The explosion of Italian immigration to America after 1880 saw a concurrent rise in Italian American news publications. New York City alone had dozens of small Italian papers, and cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco also had multiple news organs. Many of these publications competed with one another for the same readers, however, and fierce competition ensured that many would be short-lived. Most readers were working-class men and women to whomthe papers delivered a great deal of news and opinions on labor issues. The better-financed papers tended to promote conservative interests. For example, Carlo Barsotti’s Il Progresso Italo-Americano in New York, Charles Baldi’s L’Opinione in Philadelphia, and Mariano Cancelliere’s La Trinacria in Pittsburgh were decidedly promanagement. These conservative papers even went so far as to carry management advertisements for strikebreakers when unions conducted work stoppages.
At the same time, quite a number of papers were controlled by various unions and workers’ rights groups; for example, the International Workers of the World used La Questione Sociale and later L’Era Nuova as propaganda tools to influence Italian workers. Publications such as Il Proletario in Philadelphia and La Plebe in Pittsburgh advocated for workers’ rights and promoted civil disobedience, a stance that got them in trouble with authorities on occasion. A typical government tactic used to stymie these radical organs was to have the U.S. Post Office declare them seditious and refuse to grant their publishers mailing privileges, thereby curtailing circulation. Nevertheless, between 1880 and 1940, more than a hundred radical papers appeared. Their impact on the working classes was significant.