Il Proletario [The Worker], Anno 27Chicago: Industrial Workers of the World, 1923.

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Il Proletario [The Worker], Anno 27Chicago: Industrial Workers of the World, 1923.


The full run of issues of Il Proletario from 1923, the companion volume of the 1924 full run in the collection.

The front page of the May Day 1923 issue of Il Proletario feautres a striking cover illustration, captioned “The heads of the monstrous snakes finally fall, shattered,” that shows a muscular, bare-breasted woman about to strike, with an axe, a many-headed snake that threatens the children standing behind her, an image that reflects the symbolic importance of May Day among italian radicals in the New World with the rare use of red (or of any color) ink.

The “hour for Action” lead story is by Mario De Ciampis. relatively early on, May Day turned into a more joyous celebration as well, with food, drink and dancing, in addition to poetry readings and dramatic performances, such as Pietro Gori’s Primo Maggio (May Day). The verso of this front page contains a poem by Virgilia D’Andrea entitled “Primo Maggio.”

De Ciampis was  a long-time editor of Il Proletario, leading historian of the Federazione Socialista italiana, and a close associate of Carlo Tresca. Ironically, there was no May Day issue the following year, 1924, see the companion volume, because the newspaper was in the middle of moving its base of operations from Chicago to brooklyn, where it remained.

May Day had its origins as early as 1886, when unions and anarchist groups in Chicago led a series of demonstrations and protests demanding an eight-hour day, resulting in the haymarket massacre on May 4 of that year, in which several demonstrators and policemen were killed by a bomb thrown at the police. Five anarchists were subsequently executed for their participation, though no evidence linked them to the bombing. France declared May 1 as the international holiday of workers of the world in 1890.

Traditional May Day celebrations remained alive among immigrants and the working class even after President Grover Cleveland in 1887 supported the Knights of labor’s recommendation that workers’ day be celebrated in September as labor Day. early May Day celebrations included strikes, mass protests and demonstrations, often ending in violence and police confrontations.

For a good discussion of the history and significance of May Day among Italian immigrants of the left, see Marcella Bencivenni, Italian Immigrant Radical Culture: the Idealism of the Sovversivi in the United States, 1890-1940 (New York: NYU Press, 2011).


Mario De Ciampis


Industrial Workers of the World






Mario De Ciampis, “Il Proletario [The Worker], Anno 27. Chicago: Industrial Workers of the World, 1923.,” Italian-Language American Imprints: The Periconi Collection, accessed September 26, 2022,

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