30 October 2012 - Thunder Bay
The Department of History is pleased to announce the publication of the latest book by John Potestio (HBA 1970; MA 1981. Published by the Institute of Italian Studies-Lakehead University, The R.F. Welch (Veltri) Company
recounts the origin and development of a railway construction firm that was founded by two immigrants from Calabria, Italy in the 1880's.
The R. F. Welch (Veltri) Company, founded in the 1890s by Vincenzo and Giovanni Veltri, two immigrants from Calabria, Italy, had a modest and unlikely beginning. In the ensuing decades, the railway construction company grew thanks to the untiring efforts of the two brothers who sought employment for their largely immigrant crews, most of them Italian, in the United States and Canada. After a period of decline during the Great Depression and World War Two, the company, now under the management of Ralph Welch (Veltri), entered into an agreement with the Canadian Government and the Canadian National Railways to hire immigrant workers in Italy and Portugal to work on the CNR maintenance gangs. Starting in 1951, the thousands of immigrants who obtained a Welch contract would subsequently settle in various communities right across Canada. Hundreds of Italians (and, to a lesser extent, Portuguese) in cities such as Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and Edmonton credit their settlement in Canada to a company that was started, nourished and expanded by immigrant people. The story of the Welch Company represents an important chapter in the history of Italian Canadians.
The author of a number of books and articles exploring the history of Italians in Thunder Bay, John is now a retired teacher. More information on the book can be found on the Institute of Italian Studies-Lakehead University's website http://www.iislu.com/article/publications-127.asp