“Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans – liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal – the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history… Immigration is not just a link to America’s past; it’s also a bridge to America’s future.”
-George W. Bush

The Journey to A New World

“The bigness of Mrs. Liberty overcame us. No one spoke a word for she was like a goddess and we know she represented the big, powerful country which was to be our future home.”
-Polish immigrant

The Arrival

“I can recall the mixed feelings of excitement and fear that traveled with me on our voyage, but I was comforted by the hopes and dreams of a better life that our family had spoken so often about in our days prior to and preparing to leave Italy.”
-Antonio Tesoro, Arrived in April 1954

Ellis Island