Carmelo’s Cabinet


Objects contained in the first drawer of a chest brought to the anthracite region from Italy in 1901.

This post is from Judy Joklik, a student at the University of Maryland who is beginning work on a new project for the Lattimer Archaeology Project. We are examining the contents of a chest of drawers brought to the anthracite region from Italy in 1901. Through the objects in the chest, we are asking questions about what sorts of things an immigrant to the region might have brought with them on the long voyage over. How did the contents of the chest change as life evolved throughout subsequent decades in the region? We must thank Angela Fierro and the Fierro family for lending us this amazing collection of objects which will provide us with a rich story about the transformations of everyday life in the region throughout the 20th century. 

Carmelo Fierro, an Italian immigrant from Mandia, Italy, came to America in 1901 with his wife, Lonsa. Leaving Naples on May 5th on the ship “Harzulurne”, Carmelo arrived in New York City on May 16th before travelling to his final destination in the coal patch towns around Hazleton, Pennsylvania. He started out as a miner before later opening his own shop off of what is now Route 309 just outside of Pardeesville. Our employee record card collection shows that Carmelo started work at the Lattimer Coal Company on June 10, 1901, a little under a month after arriving on North American soil:


Employee record card for Carmelo Fierro.

On his passage, he brought with him a small cabinet with three drawers in which he collected various items from his life. Here is an image of the chest:


Chest of drawers brought by Carmelo to Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 1901 containing a variety of objects.

Much of what is in the cabinet could be described as “knick-knacks”. Many of them are representative of Carmelo’s experiences. They can also be connected to the history and everyday life of the region. Immigration, industry, ingenuity, hard work and survival are all represented in the objects found here. There are objects that he brought over from Italy, including a pharmaceutical vial that used to contain quinine. Items from Carmelo’s mining days include the caps to a miner’s oil lamp and a miner’s check tag. As for Carmelo’s grocer days, there are objects such as cheese and wine seals or extract bottles. (see photos below) In a later post, we will post images of some of the mystery items from the chest. Maybe you can help us identify some of these objects?


Oil lamp caps used in coal mining


Annisette extract bottles


Cheese seal from Rome, Italy.

As for me, my name is Judy Joklik and I am an anthropology student at the University of Maryland. I have been working in the archaeology lab for the past few months analyzing the artifacts found from the archaeological excavations from the past field seasons. This semester, I am focusing on the cataloging and analyzing of Carmelo’s cabinet. I am only one drawer in, and that one drawer itself has yielded almost three hundred objects The photo at the top of the page shows all the objects from drawer one laid out on a desk.. I find this project very compelling because it can be connected to an individual and his life and also used as a comparative collection to the artifacts found archaeologically. Digging through the chest felt like a kind of archaeology to me as I found items buried under layers of dust in the bottom of the drawer. Now that the first drawer is sorted and cataloged, all that is left is to photograph each individual item before starting on the next two drawers. Stay tuned for future posts about the items in the drawer!


About LM Project

The LMP is a collaborative endeavor which aims to recognize the events surrounding the Lattimer Massacre, an incident that changed the labor movement and impacted the world by bringing to light economic disparities and ethnic tensions in the anthracite region of PA.
This entry was posted in anthracite region, Artifacts, immigrant material culture, immigration. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Carmelo’s Cabinet

  1. Pingback: Mystery Items in the Cabinet | Lattimer Archaeology Project

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