- May 2014
Take a look at this map, Steve:It may surprise many people to know that there was more Italian immigration to California in the 19th century than is realized. When the first(?) Oriental Immigration Act was passed, around 1880, there was a need and a demand for agricultural labor in fertile California. There was also a demand for skilled stone masons in the growing cities like San Francisco a.s.o.
Sometime after the American Civil War, fishermen from Sicily began to arrive at San Francisco, and north of there at Bodega Bay. The decade of the 1870s appears to be the beginning of a sizable influx to the US - and to California - due to the effects of Italy's Unification (from what I have read, unification resulted in higher taxes) and to overpopulation in southern Italy.
Not that they are major components of immigration, but the size of the immigrant population is reflected in the first Italian language newspaper in the US was published In San Francisco before the Civil War, and around the turn of the century, a community based banking business was established as the "Bank of Italy." It became...the Bank of America.
Interactive Map Showing Immigration Data Since 1880 - Interactive Graphic - NYTimes.com
It shows that in 1910 there were a couple dozen thousand Italian immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area--albeit only 4,565 in Los Angeles County, less than 500 in San Diego County, and less than 100 in Orange County.