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La sentinella del West Virginia. [volume] : (Thomas, W. Va.) 1905-1913
Place of publication:
Thomas, W. Va.
Geographic coverage:
  • Thomas, Tucker, West Virginia  |  View more titles from this: City County, State
Sentinel Publ. Co.
Dates of publication:
  • Began in Feb., 1905.
  • Ceased in 1913?
  • Italian
  • Thomas (W. Va.)--Newspapers.
  • West Virginia--Thomas.--fast--(OCoLC)fst01271919
  • "Giornale independente." "Primo ed unico periodico italiano dello stato."
  • Archived issues are available in digital format from the Library of Congress Chronicling America online collection.
  • Description based on: Anno 7, no. 252 (Feb. 18, 1911).
  • Editor: Vincenzo Procopio.
  • Italian.
  • Published concurrently with: Thomas Sentinel (non-extant). Cf. W. Va. State Gazetteers.
  • Publisher: Rocco Di Benedetto.
sn 86092310
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La sentinella del West Virginia. [volume] February 18, 1911 , Image 1


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La Sentinella Del West Virginia

West Virginia’s only Italian periodical, La Sentinella del West Virginia ("The West Virginia Sentinel"), chronicles a thriving community of immigrant laborers. Rocco D. Benedetto, La Sentinella's founder, hailed from Pratola Peligna, a village in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. In 1893, Benedetto sailed for the United States and landed in New York; three years later, he became a U.S. citizen. Benedetto secured employment with the Davis Company, a coal company in Thomas, West Virginia. Working initially as a "common laborer," Benedetto eventually earned promotions to coke fork operator, inspector, and yard boss. With his savings, Benedetto began dealing in retail, banking, and real estate. 1905 marked his first foray into publishing when he secured the defunct Record Publishing Company. Benedetto began issuing a new paper, the Thomas Sentinel.

That October, he debuted La Sentinella del West Virginia, edited by Vincenzo Procopio. One year's subscription cost one dollar, six months cost 75 cents, and three months cost 50 cents. The paper cites its incorporation as November 6, 1905. Despite actively supporting Republican politics, Benedetto insisted upon the independent nature of both himself and his newspaper. By 1906, La Sentinella's circulation hit 1,500, eventually peaking at 3,500.

The publication fulfilled the primary tenet of the Italian American press: to inform immigrants about Italy, but also about their new homeland. The front page typically documented Italy's Giolittian Era and the reign of Victor Emmanuel III. Included on the front page were articles about other European countries that would have particularly interested Italians, sometimes concerning international relations or other Italians abroad.

Beyond the front page, the periodical featured three news sections: "News from Italy," "In the United States," and "News from Thomas." The Italy section spanned the entire peninsula, an oddity considering West Virginia's population consisted primarily of immigrants from the Mezzogiorno. News from the United States dealt with other Italian communities, but also detailed American politics and current events. Finally, the local section followed life in Thomas, from mining accidents to movie listings. These sections underlined the paper's preference for strictly Italian issues. The "Our Correspondence" section served as a social registry for weddings, baptisms, and church services as far away as Wheeling. The paper also documents Italian American social clubs, such as Fairmont's Società Italiana M.S. Cristoforo Colombo.

Advertisements from throughout West Virginia also appeared such as an Italian bakery in Elkins and Italian groceries in Clarksburg and Fairmont. Businesses from cities outside the region targeted immigrants as well. Religious stores in New York, a medical school, an Italian hospital in Philadelphia, and various services for sending money back to Italy all appear in Benedetto's paper.

Two agents were responsible for procuring subscriptions. Andy Conti of Fairmont, the original agent, also found advertisers and ran his own artificial flower shop in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Emidio Pucci later joined this effort, increasing subscriptions in neighboring Ohio. These representatives traveled widely throughout West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, documenting their trips in a section titled La Sentinella in Giro. The agents would host events in Italian communities and then write glowingly about their experiences, listing any new subscribers.

Benedetto's thus far overlooked paper serves as a cultural artifact of a flourishing immigrant presence in West Virginia.

Provided by: West Virginia University