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Italian Fallen Workers: Folco Paolozzi ~ Mackenzie Velocci

               Folco Paolozzi, an Italian worker, tragically passed away while constructing the Welland Canal. This infrastructure is a man-made waterway that allows for the movement of ships and other water mobiles (National Ocean Service; Raso). The Welland Canal is situated between Port Colborne and St. Catherines, Ontario and is a waterway between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (Raso). The Welland Canal began construction in 1824 and was developed in four phases in 1892, 1845, 1887 and 1932 (Raso). By 1932, there were 137 deaths during the Welland Canal construction. Of the 137 deaths, 24 were Italian men; 23 names are confirmed but all 24 names are on the Italian Fallen Workers Memorial Wall, in Toronto, Ontario (Breda & Toppan). On November 12, 2017, the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial was revealed in St. Catherines, Ontario at Lock 3 (St. Catherines).

               Despite all the lives lost in this workplace tragedy, the focus of my fallen workers project on the Welland Canal is Folco Paolozzi. Paolozzi passed away due to a truck accident during the building of the Welland Canal. My poster titled Italian Fallen Workers: Folco Paolozzi, highlights the life of Folco Paolozzi within a historical lens; his immigration, his assistance in building Canada through various jobs at worksites and his dedication to creating a better life in Canada. The information curated on Folco Paolozzi has been ascertained from a Land of Triumph and Tragedy (a historical book by Paola Breda and Marino Toppan), St. Catherines Museum, a personal photo from Dr. Teresa Russo, and David Sharron’s newspaper article for the Welland Tribune.

               Folco Paolozzi was born on January 17, 1883 in Colle San Magano, Frosinone, Lazio, Italy. In February 1908, Folco Paolozzi married his wife Vincenza Murro, in Italy; they had three children, named: Evangelist, Fortunata-Christina and Giovanni. Folco came to Canada in 1910 leaving his family behind in Italy, in order to search for work in a new country. Folco Paolozzi returned back to Italy, packed up his family and life and moved to Canada permanently. On December 30, 1914, Folco Paolozzi became a Naturalized Citizen of Canada, which signifies his Canadian citizenship. The image of the yellow certificate with the red seal that Paolozzi received is located on the 3rd column of my poster. David Sharron, an archivist from Brock University located in St. Catherines, Ontario, wrote an article for the Welland Tribune about Folco Paolozzi and included images, such as this certificate that I have included on my poster.

               In 1921, Paolozzi was hired in Thorold, Ontario at a paper mill and worked there 8 years
before transitioning jobs to become a construction worker at the Welland Canal waterway in 1929. Paolozzi’s new role in Alfred E. Rigby’s Ontario Construction Co. Ltd was to place wooden slabs on the ground in order for cement to be shifted. Sadly, on October 21, 1929 a workplace accident occurred when a parked Ford truck, with its emergency brake in place, rolled down a hill crushing Folco Paolozzi. Although Folco passed away early into his career, he was known to have a “…Splendid reputation…” and was known as a “…First-class workman…” (Sharron 5). Folco Paolozzi was laid to rest at Old Lakeview Cemetery in Thorold, Ontario and his name is included on the Lock 3 Fallen Workers Memorial to commemorate all the Welland Canal construction deaths.

               At the top of the 2nd column of my academic poster, I have included two photographs. The coloured photograph on the left depicts The Paolozzi Exhibit for ICAP (Italian-Canadian Archives Project) 2019 at Club Room taken by Teresa Russo. These photos depict Folco Paolozzi and his family and/or his relatives (Teresa Russo). The black and white photograph on the right is of a group of men working on the Welland Canal in 1929. This image portrays the working conditions while constructing the Welland Canal.

               To conclude, through the tragic workplace death of Folco Paolozzi, it is apparent that the workplace conditions during the early 1900’s was treacherous and not safe. Employers did not implement or impose safety measures, such as workplace safety policies and equipment – hard hats and harnesses, to protect labourers. Thus, the death of Folco Paolozzi could have been negated if labour safety was a fundamental practice on the job site. Despite the truck having its emergency brake intact, there should have been safety rules, inhibiting truck drivers from leaving the vehicle, to prevent such accidents. In order to further this historical biographical project on Folco Paolozzi, semi-structured interviews could be conducted with the living members of Folco’s family and relatives. A special thanks to Paola Breda, Marino Toppan, David Sharron, Dr. Russo and the St. Catherine’s Museum for allowing me to utilize and curate your resources for my poster.

                                                           Mackenzie Velocci

                                                           University College at the University of Toronto, 2020

Works Cited

Breda, Paola, and Marino Toppan. Land of Triumph and Tragedy: Voices of the Italian Fallen Workers: a Century of Italian Immigration to         Canada: Immigrants Who Made It and Those Who Perished Trying. Verità, 2019.

National Ocean Service. “What Is a Canal?” 6 May 2018,

Photographer unknown, Lock 6, 1929. {Code no. 4664-N, St. Catherines Museum; replica at Brock University Special Collections}.         Image selected by Vincenzo Pietropaolo for The Italian Immigration Experience Revealed exhibition, curated by Teresa Russo for         the Visa Gallery, October 4-27, 2019. Thank you to Dr. Russo and David Sharron, archivist Special Collections at Brock University,         for permission to use this image.

Raso, A. “Welland Canal.”

Russo, T. The Paolozzi Exhibit from ICAP at Club Room. 2019. iPhone Photograph.

Sharron, David. “Runaway Cement Truck Kills Worker.” Welland Tribune, 30 Dec. 2017,

St. Catherines. “Fallen Workers Memorial.” Fallen Workers Memorial – St. Catharines, 2014,         workers-memorial.asp?fbclid=IwAR3fjHhmp8ilZbWu5GJfvi_9O2QE-HUD4qnfn8dEOhN3O96CYk7TA3vWT0