The 16mm movies of a italian-american family
The private images of the Lombardis, an italian immigrant family in the United States, where they made a lot of money with their construction company. The 16mm movies were filmed in Philadelphia, where the Lombardis lived, Ventnor, a New Jersey town where they spent their holidays, Washington DC, where they film the building site of the «Joseph Lombardi & Sons», and, especially, Italy, the country of origin of Joseph Anthony Lombardi. His son Dominic is the cameraman most of the time. The collection, in fact, show the life of an italian family who came to the US in the late 19th century from Fornelli, a small town of Molise. They came back to Italy in the 30s by boat and taking their luxury car with them. This trip was extensively filmed and reveals the deep connection with their homeland and the rediscovery of their roots.
The user can explore the collection through a wide selection of sequences filmed by the Lombardis. It is possible to watch the 2-hour-length 15 digitalized clips in chronological order or through the menu. The short texts inserted in the movie titles, in the explanatory notes or overlapped, introduce, contextualize and give precise information about the people, places and situations we can find on these films. The information was collected through research, documentation and cataloguing. The videos were edited using Klynt software tool.
(texts written by Karianne Fiorini)
Joseph Anthony Lombardi, or Giuseppe Antonio Lombardi, was born in Fornelli, a small town of Molise region nestled on the top of a hill, on February 16th 1884. He is the sixth and last son of Domenico and Scolastica Lombardi.
Even if he wasn’t born in a poor family – his father was the town’s hall secretary – he decided in 1895, when he was eleven years old, to follow his elder brother Roberto (1874) and departed from Naples to the US with the hope of a better future. The information of their first years as immigrants in the US is scarce and imprecise. They may have left NY and moved to Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, where, in the late 19th century, the italian community was wider and one of the firsts Little Italy’s was being born around the South side. The only thing that attest this is a photo of Roberto Lombardi in Philadelphia in 1897.
He worked hard and did any kind of job, among them one in a bakery («my baker», as his wife Attilia started to call him), and Joseph Anthony started to climb the ladder in american society, becoming a US citizen at 21. He and his brother entered the construction business and worked as masons, earning the trust of many companies with their entrepreneurship. He will then create a construction company that will became one of the most important companies of the area in the 20s, operating from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, and even Washington DC. The Joseph Lombardi & Sons company, specialized in digs and building subway lines and sewers in particular, of which there was a high demand by then, makes Joseph Anthony one of the wealthiest man in Philadelphia and grants the Lombardis a high social position, becoming a real example of the American dream legend that was so popular in the other shore of the Atlantic.
In 1914 Joseph Lombardi marries Attilia Volpe (1893), a second generation italian-american born out of an italian couple (Angelo Maria Volpe e Diomira Severina) that came to the Philadelphia from Acquavella, near Salerno. They will have 8 children: Dorothy Scolastica (1915), Dominic Joseph (1917), Horace Nicholas (1919), Joseph Paul (1921), Dolores (1922), Robert Joseph (1924), Gloria Dolores (1926), Yolanda (1927). Dolores died when she was only 4 years old because of a domestic accident.
Their wealth and position grants their children the chance to go to college and mingle with the so-called “high society”. All their sons will be engineers and they will help their family company, whose offices will be placed in Market St., one of the main streets of Philadelphia and the heart and soul of the business in town. Only Horace Nicholas will be able to get an additional degree in Law, and he will became the lawyer of the Lombardi Family Estate, which had experienced a tremendous growth during all these years. Thanks to their wealth they could afford to build a cinema in the mid 30s, «The Dante Theater», in the same street their family lives, South Broad Street. This would be the first cinema to show italian films in Philadelphia, and it will be followed by other 4 cinemas in the city. It would be probably because having seen those films that the Lombardis will grow an interest for cinema, and why Dominic Lombardi bought his first camera. He will be the first cameraman of the family and the one who filmed the first block of the collection, and he will be followed by Joseph Paul and Robert Joseph Lombardi in the 50s and 60s.
The Lombardi Collection was donated by Dolores A. and Tia Lombardi to the National Home Movies Archive in 2010. The films were kept until then in the Lombardi’s home in Philadelphia and were filmed in 16mm. After purchasing the material, the films were restored and digitalized. The films were organized with the help of Robert Joseph Lombardi, Veronica, Dolores and Tia Lombardi, trough the information given by her during several meetings that took place in Rome, Philadelphia and Fornelli between 2010 and 2012.
The collection consists in 3 hours of material divided in 14 16mm movies of different length, most of all filmed by Dominic Lombardi between the second half of the 30s and the early 40s. The 16mm movies were filmed between Philadelphia, where the Lombardi’s lived, Ventnor, a New Jersey town in which the Lombardi’s spent their holidays, Italy, the country of origin of Joseph Anthony Lombardi, father of the author of the films, and Washington DC. The collection, in fact, shows the life of a family of italian immigrants who came to the US in the late 19th century from a small town in Molise. Most of them are home movies, and they show for the most part leisure moments, trips and graduation ceremonies. A particular trip is specially interesting: their trip to Italy in 1937. There are two additional films that show us the hard work of the head of the household and his kids. Family life is shown in scenes in which we can see an extended and united family enjoying leisure time and partying in Ventnor City and Philadelphia. The faces and places describe a world far away from the poverty that many other italian immigrants experience. In the movies appear many members of the Philadelphia high society: important lawyers such as the Gaffneys and Nick Benedetto, or jewelers as Amacucci. Their trip to Italy is a specially interesting movie. The whole Lombardi family took that trip in the summer of 1937. From Naples to Rome, to Florence, to Pisa and then to Milan, the Lake of Como and Venice. And, more importantly, Fornelli, the town of origin of Joseph and Robert Lombardi, where at that time his elder brother Orazio Lombardi, who was an army officer, bigwig and podestà of the town between 1926 and 1931, still lived. This roll shows scenes of simple pre-industrial life: peasants, people riding mules, shepherds and sheep, barefoot women going to the fountain to take some water. Dominic Lombardi also wants to show one of the most important projects of their construction company, the «Joseph Lombardi & Sons» in 1944: the construction of the Washington DC sewer system. In this movie we can see the building site and the masons working, and some cranes and bulldozers on the background.