Lesson Plan: Overview

History Mystery: The Case of Giovanni Baptista Sanguinetti

Immigration to Charleston, SC in the Late 19th Century

Grade Level: High School

Immigration Neighborhood

Academic Standards

Standard USHC-5: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major social, political, and economic developments that took place in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century.

5.6 Explain the influx of immigrants into the United States in the late nineteenth century in relation to the specific economic, political, and social changes that resulted, including the growth of cities and urban ethnic neighborhoods, the restrictions on immigration that were imposed, and the immigrants’ responses to the urban political machines.

Literacy Elements
No literacy elements available for this lesson plan.
Essential Questions

1. Why did immigrants come to America in the 19th century? 

2. How well did immigrants adjust to life in America?

Historical Background Notes

There is a long history of immigrants making a new life for themselves in America during the late nineteenth century.  For the most part, many associate immigration with northern cities, especially Italians.  Although this is largely true, some Italians settled in the South.  Immigration is an interesting topic and often evokes the romantic vision of “huddled masses” reaching America to find their fortune.  However, most immigrants did not find fortune, but they did, however, find a new life in America. Between 1880 and 1920, over four million Italians immigrated to America. 

The subject of this lesson is Giovanni Baptista Sanguinetti.  Sanguinetti was a native of Genoa, Italy and immigrated to the United States in 1879 (Charleston Citizenship Roll, 1886).  He entered the country through New York and settled in Charleston, SC.   Sanguinetti, like most Italian immigrants during this period, was young.  He was 25-years old.  In order for Sanguinetti to fit into the Charleston community, he “Americanized” his name.  Giovanni Sanguinetti became John Sanguinett.  This change was reflected in the City of Charleston Directory and his death certificate.  According to the Charleston Citizenship Roll, Sanguinetti was a sailor by trade.  Once he settled in Charleston he worked for the Clyde Steamship Line as a longshoreman, according to the 1897 City of Charleston Directory.  Italian immigrants were very commonly employed as longshoremen because they were willing to work for lower wages (International Longshoremen’s Association, 2010).  This created a great conflict with the Irish, as they had a firm hold on the dock jobs.  Many employers exploited this conflict so that they could take advantage of the Italians’ working for a lower wage.  Immigrants in Charleston faced difficulties such as employment and housing.  Immigrants were relegated to live in specific areas of downtown Charleston.  They, along with other immigrants, were expected to live east of King Street and north of Broad Street (Bass and Poole 2009, 75).  This area encompasses the current historical district, including the “market.”  Based on Charleston birth and death certificates, during his life, Giovanni lived throughout this area:  Anson Street, Pinckney Street, and Queen Street (three different places on Queen Street).   These three streets are important as they are close to the things that would have been very important:  work and church.  Giovanni worked at the Clyde Line’s Queen Street wharf and attended church at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist on Broad Street.  Both of these places were well within walking distance. 

Giovanni spent most of his life working.  He worked daily on the wharf loading and unloading ships.  Sanguinetti was the “common” worker that the Clyde Line boasted could be avoided by using their new walkways that spanned the wharfs (Clyde Line, 1909).  Italians were not desirable as immigrants in South Carolina.  Ben Tillman, one of South Carolina’s most fervent racists, spoke very strongly against recruiting Italians to South Carolina (Edgar 2006, 474).  Tillman, and others, preferred to recruit immigrants from Northern Europe.  To replace African American farm workers and later recruit mill workers, South Carolina created a Bureau of Immigration in 1881 (Edgar 2006, 474).  In Italy and Northern cities, such as New York, many Italian workers were recruited for Southern states by padroni.  The padroni were Italians who were paid to recruit Italian workers to come to America.  (Iorizzo 1966, 175).  Many Italians were recruited to be tenant farmers, but they did not show an interest in it.  Of those who stayed in the state, many went to live in cities, such as Charleston (Edgar 2006, 474). 

Cultural Institution Partner

South Carolina Department of Archives and History


Primary Sources

City of Charleston:  Birth certificates for Sanguinetti children

City of Charleston:  Death certificate for Katherine Sanguinett Jones

City of Charleston:  Death certificates for John Sanguinetti and other family members

Clyde Line Brochure circa 1912

South Carolina Catholic Diocese:  Baptismal entries for Sanguinetti children

South Carolina Catholic Diocese:  Marriage entry for John and Catharine Queen Sanguinetti

U.S. War Department:  World War I Draft Registration for Tony Sanguinett (see this link)

1920 U.S. Census:  Entry for Tony Sanguinett, Brooklyn, NY 

1930 U.S. Census:  Vivian Jones

Secondary Sources

Bass, Jack. The Palmetto State the Making of Modern South Carolina. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2009.

Clyde Line. South Carolina Service. New York: Clyde Line, 1909.

Helsley, Alexia J. "Immigration." The South Carolina Encyclopedia. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2006.

Henretta, James A., David Brody, and Lynn Dumenil. America: A Concise History, Volume 2 Since 1865. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2005.

"History of the Internation Longshoremen's Association." Available from http://www.ilaunion.org/history_early.html. Internet, International Longshoremen's Association AFL-CIO. Accessed 02 January 2010.

Iorizzo, Luciano J. Italian immigration and the impact of the padrone system. New York: Arno, 1980.

• Profile Sheet for each family member along with a transcription that assists students in reading the documents

Fact Sheet on the Charleston Cigar Factory

Clyde Line Brochure

• Family tree poster

Lesson Plans

Day 1:  Overview of immigration to America in the late 19th century.  Why did people leave their homeland in Europe?  Italy will be an example. 

  • Reading and discussion
  • We will examine working conditions in factories such as the cigar factory and the docks of Charleston.

Day 2:  Primary Source Activity

  • Overview of the primary documents (see Primary Sources section above) we are using.  What are the documents and what was their purpose?
  • Class will be divided into six groups of four.  There will be 3 different tasks.  Two groups per task.
  • Task 1 will be examining marriage and birth records for the City of Charleston and the Diocese.  Task 2 will be examining the Census records.  Task 3 will be examining the death certificates.
  • Each group will make a timeline showing the events of the family members and complete a profile sheet noting facts for each family member.
  • Each group will report their findings, and we will chart the information that was gathered.
  • Class will collectively complete a family tree for the Sanguinetti family.
  • Out-of-class assignment:  Students will complete their own family tree using a form that I provide.

Teacher Reflections

Overall, I was pleased with the outcome of the lesson.  For the most part, the students were engaged and involved with what was happening.  One obvious distracter was the writing and layout of the primary sources.  My students, at times, found it difficult to read them.  In hindsight, I should have probably transcribed them so that they could read them more easily.  However, they did seem to have fun trying to decipher what was written.  The other challenging event was the Diocese records.  They were actually written in Latin.  They were a little taken back by this, but took it in stride.  They thought it was actually kind of neat.  I had to abandon my plan of groups as their frustration level would not allow them to work on the documents without help.  But, as it turned out, working as one group turned out to be beneficial because we had several sidebars to discuss things that we saw in the documents—i.e. causes of death, occupations, etc.  We went over on the plan by a couple of days.  We ended up spending 4 days instead of two.  My students really enjoyed plotting the Sanguinetti’s homes on the modern map of Charleston.  It was quite interesting to see how they lived in the midst of what we now call historic Charleston.


How has TAHSC influenced my teaching?
Teaching effectively is a very challenging task. It requires teachers to constantly search for ways to reach their students. This quest is constant. What was appealing and engaging previously, may not work with the next group of students. Relevance is the key to making learning meaningful. If students cannot make connections, they have difficulty understanding the points that need to be made. This is the most basic of fundamentals, but its importance cannot be underestimated or overstated.

This principle is precisely why I have enjoyed the TAHSC class. The class has effectively made the curriculum it presents relevant in such a way that teachers, who are not “scholars”, can learn and pass it along to their students on all levels—elementary through high school. This is no ordinary feat. Paul Anderson, the master scholar, was able to present complex historical concepts and explain them in such detail that the significance was very evident. Despite majoring in history, I found several of the days very informative as Paul offered a perspective that I had not considered before.

The most significant contribution I received from the TAHSC class this year came from an idea that Paul revealed. Although he used it each year, it really clicked this year. He likes the idea of the “big picture.” We were given, on a few occasions, the task of connecting three ideas, events, or people. Some of the connections, at the time, seemed odd, but upon examination made logical sense. This exercise caused me to give great thought to my teaching practices. While I taught the curriculum, I was not requiring my students to make the connections as I was being asked to. It made me think. How could I incorporate the “big picture” into my curriculum? Besides the idea of the “big picture,” Many of my students have difficulty writing, so I wanted to expand writing in my classes. After considering my two concerns, I decided that I would combine them. This turned out to be a very complicated task.

While we were covering abolition and expansion, I decided that we would make a connection between land, conflict and slavery. How would all of these topics fit into the “big picture?” How could students take what they learned and connect it together? I decided that they would use their notes to write the essay. They needed assistance organizing the information into an essay. For this task, I created a graphic organizer that they could enter pertinent facts. The organizer resembled a “tic-tac-toe” grid. The middle section was important facts that supported the essay (the three middle sections were land, slavery and conflict); the side sections were for additional or transitional facts about the three topics that could add to the essay. We went through the notes together and filled in each topic’s section.

At this point, I created a “fishbone” organizer that allowed the students to outline their essay. In this particular outline, I created prompting questions that were sequential in nature, allowing them to compose an essay by simply answering the questions in complete sentences. The only exception to this was their topic sentence. They wrote this separately and turned it in to me for editing.

Before turning in their essays, I taught some basic editing skills. To illustrate how to edit, I asked a student to write her essay into an outline, and we edited her paper as a class. This was very effective as she had some very common mistakes. Students submitted their essays prior to winter break. Upon their return, they were given their essays and required to make revisions. All in all, the process went fairly well. I will be assigning two more “big picture” essays this semester. An added bonus of the exercise is that I tested them on the material contained in the essay while they were outlining and writing. This was beneficial as they looked at the material more than they usually do. Scores for this test were better.

The strength of the Institute this year was the master teachers. Preston Pearman and Mitchell Case provided several lessons that I will use. I particularly enjoyed the lessons about the textile mills, Briggs v. Elliott, the 1960’s, and the Orangeburg Massacre. Another item of interest I may use is the article about Dukes Mayonnaise. We may have a lesson that includes tomato sandwiches! The lessons were very user friendly because of their relevance. The primary sources they chose were engaging and informative.

A particularly useful learning tool they exposed us to was Photo Story. I had never used it before. I believe that this will prove to be an excellent resource. I will be using it in the spring semester. I may use it in conjunction with a writing assignment. This will allow students who have difficulty writing to express their ideas using a different medium. They can use pictures and music of their choosing which will give them some motivation to complete their assignment. Because I teach students who have challenges with learning, I often see many fail to hand in assignments. I think that this is, due in part, to the fact they feel overwhelmed. Photo Story gives them the opportunity to use skills that they already possess. I have found that most are technologically savvy.

As I have taken inventory of my teacher’s toolbox, I have found that many of my favorite tools are ones that I acquired through the TAHSC class. I have a great appreciation of primary sources and a great fondness for things that are out of the ordinary. They may not be extraordinary, but they are unusual which makes them engaging. How often do you speak about mayonnaise during class? Who knows the cast of people who were actually involved in the Orangeburg Massacre and its aftermath? What did the Briggs v. Elliott case really mean to the people who were brave enough to sign the petition? These are the real things that history should focus on. How did ordinary people become a part of history and culture?

During this class I had an epiphany. Teachers are so used to teaching that we often lose our sense of learning. Sometimes we miss seeing things because of our focus on the facts. Facts are useful, but they can sometimes cloud our vision and cause us to miss seeing the “big picture.” One day, while we were at USC, Paul spoke about the presidential election of 1896. He paused for a moment and, without thinking, I said that this election marked the end of farming being the main focus of America. Industry was now the focus. I never made this connection with the 1896 election. It was a revelation!

Later in the summer, I spoke to a colleague with over 30 years experience and explained my experience. She knew exactly what I was talking about. We spoke about how it takes a while for a teacher to reach this point. This has changed the way I teach and what I expect from my students. I think that we all have benefited.

Student Assessment

Based on the information they gather, each student will choose a member of the Sanguinetti family and write a diary entry that describes an event that did or could have occurred in their life.  It must illustrate a situation a typical immigrant could have encountered.

With assistance from family members, complete a family tree for their own family.


I wrote this lesson prior to assessing the strengths and weaknesses of my students.  Upon assessing my students, I elected not to use the group activities.  I am leaving them in the lesson, though, because they are good activities and would be engaging for students working on a higher level.  Instead of the group activities, I used a reference sheet. As the assessment,  students completed a sheet that organized the information we gathered from the various primary sources. This turned out to be more effective as my students had difficulty reading and understanding the documents.  The activities for Day 1 did not change.

Examples of Students Work

Reference Sheet 1
Reference Sheet 2


Jimmy Crosby
Ridge View High School
Columbia, South Carolina