Francesco Secchi De Casali was born in Piacenza on the 25th of April 1819. The son of a contractor, he joined the seminary in 1831. Accused of anti-Jesuit propaganda, in 1836 he was forced to emigrate from the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza. After working as a travelling salesman in Piedmont, he embarked on a long pilgrimage in the Mediterranean, travelling between Algeria, Greece, Lebanon and Egypt. Back in Tuscany, he was placed in quarantine at the San Jacopo hospital in Livorno.
Closely monitored by the police, he left his homeland in 1843, taking refuge, initially, in Paris.
In the French capital, he met George H. Stuart, future president of the Christian Commission of the United States during the Civil War. The American talked to him about a free land, where he would no longer have to deal with secret police and the ancien régime: Secchi De Casali decided to leave.
In New York he was employed as a teacher at a religious school on Murray Street. While in the city, he came into contact with the influential Piero Maroncelli, who introduced him to a career as a journalist. He contributed to prominent newspapers, such as the “Whig American Review”, “Democratic Review” and the “Evening Post”. In 1850, he began publishing “L'Eco d'Italia”.
The newspaper soon became a reference point for the diaspora that accompanied the Risorgimento. It published news about Italian culture, economics and politics and also followed the affairs of the growing Italian community in New York. Particular attention was paid to supporting second-generation immigrants, who often begged on the streets or sold trinkets.
“L’Eco d’Italia” also engaged in proselytism. After the Second War of Independence, it promoted a collection of 20,000 dollars for the families of fallen Italian troops. In 1872, King Vittorio Emanuele II rewarded Secchi de Casali for this initiative with the Knightly Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.
With the outbreak of the Civil War, Secchi de Casali contributed to the activities of the Garibaldi Guard: a cosmopolitan legion of soldiers enlisted in the Unionist army. In 1869, thanks to funding from Charles K. Landis, he launched the Vineland project in the state of New Jersey. This was a farming settlement for Italian immigrants.
He spent the last years of his life in the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the company of his wife Mary Jane McBride and their two adopted children. He died on the 10th of June 1885.
Story collected in collaboration with the Museo del Risorgimento in Rome.
Francesco Secchi De Casali was born in Piacenza.
Accused of anti-Jesuit propaganda, in 1836 he was forced to emigrate from the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza.
In Paris, he met George H. Stuart who talks to him about the United States.
He contributed to prominent newspapers and in 1850, he began publishing “L'Eco d'Italia”.
King Vittorio Emanuele II rewarded Secchi de Casali for this initiative with the Knightly Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus.