A Fruit Cart

You can’t walk down a street in Manhattan without noticing a fruit vendor parked on a corner selling discount produce. And usually immigrants from all over the world are managing them. The fruit cart has been a source of livelihood for immigrants since the 1800s. It was for my family.   My great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Naples, Italy in 1906 when he was only 16 years old. He came to New York through Ellis Island. All he had with him was a set of clothes and the address of a cousin who he had never met, but with whom he would live.    Having only a grade school education, he got a job in a retail produce store, working long hours and learning English on the job. After years of scrimping and saving, while sending money back to his family in Italy, he was able to buy a horse drawn wagon and started his own business selling produce. He eventually grew that business into a produce wholesaler that he operated out of the Washington Street Market.    After he married my great-grandmother and had 3 sons, it became a family business. This is how he achieved his version of the American dream.   Whenever I buy fruit from a cart, I am reminded of my great-grandfather and sacrifices he made to create a better life for his family. I see the new generations of Americans seeking the same thing he did. 

Place(s): Italy
Year: 1906

– Tony DeFeo

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more