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Guide to the Vincenzo Beltrone Collection
 MS 3029

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Joseph Ditta, June 2017

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on November 30, 2018 using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical/Historical Note

Throughout his work and correspondence the artist and poet Vincenzo Nicola Ostilio Beltrone (1895–1950) signed his name multiple ways: Vincenzo N. O. Beltrone, Vincenzo di Beltrone, Vincent Beltrone, and even "N. O. Belzo." This finding aid refers to him by the name he used most frequently—Vincenzo Beltrone—or, simply, Beltrone, but all the variants above (and possibly others) appear on documents throughout the collection.

Similarly, Beltrone's second wife and widow was known variously as Kate Felicita Fabian, Kate (or Kay) Fabian, Kate Beltrone, and Kate Fabian Beltrone. This finding aid uses the latter.

Vincenzo Beltrone was born on 7 August 1895 at Stignano, Calabria, Italy, to Giuseppe and Ildebranda (Cortesi) Beltrone. When he was twelve years old he emigrated to America, arriving at the Port of New York aboard the S.S. Sannio on 26 September 1907. He attended P.S. 7, on Chrystie Street, Manhattan, and later claimed to have graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1914.

On 5 June 1917 Beltrone registered for the World War I draft, listing his occupation as artist. He entered the U.S. Army on 25 October 1918, serving briefly in the Coast Artillery at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn. He was honorably discharged for a physical disability on 15 November.
In December 1923 he made the first of two trips back to Italy to see family (his parents and siblings did not remain permanently in America). A certified copy of his birth certificate in the collection (see box 4, folder 4) dates from this visit. He returned to New York aboard the  S.S. Duilio on 21 October 1924.

At some point Beltrone began writing poetry, but an explosion and fire at his studio (then at 31 West 16th Street) destroyed all the work he had composed by 1 August 1927. He rebounded quickly, though, since he had verse to read at "Poets' Soiree" in Greenwich Village on the 25th. Also that year, Beltrone was supposedly named "Poet of the New York City School System." He became closely associated with Francis Lambert McCrudden (1872–1958), founder of the Raven Poetry Circle of Greenwich Village, whose members displayed and sold their works along a fence on Washington Square, charging prices like fifteen cents a poem. The Ravens adopted as their motto Beltrone's line: "Ink is the silent partner of remembrance."

On 6 May 1930 Beltrone married Mary Venezia D'Amato, whom he would divorce on 24 June 1935. In November of that year, he returned for the second time to Italy. Ostensibly he made the trip to settle his late father's estate, but once there was conscripted to serve—or possibly volunteered—in Mussolini's army during the Italo-Ethopian War. (His politics were widely known: on 18 June 1934 the New York Times labeled him an "artist, poet and Fascist editor.") Beltrone was stationed in Somaliland between December 1935 and September 1936. A small broadside from this time—"Ai Legionari dei Fasci Italiani all'Estero" ("To the Legions of Italian Fascists Abroad")—sends the praises of Rome to the victorious forces in Ogaden and Dire Dawa, Ethiopia (see box 4, folder 4).

Once back in New York—he returned on 1 April 1937 aboard the S.S. Conte di Savoia—Beltrone worked as an information-desk guard for the Italian Pavilion of the 1939 New York World's Fair. He began the process of naturalization, but his Italian military service and later editorials for the pro-fascist newspaper,  Il Grido della Stirpe ("The Cry of the Race"; see box 5, folder 2 for examples), ended his chances of becoming an American citizen.

On 8 December 1941, Edward J. Ennis, chief counsel for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, convinced President Roosevelt to extend to Italians the regulations then in place against Japanese aliens, who were being arrested as possible enemies of state. Beltrone was among the first Italians the FBI apprehended that very day "because of the belief that his continued freedom of movement was dangerous to the United States." (Domenico Trombetta, publisher of Il Grido della Stirpe, was also arrested and indicted as a foreign agent.)

Beltrone was interned for nearly the duration of World War II, at multiple locations. The dates he stayed at each facility (below) are drawn from his correspondence (see boxes 1–3):

  1. Ellis Island (1st time): December 1941–January 1942
  2. Camp McAlester, Oklahoma (1st time): January–March 1942
  3. Ellis Island (2nd time): March 1942
  4. Camp Upton, New York: March 1942
  5. Fort George G. Meade, Maryland: March–September 1942
  6. Camp McAlester, Oklahoma (2nd time): September 1942–May[?] 1943
  7. Fort Missoula, Montana: May[?] 1943–March 1944
  8. Ellis Island (3rd time): March 1944–May 1945

At Camp McAlester Beltrone painted murals for the Officer's Hall—"Conquest of the West" and "Indian Life"—and decorated the post chapel with religious scenes.

He was paroled in May 1945, and soon after married Kate Felicita Fabian (1903–1969), a fellow member of the Raven Poetry Circle and his most frequent correspondent during his long internment.

Beltrone died on 26 January 1950, aged fifty-four. Until her death fourteen years later, Kate worked toward compiling an omnibus edition of her husband's work, drawn from his sole known published volume,  Eroica and Other Poems (New York: S. F. Vanni, 1940), as well as unpublished material, some of it composed during internment. The project never materialized, apparently, but much of Beltrone's writing survives in this collection (see boxes 5 and 6).

[This biographical note is drawn from Roslyn Bernstein's article, "Alien Enemy M68-279: The Unresolved Case of Vincenzo Beltrone" (see box 4, folder 8), from New York Times items concerning Beltrone (2 and 26 August 1927; 18 June 1934), from documents in his WWII Alien Enemy Detention and Internment Case File (see box 4, folders 5-7), and from his obituary in the  Raven Anthology no. 84 (April 1950).]