That Italy of our immigrant grandparents was a country devastated by successive wars. A very poor country, with a high level of mortality due to malnutrition and lack of basic social services, even in the 20th century.
In the economic restructuring of the country, avery important factor played a predominant role. It was known as the factor R, and it helped to the national reconstruction. This factor R (R = rimesse, risparmio = savings) was, essentially, the saved money sent by the immigrants to their families from the countries where they were working.
The transference of money the immigrants used to do from foreign countries towards Italy, to their families, was a common practice. As an example we can see that in 1913 those incomes exceeded the amount of 716 millions of liras (95 million dollars).
1 dollar = 7.5 liras according to the values of 1910-1915.(*)
From 1901 the Bank of Naples obtained from the government the exclusivity in the collection of savings of emigrants and it started to open branches in all the recipient countries. The entire amount of money sent through this Bank was only a 15% of the total amount of visible remissions. Another 15% was deposited in Post Offices savings accounts. But the most important amount of these remissions, more than a 50%, was “invisible”: Italians used to export the foreign currency “into their own pockets”.
Thus remittances from emigration became an original way of transferring resources from agriculture to industry through the placement in the international market at competitive prices of the most abundant Italian commodity: the hand work.
The Historical Archive of the Banco de Napoli has put online the list of people who used their services to send money to Italy. This list may be consulted here:
Here you will find a list of branches in different cities: (Boston, Cincinnati, New York, Montreal, etc), you can click in any city to see the list of persons. If some interesting reference is found on there, you can address a letter or an e-mail to the Bank asking for more information.
Archivio Storico del Banco di Napoli
Via dei Tribunali, 213
orario: lun-ven 9.30-13.30/15-16