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Historical Timeline

A Century of Progress

OSIA’s long history begins in 1905 with its founding in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood. Click on a decade below to read about the progress of the organization through the century right up to today.

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1905

June 22 – OSDIA founded as “Figli d’Italia” at 203 Grand Street in New York City at the office and residence of Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro. (Later renamed “L’Ordine Figli d’Italia in America.”) A week later, Dr. Sellaro is elected first “Supreme Venerable” or president.

1906

OSDIA has eight lodges in New York and one in New Jersey.

1911

Grand Lodge of New York becomes first state chapter; puts a representative on Ellis Island to help new Italian immigrants.

1913

OSDIA encourages members to join unions and support labor protests such as the Paterson textile workers strike in New Jersey.

1914

OSDIA holds first convention in Paterson, N.J. Beginning in 1917 in Cleveland, OSDIA begins holding conventions every two years.

1915

OSDIA publishes the weekly Bollettino Ufficiale. In 1946 the Bollettino is replaced with OSDIA News, a monthly newspaper. In 1996, the newspaper is replaced with Italian America, a full-color quarterly magazine free to all members.

1917

President Woodrow Wilson receives OSDIA leaders at the White House. Since then, every U.S. president has publicly acknowledged the contributions of OSDIA, including Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

1918

An estimated 28,000 OSDIA members serve in the U.S. armed forces during World War I. Of these 1,278 are wounded and 975 killed. OSDIA gives subsidies to servicemen’s families.

OSDIA lodges contribute $2 million and 3.5 million lire for war victims, Liberty Loans (war bonds), the Red Cross and post-war loans to Italian government.

OSDIA establishes free English language and citizenship classes for members.

1919

OSDIA takes over administration of Antonio Meucci’s home on Staten Island, N.Y. In 1956, OSDIA turns Meucci home into the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, a center for Italian culture and language learning. Today it is one of only two 2 ethnic museums in the U.S. with landmark status. [Ed. Note: the actual date of the OSDIA takeover is disputed. It might have been in 1913 or 1914.]

1922

The government of Italy designates OSDIA its official representative of Italians in the United States. OSDIA sponsors student exchanges and annual pilgrimages to Italy where OSDIA leaders meet with the Pope, the king of Italy and government leaders.

1924

The eight largest Grand Lodges enroll more than 80,000 members in their sickness and death insurance programs.

1927

OSDIA protests the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti.

1930

OSDIA membership peaks at 350,000 in more than 1,000 lodges coast to coast.

1931

Louise Porreca becomes first woman to serve on Supreme Council when she is elected a Supreme trustee.

1932

OSDIA founder, Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro dies on November 28 of diabetes and heart disease at age 64.

OSDIA enrolls 1,500 young Italian Americans in 12 youth lodges during a mass meeting in New York City. Eventually 366 youth lodges were created, 132 of them in Massachusetts.

1942

OSDIA hires Leonard Pasqualicchio as its first national deputy to lobby in Washington, D.C. He served until 1957. Among his achievements, he convinces government to drop wartime “enemy alien” designation of non-naturalized Italians living in America and presses successfully for federal government to include Italy in the Marshall Plan to rebuild post-war Italy.

1947

OSDIA launches letter-writing campaign urging members’ relatives in Italy not to vote Communist in the first democratic election in Italy’s history.

1954

OSDIA steps up campaign to make Columbus Day a federal holiday. In 1932 the Order began lobbying Congress and the White House for this holiday.

1959

OSDIA establishes Sons of Italy Foundation®, its philanthropic arm.

1963

OSDIA initiates letter-writing campaign to make Columbus Day a holiday.

1965

Grace Grenco is elected president of the Grand Lodge of Florida, becoming the first woman to hold the office of OSDIA grand lodge president.

OSDIA supports passage of the 1965 Immigration Act which abolishes the 1924 McCarran-Walter Act that discriminated against southern Europeans by establishing unfairly low quotas.

1968

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs law designating the second Monday in October as “Columbus Day” and a federal holiday.

1971

President Richard M. Nixon receives the OSDIA Marconi Award during a ceremony at the White House.

1973

OSDIA helps create the Italian American Congressional Caucus, uniting for the first time all the Italian Americans serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

OSDIA also helps found the National Italian American Coordinating Association, a federation of national Italian American organizations now known as the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations.

1979

President Jimmy Carter addresses OSIA’S 36th Biennial Convention in Baltimore.

1980

OSDIA celebrates its 75th anniversary. U.S. Congress proclaims June 22 “National Italian American Day”

President Jimmy Carter awards OSDIA member and WW II veteran Anthony Casamento the Medal of Honor, following OSIA’s three-year campaign.

1981

OSDIA elects the first woman, Joanne L. Strollo, to Supreme Council in the position of national financial secretary.

OSDIA purchases a building for its national headquarters and hires a full-time national executive director in Washington, D.C. From 1905 to 1955, the headquarters was in New York City and, later, Philadelphia.

1982

OSDIA establishes the Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), its anti-defamation arm.

1984

SIF approves $100,000 project to record and preserve OSDIA archives at the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center.

1985

OSDIA increases the number of women on its Supreme Council with the election of Joanne L. Strollo, Fourth National Vice President; Margaret Montemuro, National Financial Secretary; Josephine Falco, National Recording Secretary; and a number of national trustees.

Establishes the Douhet-Mitchell International Airpower Trophies, given annually to two outstanding Italian and American staff officers.

1989

SIF holds first National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala in Washington, D.C. to honor outstanding Italian American students and leaders.

OSDIA archives at the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center are opened. Its 1,200-plus linear feet make it the largest collection of Italian American resource materials in the United States.

1993

Joanne L. Strollo elected OSIA’s first woman national president.

1998

President Bill Clinton becomes the first U.S. president to attend the SIF’s NELA gala, and attends again in 1999 and 2000.

2002

OSDIA delegation makes first official visit of 21st century to Italy to meet with Italian government, business and culture leaders including the president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

2004

President George W. Bush and Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attend the 16th annual NELA gala. It was the first time a sitting U.S. president and a prime minister of Italy attended a major non-profit event in America together.

OSDIA holds pilgrimage to Italy to kick off upcoming centennial year celebrations. Delegation meets with then-Pope John Paul II, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and other government officials and holds gala dinner in Rome.

Grand Street in New York City is re-named “Sons of Italy┬« Way.”

2005

OSDIA celebrates its 100th anniversary. Since its founding it has established more than 2,800 lodges in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

2008

The SIF holds the 20th Anniversary National Education & Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., celebrating two decades of honoring Italian American achievement.

2009

The SIF marks its 50th Anniversary with more than $108 million given to support education, medical research, disaster relief, cultural preservation and other projects.

Vice President Joe Biden becomes the first individual not of Italian ancestry to receive the SIF’s top honor, the National Education & Leadership Award.

2010

At the 22nd Annual NELA Gala President Bill Clinton receives the Sons of Italy Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service.

The College Board reinstates the Advanced Placement (AP) Italian Language and Culture Program, thanks to a $3 million contribution from the Sons of Italy and other organizations

2011

SIF presents a $10,000 scholarship to SSgt. Salvatore Giunta, the first living American serviceman to receive the Medal of Honor since Vietnam.

2012

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.), are honored by the SIF at the NELA Gala.

2013

The SIF holds the Silver Anniversary National Education & Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., honoring Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), and actor/veteranÔÇÖs activist Gary Sinise.

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