Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ettore Mancuso and The Record Italian-American Newspaper

Banner of The Record weekly Italian-American newspaper.

This blog entry highlights The Record, a weekly newspaper published from 1925-1932 in Italian and English by Ettore Mancuso. The newspaper serves as a reflection of the Italian-American community in Schenectady of the time; it also tells us more about the interests, personality, and sense of humor of its editor, Mancuso.

Photograph of Ettore Mancuso in uniform in 1918. From Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.  

Ettore Mancuso was a lawyer who was very active in the Italian-American community in Schenectady as well as in local politics. He was born in Italy in 1896 and came to the United States at the age of 13. He attended Catskill High School, then relocated to Schenectady, graduating from Albany Law School in 1922 and establishing his law practice in Schenectady soon after. Mancuso was a Democratic candidate for alderman for the 11th Ward in 1929, and served the city as secretary to Mayor J. Ward White, as the city's Director of Public Information, and as Corporation Counsel during the 1930s. Through The Record, he was a vociferous Democrat; around 1935 he became an equally vociferous Republican, and remained so until the end of his life, frequently writing letters to the editor of the Schenectady Gazette about local and national politics up to 3 months before his death in 1979. He was involved in a variety of local Italian-American organizations, including the Sons of Italy, the Italian Culture Club, the Italian University Club, the Italian Political Association, and the predominantly Italian-American Brotherly Love Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. A veteran of World War I, he was also involved with the American Legion.

July 18, 1930 article encouraging Schenectadians to buy locally: "The 'Schenectady for Schenectadians' idea is not a new one, and it is not ours; but we are the only ones who have been preaching it consistently and persistently."

The Record's bilingual pages focused on events, personalities, and organizations related to the Italian-American community. Small articles, often with photographs, introduced Italian-American pharmacists, real estate brokers, and shop owners to the community. Local Italian-American graduates of Union College were honored and pictured on the front page of the newspaper, under the headline "Our Graduates." The activities of local ethnic organizations, such as the Sons of Italy and the Italian Political Association, were featured. Occasionally, the newspaper also featured social news, highlighting the wedding of a local couple. The Record also included a variety of advertisements for local businesses in both Italian and English. Mancuso occasionally published an article entitled "Why -- No Matter What Your Business -- You Should Advertise in the 'Record' and Other Foreign Language Weekly Newspapers," to encourage local businesses to place advertisements. "We carry the local news in Italian for our readers," Mancuso writes. "Our readers get genuine pleasure out of reading their news in their native tongue. Even if they can read English, they will get more pleasure out of reading Italian, for the same reason that you would get more pleasure out of reading the New York Herald instead of some French newspaper, if you lived in Paris." Mancuso also asserted that the smaller size of the weeklies encouraged more attention to the advertisements than in the dailies, and that members of the Italian-American community read it more devotedly than the daily newspapers. "He reads it from beginning to end. His family reads it. Often it is passed to others. It gets a reading such as the daily newspaper can never expect to get."

Italian-language advertisements for the Mont Pleasant Furniture House and the Jersey Ice Cream Company from the December 5, 1930 issue of The Record.

Profile of and advertisement for local Italian-American real estate broker Michele Suraci from The Record, August 29, 1930. In addition to advertisements, The Record often included short articles highlighting local Italian-American business people.

In addition to news of the Italian-American community, The Record also featured many articles about local politics, local news, and national politics. Mancuso made no claims of being an unbiased news source, always emphasizing the editorial content of the paper; all articles appeared under the statement on the newspaper's banner, "All the News You SHOULD Know With Comments." During the early 1930s, the topics of local elections/politics, the problems of crime resulting from prohibition, and police corruption surfaced again and again. The Record also contained a column of brief comments on local and national news and happenings under the heading "This is Station B-U-N-K. The only broadcasting station using a permanent wave. 'We tell the universe.'" In the "Station B-U-N-K" column, Mancuso commented about a variety of topics, from federal immigration quotas to the statements of local politicians, sometimes with a serious tone, other times tongue-in-cheek. Mancuso also occasionally used the column to make occasional jabs at other local media outlets for what he saw as shoddy reporting. The most frequent target was the Union-Star newspaper, as in this excerpt from the Record's "Station B-U-N-K" column on July 18, 1930: "The Union-Star has made a startling discovery. Lack of business is due to the piling of money in banks, says our afternoon daily, which 'prives that people have the money, but that they are hoarding it.' Since the Star has found the cause of the trouble, we suggest the remedy. If the ones who own the money prefer to keep it in the banks, why don't the banks loosen up and loan it to those who are anxious to borrow it?"

While many of the "Station B-U-N-K" columns addressed a potpourri of issues, the September 26, 1930 column focused solely on local gambling operations.

The library's Ettore Mancuso Collection includes a number of issues of The Record, as well as several speeches and letters written by Mancuso, a recollection of his World War I experiences, newspaper clippings related to local politics and political figures, and other materials. A complete finding aid for the Ettore Mancuso Collection can be found here

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