How Many Italians Were On The Titanic? — Part 2

Many Italians were on the Titanic during the tragic night in April 1912 and yet only five survived.

Photo by Aussie~mobs licensed under CC BY 2.0

Let’s find out who the other Italians on the Titanic were.

Let’s continue our investigation about how many Italians boarded the Titanic. Exploring the lower classes now, there were eight Italians on board: four in second class and as many in third class. There were three survivors, including one woman — the only one in lower classes. The third-class Italian passengers, who were closed on their decks by a steward, suffered the heaviest losses of the Italians on board. Of the four — Francesco Celotti, Luigi Finoli, Alfonso Martino Meo and Giuseppe Peduzzi — only Luigi Finoli managed to survive.

He was born in the Abruzzo region, emigrating to the US at the age of 29, and becoming a naturalized American citizen 7 years later. Mr Finoli worked as a merchant and traveled several times between the US and Italy, in order to visit his relatives. He did the same in late 1911, possibly visiting Italy for a funeral, booking his return to New York in April on the Titanic. Luigi was among the luckiest third class passengers able to hold onto a lifeboat, saving his life. He was one of the witnesses who would hear the Titanic’s orchestra playing until the last moment. However, the shock of the tragedy he experienced would not stop his voyages overseas. Luigi Finoli would get a US passport, spending the last three years of his life in his birthplace in Abruzzo, where he would pass away at the age of 68.

Alfonso Martino Meo was the only Italian on the Titanic who was a native of southern Italy. He emigrated to London at a young age with his twin brother, starting a family and working as a manufacturer of musical instruments. Alfonso boarded the Titanic to deliver a violin to an American client, losing his life in the sinking. His body was later recovered while the violin still lies under the ocean. The bodies of Francesco Celotti and Giuseppe Peduzzi, the other third-class passengers in our story, were never recovered nor identified. They were both 24 years old and originally from Lombardy. Who knows if they had a chance to get to the upper decks or if they were among the third class passengers stuck at the gates by the stewards.

The second-class Italian passengers

In the second class, there were also four Italians: Mr and Mrs Del Carlo, Emilio Portaluppi and Emilio Mangiavacchi. Mr Mangiavacchi was born near Arezzo, in Tuscany, from a good family and was considered a man of education and culture. At a young age, he went to live in Chile as a firefighter. Mangiavacchi returned to Italy in the early 1900s, getting married and then immediately after the birth of his first child, emigrating to New York, where he was employed as a bank clerk. At the end of 1911 while his wife was pregnant, Emilio planned a brief trip to Italy to undergo some major surgery. The operation was successful and in order to return to his pregnant wife as soon as possible, Mangiavacchi booked his ticket in April, boarding the Titanic. He drowned during the sinking, and his body was never identified. His first daughter — after only having boys — would be born at the end of 1912. After such a tragedy, his wife Nella returned to Tuscany with all the children.

Husband and wife Sebastiano Del Carlo and Argene Genovesi were also from Tuscany, specifically from the outskirts of Lucca. They married just a few weeks before the fateful night of April 15, 1912, and their journey on the Titanic was a kind of honeymoon and the beginning of a new life in California, where Argene’s sisters lived. When Titanic departed Southampton, Argene was two-months pregnant. The iceberg’s impact struck the ship, as well as it struck the Del Carlo family. They reached the boat deck together, then Sebastiano helped his wife to get a place on lifeboat 11 and reassured her that they would meet later. Unfortunately for men, it was almost impossible to get on any lifeboat, and so Mr Del Carlo died. Argene Genovesi was then rescued by another passenger ship, Carpathia, which came to rescue Titanic survivors. Genovesi interestingly kept a boy in her care, claiming it as her own until he found his birth mother. The daughter of Sebastiano and Argene, who would come to be named Salvata (‘Saved’ in Italian), was born in November 1912 in Italy. Argene quickly went back right after the disaster, also taking the body of her husband Sebastiano to bury him in his birthplace. Salvata Del Carlo, the Italian miracle on Titanic, died only 12 years ago, at the age of 96.

Now it’s time to talk about Emilio Portaluppi, the Italian artist on the Titanic. He was born in the province of Varese, Lombardy, and grew up working in the local stone quarries. Portaluppi emigrated to the USA in his early twenties, establishing himself as a sculptor. In late 1911 he came back to Italy for a short visit with his daughter and his ex-wife. He boarded the Titanic to return to his home in New Hampshire, and after the impact of the liner with the iceberg, the legends on his account begin. Portaluppi said he attempted to jump in a lifeboat on the ship’s side but he fell into the water, swimming for two hours before being picked up by lifeboat number 14. Another version says that the Italian sculptor stayed afloat by holding onto an ice-float, until he was noticed by a wealthy young woman and rescued. However, he would be one of only four people still found alive in the water by the returning boat, among hundreds of frozen bodies. After his experience on the Titanic, Emilio Portaluppi just kept traveling and working between the US and Italy for the rest of life. He would die happily at the age of 92 at his birthplace, Arcisate, where he now lies.

Is Emilio Portaluppi the character of Jack Dawson created by James Cameron?

It is true that Italians are hopeless romantics, but this question may not be a figment of the imagination. What does Emilio Portaluppi have to do with the character Jack Dawson performed by Leonardo Di Caprio in the infamous movie? If we put some fragments together, it would seem that the Italian sculptor had a professional relationship with Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man on the Titanic who would die tragically in the sinking, like many other men without space in the lifeboats. Mr Astor boarded the Titanic after a long honeymoon with his eighteen-year-old wife Madeleine Force, who was five months pregnant at that time. Mr and Mrs Astor probably knew about the presence of Emilio Portaluppi aboard, as the artist had to attend to the statues of their luxury residence in Newport.

Mrs John Jacob Astor around 1910

According to witnesses, Mrs Astor helped a couple people get on a lifeboat, also hiding one of them with her shawl. It could have been the rich Madeleine Astor to convince the seaman turning back to rescue who was in the water, thus saving her Italian friend Emilio, but not recovering her unlucky husband. Nevertheless Portaluppi would be recovered by lifeboat number 14, while Mrs Astor was aboard lifeboat 4. Only in his late age did the Italian artist allude to a supposed friendship with the socialite Mrs Astor. It’s a wonder if Emilio Portaluppi or James Cameron romanticized this story creating a cinema masterpiece.

Leonardo DiCaprio, on the other hand, has Italian blood, since his paternal grandfather was the son of Italian immigrants, who crossed the ocean at the end of the 1800s. And who can forget that in the iconic film, Jack Dawson’s best friend is Fabrizio, an third-class Italian migrant who would die in pursuit of his beautiful American dream.

This long article is dedicated to all the victims of Titanic, of any nationality.

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