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History of Freeland, Pa.
Loggia Gianfelice Gino No. 878 - Sons of Italy in Freeland

What's on this page:
  • The banner of the Freeland lodge of the Sons of Italy
  • 1921 inauguration of the banner at Timony Hall
On related pages:

Banner of Freeland Lodge #878 of the Sons of Italy in America, courtesy of Jim Etheredge and Bob Zimmerman

Men and boys of St. Anthony's Church Flags and banner at St. Anthony's Church Bob Zimmerman provided this photo of men and boys from St. Anthony’s Church, and although the main focus of the photo is the people, it’s also interesting to take a look at the flags and banner that are behind them. The flag on the right is an American flag – the one on the left might also be a larger American flag. In front of the church doors are a white flag and a banner. The white flag is an Italian flag – the image on it is similar to that of the flag for the Royal Italian Army, with an image that has been changed and used many times on Italian flags over the years, including a shield with a white cross on red, a crown over the shielf, and a cape or something draped over the back of the shield – and it’s remotely possible that it says FREELAND PA beneath the shield etc., although it’s hard to see it clearly.

Next to that flag is a large banner with a lion on it. I have wondered about it, and was lucky to be at a Freeland Historical Society gathering one day in 2019 when Jim Etheredge brought several items for a show-and-tell, including this large banner with a lion on it! I emailed him about it afterward and we both did a bit of online research to figure out what it was. Big thanks to Jim Etheredge for that, and to Bob Zimmerman for the photo, both of them helping us to see this piece of Freeland area history.

Loggia Gianfelice Gino banner The banner with the lion on it was made around 1921 for the Freeland Lodge #878 of the Sons of Italy in America (so that also helps us to date the photo of the men and boys). The Sons of Italy in America was founded as Figli d’Italia in New York in 1905. According to the timeline in the Wikipedia article about them, by 1913 members were encouraged to join unions and support labor protests. By 1918 some 28,000 members had served in WWI, and Lodges contributed between 2 million and 3.5 million lire for war victims, Liberty Loans (war bonds), the Red Cross and post-war loans to the Italian government. They also offered free English language and citizenship classes for members.

Loggia Gianfelice Gino banner The letters O.F.D.I. in A. embroidered on the banner stood for Ordine Figli d’Italia in America (Order of the Sons of Italy in America), and Jim noted that the words “Loggia Gianfelice Gino No. 878” indicated that the Freeland lodge #878 was named Gianfelice Gino. He said that there would have been local groups all over the country and also in Canada at the time. He added: I believe the lodge was named after an Italian pilot, Gino Gianfelice, who died in New York on July 7, 1918, while teaching American pilots how to fly a type of plane.

From a Wikipedia article on accidents and incidents involving military aircraft before 1925: “Flight Sergeant Gino Gianfelice, one of Italy's most famous aviators, instructor of Resnati, D'Annunzio, and other well-known airmen of Italy, is dead here today, the result of a nose dive he attempted while flying in a fast scout machine slightly more than 300 feet above the ground - a trick he often had warned his pupils against.” [His name is also being given as Gian Felice Gino (1883-1918)]. He was part of the Royal Italian Flying Corps and was training American aviators to fly American-made Caproni planes (Italian WWI heavy bomber planes) at the Signal Corps Aviation School at Hazelhurst Field, Mineola.

Inauguration of the Banner

Masthead of La Libera Parola So that's some background on the banner. As it turns out, this new banner was inaugurated in 1921. The inauguration was reported in the April 10, 1921 issue of the Philadelphia Italian weekly newspaper La Libera Parola, a paper whose slogan was "avanti sempre con la fiaccola in mano" or “onward, with the guiding light in hand.” La Libera Parola publicized the activities of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Order of the Sons of Italy which Arpino Di Silvestro had helped to found in 1913. It also reported on international political news. You can read more about La Libera Parola and its history at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85055164/

La Libera Parola article headline This article reported on the meeting of the Freeland Lodge of Sons of Italy in April where the banner was inaugurated! The meeting was held at Timony Hall on South Street (later the site of the Rialto Theatre). The Freelanders active in providing this event included attorney Michael DePierro and James Veraldi (was this the tailor whose shop was at 511 Centre?). Here is a link to the article, and here below is a rough translation (via Google translate, tweaked for sense and readability). As you read it you can imagine being there for the speeches and festivities.

"The Order of the Sons of Italy - Inauguration of a Social Banner"

From: La Libera Parola (Philadelphia, Pa.) – April 10, 1921

[Rough translation] This lodge of the Order of Sons of Italy, on Thursday evening of last week inaugurated his banner. The artist who was commissioned to direct the ceremony was Giuseppe Gaeta Brocato, Great Venerable Assistant of Pennsylvania. [Note: Brocato was a famous photographer of the Italian community in Philadelphia; he came to America from Cafaulu, Palermo in 1901, according to a note about Michael DiPilla’s book: South Philadelphia’s Little Italy and 9th Street Italian Market. – CT]

He arrived at the Freeland train station at 1:50 p.m. on Thursday, received by the gentlemen Gerardo Marziotto, Secretary of Finance and James Veraldi, Venerable of the celebrating lodge, in whose residence the dignitary of the Order was a most welcome guest.

A parade took place before the inauguration of the banner. The procession was formed by a musical band, followed by the Italian and American flags, by the banner which was to be inaugurated afterwards by the Great Venerable Assistant, and followed by members from the Italian Workers' Lodge No. 1047 of the nearby Lattimer Mines, by the Loggia Gianfelice Gino who were celebrating, and by a large group of Italians. After covering the main streets of the city, the procession went to Timoni Hall, which had been richly decorated for the occasion with palms and flags of the Allied Nation, and which therefore presented a magnificent appearance.

On a stage prepared for the occasion, flags and the banner were placed and the Great Venerable Assistant and the Messrs. Veraldi and Brienza took their places, along with speaker of the Loggia Gino, lawyer Michael DePierro, assistant district attorney, godfather of the standard, Mrs. Antonia, godmother of the standard, and the lords Mose’ Montefiore and Antonio Capozzelli, respectively Venerable and Archivist Secretary of the Italian workers lodge. The latter, who functioned as a master of ceremonies, introduced Mr. Brienza who delivered an exhorting speech dedicated to harmony and assiduous work to swell the ranks of the Order. Welcomed by enthusiastic applause, which was repeated frequently during his speech, the Great Venerable Assistant spoke. ... He summarized the history of the Order of Sons of Italy, explaining its aims, the program, the progress, the merits gained in the mass of Italians including those among the American authorities, governors, judges and mayors, following their development with great admiration. The speaker remembered all that the Order has done to date, from the creation of the Pension Fund to the establishment of the Orphanage; from scholarships to the aid to the families of those called up throughout the war period; from the showy contribution to the scholarship delivered to the Prince of Udine, when he was on a mission in the United States; from the gold medal for General Cadorna, to the registration of perpetual members of the Italian Red Cross of all the lodges of this state; from participation in the various Italian and American loans, to the relief of the damages from the various earthquakes that occurred in Italy, including the last one that ravaged beautiful Tuscany; from moral and financial aid for workers' causes, to that given to the various victims of fearful injustice, the last being the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, and to protests against the denigrators of our homeland of origin, the latest of which is Senator Shields of Tennessee [Note: Might this be related to disagreements in Congress regarding continuing loans to various European countries, including Italy, at the end of WWI? – CT]. He named the illustrious Italian personages - known in science and politics - who form the series of honorary members of the Order. Lastly he praised the greatness of the Order, inciting the Sons of Italy and the Italians present to remain devoted to their country of origin, and to participate in the political life of this country.

The dignitary of the Order was followed by the lawyer DePierro, assistant District Attorney, who urged the Italians to be good and to be increasingly appreciated by the America in the exercise of their rights. Lastly, the Great Venerable Assistant took up speaking again and proceeded with the inauguration of the banner. After the ceremony the room was cleared, and the dancing began and went on until 2 a.m. of the following day.

Through this newspaper the Venerable Great Assistant wishes to thank Mr. James Veraldi, venerable of the Loggia Gianfelice Gino, and his very kind lady for the courtesies extended during his brief stay in this city.

Freeland, Pa., 5 April, 1921
The Correspondent

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