The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries could be looked at as a time of great migration. Around 150 million people left their homes in search for, what Italians called, “work and bread.” Phillip “Felix” Pulzone was one of the 150 million included in this statistic. He was born in Italy on December 1, 1881. When he was 30 years old, he and his wife, Maria, immigrated to the United States and settled in Alexandria, Virginia.
It is unclear whether or not Pulzone and his family had the intention on staying in the United States or not, especially due to the fact that by 1920, after nine years of living in the U.S., he did not speak English and was not naturalized. While in Virginia, he lived at 816 Columbus Street in Alexandria with his family and two additional boarders, and he worked as a car repairman for a railroad company.
Like other immigrants, he registered for the World War I draft in Alexandria. All eligible men, regardless of citizenship, were required to register. What is interesting here is that his draft card–unlike the 1920 U.S. Census–notes that he does speak English.
(Felix Pulzone’s registration for the draft card, 1918. Photo courtesy of Ancestry)
Pulzone died on September 29, 1933 in Byberry, Pennsylvania, while his family still lived in Alexandria. His cause of death, interestingly enough, was “general paralysis of the insane.” Upon further review, I found that there was a mental institution in Byberry where he must have died. Unfortunately, there is not much information on the life of Pulzone leading up to his death. This could be due to the fact of his mental illness.
(Death certificate of Felix Pulzone. Photo courtesy of Ancestry)
Pulzone was one of many workers of the world, who brought his family over from Italy in hopes of financial gain, maybe to return home one day. However, his wife and children lived in the same house in Alexandria seven years after his death, so it is most likely the Pulzone family came to the United States to stay..
: Donna Gabaccia, Italy’s Many Diasporas (London: UCL Press, 2000), 60.
: 1920 United States Federal Census, accessed October 10, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.
: 1940 United States Federal Census, accessed October 10, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com.