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Little Italy oral history collection

Identifier: OH LI


The Little Italy oral history collection oral history collection consists of 16 interviews with Italian Americans or Italian immigrants from Baltimore's Little Italy neighborhood, circa 1979-1980.


  • 1973 May 5-1980 July 23

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

The reproduction of materials in this collection may be subject to copyright restrictions. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine and satisfy copyright clearances or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections. For more information visit the MCHC’s Rights and Permissions page.

Biographical / Historical

The Little Italy district of Baltimore, Maryland, was initially formed by Italian immigrants during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these people came to the United States because they were following the classic American dream- looking for a better life for themselves and their families. Where one person went, a cousin followed, or a sister, a family friend. One after another, Italians immigrated to Baltimore until the trickle became a stream, seeking comfort and familiarity in the similar culture they all shared as Italians as they figured out how to survive and thrive in a new country. While there were Jewish, Irish, and Polish families moving to Baltimore as well, each of these ethnicities were unconsciously creating their own neighborhoods within the city, with Little Italy actually being founded by a combination of Italian and Jewish immigrants. Although the specific boundaries are uncertain, most agree that the Italian neighborhood included Pratt Street, Watson Street, Granby St, Central Avenue, the waterfront, President Street, and some parts of Caroline Street.


16 Items (There are 16 oral history interviews, along with multiple tape indexes, biographies, and supplementary materials.)

Language of Materials



Scarpaci, Vincenza. “Ambiente Italiano: Origins and Growth of Baltimore’s Little Italy.” Italian Americana 24, no. 1 (2006): 63–92.

Scarpaci, Vincenza. “Ambiente Italiano: Origins and Growth of Baltimore’s Little Italy.” Italian Americana 24, no. 2 (2006): 167–81.

Scarpaci, Vincenza. “Ambiente Italiano: Origins and Growth of Baltimore’s Little Italy.” Italian Americana 25, no. 1 (2007): 100–110.

Scarpaci, Vincenza. The Journey of the Italians in America. Louisiana: Pelican Publishing, 2008.

Scarpaci, Vincenza. Portrait of the Italians in America. New York : Scribner, 1982.

“The Neighborhood.” Little Italy in Baltimore, Maryland.

Scope and Contents

The Little Italy oral history collection oral history collection was established to better understand the lives of Italian immigrants who settled in Baltimore from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. This collection includes 16 audio recordings, numerous tape indexes, biographical material, and some additional articles and photographs depending on the interview. There is one full transcript for John Torrieri.

The individuals interviewed helped create Baltimore's Little Italy district into a thriving center of Italian culture. The oral histories focus on a variety of topics: initial American experiences, starting businesses in Little Italy, family life, Italian culture, the Depression, and World War II, among other topics.

The interviews were primarily conducted by Jean Vincenza-Scarpaci, known as "Vincenza," from 1979-1980, except for one recording done by Mary Thayer in 1973. Vincenza is a well-known immigration historian, in particular focusing on Italian American immigration in the United States. While teaching at Towson State University in the 1970s, Vincenza took an interest in the study of groceries and bakeries in Baltimore, Maryland, which led to the creation of this oral history collection. For more information on Vincenza's many works that could be helpful in contextualizing the interviews in this collection, please see the Bibliography.

Narrators of this collection include Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., Maryland's Delegate in the House of Representatives (1939-1947) and Mayor of Baltimore (1947-1959); Joseph Fava who created a successful macaroni brand; brothers Vincent and Michael Pastore who opened a number of groceries; Joe Vaccarino, who owned the Sole D'Italia brand, and a number of other Italian immigrants who settled in the Little Italy area.

Guide to the Little Italy oral history collection
In Progress
Cathryn Kinde
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library Repository

H. Furlong Baldwin Library
Maryland Center for History and Culture
610 Park Avenue
Baltimore MD 21201 United States