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OSIA’s long history begins in 1905 with its founding in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood. Click on a decade below to read about the progress of the organization through the century right up to today.
June 22 – OSDIA founded as “Figli d’Italia” at 203 Grand Street in New York City at the office and residence of Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro. (Later renamed “L’Ordine Figli d’Italia in America.”) A week later, Dr. Sellaro is elected first “Supreme Venerable” or president.
OSDIA has eight lodges in New York and one in New Jersey.
Grand Lodge of New York becomes first state chapter; puts a representative on Ellis Island to help new Italian immigrants.
OSDIA encourages members to join unions and support labor protests such as the Paterson textile workers strike in New Jersey.
OSDIA holds first convention in Paterson, N.J. Beginning in 1917 in Cleveland, OSDIA begins holding conventions every two years.
OSDIA publishes the weekly Bollettino Ufficiale. In 1946 the Bollettino is replaced with OSDIA News, a monthly newspaper. In 1996, the newspaper is replaced with Italian America, a full-color quarterly magazine free to all members.
President Woodrow Wilson receives OSDIA leaders at the White House. Since then, every U.S. president has publicly acknowledged the contributions of OSDIA, including Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
An estimated 28,000 OSDIA members serve in the U.S. armed forces during World War I. Of these 1,278 are wounded and 975 killed. OSDIA gives subsidies to servicemen’s families.
OSDIA lodges contribute $2 million and 3.5 million lire for war victims, Liberty Loans (war bonds), the Red Cross and post-war loans to Italian government.
OSDIA establishes free English language and citizenship classes for members.
OSDIA takes over administration of Antonio Meucci’s home on Staten Island, N.Y. In 1956, OSDIA turns Meucci home into the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, a center for Italian culture and language learning. Today it is one of only two 2 ethnic museums in the U.S. with landmark status. [Ed. Note: the actual date of the OSDIA takeover is disputed. It might have been in 1913 or 1914.]
The government of Italy designates OSDIA its official representative of Italians in the United States. OSDIA sponsors student exchanges and annual pilgrimages to Italy where OSDIA leaders meet with the Pope, the king of Italy and government leaders.
The eight largest Grand Lodges enroll more than 80,000 members in their sickness and death insurance programs.
OSDIA protests the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti.
OSDIA membership peaks at 350,000 in more than 1,000 lodges coast to coast.
Louise Porreca becomes first woman to serve on Supreme Council when she is elected a Supreme trustee.
OSDIA founder, Dr. Vincenzo Sellaro dies on November 28 of diabetes and heart disease at age 64.
OSDIA enrolls 1,500 young Italian Americans in 12 youth lodges during a mass meeting in New York City. Eventually 366 youth lodges were created, 132 of them in Massachusetts.
OSDIA hires Leonard Pasqualicchio as its first national deputy to lobby in Washington, D.C. He served until 1957. Among his achievements, he convinces government to drop wartime “enemy alien” designation of non-naturalized Italians living in America and presses successfully for federal government to include Italy in the Marshall Plan to rebuild post-war Italy.
OSDIA launches letter-writing campaign urging members’ relatives in Italy not to vote Communist in the first democratic election in Italy’s history.
OSDIA steps up campaign to make Columbus Day a federal holiday. In 1932 the Order began lobbying Congress and the White House for this holiday.
OSDIA establishes Sons of Italy Foundation®, its philanthropic arm.
OSDIA initiates letter-writing campaign to make Columbus Day a holiday.
Grace Grenco is elected president of the Grand Lodge of Florida, becoming the first woman to hold the office of OSDIA grand lodge president.
OSDIA supports passage of the 1965 Immigration Act which abolishes the 1924 McCarran-Walter Act that discriminated against southern Europeans by establishing unfairly low quotas.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs law designating the second Monday in October as “Columbus Day” and a federal holiday.
President Richard M. Nixon receives the OSDIA Marconi Award during a ceremony at the White House.
OSDIA helps create the Italian American Congressional Caucus, uniting for the first time all the Italian Americans serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
OSDIA also helps found the National Italian American Coordinating Association, a federation of national Italian American organizations now known as the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations.
President Jimmy Carter addresses OSIA’S 36th Biennial Convention in Baltimore.
OSDIA celebrates its 75th anniversary. U.S. Congress proclaims June 22 “National Italian American Day”
President Jimmy Carter awards OSDIA member and WW II veteran Anthony Casamento the Medal of Honor, following OSIA’s three-year campaign.
OSDIA elects the first woman, Joanne L. Strollo, to Supreme Council in the position of national financial secretary.
OSDIA purchases a building for its national headquarters and hires a full-time national executive director in Washington, D.C. From 1905 to 1955, the headquarters was in New York City and, later, Philadelphia.
OSDIA establishes the Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), its anti-defamation arm.
SIF approves $100,000 project to record and preserve OSDIA archives at the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center.
OSDIA increases the number of women on its Supreme Council with the election of Joanne L. Strollo, Fourth National Vice President; Margaret Montemuro, National Financial Secretary; Josephine Falco, National Recording Secretary; and a number of national trustees.
Establishes the Douhet-Mitchell International Airpower Trophies, given annually to two outstanding Italian and American staff officers.
SIF holds first National Education & Leadership Awards (NELA) Gala in Washington, D.C. to honor outstanding Italian American students and leaders.
OSDIA archives at the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center are opened. Its 1,200-plus linear feet make it the largest collection of Italian American resource materials in the United States.
Joanne L. Strollo elected OSIA’s first woman national president.
President Bill Clinton becomes the first U.S. president to attend the SIF’s NELA gala, and attends again in 1999 and 2000.
OSDIA delegation makes first official visit of 21st century to Italy to meet with Italian government, business and culture leaders including the president of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
President George W. Bush and Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attend the 16th annual NELA gala. It was the first time a sitting U.S. president and a prime minister of Italy attended a major non-profit event in America together.
OSDIA holds pilgrimage to Italy to kick off upcoming centennial year celebrations. Delegation meets with then-Pope John Paul II, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and other government officials and holds gala dinner in Rome.
Grand Street in New York City is re-named “Sons of Italy® Way.”
OSDIA celebrates its 100th anniversary. Since its founding it has established more than 2,800 lodges in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
The SIF holds the 20th Anniversary National Education & Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., celebrating two decades of honoring Italian American achievement.
The SIF marks its 50th Anniversary with more than $108 million given to support education, medical research, disaster relief, cultural preservation and other projects.
Vice President Joe Biden becomes the first individual not of Italian ancestry to receive the SIF’s top honor, the National Education & Leadership Award.
At the 22nd Annual NELA Gala President Bill Clinton receives the Sons of Italy Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Service.
The College Board reinstates the Advanced Placement (AP) Italian Language and Culture Program, thanks to a $3 million contribution from the Sons of Italy and other organizations
SIF presents a $10,000 scholarship to SSgt. Salvatore Giunta, the first living American serviceman to receive the Medal of Honor since Vietnam.
Then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.), are honored by the SIF at the NELA Gala.
The SIF holds the Silver Anniversary National Education & Leadership Awards Gala in Washington, D.C., honoring Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), and actor/veteran’s activist Gary Sinise.
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