In the early part of the 20th century, Italian Americans and new Italian immigrants played a pivotal role in shaping San Francisco. At the time of the founding of Il Cenacolo, traditionally dated to 1928, the Italian American population of San Francisco had reached its zenith, both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the whole. According to the 1930 census, there were 58,000 persons of Italian birth or parentage living in the city, fully 9% of a heterogeneous population of 634,000. The nascent club could obviously draw from a large reservoir of potential members.
More specific, though, to its actual recruitment pool is a catalog of Italian American professionisti, or professional people, compiled in 1935 by Giovacchino Panattoni and conserved in our club archives. According to this source, there were some five hundred professionisti of Italian heritage active in San Francisco. Excluding women, there were at the time sixty-four attorneys, thirty-eight physicians, forty-two dentists, one hundred twelve pharmacists, twenty architects and engineers, and sixty-two officers just of the ex-Bank of Italy, all operating in the city and all Italians or Italian Americans. In addition, there were fifteen academics of Italian origin teaching in Bay Area colleges and universities.
Clearly, among the Italian Americans of 1928 San Francisco, there was no dearth of available candidates willing and able to form an intimate social and cultural circle, a cenacolo, of like-minded professional businessmen. It was an institution that was lacking in the ethnic community, and it marked the emergence of an Italian American cultural and professional elite within the city, fertile ground for the development of Il Cenacolo, San Francisco.
© 2023 Il Cenacolo, Introduction to a talk by Andrew M. Canepa April 26, 2001
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