Portuguese Immigrants in the United States
1492-1769 | 1770-1869 | 1870-1899 | 1900-1919 | 1920-1957 | 1958-present


Pap estimates that there were several hundred Christian Portuguese in the colonies and many other Jewish Portuguese by the time of the Revolutionary War.

Peter Francisco fought in the Revolutionary War in the northern battles of Brandywine, Germantown, Montmouth, and Stony Point. Later he lived in Virginia, at Locust Grove, from 1794 to the 1820s, and he died in 1831. Francisco was sergeant-at-arms in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1974 the Portuguese Continental Union of the United States of America began bestowing a "Peter Francisco Award" upon distinguished Americans who have contributed to the Portuguese cause. Francisco, who was abandoned as a small boy on a wharf in Virginia, speaking very little English, is believed to have been Portuguese.

A number of Portuguese fought in the Revolutionary War, including Jacob and Solomon Pinto, Jewish brothers who settled in New Haven in the 1750s. About fifteen percent of the enlisted personnel on board the first warship to fly the Stars and Stripes, the Bonhomme Richard, captained by John Paul Jones, were Portuguese.

Other examples include Joseph Dias or José Diaz, probably from the Azores, who came to Martha's Vineyard in 1770. After marrying a local woman in 1780, he joined the revolutionary forces and was captured by the British. Sent as a prisoner to England, he was released shortly and was back home before the end of the year. In December 1780 he was baptized into the Baptist church. He was captured a second time and in 1781 died a prisoner on the Jersey.


Antão de Almada, the governor of the Azores, stated in a report that groups of men from the Azores became crew members of about 200 whaling ships. Many of these men eventually came to America. When whaling was still a common activity, hiding or working on ships headed for the United States was one of the most common ways for Portuguese boys and men to make their way here from the Azores.


A part of the Pacific coast south of Alaska was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Salvador Fidalgo.

A number of Portuguese names (some modified slightly) were reported in the first U.S. census. In New York City and County, these included Farrara, Gomez, Navarro, Pinto, Seixas, Seixias, and Silver. In Charleston District, South Carolina, De Costa and Lopus could be found. Philadephia had Facundus and Telles, and there was a Rozario in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Moisés Seixas, born in 1744, wrote a congratulatory address to George Washington in which he coined the phrase "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." Seixas was an influential Portuguese Jewish leader and a Grand Master of the Masonic order, as well as a cashier at the Bank of Rhode Island. He died in 1809.


Portuguese nationals were already residing on the Hawaiian or Sandwich Islands.


After the Louisiana Purchase, some Portuguese moved to the vicinity of New Orleans. Later, in 1815, many Portuguese sailors and gunners were aboard the pirate leader Jean Lafitte's ship in the Battle of New Orleans, fighting on the American side against the British.


Along with the Portuguese Jews who came to New York in the seventeenth century, there was a small colony of Portuguese Christians in New York City by the War of 1812.

At least three Portuguese fought on American ships in the Battle of Lake Erie.


Portuguese adventurer John Elliot de Castro arrived in Hawaii. King Kamehameha I took a liking to him, and Castro received lands from the king and served as his physician. Castro left Hawaii and, after adventures that included being captured by the Spanish, he returned in 1816 and served as secretary or foreign minister to the king.

c. 1815

António José Rocha, the first documented Portuguese settler in California, arrived in present-day Los Angeles and set up a blacksmith shop. By 1828 he owned La Brea Rancho, where the La Brea Tar Pits are now located. The ranch, which he obtained with the assistance of his Mexican brother-in-law, had 4,600 acres. Rocha built a mill at Mission San Gabriel, as well as a house that in 1853 became the L.A. city hall and county courthouse. He also established whaling stations, some of the earliest in California.


The French Catholic Sulpician priest Peter Babad (1763-1846) began teaching Portuguese at St. Mary's College in Baltimore.


According to the U.S. census 5,272 people, not necessarily immigrants, arrived from Portugal during this period.


Jacinto Pereira, also known as Jason Perry, was born in Faial, Azores, on April 15, 1826; he died in Hawaii on March 27, 1883. Pereira was the owner of a dry goods store in Honolulu and a leader of the Portuguese community there. He served as a consular agent on the islands and helped recruit workers from Madeira to come to Hawaii.


According to local lore, António Silva, who arrived in Hawaii in 1828, was the one to introduce sugar cultivation to the islands.

c. 1830

Commercial relations between New Bedford, Massachusetts and the Azores were in full swing about this time. The first Azorean family to stay in New Bedford settled there about ten years later.


Approximately 400 people from Cape Verde and the Azores, deserters from whaling ships, lived in the Hawaiian Islands.


Sicilian Pietro Bachi, who taught Portuguese at Harvard College from 1826 to 1846, published a Portuguese grammar, the second such work to appear in the United States.


Mexican authorities ordered the secularization of missions, leading to their decline.


There was a Portuguese vice-consulate in Boston.


The first Portuguese sailors started coming to Providence, Rhode Island. A few decades later settlement in substantial numbers began.

c. 1840

Several hundred Portuguese nationals were recruited from the Azores to work on sugar plantations in Louisiana. Many of these immigrants married Creole women and remained on the plantations until the Civil War. In 1847 they founded the first Portuguese mutual aid society in the United States, the Portuguese Benevolent Association. A second society, the Lusitanian Benevolent Association, was founded in 1848 after a quarrel split the original association. Three years later the two merged and took the name Lusitanian-Portuguese Benevolent Association. Some of these settlers fought in the Confederate Army, and after the Civil War, many left for California, while some are reported to have returned to Portugal.


The first group of Azoreans came to Gloucester, Massachusetts, a fishing community on Cape Ann.


The United States took control of Mexican lands that included California. There were Portuguese natives living or conducting business there, engaged primarily in the whaling industry.


Numerous Portuguese and Azoreans took part in the California Gold Rush, leading to an increase in the Portuguese presence in California. In 1850 there were 150 Portuguese there, and in 1860 there were already about 1,560. Some had been attracted to the area by an eighteen-page booklet printed in Porto about California and the gold mines.

Approximately 1,000 Madeiran Protestants moved to the British island of Trinidad for religious reasons in 1846. Three years later they were assisted by residents of the Springfield, Illinois area in relocating to Illinois, and the group was solidified by 1855; in total about 400 moved to Illinois.


Five Portuguese became naturalized Hawaiians in 1851. To that date, 37 Portuguese had done the same. These numbers continued to rise for more than a decade.


Captain António Mendes, native of the Azorean island of Terceira, arrived in San Francisco. Aside from reputedly being the first person to navigate the Sacramento River, he was a miner and a farmer in California.

This year marked the recording of Provincetown, Rhode Island's first Portuguese-American birth.

winter of 1853-54

Painter and photographer Solomon Nunes Carvalho of Charleston, South Carolina joined explorer John C. Frémont on his search through Kansas, Colorado, and Utah for a railroad route to the Pacific. His portrait is part of American Memory's America's First Look into the Camera.


The Monterey Whaling Company, was started in 1854, three years after whaling began in Monterey, California, and reorganized the following year, with two boats and seventeen Portuguese seamen. It would later, in 1873, be merged with another whaling company and come to comprise twenty-three whalemen.


Antone S. Sylvia, of the Azores, arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He eventually became the sole proprietor of the Joseph Frazer Whaling Outfitting Company, based in New Bedford, and a millionaire.

The first Portuguese in Fall River, Massachusetts is said to have arrived in 1855.

c. 1855

Tionio da Rosa, also known as Tionio Waters, came from Faial, Azores to Sacramento, California and was one of the first pioneers of that area.


Mrs. Maria de Jesus Cunha (also known as Wager), along with a number of sons and daughters, arrived in Fall River, Massachusetts, which has since become one of the largest and most important Portuguese-American communities.


William M. Wood was born in Martha's Vineyard of a Yankee mother and Portuguese father. Raised in New Bedford, Wood founded and headed the successful American Woolen Company.


The discovery of petroleum in Pennsylvania caused the American whaling industry to begin to decline.


The process of canning, first of salmon, and later of sardines, tuna, and other fish, was introduced, changing the fishing industry in California. Azoreans were involved in the canned fish industry by the 1880s.


The Portuguese in California could be found mostly on the Central Coast and in the Sierra Mountains. There were more than 800 Portuguese miners in California.


According to the 1870 U.S. census, 2,658 Portuguese entered the country during this decade.


António S. Silva was a pioneer settler of San Leandro, California, where many Portuguese eventually settled. Oakes Boulevard was named after his family, whose members have borne the names Oakes and Carvalho, which means "oak." Many Portuguese names were Anglicized in this way or suffered spelling or pronunciation modifications.


Two Portuguese are listed on the Massachusetts Honor Roll as having died for the Union in 1862: Elisha N. Ávila died on February 14 at Fort Donaldson and Antone Frates (or Freitas) was killed in action on June 2.

Azoreans and Madeirans from Monterey, California founded the whaling station at Carmel.


Carlos I, King of Portugal, was born in 1863 and died in 1908.


Maria Loriana Cunha, thought to have been the first Portuguese woman to arrive in Hawaii, was issued a passport in Horta, Azores.


John Phillips or Phillipe, born João or Manuel Felipe, became a hero, riding 240 miles in freezing snow and through hostile territory, when a fort that was being built on the Bozeman Trail in Wyoming was attacked and he volunteered to call for help at the next fort. He was known as "Portuguese John."

In Boston, the Sociedade Portugueza de Beneficencia de Massachusetts, the second Portuguese mutual-aid society in the United States, came into being. Another, competing society, the Sociedade de Beneficencia, Instrução e Recreio União Luisitana was founded in 1871, and it had its own band.

The first Catholic priest who came to the United States from Portugal for the benefit of an immigrant community arrived in New Bedford.


In San Francisco, the Associação Portuguesa de Beneficiencia de Califórnia, formed by Azoreans, came into being. Within days a second group was formed and named Associação Protectiva. In 1871 the two came together to form the Portuguese Protective and Benevolent Association of the City and County of San Francisco, or the Associação Portuguesa Protectora e Beneficente do Estado da Califórnia (A.P.P.B.). It came to be influential in local affairs and to have a large membership, many affiliates (or councils), and halls in a number of towns.

1492-1769 1770-1869 1870-1899 1900-1919 1920-1957 1958-present

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