Just a little over a century ago, two southern Italian males, like 1000’s of their impoverished brethren, moved to the Boston area to work as shoemakers, settling in the then-leather-based capital of the new World. One was skilled within the art of handcrafting leather in Italy; the opposite discovered the piecemeal production-line strategy of edge trimming. Each reacted equally to the dehumanizing situations of the early 20th century factory: They had been appalled, their spirits crushed.
One channeled his ardour and his disillusionment into becoming a well-known designer; the other grew to become an notorious anarchist.
“This was not shoemaking,” one wrote. “This was an inferno, a bedlam of rattles and clatters and whizzing machines and hurrying, scurrying folks.” The opposite lamented New England manufacturing unit life to his daughter: “the nightmare of the decrease courses saddened very badly your father’s soul.”
The shoemaker describing the inferno-like conditions was Salvatore Ferragamo, who wrote about his reminiscences decades later in his ebook Shoemaker of Dreams; the opposite, Nicola Sacco, was writing to his daughter from his prison cell.
The plight of struggling employees would lead Sacco, along with Bartolemeo Vanzetti, to join an anarchist group whose violent vision called for targeted bombings of capitalists. The plight of factory situations would lead Salvatore Ferragamo to head west after just one week in Boston, becoming a member of his siblings who had settled in Santa Barbara, California.
One of Ferragamo’s brothers, a tailor for the American Film Firm, recommended that the nascent studio may need a shoemaker’s skills. The concept proved ingenious, and shortly Salvatore was carving leather-based for cowboy boots for Douglas Fairbanks and fitting delicate pumps for Lottie Pickford. By the 1920s, he moved to Los Angeles, the place he obtained his largest fee, designing the shoe wardrobe for Cecil B. DeMille’s mammoth production The Ten Commandments. He then set off on designing his own footwear for Hollywood stars and would soon change into one of many main purveyors of luxurious goods on this planet.
Whereas the lives of two southern Italian immigrants, luxury shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo and shoemaker-turned-anarchist Nicola Sacco are not usually interlaced, they present an interesting parallel. If Ferragamo possessed the ingenuity wanted to flee soul-crushing manufacturing facility conditions, Sacco revealed the fury bred when vast-scale industrialization didn’t match his utopian New World vision. Ferragamo headed west to California and located the freedom to create; just a few years later Sacco headed west to Mexico to be radicalized at an anarchist camp.
Nicola Sacco would finally return to Massachusetts and continue to advocate the radical beliefs of Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani, who had urged his followers to go to Mexico to prepare for the revolution he believed would spread from Russia to Europe. Galleani additionally convinced his supporters that bombings and assassinations had been justified because the victims had been capitalists and authorities officials.
In 1927, Salvatore Ferragamo returned to Italy completely to good and grow his business. Unable to satisfy the growing demand for his coveted handmade shoes, he wanted the assistance of skilled craftsmen in Florence.
In 1927, Sacco’s American journey would finish within the electric chair, as would Vanzetti’s, the two convicted of a robbery and murder that many believed they did not commit.
But this story shouldn’t be nearly two males. It is about what their lives represented to the wider world.
Unfortunately for the bigger Italian-American inhabitants, it was the narrative of Sacco and Vanzetti, not Ferragamo, that national leaders chose to use as a chilling instance of how immigrants had been damaging the American approach of life. To the clubby New England institution of judges, university presidents, and politicians, Sacco and Vanzetti were not outliers however representatives of a people who didn’t share Anglo-Saxon values. Their lengthy trial played into nativist prejudices and contributed to the passage of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which severely restricted southern and jap Europeans from entering the country.
It could take several extra decades for Ferragamo to realize worldwide success. Today he symbolizes the immigrants’ dream of American alternative – one which propelled a cobbler, who once pounded leather in a tiny stone room in southern Italy, to determine an internationally recognized model of goods.