Room One: The Early Immigrants

Though small in number, Italians were some of the first European explorers and settlers of California. Religious duties and the search for new fishing grounds were initial reasons for Italians to explore what later became the thirty-first state, but their reasons for staying expanded after arriving. Though we often associate Italians in California with San Francisco, the initial Italian settlers established themselves in such diverse communities as Monterey, Stockton, and San Diego during the years of Spanish Rule. Later settlers came for the Gold Rush, not often as miners, but as proprietors in service industries or as artisans. Before the massive exodus from Italy in the 1880s, Italians came to California in numbers greater than New York, a trend that continued for many years. Even though their numbers were small, early Italian immigrants took steps to establish an Italian immigrant community: setting up mutual aid societies, Italian language newspapers, and supporting Italian theater.

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