"Gypsies in the United States"

Rom Coppersmiths
c. 1940


The Rom arrived in the United States from Serbia, Russia and Austria-Hungary beginning in the 1880's, part of the larger wave of immigration from southern and eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Primary
immigration ended, for the most part, in 1914, with the beginning of the First World War and subsequent tightening of immigration restrictions (Salo and Salo 1986). Many people in this group specialized in coppersmith work, mainly the repair and retinning of industrial equipment used in bakeries, laundries, confectioneries, and other businesses. The Rom, too, developed the fortune-telling business in urban areas.

Two subgroups of the Rom, the Kalderash ("coppersmith") and Machwaya ("natives of Machva," a county in Serbia) appear in the photographs in Carlos de Wendler-Funaro's collection. De Wendler-Funaro identified some, but not all, Kalderash as "Russian Gypsies." Another group he identified as "Russian Gypsies" seem to be the Rusniakuria ("Ruthenians"), who in New York are known as musicians and singers.