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


Approximately 65 percent of Californian dairy farmers were Portuguese. They were largely responsible for developing cooperative creameries.

1920s & 1930s

As the result of economic crises, about a third of the Portuguese in New Bedford, Massachusetts left that city in the 1920s and following years. Fall River also lost a considerable part of its Portuguese community.

Cabrilho was recognized through a number of new monuments. In the 1920s one was erected in Oakland, California. In 1937, on the anniversary of Cabrilho's death, January 3, the Cabrillo Club of San Francisco unveiled another monument on San Miguel Island, where the explorer died. A statue sculpted by Álvaro de Bré, which was put on display at the 1939 World's Fair in New York in the Portuguese Pavilion, was promised to California by António Ferro, the Portuguese minister of information. There was initially much debate as to in which community it should stand. The statue is now located at Point Loma, San Diego and is maintained by the National Park Service.

Agriculture declined after World War I and Portuguese farmers and dairymen in California suffered greatly.


E. H. Cristiano, born in Santo António, Pico, Azores, who emigrated to the United States in 1903 at the age of 13, was admitted to the California bar and elected to the State Assembly in 1920. He had already obtained a degree in mining engineering and served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and he went on to be reelected once and to join the California Senate in 1924.

There were many Cape Verdeans working for the Southern Pacific Railroad, making the Sacramento colony the largest Cape Verdean one in California.

By 1920, approximately 15,000 first-generation Azoreans owned farms in California.

The percentage of Portuguese immigrants to the United States who were residing in California was roughly 30, down from over 50 in 1880.

The Associação Protectora União Madeirense de Massachusetts was formed in New Bedford.

A Portuguese loan bank in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Luzo Corporation of America, was chartered under the name People's Loan and Property, Inc. Although it began with an authorized capital of $20,000 on March 1, in June, this number was increased to $250,000.


Although, according to official United States records, 19,195 Portuguese immigrated in 1921, the entire decade saw the immigration of 29,994. This dramatic drop was due to quota restrictions set by the United States.

Holy Ghost festivals had become common throughout the Portuguese settlements in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The Portuguese began to settle in the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey, many coming from New Bedford and Pawtucket. Thousands of Continentals, mostly from the Minho region, joined them in the years following the establishment of this community.

Bernie de Viveiros, a Californian son of Portuguese immigrants, played major league baseball in the 1920s for Detroit and later for Oakland.


According to Cardozo, there was one Portuguese serving in the Hawaiian Senate.


The Sport Club Português was founded in Newark, New Jersey by Continentals. It gained a reputation for having excellent facilities, used by other groups in Newark. The club added a language school in 1936.

The Immigration Act of 1921 set the quota for Portuguese immigrants at 2,520, revised to 2,465 the following year.

The organization the United Portuguese S.E.S. (Sociedade Espírito Santo) Hall was formed in Point Loma on the San Diego Bay to honor the Holy Ghost. It was decided that Portuguese-owned fishing boats would donate 25 cents to a church fund and another 25 cents to a hall construction fund for every ton of fish they caught. The construction of the hall was completed in 1922, and a new one was finished in 1948, each in time for the Holy Ghost Festival. Manuel de Oliveira Medina served as president for several decades.


The Portuguese literary magazine O cosmopolitano, a monthly publication, was produced in the town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts.


S. Griswold Morley, chairman for many years of the University of California at Berkeley's Department of Spanish and Portuguese, translated Sonnets and Poems of Anthero de Quental.

In San Francisco, Mário Bettencourt da Câmara edited the bulletin of the Associated Milk Producers, intended for Portuguese dairy farmers.

In New Bedford, Massachusetts, Alberto Corrêa was responsible for the first broadcast in Portuguese in the United States, which occurred over Station WDAU.

In Ludlow, Massachusetts the Grémio Lusitano was founded.


Supported largely by Portuguese shipowners, the American Tunaboat Association (ATA) was organized in San Diego.

There were over 100 cotton mills in full operation in Fall River, Massachusetts.


The Immigration Act of 1924 set the quota for Portuguese immigrants at 503.

Eduardo de Carvalho, Portuguese consul in Boston, reprinted newspaper articles written under pseudonyms: as Gil de Alverca, he published Problemas da nossa colónia and Palestras coloniais; as Cuturrinha Colonial, Falar e escrever. The articles included in the Cuturrinha Colonial volume may instead have been written by someone else using this pseudonym and then edited by Carvalho. For full bibliographic citations, see the bibliography.

Begun in 1920, the Associação Beneficente Aliança Portuguesa (Portuguese Alliance Benevolent Association) was incorporated in 1924 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Alberto Freitas of Madeira, the association's first secretary, eventually became part of the editorial staff of the Diário de Notícias of New Bedford and served for several decades as the association's president, beginning in 1934. Fall River in 1924 had many Portuguese clubs and other organizations, including three newspapers, four banks, five benevolent associations, and seven Catholic parishes.

The Portuguese Ministry of National Education held the first final examinations for proficiency in Portuguese in Fall River at the Ateneu Nacional Português (National Portuguese Athenaeum). Manuel de Sá Couto and his wife were responsible for teaching the classes.

Alfonso Tavares de Melo, known as Al Melo, was a New England boxing champion who went to the 1924 Olympics. There were quite a few successful Portuguese-American boxers.

Abílio da Silva Greaves of Faial, who held several patents for devices related to aviation, invented the Thermophone fire alarm. He was a pastor in Boston.

In August the Portuguese in California welcomed Commander Brito Paes, Captain Sarmento de Beires, and mechanic Manuel Gouveia, who earlier in the year had flown from Lisbon to the Portuguese colony of Macau, located on the coast of China, on the Pátria, a daring feat at the time. The three visited a number of Portuguese settlements in California.

The Portuguese community in San Francisco saw the first issue of the humor magazine A abelha. The journal, which was published first by Alfredo Gomes and later by António da Conceição Teixeira, was later moved to Oakland.

Stephen Peter Alencastre, born in Madeira, became Bishop of Hawaii. He had been raised on the sugar plantations on the islands and had been a priest since 1902.

The Hawaiian newspaper O luso, begun in 1896, ceased publication.


Elijah Clarence Hills of the University of California, J. D. M. Ford of Harvard University, and Joaquim de Siqueira Coutinho of The Catholic University of America wrote A Portuguese Grammar, which remained a standard grammar for many years.

Earl Warren, district attorney of Alameda County, joined Council No. 55 of San Leandro of the União Portuguesa do Estado da Califórnia (U.P.E.C.). Warren would later be named Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. He died in 1974.

The monthly journal A revista portuguesa, published in Hayward, California by João de Melo, ceased publication. It had been in print since 1914.

Dr. Joaquim R. S. Leite became the Portuguese consular agent for San Leandro.

The União Portuguesa Beneficente, Inc. (Portuguese Beneficent Union), formed to aid members and their families in sickness and death, was founded in 1925 and incorporated in 1926.

The União Portuguesa Continental dos Estados Unidos (Portuguese Continental Union of the United States of America) was founded in Massachusetts. Although it originally accepted only members from Continental Portugal, the beneficent society, which has grown to have dozens of lodges in the United States and Canada, later opened its membership to all those with ties to the Portuguese community.

Whaling in New Bedford came to an end.


António J. Perry of the Hawaiian Supreme Court was the son of Azorean immigrants. He was appointed chief justice in 1926 and reappointed in 1930.

Attorney Francis J. Carreiro, one of the first Portuguese in Fall River, Massachusetts to be active in politics in that city, was elected to the School Committee.

The House of Prayer for All People, a black revivalist church, was founded in Charlotte, North Carolina by Bishop Charles M. Grace -- "Sweet Daddy Grace" -- born Marcelino Manuel Graça on Brava, Cape Verde around 1882. Grace, who had first seen New Bedford about 1902, spent time as a cook on a schooner that travelled back and forth between Massachusetts and Cape Verde. He later owned a grocery in Wareham, Massachusetts and worked on the railroads in the South, again as a cook. In 1921 he began preaching in New Bedford. He was believed to have performed miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit, and his followers numbered more than three million in cities throughout the United States.

The bishop of Angra, António Augusto de Castro Meyrelles, a great orator, visited California.


The St. Joseph mission of the Portuguese Church in East Oakland, California was erected into an independent parish.

George Perry Ponte of New Bedford earned a degree in law from Boston University and was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar Association. He served as a member of the New Bedford city council, 1928-30 and 1939-42, and as president of the council in 1942, and he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1943-44. In 1963 he became an associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.


Joseph Dunn's A Grammar of the Portuguese Language, still in use today, was published as part of the Hispanic Society of America's Portuguese Series of its Hispanic Notes and Monographs. The volume was subsequently published in London.

The still-popular bilingual newspaper O luso-americano, with local correspondents in a number of Portuguese-American communities, was founded in Newark, New Jersey.

The Harvard College Library received the Fernando Palha Portuguese collection as a gift from John B. Stetson Jr.

In Mahoning Township, Pennsylvania, Joaquim Joe Cardoso, known as Jack J. or J. J. Cardoso, was born. He published several works on African Americans.

There were three major linguiça producers in the Bay area and two Portuguese hotels in San Francisco proper, as well as two in Oakland.


The quota for Portuguese immigrants was reduced to 440.

early 1930s

The Dom Nuno Club, renamed the Cabrillo Civic Club in 1934, was established in San Francisco to encourage Portuguese-American participation in civic affairs and served as a precedent for the establishment of the Cabrillo Civic Clubs of California, whose aim was to end Portuguese-American isolation from the rest of Californian society through active participation in both civic affairs and politics.


John R. Machado was elected to the Fall River, Massachusetts city council. He was reelected in 1932 and 1934 and was also the president of the Fall River Central Labor Union for ten years.

There were nearly 12,000 Portuguese in San Leandro, California.

1930 or 1931

Brothers Arthur V. Ávila and João V. Ávila of Pico, Azores, founders of the Latin-American Broadcasting Company, started the first daily Portuguese radio show in California, aired on KTAB.


The Portuguese dominated the tuna industry in the United States.


According to Cardozo, there was a Portuguese in the Hawaiian Senate.


The União Portuguesa Continental da Califórnia broadened its membership base, allowing all white Portuguese, including women, to join. Nonwhite Cape Verdeans were still barred from admission.


Benjamin Nathan Cardozo was named to the United States Supreme Court, for which he served until his death in 1938. Born in New York City in 1870, he was a descendant of Sephardic Portuguese who arrived in America before the Revolution. He wrote the important work The Nature of the Judicial Process.

A large festival, organized by the União Portuguesa do Estado da Califórnia (U.P.E.C.) of San Leandro and attracting 40,000 people from throughout California, was held in Oakland in April to celebrate the fifth centennial of the discovery of the Azores and the seventh centennial of the death of St. Anthony of Padua, also known as St. Anthony of Lisbon.

The Jornal de notícias, the Imparcial, and the Colónia portuguesa all merged, becoming the Jornal português. Under the editorship of Pedro L. C. Silveira of Flores, it became the most important Portuguese-Californian publication.

According to Cardozo, the sergeant-at-arms of the Hawaiian Senate was Portuguese.


In Sacramento, California, the Portuguese newspaper O progresso was first published by Alfred Silva. Although it stopped being published in 1940, O progresso is once again in circulation.

Reemigration has been prevalent in the Azores, and many of those who return are naturalized American citizens. It is estimated that some 17,000 American citizens were living in the Azores in 1933. The constant contact between the Azores and New England has affected the Portuguese spoken in both places.


A luta, "the Portuguese newspaper in the Empire State," the biweekly official organ of the Message of Fátima, was founded by Monsignor Joseph Cacella, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

Joaquim António da Silveira of Ribeira da Areia, São Jorge, Azores, received knighthood in the Order of Christ from the Portuguese government. He was one of the founders of the Portuguese-American Bank in San Francisco.

California declared September 28 to be Cabrillo Day.


Portuguese began to be taught in high schools in Fall River, Massachusetts and Oakland, California.

The Territorial Board of Health's Bureau of Vital Statistics reported that the Hawaiian Islands had a population of 392,277, of whom 29,863 were Portuguese. Only 1,754 of those Portuguese had not been naturalized.


Frank A. Silva became the first Portuguese to be elected to the town council of Little Compton, Rhode Island, for which he served until 1940. His father, Joseph Silva, was a whaler from Faial, Azores and had moved to Little Compton in 1893 after first settling in New London, Connecticut around 1863.

There were roughly 30 textile mills in New England, down from over 150 fifteen years earlier. Many had moved south in search of cheaper labor.

Portuguese-language plays have been popular among immigrants. For example, between late February and early April of 1937, in New Bedford alone nine different plays were performed by five different Portuguese theatrical groups.

The League of Portuguese Fraternal Societies was started. In the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition it financed the Portuguese-American representation, even buying a monument to Cabrilho. Three years later it donated two antiairchraft guns to the U.S. Armed Forces, at a total of about $10,000.

The Irmandade de Santo Christo de Socorros Mortuários was formed in Oakland, California by members of the St. Joseph parish. It succeeded the Real Associação Autónoma Micaelense de Massachusetts, which had grown to be nation-wide before it ceased to exist in 1936.


Sidney Robertson Cowell collected Portuguese and other folk songs in California. The recordings are among the collections of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.


William B. Greenlee, who founded and endowed the important Greenlee Collection of Portuguese and Brazilian materials of the Newberry Library in Chicago, was the translator and editor of The Voyage of Pedro Álvares Cabral to Brazil and India, published by the Hakluyt Society in London.

Department of Commerce patent law attorney Manuel C. Rosa, born in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1898, developed a classification of organic compounds still used today. He became director of the Patent Office's Patent Examining, Classifying, and Research Activities in 1951. In 1953 he was awarded a medal for meritorious service by the Department of Commerce and in 1957, a gold medal for exceptional service.

George Ernest Freitas of Honolulu, son of the well-known builder Henry Freitas, held a degree from the University of Dayton in civil engineering. In 1938 he founded the Pacific Construction Company.


The famous Santo Cristo Band of Fall River, Massachusetts, the oldest marching band in New England, played at the World's Fair in New York.

Regular transatlantic commercial air service, via Bermuda and the Azores, was established between New York and Lisbon.

A large number of Portuguese radio programs were popular in California and New England.

c. 1940

In New Bedford, Massachusetts immigrants from the Azorean island of Corvo began celebrating an annual feast to Nossa Senhora dos Milagres (Our Lady of Miracles) in or before 1940. The major such feast is called the Festa da Serreta, after a village on Terceira, another Azorean island. It is held in Gustine, California, where the festivities end with the Bodo de Leite (Milk Feast), when milk and sweet rolls are distributed at noon on a Saturday and a procession follows on Sunday.

The Luís de Camões Portuguese Library in Oakland, California, founded by Maria Josefina da Glória, closed. It had been in operation since 1918.

early 1940s

Joseph F. Francis joined the Massachusetts State Senate. He was probably the first Portuguese American in the East to win a seat in a state legislature.

Most of the Portuguese press in California published bilingually.


In Fall River, Massachusetts a monument to Prince Henry the Navigator, erected with funds collected to commemorate the eighth centennial of the Portuguese nation, was unveiled.

The approximately eighty tuna clippers based out of San Diego were mostly controlled by the Portuguese colony at Point Loma.


The mayor or City Council chairperson of San Leandro, California was Mrs. Helen L. C. Lawrence (née Silveira).

Oakland, with a Portuguese population of 12,000, had the largest concentration of Portuguese in California.


After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a number of Portuguese-American organizations voiced their members' willingness to defend the United States. In 1942, U.P.C., the largest Portuguese fraternal organization, adopted a resolution that stated that its members would support the United States regardless of any position Portugal might take in World War II.

Celebrated Portuguese historian Jaime Cortesão gave an address at an event commemorating the fourth centennial of the discovery of California held at the Gabinete Português de Leitura (Portuguese Library) in Rio de Janeiro.

Henrique Santos, born in Madeira, won the U.S. fencing championship.


A native of São Miguel who moved to Fall River, Massachusetts at a very young age, Mariano S. Bishop (or Bispo) became one of the directors of the Textile Workers Union of America in 1943 and became executive vice president in 1952, passing on shortly thereafter.


The majority of the Portuguese in Fall River, Massachusetts were naturalized citizens. In 1920, only seven percent of the foreign-born Portuguese in that city had been naturalized.


Laurinda C. Andrade, along with João R. Rocha, publisher and editor of the Diário de Notícias, founded the Portuguese Educational Society of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It was formed to promote the Portuguese language, as well as cultural exchange between the United States, Portugal, and Brazil.

Frank B. Oliveira of Fall River was elected representative to the Massachusetts State House, being the first Portuguese American to serve in this capacity. Both of his parents were from the Azorean island of São Miguel. Oliveira remained in the Massachusetts legislature until 1958, when he was defeated in an election.


A United States Air Force base was established at Santa Maria, Azores.

George P. Miller of Alameda County, a descendant of Joseph F. Miller, a Portuguese pioneer, became the first Portuguese-American in Congress. He served twelve consecutive terms.

Mary L. Fonseca become a member of the Fall River School Committee. She served as a state senator for almost twenty years.

There were at least forty Portuguese-speaking priests in New England and eight in California.


The First Luso-Brazilian Colloquium took place at the Library of Congress.

Leonard Bacon, an American poet, published The Lusiads, the first American translation of the sixteenth-century epic poem by Camões.

In New Bedford a monument to the "Portuguese-American war dead" was erected. In Fall River in 1951 and later in Ludlow, similar memorials were dedicated to people of Portuguese extraction who died fighting for the United States.


José Madeira Feliciano of Leiria, Portugal founded the Lisbon Construction Company of Kensington, Maryland. The firm has been responsible for, among other projects in Maryland and the District of Columbia, a section of the Washington Beltway (I-495) located in Maryland.

Two members of the Massachusetts State Senate, as well as four of the State House of Representatives, were Portuguese-born or descendants of Portuguese. One of them was a woman, State Senator Mary L. Fonseca.


Henry Freitas, born of Portuguese immigrant parents in Honolulu, served as a senator in the Territorial Legislature. The Hawaiian executive and graduate of St. Louis College was responsible for a number of major building projects.


Judge Cyrus Nils Tavares, born at Pukalani, Maui, Hawaii in 1902, was chairman of the Hawaii Statehood Commission. Before that he was deputy attorney general of Hawaii (1927-34), assistant attorney general (1942-43), attorney general (1944-47), and a delegate to the Hawaiian Constitutional Convention (1950). Beginning in 1960, he was United States district judge in Hawaii, until he retired in 1972.

According to Cardozo, there were two Portuguese serving in the Hawaiian Senate.


March 15 was declared Peter Francisco Day in Massachusetts. In 1962, Rhode Island and Newark, New Jersey declared their own Peter Francisco Days.


Portuguese-American Clarence L. Azevedo served as mayor of Sacramento, California.


The University of Hawaii ceased offering Portuguese for lack of students.


The Portuguese Protective and Benevolent Association of the City and County of San Francisco (A.P.P.B.), which in 1945 first admitted women and in 1948 changed its name to "Benevolent Society of California," merged with the União Portuguesa Continental, thus forming the United National Life Insurance Society. A new division, the Luso-American Fraternal Foundation, took over its fraternal, social, and cultural activities.

John M. Arruda became mayor of Fall River. Arruda, the son of Portuguese immigrants, may have been the first person of Portuguese blood to hold that office in New England.

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

Go to:

Library of Congress Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian ( July 15, 2010 )
Legal | External Link Disclaimer