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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Italians in Wisconsin

Definition: Although Italians had lived in the U.S. since the founding of Jamestown in 1607, the deluge did not begin until the late 19th century. In Wisconsin, Italian communities were established in both rural and urban settings. In 1890, the number of Italians in the state number 1,123 but that number had doubled by 1900. Italians settled statewide but their stronghold was the southeastern quarter where urbanization had created ample employment opportunities. The Italians who arrived in the late 19th century were often from southern Italy and Sicily and were a poorer group seeking work in urban factories. Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Racine had the largest Italian populations in 1920.  Italians were also present in great numbers in northern counties where mining and lumbering opportunities beckoned. In 1960, Milwaukee boasted 11,143 Italians, followed by Kenosha (5, 045), Racine (1, 898), and Madison (1, 484). The leading rural enclave was the Town of Genoa in Vernon County. 

[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resources Study Units, Wisconsin Historical Society]
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