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MMD > Archives > March 2005 > 2005.03.19 > 01Prev  Next

Book "Little Slaves of the Harp" by John Zucchi
By Robbie Rhodes

At :

A fascinating social history of a neglected group of child labourers.

During the nineteenth century child musicians could be seen performing
in the streets of cities across Europe and North America.  Although
they came from a number of countries, Italians were most associated
with street music.

In "The Little Slaves of the Harp," John Zucchi tells the story of the
thousands of Italian children who were indentured to padrone and then
uprooted from their villages in central and southern Italy and taken to
Paris, London, and New York to perform as barrel-organists, harpists,
violinists, fifers, pipers, and animal exhibitors.

The padrone were often known to the families of the children or were
from the same villages.  While some were cruel exploiters who compelled
obedience through terror and abuse -- a view promoted by a few,
well-publicized cases -- the lot of most of these children was similar
to that of child apprentices and helpers in other trades.

Public reactions to the child performers were different in each city and
reflected the host society's view of the influx of foreign immigrants
in general.  Although England, France, and the United States developed
legislation in the mid-nineteenth century to deal with children in
factories, they did not attempt to regulate children in street trades
until later in the century because they saw the work as a form of begging.

The battle to get Italian child musicians off the street dragged on for
years before legislation and new work opportunities -- often as onerous
as or worse than street performing -- directed the children into new

  Little Slaves of the Harp: Italian Child Street Musicians
    in Nineteenth-Century Paris, London, and New York
  By John E. Zucchi, professor of history, McGill University.

  McGill-Queen's Studies in Ethnic History # 1.13
  Published by McGill-Queens University Press 1992
  ISBN 0773508902 Hardcover (ca. US$80)
  ISBN 0773517553 Paperback (ca. US$25)

Robbie Rhodes
Mechanical Music Digest

 [ Il padrone is lampooned in "Pinocchio" as the fiery Mangiafuoco
 [ who transforms disobedient young wards into donkeys.  -- Robbie

(Message sent Sat 19 Mar 2005, 20:58:39 GMT, from time zone GMT-0800.)

Key Words in Subject:  Book, Harp, John, Little, Slaves, Zucchi

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