Ventura Family Immigrates to America

by Walter D Wood

Immigrates from Italy to America in the Early 1900s

Italians have been immigrating to the United States for centuries, settling near their family and friends from their home villages, who helped the newcomers find work. Enormous numbers lived in the Italian communities formed in their main port of entry: New York City’s Greenwich Village, East Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and eventually Queens, Staten Island, and beyond. Depending on their village of origin, others moved on, as they could afford it, to similar clusters of Italian immigrants in South Philadelphia, Boston's North End, Bridgeport and New Haven in Connecticut, Providence, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Denver, San Francisco, and every large city in between. They worked as pick and shovel men building roads, railroads, sewers, and the New York City subway. They labored as garment workers, bricklayers, concrete finishers, and garbage men (known in the West as "scavengers"). The more skilled among them found jobs or opened businesses as barbers, tailors, hairdressers, undertakers, butchers, or as importers of traditional foods. Some found work as truck farmers or fishermen. During the peak years of 1900 through 1914, nearly three million persons of Italian ancestry left their homeland. Some also faced deep prejudice - a hostility toward and fear of immigrants. This contributed to the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924 which set quotas for each country of origin. (Source: Report to the Congress of the United States, A Review of the Restrictions on Persons of Italian Ancestry During World War II pages 1-2)

Giovanni (John) Ventura on the Napolitan Prince in 1904

On April 10, 1904, 24 year old Giovanni Ventura left his wife and family in Termini Italy to seek a better life in America. He departed on the ship the Napolitan Prince from Palermo to join his brother Vincenzo Ventura who had already sailed to New York City in 1901. Vincenzo's nine year old daughter Margherita Ventura was traveling with Giovanni. (Vincenzo was living at 243 Elizabeth Street in New York City.) Giovanni and Margherita arrived in New York on April 25. Giovanni's wife Giovanna and their two children, Rosario and Rosa would follow him a year later.

Napolitan Prince

The Napolitan Prince (on left) was built in 1889 as an order for the Portuguese Government. Constructed at Scott's Shipyard in Greenock, Scotland, she was originally named Rei de Portugal. It was 2900 gross tons; 363 feet long; 42 feet wide with compound engines and twin screw. The service speed was 12 knots (about 15 miles per hour). It carried 1175 passengers: 25 first class, 1150 third class. She was acquired in 1902 by the Prince Line, one of the less well-known companies that made a fortune carrying immigrants to America before the Golden Door was slammed shut by quotas in 1920. Prince Line re-named her Napolitan Prince, and ran her for 9 years on the Mediterranean-New York run. Worn out by service in the Atlantic, she was re-sold in 1911 and renamed Manouba, plying the calmer waters between Marseilles and North African ports until 1929, when she was scrapped. She grossed 2900 tons, which means she wasn't much of a ship; that's about a third the gross tonnage of a modern destroyer.

On this particular voyage which started in Naples in April 1904 she carried 975 passengers in "steerage," i.e., they were crammed into this little vessel like cattle. Since immigrants paid low fares, creature comforts were not a high priority. Imagine the 15-days it took to cross the North Atlantic in such a ship; and, if you can, what discomfort it entailed. (Those who boarded in Naples had an additional day of misery.) During the trip they were stacked up on multi-tiered bunks, few sanitary facilities, dealing with seasick babies (and adults) and eating whatever slop the steamship line could get away with serving them. It has also been stated that most women were molested during the trips due to close quarters and lack of stewards to police steerage. Napolitan Prince embarked immigrant passengers at Naples and then Palermo.
(Some of the above material was adapted from

 Giovanna (Jennie) Ventura on the SS Giulia in 1906

The S.S. Giulia was an Italian passenger and cargo Vessel of 4,337 tons built for the Unione Austriaca di Nav SA, in Trieste, Italy, by Russell & Co, Port Glasgow, Scotland, Yard No 520. She was launched on May 16, 1904. She was powered by a steam triple expansion engines, twin screw, and had a service speed of 12 knots. Engines were built by Kincaid & Co, Greenock. Her length was 346 feet and breadth was 45 feet. It could carry 1,460 passengers: 30 first class, 30 second class and 1,400 third class.

SS Giulia

The Giulia's (on left) maiden voyage was on July 11,1904 when she left Trieste Italy for Messina, Naples, Palermo and New York. On 9th Nov.1908 she started her 21st and last passenger voyage, departing from Trieste for Patras Greece and New York and was subsequently used as a cargo ship. On 3rd May 1918 she was damaged by a mine in the Adriatic, but salvaged and repaired. In 1919 she was transferred from the Austrian to the Italian flag under the ownership of Cosulich. On March 22, 1923 she was abandoned after a cargo of grain shifted during a voyage. She sank and lies at the bottom of the North Atlantic off Nova Scotia.

Giovanni's wife Giovanna (Jennie) age 23, son Rosario (Sam) age 5 and daughter Rosa age 1 followed him to New York a year later on the Giulia. They sailed from Palermo on April 5, 1905. According to the passenger manifest, Jennie and her children were to join Giovanni (John) at 243 Elizabeth Street in New York City. The manifest reports they only had $10 in funds with them and that the three of them spent whole voyage in sick bay. The cause of their sickness was not listed but it must not have been serious otherwise they would not have been admitted into the United States.

They did not arrive in New York City until May 22. It is not known why this trip took so long or what other ports the ship may have stopped at. Once they arrived, they were processed through Ellis Island and joined John in the new world.

The Venturas were found in the 1910 US Census in New York City. Apparently life in the new world was short lived for Rosa since she was not enumerated in this census and there was a Rosina Ventura age 2 that died in June 1906. The census record also shows that Giovanni and Giovanna had assumed the American names of John, Jennie. (Rosaria would later take the name Sam.) John and Jennie also had new sons, Ben age 4, Jimmie age 2 and Joe age 6 months. Also living with the family were Jennie's sisters Mary (age 18) and Josephine (age 16). Living in an adjacent apartment was Jimmie Ventura and wife Angeline and four children. It is believed that Jimmie is John's brother Vincenzo or Vince since daughter Maggie (Margherita) was shown and the 1915 and 1920 New York State Censuses show this same family.

By the 1920 US Census, John and Jennie were found in Cincinnati Ohio. Jennie Ventura applied for naturalization in December 1949 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The movie Golden Door or Nuovomondo (in Italian) depicted a family emigrating from Sicily around 1905. This movie portrays the conditions they endured to reach the New World. The movie is available on DVD in Italian with English subtitles. More information on the travels of immigrants can be found in a 1911 report to the US Senate

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