Artist Luigi Del Bianco

Since this year marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of Mount Rushmore, the staff of the National Park Service has been posting short bios of the Mt. Rushmore workers, on their official Facebook page. Well, after 25 years, the National Park Service has finally acknowledged that Luigi Del Bianco was in fact the “Chief Carver!” Permanent recognition at the mountain is what we are really after, but this is a break through, and a start in the right direction!

Here’s Luigi Biography, as told by the National Park Service: 

Artist Luigi Del Bianco came to work at Mount Rushmore at the request of Gutzon Borglum, the designer and engineer of the stone sculpture. Luigi Del Bianco worked for Mr. Borglum during the seasons of 1933, 1935, 1936 and 1940. He was a Senior Driller until the end of July in 1935 when Mr. Borglum designated him Chief Carver. Del Bianco was a trained stone carver originally from Italy who had worked for Mr. Borglum before the Mount Rushmore Project began. Mr. Del Bianco resided in Port Chester New York where he had a successful stone carving business. After his work on Mount Rushmore, he moved back east to resume his stone carving business.


Let’s let the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE know that LUIGI has a lot of fans all over the country!!



Douglas Gladstone



Talking about Antimo…

Italian Harlem

Grandpa Antimo Puca While interviewing my cousin Herby for family recollections, he mentioned that our grandfather, Antimo (Tony) operated a produce store, around the corner from Arthur Avenue (across from St.Barnabus Hospital.) *Note: The timeline for this story is around the mid to late 1950’s.* Herby clearly recalled the fact that, written on the storefront awning, were the words, “Tony’s Live and Let Live…” Hence, Tony’s favorite quote was, “Live and Let Live!
Antimo Puca was the second child born to Stefano Puca and Teresina Milo. He was born in the small town of Sant’Antimo, Naples, on the 25th day of August, 1896. The first child born to his parents was a boy named Antimo. He was named in the traditional fashion, to honor Stefano’s father, Antimo Puca. Tragically, this baby died. Perhaps he died from the Cholera epidemic which was running rampant across Italy, at that time. Anyway, when the second child…

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My Motivation Behind the Creation of ItalianHarlem.com- My Father, Albert :-)

Daddy In December of 2007, I was 3 years into my “whirling dervish” obsession of gaining every drop of family history knowledge that I could garner. It became self-evident that my ancestral journey had begun, and so I conceived the idea of creating a website to memorialize, and forever “etch” into existence, the information that I would render from this extensive research. I named my website “Pathway to My Ancestry,” and so began the painstaking steps to build the site on the then existing “Live Spaces” platform. A few years into building the site, live spaces was drawing to closure, thereby necessitating me to find another platform to maintain my website. Hence, I found WordPress, and so here I am, and hopefully, will continue to be! In the interim, I had to transfer whatever was transferable to the new website, and decided to change the title of my blog to “Italian Harlem.”

Consequently, my ancestral journey transitioned from a personal family history journey, to a much broader sense of consciousness…that of the desire for public awareness of a now defunct Italian community in New York City. This “microcosm” of an urban neighborhood was “developed” in the 1870’s, with the building of tenement housing, and was originally inhabited by Italian immigrants, primarily male laborers. I discovered a broader sense of the “pulse” of this Italian community, through the voices of my father, his brothers, sisters, cousins, and others who once lived in East Harlem, when it was referred to by its residents as “Harlem.” As I listened to the stories of a bygone time, resounding with carefree thoughts of the “good old days,” it occurred to me that there was much more to this old neighborhood than the stories that were resonating in my mind. I was right! The posts that I have shared, and will share, within this blog, are a testament to the true nature, and fabric of a place that really mattered to a multitude of Italian immigrants and their families.

As I am drawing near to the 11th year anniversary of what has become a nostalgic endeavor of “genealogical/anthropological/sociological/historical” research of “Ye Olde Italian Harlem,”  I must tell you that this historical journey has been, and will continue to be an intrinsic part of my life here on this planet. My interest in preserving the memory of Italian Harlem will never falter. My research is a true passion of mine, one of many passions that I am fortunate enough to have in my life, including first, and foremost, my beautiful children, a loving and devoted husband, and my adorable rescue Shih Tzu furbaby “Romeo.” I also embrace my love of photography, and my fascination for the metaphysical sciences!

If there was one person that instilled in me an interest in the history of Italian Harlem, it was my father. My dad was born in 1924 in a tenement apartment on East 110th Street, right next to St. Ann’s Church. He was one of 7 children. His dad, Anthony (Tony) was a produce shop owner, who also sold fruits and vegetables on a pushcart on First Avenue. My dad’s mom, Catherine (Katie) was a seamstress, church secretary, playwright/producer, milliner,(hatmaker) homemaker, realtor, entrepreneur…a true Renaissance woman. I learned so much about my grandparents, and great grandparents, thanks to the amazing memory of my father, Albert, and his siblings.  I am forever grateful to them for sharing with me, through their youthful eyes, their life and times in the old neighborhood.

My father, who was “larger than life,” passed away 3 days before his 89th birthday, in January of 2013. I dedicate this website to the memory of my wonderful and charismatic father, who was known by many as “Uncle Al.”  Although he had hoped to live to “a hun 10,” (as he would often say,) his bright spirit and memory lives on throughout this weblog and within the lives of those who knew, and very much loved him.

Secrets of Mt. Rushmore: The Great Italian-American Master Sculptor, Luigi Del Bianco

Douglas Gladstone

Luigi Del Bianco in Gutzon Borglum's studio at Mount Rushmore with the models for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Notice the torso and full dress on Washington; Borglum had originally planned to make Rushmore more than just the four faces, but lack of funding, skilled laborers and faulty rock precluded that. (Photo courtesy of Del Bianco Family Collection)

Luigi Del Bianco in Gutzon Borglum’s studio at Mount Rushmore with the models for George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Notice the torso and full dress on Washington; Borglum had originally planned to make Rushmore more than just the four faces, but lack of funding, skilled laborers and faulty rock precluded that. (Photo courtesy of Del Bianco Family Collection)

It’s a 1,727 mile drive from Italian Harlem, New York – between Pleasant Avenue to the east, First Avenue to the west, East 114th Street to the south and East 120th Street to the north — to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in Keystone, South Dakota. If you’re taking I-80 and I-90 westbound you can do the trip in just under 25 hours. 

There’s no way to do the trip faster, just as to date, there hasn’t been a way to bridge the gap that exists between the United States Department of the Interior’s National Park Service (NPS) and the family of the late Luigi Del Bianco.

Del Bianco was the obscure immigrant from the Province of Pordenone, in Italy, who served as the chief carver of Mount Rushmore from 1933 through 1940. You read that right. An immigrant to these shores was the chief carver on what is widely considered to be one of the world’s most renowned sculptures.

But if you didn’t know that, you’re not alone.

That’s because the NPS doesn’t recognize Del Bianco as the chief carver.

Tasked with giving the four presidential faces their “refinement of expression” by no less than Rushmore sculptor and designer Gutzon Borglum himself, Del Bianco is specifically referred to as the chief carver by Borglum in a July 30, 1935 letter written by him that you can find in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

“I have seen the letter in which Borglum refers to Del Bianco as chief carver,” Maureen McGee Ballinger, of tjhe NPS, told Denis Hamill of the New York Daily News last October. “But I consider Gutzon Borglum to be the chief carver.”

And Del Bianco?  He was just one of the workers under Borglum, says the NPS.

The policy of the Parks Service is that all 400 individuals who worked at the monument from 1927 through 1941 receive the same credit, irrespective of their jobs. While that’s very egalitarian, it also presupposes that the man who operated the elevator lift was as important as Del Bianco.

The Parks Service is clearly dropping the ball here. They could be telling this great narrative about an Italian American immigrant who in 1929 became a citizen of this country who is the chief carver on what is arguably the most iconic landmark in this nation. Since the agency has long been a proponent of multiculturalism and pluralism, such a position would be in keeping with their own mission.

Instead, the NPS continues to recognize only Borglum for his work at the monument.

Listen, nobody is attempting to take anything away from Gutzon Borglum. There wouldn’t be a Mount Rushmore without him. But imagine the individuals in Italian Harlem, not to mention the rest of the 2.7 million people in New York who identify as Italian Americans, who would puff up their chests with pride if they found out that one of their fellow landsmen was at long last recognized by the federal government as Mount Rushmore’s chief carver?

Imagine what pride that would engender among the 18 million Italian Americans in this country?

In West Hollywood, California, Luigi’s sole surviving child, his 69-year-old daughter, Gloria, just laments the situation. As happens with all of us, she is getting older with each passing day. And she wonders whether or not the recognition she has long sought will occur in her lifetime.

“I’m not ready to call it a slap in the face yet,” she says. “But I’m pretty close.”

Is it a slap in the face?  Only Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Midwestern Parks Administrator Patty Trapp know for sure.

Meanwhile, with every dashed hope, false promise and unanswered communication, that divide between the Del Bianco family and the government just keeps growing and growing.


Luigi lived for nearly a half-century in Port Chester, NY which still has an exceptionally large Italian American population. There is a plaque dedicated to him in a park in Port Chester, N.Y.

 This is the plaque dedicated to Luigi in a park in Port Chester, N.Y.

Luigi Del Bianco

This is the plaque dedicated to the memory of the great master sculptor, Luigi Del Bianco. It is located in a park in Port Chester, N.Y. (Westchester County.)

Douglas Gladstone

The front cover of Carving a Niche for Himself. The rare color photograph used was supplied by Gutzon Borglum’s granddaughter, Robin Borglum Carter; it shows Luigi Del Bianco working on Abraham Lincoln’s left eye (Photo courtesy of Borglum Archives).

Douglas Gladstone author

Author, Douglas Gladstone.

Author’s Note: To purchase books directly through Bordighera Press, folks can call Rebecca Rizzo directly at 212-642-2001

Luigi (left) and Primo Carnera, who won the heavyweight boxing championship at Madison Square Garden on June 27, 1933. Carnera was from the neighboring village of Sequalls in the Italian Province of Pordenone. (Courtesy of the Del Bianco Family Collection)

Luigi (left) and Primo Carnera, who won the heavyweight boxing championship at Madison Square Garden on June 27, 1933. Carnera was from the neighboring village of Sequalls in the Italian Province of Pordenone. (Courtesy of the Del Bianco Family Collection)

Douglas Gladstone

Lost, but not forgotten…Morrone’s Bakery.

Rosa morroneLost, but not forgotten…Morrone’s Bakery.

Morrone Bakery, once located at 324 East 116th Street, sold Italian, French and Semolina bread. Gabriele and Rosa Morrone opened the bakery in 1956 and until closing day,  they religiously made authentic hand-made breads. This tiny bakery offered a homely, welcoming atmosphere, with Rosa Morrone  wrapping and selling the breads herself.  Long gone…but never forgotten!

The Harlem Beach Bathing Pavilion- Circa 1884

harlem floating poolfloating poolsThe Harlem Beach Bathing Pavilion- Circa 1884

1933: Policy Pete’s Number Book-Vintage “How to pick the #’s.”