About OSIA

 

OSIA Founder Vincenzo Sellaro, M.D. (1868-1932)

Brief Biography

Vincenzo Sellaro Complete Biography (PDF)
Vincenzo Sellaro Inaugural Address (PDF)

Vincenzo Sellaro was born April 24, 1868, in Polizzi Generosa in the province of Palermo, Sicily. He received his medical degree in 1895 from the University of Naples and immigrated to the United States in 1897 where he settled in New York City. The following year, he completed post-graduate courses at the Cornell Medical School and obtained a license to practice medicine in New York State. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1904.

He established himself in private practice (gynecology) at 203 Grand Street in the "Little Italy" neighborhood of Manhattan. There he saw many Italian immigrants often placed in life threatening situations in hospitals because of the language barrier between them and their doctors and nurses. To address the problem, Sellaro headed an ad hoc committee of physicians who were bilingual in Italian and English, and subsequently founded the Columbus Italian Hospital (where Italian could be spoken).

He later joined the American Medical Association and conducted research on diabetes and cancer. He also organized a school for midwives under the auspices of the New York City Health Board.

In 1904, Sellaro conceived the idea of uniting all Italian Americans into one large fraternal organization. On June 7, 1905, he held an organizational meeting at his home. Present were Antonio Marzullo, a lawyer; Ludovico Ferrari, a pharmacist; Giuseppe Carlino, a sculptor; and Pietro Viscardi and Roberto Merlo, two barbers. The first formal meeting of the Order was held three weeks later. At that meeting, Sellaro was elected Supreme Venerable (now known as National President) of the Supreme Lodge of the Sons of Italy®.

The name of the group was soon changed to L'Ordine Figli d'Italia in America (the Order Sons of Italy in America®). Sellaro wrote the Order's national constitution and founded the first local OSIA lodge, Mario Rapisardi Lodge #1, on August 31, 1905.

In 1922, Sellaro was knighted by the Italian government for his aid to the Italian American community. Sellaro later became interested in the Masons and was elected by the Garibaldi Masonic Lodge as a Grand Master. When questioned about this affiliation, he would later write in "The OSIA News" that he joined "in order to emancipate [Italians] from every prejudice." In 1928, Governor Alfred E. Smith gave Sellaro the key to New York State in recognition of the medical and social contributions he made to the community.

On September 18, 1932, Sellaro was admitted as a patient to the Columbus Italian Hospital he had founded, suffering from kidney failure, heart disease, diabetes and arteriosclerosis. After 72 days, he lapsed into a coma and died at the age of 64 on November 28, 1932.

(Abridged and edited from the biography of Vincenzo Sellaro prepared by Joseph Scafetta, Jr.)