American Marriage of Two Italians

In 1881, Giuseppe (Joseph) Damato and his brother, Luigi (Louis), immigrated from Montecorvino Pugliano, Salerno, Campania, Italy to New York.[1] Louis became a barber in the Boston area while Joseph took his skills as a tailor to the South, settling in Jacksonville, Florida, by at least 1887.[2]

 However, Yellow Jack, the personification of Yellow Fever, showed up in the summer of 1888. Whether the trip had already been planned or was a response to the epidemic, Joseph left town and headed to Boston. While he was there, he published his marriage intentions to Angela Previte in the Boston Globe.[3]

damato-previti marriage record-cropped On 2 September 1888, Joseph Damato and Angela Previti married in Boston. Athanasius Butelli, priest at Church of St. Leonard of Port Maurice, officiated at the ceremony.[4] Amazingly, at least in my mind, the newlywedJoseph Damato ad in Florida Times-Union -17 Oct 1888 p3 col 6-cropped couple left for Jacksonville before the threat of Yellow Fever was completely over.  Joseph ran an ad for his tailor business in the Florida Times-Union on 17 October 1888,[5] so I would assume they had returned to Jacksonville by that date.


Angela Previti (also recorded as Previte and Prevett), a young Italian girl of seventeen, had only been in the country for about two and a half years when she married Joseph. Leaving her family to live in an unknown place with a man she probably did not know very well must have been a scary situation for Angela (also recorded as Angelina). Thankfully, there was a Catholic church in the city where she was going. At least that part of her life would remain stable.

John and Louis Damato - Green book -pg 5This union produced two sons, John and Louis, born in 1889 and 1893, respectively.[6] John followed his father in the tailor business, and Louis started working in the post office. Louis began a ninety-nine year legacy of descendants of Joseph and Angela working continuously in the United States Postal Service in Duval County.[7]

 The couple weathered two known crises in their marriage – a lawsuit against Joseph and his tailor business and the 1901 fire of Jacksonville.  The lawsuit – Reese v. Damato – began in 1896 and was appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.[8] I’ve read the final judgment and, although I have very limited legal knowledge, the court ruled in favor of Damato. He continued to operate his tailor shop and advertise in the city directories.

The fire of 3 May 1901 rendered ten thousand Jacksonville residents homeless within eight hours. My great grandparents were among them.  However, a map of the burned district revealed that his tailor shop at 233 West Bay Street was unscathed.[9] The irony of the situation is that had the lawsuit mentioned previously not been appealed, there would be no extant record of the trial because the courthouse burned in the fire.

 Thankfully, they and their two sons survived the fire. These two people joined their neighbors and acquaintances and rebuilt their lives, businesses, and city. Joseph and Angela refused to let this tragedy chase them away from the life they had made in Jacksonville all their married life. But one more catastrophic event was the last one they faced together.

 For the rest of the story about Joseph’s death, see an earlier post entitled The Apparent Italian Bostonian Was Really an Italian Floridian.


 [1] “Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897,” online images, ( : accessed 20 Mar 2011), manifest, Ferdinand de Lessyss [Lesseps], arriving 16 May 1881, p. 3, Guiseppe [Giuseppe] Damato. 

[2] Wanton S. Webb, Webb’s Jacksonville and Consolidated Directory of Representative Cities of East and South Florida 1887; digital images, Jacksonville Public Library ( :  accessed 1 September 2014), entry for Damato Joseph, p. 78.

[3] “Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003,” database on-line, ( : accessed 21 Apr 2011), Marriage Intentions of Giuseppe Damato and Angela Previte; citing the Boston Globe, 24 August 1888. 

[4] “Massachusetts, Marriages, 1841-1915,” digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 September 2014), Giuseppe Damato and Angela Previti, 2 September 1888, page 148; citing Boston, Massachusetts, State Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1415225.

[5]Ad “Joseph Damato Merchant Tailor,” Florida Times-Union, 17 October 1888, p. 3, col. 6; digital images,  NewspaperCat ( : accessed 1 September 2014),  Florida Digital Newspaper Library.

[6]John Damato baptism, 1 September 1889, [no.] 1564, Church of the Immaculate Conception (Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida); embossed photocopy of baptism record from unidentified register, supplied 23 September 2009 by Immaculate Conception Parish. Also received in same mailing, Luigi Damato baptism, 3 December 1893, [no.] 1856.

[7]Larry Hannan, “Death of Neptune Beach Man Ends 100 Years of Family Service at Post Office,” The Florida Times-Union, 8 January 2011, Web edition cached ( : accessed 1 September 2014).

[8]Florida. Supreme Court, Florida Reports, Volume 44 (Tallahassee, Fla. : I.B. Hilson, 1904), Reese v. Damato, pages 683- 702; digital image, GoogleBooks ( : accessed 1 September 2014).

[9]T. Frederick Davis, History of Jacksonville, Florida and Vicinity, 1513 to 1924 ( Florida Historical Society, 1925), 224a; digital image, (  : accessed 1 September 2014).

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