Italian emigration to America commenced only during the first half of the 19th century. The pioneers of the Italian immigration were chiefly men of refinement and culture, patriots who had been compelled to flee from the terrible persecutions of foreign tyranny after the failure of the Italian movements for independence in 1820 and 1821. Many of these patriots crossed into Switzerland, Some found refuge in England and a few sailed to America.
After the fall of the Roman Republic (1849) which he had strenuously defended, Giuseppe Garibaldi, the famous Italian liberator, escaping from the papal gendarmerie, arrived in New York as an exile. The New York Tribune of July 30, 1850 thus announced the coming of Garibaldi in New York. “The ship Waterloo arrived from Liverpool this morning carrying Garibaldi, man of world wide fame, hero of Montevideo, defender of Rome. He will be welcomed by those acquainted with him, for the chivalrous character and the services he has rendered the cause of liberty are well known.
Garibaldi lived in Staten Island, as a candle maker in partnership with another great Italian, Antonio Meuci, who is believed to have been the inventor of the telephone. After a few years he went back to his beloved shores where he continued his relentless fight against the oppressors of Italy.
With one thousand volunteers, wearing the famous red shirt he sailed from Quarto, near Genoa, landing in Marsala, Sicily. In less than one month he liberated the Island. He then crossed the straight of Messina invading the mainland. In short time, wit the help of volunteers, he conquered and freed the Kingdom of Naples, thus uniting the South with the North under the reign of King Victor Emanuel II. Garibaldi in later years, retired to the Island of Caprera where he died as a poor man on June 2, 1882 at the age of 75 years.
During the first half of the 19th Century there existed in New York four Masonic Lodges whose members were predominately of Latin extraction: L’Union Francaise No.17, La Cincerit No. 373 and La Clemente Amitie Compolite No. 410 working in the French language and La Fraternidad No. 387 in Spanish. Many Italian pioneers, being men of culture, and familiar with these romantic languages, joined these lodges. In 1853, Attilio Massabo, born in Piedmont, Italy, a merchant tailor by trade, was a resident of New York City. He was raised in one of the older Lodges of the Jurisdiction, L’Union Francaise No.17. He and other Italians decided to form a new Lodge, working in their native language – Italian and to name it in honor of Garibaldi whose service had immortalized him with glory akin to that of our great Washington. Garibaldi Lodge No. 542 was established with Attilio Massabo , the first Master; Abraham G. Levy, SW; John B. Harcher, JW; O. Marracini, Secretary. The first Italian speaking Lodge in the United States was born, named after the hero of two worlds. Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was then Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Palermo, thanked the Brothers of the Lodge named for him.
At the time of its foundation the Lodge met in Grand St. near Center St. About 1876 it moved to Bleeker Street and Bowery; in 1877 was transferred to Bowery near Broome Street; in 1880 at the German Masonic Temple, East 15th Street – In 1883 at 23rd Street between 6th & 7th Avenues; in 1884 in a hall in Union Square; in 1886 held its meetings over a saloon at the Northeast corner of 25th Street & 6th Avenue. Some years later it went back to the German Masonic Temple, and in 1894 moved to its present quarters, Masonic Hall, 23rd Street & 6th Avenue where it has remained ever since.
The membership has increased every year and later it became the Mother Lodge of all the Lodges whose membership was predominately composed of Italian speaking Brothers or Italian descents. Many Lodges sprang off directly or indirectly from Garibaldi in the following order: (1882) Italia No/ 876; (1897) Mazzini No. 82; (1905) Roma No. 854; (1909) Gavour No. 872; (1911) Alba No. 891; (1914) Dante No. 919; (1914) Carducci No. 924 of Utica; (1915) Archimede No. 935; (1916) Leonardo No. 937; (1924) Ausonia No. 1045; (1927) Caesar No. 1078; and (1938) Renaissance No. 1121. Although all these new Lodges had been formed over a period of three quarters of a century, Garibaldi has continued to maintain its popularity, prestige and reputation so much that it has gained world-wide recognition. During the prosperous twenties, it attained the peak in its membership – nearly 800. We have had in our ranks leaders such as Fiorello H. LaGuardia, Congressman and former Mayor of New York City. He was one of the most illustrious Italian progeny in the United States, a colorful and brilliant political figure of out times. W Dr. V. Sellaro, founder of one of the greatest civic brotherhoods in America, the order of the Sons of Italy; RW F. Fellini, a dedicated Mason to whom we are indebted for previous research on the history of Garibaldi Lodge; one of the founders of an American Lodge in Rome , Italy; W I. Bochicchio, eloquent orator, writer of a book on the life of Giuseppe Garibaldi ; Dr. M. Termini, a Virgilian scholar, under whose leadership the speaking of the Italian language flourished in our Lodge in 1935. RW E. G. Cuffari, indefatigable Mason, founder of the Renaissance Lodge – one of the founders of the Purple Circle, dedicated a great deal of time and energy for the foundation of a permanent Children’s Camp Fund within the Tenth Manhattan District, active until the last day of his life. MW Rev. D. F. Gigliotti, who lately succeeded in uniting the two Grand Orients of Italy, meriting the title of Honorary Grand Master in that country. He is credited of being one of the Masons who helped to guide the writing into the Italian Constitution of the three articles XVII-XVIII-XIX which deal with freedom of assemblage, association and freedom of religious worship.
RW Rev. Pasquale J. Zaccara, contemporary, recently decorated by the President of the Republic of Italy for his untiring humanitarian work of assistance performed in that country during and after the second world war on behalf of the Protestant Group of New York.
On October 12, 1922 (Colombus Day) with Grand Master Tompkins presiding, a monumental fountain was inaugurated at our Masonic Home in Utica, a work of art created by MW Ettore Ferrari, Past Grand Master of the Orient of Italy. The idea of the erection of this monument was originated by our RW Antonio Polito and its execution was made possible by the hearty cooperation of all the Lodges of the 10th Manhattan District.
On April 24, 1923 Garibaldi Lodge was host to a reception to Grand Master Domizio Torrigiani of Italy. A few days later during the a42nd Annual Convention of our Grand Lodge (May 1-3) Grand Master Torrigiani was solemnly and enthusiastically received by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York and the Grand Orient of Italy was unanimously recognized.