Hopedale History
    November 15, 2010
    No. 168
    Nicola Sacco

    Hopedale in November   

    Work at the Freedom Street dam   

    The World War I Honor Roll           The World War II Honor Roll   

    Mother Mendon and her Children   

    The Unitarian Church choir, 196?   

    The Union Church   Dedication program, early members, etc.

    Parklands Forestry Project   

    Yesterday’s hero – Tom Liberatore – Milford Daily News

    Recent deaths          

    In No. 167, I said that I didn’t know who wrote the article about Ballou, Tolstoy and Gandhi. This week I
    found another copy of it in the Bancroft Library; this time with the name.  It was written by Rachel Day.

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                                                            Nicola Sacco

    Ferdinando Sacco (he later took the name Nicola when he returned from exile in Mexico, to avoid being
    discovered as a draft registration evader) was one of many thousands of Italians who left their homes near
    the turn of the century to come to America. Like so many others, he formed a link in a “chain migration,”
    moving to a place where friends, paisanos, and relatives had already established a community. In Sacco’s
    case, the community was in Milford, Massachusetts. His father’s friend, Antonio Calzone, who worked at
    the Draper Company, had urged the elder Sacco to send his sons to America, and when Ferdinando and
    his older brother arrived in April 1908, they were taken in by Calzone.

    Fernando worked as a manual laborer in several different jobs during his first months in Milford before
    Calzone helped him obtain employment at Draper, where he had worked for a year. Then another neighbor
    helped the young man enter a training program to learn edge trimming, a skilled craft in shoemaking.
    Sacco’s first job as an edge trimmer was in Webster, but he soon returned to Milford, where he obtained
    employment at the Milford Shoe Company. He remained at this job from 1910 until 1917, when he left the
    United States for a period of exile in Mexico. “To this day, Sacco is remembered with affection by the older
    residents of the town, for whom he was a hardworking young man and a credit to the community, incapable
    of committing the crimes of which he was charged,” writes his biographer.

    In Milford, Sacco was exposed to a vibrant radical community of Italian anarchists and socialists. He began
    to read I Proletario, an IWW weekly, and he soon subscribed to Cronaca Sovversiva, an “Anarchist Weekly
    of Revolutionary Propaganda.” When the textile workers of Lawrence went on strike in 1912, Sacco was
    among their Milford supporters who worked to collect money both for the strikers and for the defense fund
    of Giovannitti and Joseph Ettor when they were arrested in connection with their activities in the strike.

    In 1913 Sacco began attending meetings of the Milford anarchist group Circolo di Studi Sociali, joining a
    number of his neighbors. “Sacco found these men, all of them about his own age, more sympathetic than
    other radicals he had met: more militant, more eager to learn, more willing to dedicate their energies to the
    cause of their fellow workers. He soon “threw himself body and soul into the anarchist cause.”

    When Draper’s workers went on strike in the spring of 1913, Sacco and the other anarchists of the Circolo
    were quick to come to their support. “He was not an orator,” the strike leader Joseph Coldwell later said of
    Sacco, “or even a fluent speaker, but he was a mighty good worker in detail matters and never hesitated to
    do his share of the appointed work"

    Saccos’ first contribution to the Cronaca Sovversiva was in August 1913, when the journal published a brief
    account that he wrote of the Draper strike and the campaign to raise money for the defense of strikers who
    had been jailed. Over the next few years Sacco became a frequent contributor to the journal, documenting
    the fabric of anarchist social and political life in Milford. His contributions described, “attending picnics and
    conferences, acting in social dramas, continually raising money to aid political prisoners and jailed
    strikers, always collecting money for “the propaganda.”

    A friend and fellow Foggian immigrant anarchist described some of these activities: “We put on plays in
    Milford, like Rasputin and Tempeste Sociali, and organized picnics to raise money for the
    movement…There were two radical circles in Milford, an IWW group on East Main Street and an anarchist
    group on Plains Street. Each had about twenty-five members, all Italians…Some of its members had been
    involved in the 1913 strike in Hopedale, when the IWW tried to organize the workers and a striker…was
    killed. Sacco also took part in it. In 1916 Sacco, my brother Saverio, and Luigi Paradiso were speaking at a
    meeting and were arrested by the Milford police chief.”

    Sacco’s 1916 arrest occurred when Milford’s anarchists mobilized in support of striking IWW iron workers
    in the Mesabi Range in Minnesota. They faced the usual obstacle: in December the Milford police banned
    all open-air meetings. When the group defied the order and met on December 3, Ferdinando Sacco was
    one of the three arrested and sentenced to three months in jail. (The charges were later dismissed.)

    The end of the story of Ferdinando Sacco’s is far better known than the story of his Milford years. He was
    arrested along with Vanzetti, with whom he had shared his Mexico exile, for a robbery and murder in South
    Braintree, Massachusetts, in spring of 1920; the two were convicted on flimsy evidence and sentenced to
    death. The case became a national and international cause célèbre, and the two were executed in the
    electric chair in August 1927. On the fiftieth anniversary of their deaths, Massachusetts Governor Michael
    Dukakis proclaimed August 23, 1977, “Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Day.” Linked Labor
    Histories, pp. 44-47, Aviva Chomsky, Duke University Press, 2008. Click here for Chomsky’s complete
    account of Sacco’s time in the Milford area, including footnotes for sources of the quotes.

    There’s another Hopedale connection to the Sacco-Vanzetti case, in addition to the fact that Sacco had
    worked at Drapers for a while. Draper executive Hamilton “Ham” Thayer was the son of the judge in the
    case.

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Vanzetti (left) and Sacco