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of Freeland, Pa.
Loggia Gianfelice Gino No. 878 - Sons of Italy in Freeland
What's on this page:
Banner of Freeland Lodge #878 of the Sons of Italy in America, courtesy of Jim Etheredge and Bob ZimmermanBob 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.
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.
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 BannerSo 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/
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"
[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]