Great works and conspicuous fortunes

An immense number of Italian emigrants participated in the construction of colossal public works, and numerous were the victims of work accidents. The Frejus, St. Gotthard and Simplon tunnels or the Trans-Siberian and Tonkino railways saw them at work. Characteristic of employment in the construction industry was often temporary and moving in work groups comprising different professions: from laborers to technicians. In contrast, a number of emigrants achieved success as entrepreneurs.

Economist Luigi Einaudi coined the felicitous expression "merchant prince" to define precisely men who, often starting from scratch, knew how to take advantage of all opportunities, reaching enviable positions. The sectors in which they acted were different, but they were animated by an identical spirit of initiative.

These are stories of men who, in speed, went, to use minimal terms, from poverty to wealth and achieved prestige and satisfaction by inserting themselves at the highest social levels in their adopted country. Their success also contributed to the spread of Italian products, starting with food products, throughout the world.

An example can be given of these success stories: in Brazil there was the exceptional story of Giuseppe Giorgi, who became, from a simple laborer, a railroad builder by virtue of his technical and organizational skills; he thus succeeded in getting good orders from the local government and breaking through in a highly profitable sector that, it must be emphasized, was already occupied and dominated by the British.