Italian Historical Society of America - A Brief History
"To perpetuate the names of those of Italian Heritage who have contributed to the advancement of Humankind…."
John N. LaCorte, Founder
The Italian Historical Society of America was founded by John N. LaCorte at a meeting organized by him at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York on May 29, 1949. This is the Inaugural Program. The Society was created at a time when the public perception of the Italian culture had been greatly overshadowed by the notoriety of a number of celebrated criminal personalities of Italian descent. It was John N. LaCorte's belief that these negative stereotypes could be overcome by popularizing the lives of the many Italians who have made significant contributions to Western Civilization. He also believed that Americans of Italian descent, as well as people of all ethnic backgrounds, could be inspired by the great achievements of those who have preceded them. Inspiratio per Exemplum, "Inspiration through Example", was the theme that became the motto of the Society, and which is proudly included in its logo to this day.
On November 20, 1991, John N. LaCorte passed away leaving a great legacy to the future, having made himself a living example of the Society's motto. He was an inspiration of unbounded energy and ideas who often moved mountains of ostensibly immovable barriers. He fought against odds which others said were impossible to overcome: When he believed himself to be right, he would charge on uttering his oft-stated principle, "Never take "no" for an answer!"
In this context, his magnum opus was achieving, against a sea of criticism, and unrelenting resistance was the naming of the bridge which spans Brooklyn and Staten Island, the ocean gateway to New York, after the Florentine navigator, Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European to enter New York Harbor in 1524, preceding the well-known Henry Hudson by some 85 years. Hudson utilized navigational charts of the area created by Verrazzano.
When it was announced that a suspension built that would join Brooklyn with Staten Island and that it would span the same waterway narrows that Verrazzano entered, LaCorte knew that it must be named after Verrazzano.
The fusillade of objections and barriers with which the proposal was met would have overwhelmed virtually any other person. But LaCorte never backs down. In addition to the inherent anti-Italian prejudice that still was pervasive, he had to fight Robert Moses who was the most powerful man in the City of New York at the time. Moses swore that the Bridge would never bear the name Verrazzano. But LaCorte, a simple man with an Italian accent who had no political power, would prove him wrong. The Society's founder held his course and achieved the appropriate recognition for a great explorer.
LaCorte's other achievements include the recognition of Antonio Meucci as the true inventor of the telephone, of Charles J. Bonaparte as the founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as achieving a fuller recognition of a myriad of others of Italian heritage who have contributed to the betterment of mankind in such areas as art, music, philosophy and science.
The Society Now
The Italian Historical Society of America is a non-profit educational and research corporation. Under the leadership of LaCorte's son, John J. LaCorte, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at California State University, Dominguez Hills, the Society has continued the work of its founder.
The focus of the Society has been traditionally on commemorative ceremonies which bring the accomplishments of great Italians and Italian-Americans to public awareness. In the digital information age of the 21st Century, the Society seeks to fulfill objectives through the medium of the Internet. The updated and modernized website on which you are now reading this statement is the flagship expression of this commitment.
The Society will also seek to develop and disseminate educational materials primarily for classroom use that will assist teachers in bringing vital and in many cases otherwise unavailable information to their students, namely the tremendous contributions that those of Italian extraction have brought to our life and culture.
Purposes and Objectives
The following are the purposes and objectives that are included in the Charter of the Italian Historical Society of America and are approved by the Board of Regents of the State of New York:
To gather and preserve biographical and other material relating to persons of Italian lineage who have rendered outstanding service in the advancement of mankind.
To establish and maintain a cultural center or centers which will foster knowledge and information on the contributions made by Italians or persons of Italian lineage in the discovery and development of the New World.
To seek and obtain grants and donations to help support the endeavors of the Society To establish and administer scholarships and fellowships for the encouragement of cultural process generally.
To develop, publish and distribute documents, reports, and periodicals in both the print and mass media which will serve to make Italian culture more widely known and more fully appreciated.
Highlights of Accomplishments
1933 - The group called AMERITO is organized by John N. LaCorte. This primarily social organization was the precursor organization of the Society.
1949 - The first meeting of the Italian Historical Society of America is held on May 29 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music
1951 - The premier edition of the Italian-American Review is published by the Society
1952 - The Society is responsible for the returning of the Verrazzano Monument at Battery Park
1960 - The Society is successful in having a United States postage stamp issued in honor of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the general who unified Italy and had resided in the United States in his later years.
1964 - Society is successful in having the Verrazzano Bridge named after the Florentine navigator, Giovanni da Verrazzano
1977 - Society dedicates the Charles J. Bonaparte Auditorium in the newly erected J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, D.C. honoring the founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
1981 - Laying commemorative stone for Peter Caesar Alberti - first Italian immigrant - at Battery Park
1988 Dedication of the Meucci Monument
2005 Dedication of the John N. LaCorte Monument
2009 Relocation of the Commemorative stone of Peter Caesar Alberti.