California Genealogy and History Archives
One of the most engaging and striking personalities of the Pacific coast is to be found in Andrea Sbarboro, a resident of San Francisco, but one whose activities are not confined to that city nor to the state in which he lives, extending rather throughout the entire country, or wherever his beloved countrymen make their homes. It has been said that the men who are most loyal to the land of their birth and to their countrymen are the ones who show the deepest love for their adopted country and in whose minds patriotism is ever united with humanity and brotherly compassion. Nowhere is this truism more applicable than in the life and accomplishments of Mr. Sbarboro, an Italian patriot whose life has been given to the cause of his people as truly as was that of another patriot from that same country, Garibaldi.
A native of Italy, Andrea Sbarboro was born near the city of Genoa, November 26, 1839, a son of Stephen and Mary Sbarboro, who in 1844 immigrated to the united States and located in New York City. The son was then a lad of five years. Owing to his mother’s prejudice against American public schools because they did not teach the Roman Catholic religion, he was not allowed to attend school and had to pick up his knowledge of English as best he could. When he was thirteen years of age his parents gave way to a deep-seated desire on their part to return to their native land, the year 1852 witnessing their return to sunny Italy, while the same year was made memorable in the life of their son by his advent in California. Setting out from New York by water, he made the voyage by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and finally landed in San Francisco. After looking about and adjusting himself to his new surroundings he associated himself with his brother in the grocery business, a venture in which they were very successful from the start, building the business up from year to year, until they had one of the largest and best-paying establishments of the kind in the metropolis.
During the years that had intervened up to that time Mr. Sbarboro had not been unmindful of the conditions of his fellow-countrymen who had come to this western commonwealth to take advantage of opportunities that their own country could not offer them. In order to give his time and attention more completely to a plan which he had formulated in the meantime for the benefit of his countrymen, he disposed of his grocery business and organized the West Oakland Mutual Loan Association, San Francisco Mutual Loan Association, West Oakland Masonic Hall and Building Association, Italian-Swiss Mutual Loan Association and the San Francisco and Oakland Mutual Loan Association. Through these associations over twenty-five hundred people have secured homes for their families in San Francisco and the Bay cities. It was also owing to his personal efforts that the Italian school was inaugurated and maintained in San Francisco. In 1881 he began the colonization of a tract of land in Sonoma county, at Asti, known as the Italian-Swiss Agricultural colony. Here under the best possible conditions he planned that immigrants from these countries might purchase land at low prices, and get a start in this country that would otherwise be impossible. They could not be induced to work on the co-operative plan, however, whereby they might have been independent financially today, so the directors started the colony and employed their countrymen. First they became grape-growers, then wine-makers, and finally distributers.
For years Mr. Sbarboro has been identified with banking interests, and at the present time is president of the Italian-American Bank of San Francisco. The foregoing enumeration of activities and interests promulgated to aid his countrymen have been of inestimable value to them, but in a more intimate and personal way he is known to them as councilor and guide. Notwithstanding the pressure from all sides in maintaining the numerous interests with which his name is associated, he always has time and a sympathetic ear for the difficulties and trials of others, and none come to him in vain, always finding consolation and comfort in his words of advice. As a recognition of the regard in which Mr. Sbarbor is held in his native land, it is pleasing to mention that he was knighted by King Victor Emmanuel and at the exposition held in Milan, Italy, in 1906, he was presented with a gold medal by the Italian government for the services he had rendered his countrymen in America. This was especially complimentary in that it was the only medal awarded to anyone in the United States. While Mr. Sbarboro has never occupied a public office, he has done much for the state of his adoption in connection with the California promotion committee, the Manufacturers’ and Producers’ Association of California, and the Grape-Growers’ Association of California, of which he was the leading spirit.
In the short space allotted the biographer it is possible only to suggest the various avenues into which Mr. Sbarboro’s versatility has taken him, leaving the reader to follow out each one in detail as he is able to do elsewhere. All has not been suggested, however, until mention has been made of his ability as a forceful writer. One of the most recent and probably one of the most telling products of his pen is the book entitled “The Fight for True Temperance,” which was so favorably received and in such demand that the edition was soon exhausted.
In his quest for the cause of intemperance Mr. Sbarboro is led to the belief, after making investigations throughout Europe and this country, that sobriety prevails only in grape-producing countries, where wine is within reach of all classes of people and can be obtained in large quantities, of good quality, at low prices. As proof of this he points to England, Scotland and Ireland, where drunkenness exists to an alarming degree, among both sexes. In these countries grapes do not grow, and as wine is not produced, strong alcoholic beverages are used by the people. In contrast to this picture he calls attention to the countries across the English Channel, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria and Germany, containing over two hundred millions of wine-drinkers, but where intemperance is practically unknown. When Thomas Jefferson was our minister to France he made the observation that “No nation is drunk where wine is cheap and none sober where dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as its common beverage.”
The object of Mr. Sbarboro’s book is to create a sentiment throughout this country whereby a better acquaintance with the grape and its products may be made to wipe out inebriety, a problem with which temperance workers have battled for half a century. Although it is now generally known, the Unit3ed States is the land of the vine. California can produce wine as fine as that of any country in Europe, and when the occasion will demand, in as large quantities as France and Italy. Many other states in the Union also produce very excellent wines and will increase their production when the existing obstacles to its free distribution are removed.
Mr. Sbarboro is essentially a home-loving man, his kindly nature being nowhere more evident than in the family circle. In Italy he was united in marriage with Miss Romilda Botto, and they became the parents of the following children: Alfredo, Aida, Romolo, Romilda and Remo. Mr. Sbarbgor’s name will remain indelibly associated with that class of men whose public-spirited and unselfish disposition has prompted them to innumerable beneficient acts, and who have always held the welfare of the public above sordid and narrow sentiments.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011