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.

Rudolph Valentino’s Favorite Poet Has His Day…Dante Day, March 25, 2021…and a New Connection Is Revealed

In the April 15, 1922 issue of Pantomime Magazine, Rudolph Valentino was asked a series of questions aimed at revealing his “psychological profile.” Entitled Read ‘Em and Know ‘Em–A ‘Mental’ Photograph of Rodolfo Valentino, Valentino answered questions ranging from his favorite virtue (honor and modesty) to his ideas of happiness (a loving wife and children), unhappiness (loneliness), and many other questions…including “Who is your favorite poet?” Valentino responded “Dante Alighieri”.

Dante Alighieri (born c. May 21–June 20, 1265, Florence [Italy]—died September 13/14, 1321, Ravenna) is today being celebrated in Italy to mark the start of events to honor the 700th year of his death.

March 25 was picked last year to celebrate the man known to Italians as the “supreme poet” because most scholars believe his fictional journey through hell, purgatory and heaven — as told in the “Divine Comedy” — starts on this day.

According to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Dante is still relevant in the modern world because of the “universality” of that masterpiece.

Source: Agence France Presse, Italy Celebrates Its ‘Supreme Poet’ With Dante Day, by By Gaël BRANCHEREAU
March 25, 2021 via Barron’s

I studied the Divine Comedy in college and, apparently, so did my parents. I pulled off my bookshelf a copy of the “first annotated edition of the Italian text” which was published in 1909, with subsequent printings in 1911 and 1913. This edition, edited and annotated by C.H. Grandgent, Professor of Romance Languages, Harvard University includes fascinating diagrams to help the reader on the journey. I wish I had this edition in hand when I studied this work!

In another coincidence that occurred just a few days ago, I reconnected with a well-known plein air artist, Frank LaLumia, whose family shares the same hometown in Sicily (Campofelice di fitalia) and the same name as my family with a slight variation of the spelling (although on his website the name appears at times as one word, just like my name because of site formatting.) I’ve know that some of the families coming to America went, not only to New York, but also to New Orleans among other destinations. In fact, when I was a child during the mid-1950’s visitors from New Orleans came to visit family in Lodi, New Jersey, bringing their own Coca Cola because they claimed the “recipe” was different than what was sold in the North! (I don’t know if that is was really true or not!)

However, some of the New Orleans branch moved up to Chicago…and my new contact was born there. Years later, he resided in Santa Fe, New Mexico and then moved to Trinidad, Colorado, just over the border. As a long time resident of New Mexico, we’re about a long day’s drive away.

I’ve know about the work of Frank LaLumia for years, so it was a thrill to connect with him. Frank has authored a book entitled PLEIN  AIR  PAINTING  IN WATERCOLOR  AND  OIL,  North Light Publications and has also been a Contributing  Artist  for the P.B.S. Series PLEIN AIR: PAINTING THE AMERICAN LANDSCAPE. On his website, Frank Lalumia Fine Art, you can enjoy his beautiful art, which also includes work in watercolor and oil and new contemporary pieces.

So, what does all this have to do with Dante Day?

In his Artist Statement (2017), Frank discusses his Contemporary Watercolors this way (excerpt):

My series of Contemporary Watercolors was born in Hell, and has been rising ever since. In the 1980’s, it was sparked by a profound inspiration with the work of Dante Alighieri. The DIVINE COMEDY, (and particularly the INFERNO), was perfect for this concept. The subject matter in my series is evocative rather than descriptive or literal, lending itself perfectly to the idea of ‘found’ or discovered’ painting. And what better place to exploit the expressive potential of the medium itself?

 

So, on Dante Day, I am celebrating all the “found” connections between the mind of Rudolph Valentino, the art of Frank LaLumia, and a new branch of the family.

Dante Alighieri

3. Part 1: Rudolph Valentino’s Family–His Parents …(and My Great-Grandparents and Grandparents…) Updated 4/20/2021


Most fans have seen pictures of Valentino’s mother and father and know that his mother was French and his father was Italian. They were well-educated people and considered to be middle class at the time. Giovanni Guglielmi served in the military, achieving the rank of captain, then graduated from the University of Naples and became a veterinarian, traveling the countryside tending to the livestock of the rural farmers and paid, often not with money, but with what the farmers produced from their land…cheese, wine, olives and their grain harvests. He began studying and doing lab research on malaria which was prevalent in the area, and after researching the deaths of horses and cattle, he found how the disease could be transmitted to the animals by mosquitoes just as it was transmitted to humans.

Rudolph’s mother was the daughter of an engineer (also described as an “engineering technician”) who came to Italy, charged with building a a bridge between Taranto and Bari. Before her marriage, she was the companion of a wealthy noblewoman named Marchesa Giovinazzi. The educated and refined Gabrielle loved to read, recite French poetry, discuss philosophy and also possessed skills in sewing and embroidery. She was also described as being a wonderful storyteller, recounting stories of nobility, their adventures and their glory.

Giovanni and Gabrielle married in June 1889. Giovanni would die in March 1906 at age 53 from the malaria that he studied and Gabrielle would die on January 18, 1918 in France, never having seen her son Rudolph again after he went to America.

Giovanni Antonio Giuseppe Fidele Guglielmi

(February 9, 1853-March 24, 1906)

Marie Berthe(a) Gabrielle(a) Barbin

(1856-January 18, 1918)

By contrast, my family came from far more modest backgrounds. While husbands could read and write, the wives were illiterate. The men learned English, while their wives apparently spoke only Italian and worked in the home.

MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS–MY MOTHER’S GRANDPARENTS, HER FATHER’S SIDE

Vincenzo Socci cultivated the land. He was still working with his vegetable plot and grapevines in old age.

The family house still stands in Casalnuovo Monterotaro. My grandfather (Ernesto) would tell stories about how the family lived in rooms above the stable which housed their animals. (Today, the house is still in the family and the stable has been renovated to provide a kitchen and living space with the former family rooms now transformed into bedrooms.) When he came to the United States he particularly missed his donkey which he called “Gentilezza” although he pronounced the name more like “Gentilique.” From my mother’s life story (see NOTE below):

Life in his little town was very difficult. Families owned small plots of land outside the town which were their main sustenance. They also plied other trades such as shoemaker, seamstress, mechanic and blacksmithing.

Out of 12 children born, 6 sons survived. One stayed in Italy, one came to the United States and returned, and 4 settled permanently, although the oldest returned to Italy very late in life to satisfy his wife’s wishes.

MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS–MY MOTHER’S GRANDPARENTS, HER MOTHER’S SIDE

Antonio Bosco came to the United States from Sorrento or a small town in its environs, just south of Naples. Antonio Bosco is hard to pin down in terms of what he actually did to support his family. UPDATED: The New York City Census dated June 1, 1905 reveals that Antonio operated a rag shop and that his wife Rosario worked there as a “rag sorter.” There is little doubt that times were hard. His first wife, nee’ Grazia Pepe (1873-1902) had five children, 2 girls and 3 boys, all born in New York between 1894 and 1901. And then, Grazia seems to have a boy who passed away at 2 months of age. Finally, the twins she gave birth to in 1902 died. 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.” All the children then went to an orphanage…all except my grandmother, Rosina (Rose) who is pictured below. Antonio then married Rosaria (est. 1903) to take care of the family and the four siblings left the orphanage. More will be told of this story in a subsequent post.

MY GRANDPARENTS–MY FATHER’S SIDE

Giuseppe Lalumia (possibly La Lumia) emigrated to the United States in 1891 and his first daughter, Lucia, was born in New York. I have not located any information about his first wife as of yet. After he was widowed he married Rosina in 1902. She had emigrated in 1893. They had 4 more children, 2 born in New York, 2 born in New Jersey, before she died in 1920. Giuseppe entered the country as a road laborer; in the 1915 New Jersey Census and the 1920 U.S. Census his occupation was listed as “grocer” in Lodi, New Jersey, where many Italians settled. By the time of the 1930 U.S. Census he was back working as a road laborer, but in the 1940 U.S. Census he was noted as being a merchant again, this time running a candy store.

The final resting place of Giuseppe and Rosina, St. Nicholas’ Cemetery, Lodi, New Jersey

MY GRANDPARENTS–MY MOTHER’S SIDE

Ernesto Donato Socci 1884-1973

The story of my grandparents, Ernesto and Rosina (Rose) will be told in my next post because they belong to Rudolph Valentino’s generation.

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NOTE–In the late 1990’s my mother participated in a “Write Your Life Story” workshop and excerpts from the story she wrote then will be included throughout this blog.

Sources of biographical information about Rudolph’s parents:

Emily W, Leider Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003) 1-17.

Aurelio Miccoli, The Infancy of the Myth: Rudolph Valentino’s Childhood Years (Translated by Angelo Perrone. Torino, Italy: Viale Industria Publicazioni, 2014) 1-43.