4. Part 2: Rudolph Valentino’s Family and Mine: Siblings…and the Sadness of Infant Deaths

In my previous post [see 3. Part 1: Rudolph Valentino’s Family–His Parents …(and My Great-Grandparents and Grandparents…)] I introduced the grandparents who were part of Rudolph Valentino’s generation. Valentino was born in 1895. My grandparents on my mother’s side, Ernesto Donato Socci and Rose Bosco Socci were born in 1884 and 1894, respectively.

The Guglielmi, Socci and Bosco families all had something in common–the sad death of siblings. In the case of my family there was also the loss of mothers. Valentino had three siblings: older sister, Bice, older brother Alberto, and his younger sister Maria. My grandmother’s family included five surviving siblings (3 others died), while my grandfather’s family was much larger…a total of twelve children, with only 7 surviving.

“The infant mortality rate in Italy, for children under the age of one year old, was 231 deaths per thousand births in 1865. This means that for all babies born in 1865, over 23 percent did not survive past their first birthday.” (Statista.com) “In 1871 there were 26.8 million Italians. Both birth and death rates were high, and almost half the children born alive died before age five.” Conditions would improve with more public health measures notably malaria, the disease that plagued Valentino’s father. “Malaria, a major scourge of the rural south, declined sharply as quinine became widely available after 1900.” (Brittanica). But even as recently as 2005-2015, in the area where Valentino’s and my families come from “Inequalities are reported even among Italian regions: in Southern Italy, infant mortality is 1.4 fold higher than in Northern Italy.” (Italian Journal of Pediatrics)

In New York City in the late 19th and early 20th century, where my grandmother and all her siblings were born, the situation was also distressing, as described in this paper from The American Journal of Public Health:

“Children were especially vulnerable to the health problems associated with poor and dangerous housing conditions. Inadequately protected against the harsh cold of winter and the stifling heat of summer, children in these urban ghettos often ate poorly, washed sporadically, dodged falling plaster and other environmental hazards, and were exposed to many deadly contagious diseases. Epidemics of diphtheria, smallpox, and whooping cough, to name but a few, were almost annual events during this period. Death was a common visitor, with a frequency and relentlessness that is difficult for most Americans of just a century later to fully comprehend.”


The Valentino Siblings

Grazia Bice Maria Ceresa Amalia Guglielmi was born June 1, 1890 in Castellaneta, Italy. She passed away on August 14, 1891 from diphtheria, a highly contagious bacterial infection which creates toxins in the body. Today, antitoxins and antibiotics are used to treat the disease, but there was no treatment in 1890 and no vaccine.

The remaining children born into the Guglielmi family did survive.

The purported picture of Rudolph Valentino as an Infant

Alberto Pasquale Guglielmi (left) was born on April 5, 1892 in Castellaneta and passed away on June 4, 1981 in Los Angeles, California, age 89. Brother Rodolfo Pietro Filberto Raffaello Guglielmi (right) was born on May 6, 1895 and died August 23, 1926 at age 31. Picture ca. 1897.

Valentino’s younger sister Maria Grazia Martina Anna Guglielmi (Strada after marriage) was born September 1, 1897 in Castellaneta. Her date of passing is unknown.

There are no baby pictures of Maria available but this a picture of her in her younger days.


The Socci Siblings

The picture of the young Maria Guglielmi reminds me of the picture of my grandfather’s sister, Rosina. Little Rosina was the only girl among 12 children; 4 of the boys died and Rosina would also die too young. My mother wrote in her life story:

Only 7 sons survived. My Dad’s sister, Rosina, died when she was sixteen years old. I know this because my father spoke of her often. He must have loved her very dearly.

Rosina Socci
Rosina, date unknown

The surviving boys were:

Leonardo–1877-1947 He never came to the United States

Alessandro (Alexander)–(dates unknown) Came to the United States but returned to Italy.

Lived in the United States after emigrating

Michele (Michael) A.–1880-1968

Ernesto (Ernest) Donato–1884-1973

Giacomo (James/Jake) Mario–1890-1959

Matteo (Matthew) Anthony–1892-1966

Francesco (Frank) William–1895-1988

Unfortunately, I have not discovered any pictures of these siblings as infants.

Although the boys did spend time in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York at different points in their lives, Michele and Ernesto would live for quite awhile in Waterbury, Connecticut, one of Connecticut’s manufacturing hubs at the time. Michele would open up his barber shop there and it was a base for the other brothers to either work or visit. Eventually, Rutherford, New Jersey would become the “rural” home outside of New York City where my mother and her siblings would be raised, with her uncles spending a great deal of time living and visiting the house on Feronia Way.


The Bosco Siblings

All of the Bosco family children were born in New York City. Five children would survive. My research reveals that there was a baby boy named Ernesto, who was born in Manhattan, only to die at the age of 2 months in November 1892. Tragedy struck again when twins, probably girls, were born in late 1902. It is likely that they were named Domenica and Pasqualina; Grazia, their mother, died in childbirth. As my mother writes in her life story, when her mother was 8 years old “her mother and the twins she had given birth to died.” As mentioned in my previous post, the children were placed in an orphanage. Their father Antonio quickly remarried Rosaria in 1903, an older woman who came over from Italy, who raised the children after they were taken home from orphanage.

The surviving children were:

Rosina (Rose)–1894-1952 (my grandmother)

Em(m)anuella (Millie)–1896-1980

John –1898-1953

Charles (Carmine) Bosco–1898- not yet determined

Andrew –1901-1941

The Lalumia Siblings

All the Lalumia children were born in New York, except Anthony (my father) and the youngest, Matthew. They were born in New Jersey. The family had settled in the town of Lodi. Many Italian families went to Lodi which was near the mills and factories which provided employment. Oldest sibling Lucia was actually a half sister to the rest of the children, as she was born to Guiseppe Lalumia’s first wife. I have no records as to when this first wife died or under what conditions, but he then married his second wife, Rosina (Rosa), and the family grew with the addition of three boys and one girl.

The Lalumia children were:

Lucia (Lucy)–1898-1977

Calogero (Ciro) (Carl Joseph) 1903-1982

Providenza (Florence) 1907-1990

Antoni (Anthony Joseph) 1909-1991

Matthew Joseph 1914-1985


In future posts I’ll be touching base with various members of as I write about various aspects of Rudolph Valentino’s life. Even though their lives weren’t as public as the life that Rudolph Valentino lead, many of my relatives had lives full of variety and accomplishment.

SOURCES

Simeoni, Silvia, Luisa Frova and Mario De Curtis. “Inequalities in infant mortality in Italy.” Italian Journal of Pediatrics 45, (2109) Article number: 11

Markel, Howard. “For the Welfare of Children: The Origins of the Relationship between US Public Health Workers and Pediatricians.” American Journal of Public Health 90, No. 6 (2000): 893-899.

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