1912
Roseto, an "Italian" Town in Pennsylvania, is incorporated. It will go on to astound the Medical World in 1962.


In 1962, United States medical researchers descended upon the Pennsylvania hill town of Roseto, east of Stroudsburg in a scientific effort to ascertain a modern medical wonder -the absence of heart disease among its residents. In marked contrast to nearby communities that manifested a normal rate of fatalities due to heart attacks, ulcers and suicides, Roseto's inhabitants were afflicted with none of these problems. Demographic studies indicated that 95% the town's 1,600 residents were descendents from Roseto Valforte, near Foggia, Italy, a remarkable example where virtually the entire American community was made up of transplants from Italy. In the 1880s Italian immigrants came to that Pennsylvania location to work, mostly as contract laborers in nearby quarries, for a seeming pittance of 80 cents a day, in open pits hundreds of feet deep. Dangerous work at low pay. It nevertheless seemed to offer more opportunities than economic conditions presented in Italy. Although the setting in squalid shanties initially seemed depressing, and hostility from some of the non-Italian population in the vicinity was apparent, the Italian people initiated a remarkable transformation. Under the leadership of an immigrant priest Fr. Pasquale DeNiseo, newcomer Italians utilized their common background to develop solidarity enabling them to form a union to improve working benefits and also to formally incorporate the community as Roseto in 1912.

This evolution was considered so unusual that the flourishing Italian community elicited the attention of McClure's, a national magazine in a 1908 feature article. What amazed the medical researchers of the 1960s was the realization that notwithstanding calorie-laden diets: lard-fried peppers, prosciutto, wine --that contained generous amounts of fat normally severely detrimental, Rosetans were perhaps slightly obese, but were otherwise spared from the damaging effects of such diets. How could this be scientifically explained? Reporting their findings in an article in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association, the doctors concluded that the key was how they lived rather than what they ate. That is the phenomenon was attributed to traditional values brought over from Italy, namely a mutually trusting society in which townspeople were supportive of one another, one in which families were often intertwined and one that consequently was spared crime and stress. These were people who prized Old World qualities of patience, modesty and propriety, a cohesive community that placed a premium of interrelationships. In time, however, as assimilation into American ostentatious life styles increased and as the older generation passed away, Rosetans lost some of their uniqueness and like Americans in general they became more affluent yet less immune to the maladies afflicting the general population.






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