Return to

"Beginning a New Life III: Gaetano Zaza" posted September 2, 2006 at 04:04 PM

When he was 18 years old, my father, Gaetano Zaza, came to America with his Uncle, Pantaleo Zaza. They departed Naples, Italy on the Princess Irene, February 20, 1913. His mission was to find work and, to send money back to his family in Molfetta, Bari, Italy.

Upon arriving in the United States, they settled in Hartford, Connecticut, where they probably found work as day laborers in construction.

After several years, Gaetano returned to Italy, where he was conscripted into the Italian Navy during World War I. A reluctant sailor, and a man who found taking orders from others very distasteful, he did the unthinkable, and deserted his ship and headed home to Molfetta, where is mother hid him from authorities in search of deserters. When the war ended, a general amnesty was issued to all deserters, and he was spared the dishonor of a court martial.

Now age 26, and engaged to be married, Gaetano decided to leave Italy again, promising his wife to be and her family that he would return in three years, and after traveling to France, departed from Cherbourg, France on the ship Gothland on October 9, 1920. Upon arriving in America, he again made his home with his Uncle Pantaleo, who by now had relocated to Hoboken, New Jersey, and had brought his wife and children to the United States. After a short stint as a laborer building the subway system from Hoboken to Manhattan, (also known as the tubes), he was fired for sneaking off and sleeping on the job! Unhappy in his situation, he contacted his maternal cousin in Youngstown, Ohio, Dominic DiNicola. His cousin assured him there was plenty of work in the Ohio steel mills, and urged him to move to Ohio, which he did. Gaetano actually went to work in a steel mill, but was eventually fired for, guess what? Sneaking off and sleeping on the job! His cousin, who was a cement finisher, found him work as a daylaborer in construction, so that he could save money in order to return to Italy as he had promised.

Gaetano returned to Italy, married his sweetheart, and after a short while decided to come back to America, leaving his pregnant wife, and departing on 1924, from Port of Naples, Italy, on the ship Conte Verde. Upon his arrival, he returned to Youngstown, Ohio, where he established himself as a self-employed huckster, or vendor of fruits and vegetables, as well as other types of food, such as cheeses, prosciutto, and salamis. He never again worked for anyone except himself. In 1928, he sent for his wife and their daughter, raising four more children, and becoming a landowner, which was very important to Italian emigrants. He lived in Youngstown until his death on February 21, 1988.

(Click all images for larger):

LEFT: Gaetano Zaza circa 1920
RIGHT: Pasqualina & Gaetano Zaza [w/uknonwn goddaughter] Molfetta, Italy, circa 1920s

Original ship manifest from Gaetano's first trans-Atlantic trip, 1913

The three ships that carried Gaetano Zaza: The Prinzess Irene, The Gothland, and The Conte Verde


Gaetano Zaza / July 17, 1894 - February 21, 1988

Comments (4)