Protasio Neri (1850-1905) began working for the Hallowell Granite Works in 1879. Born in Levigliani, Italy, he came to America with his parents in 1877 at the age of 27. In Italy, Protasio worked in the marble quarries of Carrara, famous for providing the stone used by Michaelangelo. Neri was one of the first Italian artisans to arrive in Hallowell.
Neri was heavily involved with unionizing granite workers into the Granite Cutters Union to protect their wages, reduce working hours, force regular pay dates, ensure quality, and formalize an apprenticeship system. Some cutters were not making living wages and the work was liable to end at any time, among other issues. Neri spearheaded a 5 ½ month lockout in 1892.
Neri lived in Hallowell until his death in 1905. In addition to his Union work, he was a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Masonic Lodge; he was noted as an exemplary citizen. He and his wife, Giselda Neri, raised five children in Hallowell.
The population of Hallowell changed during the early 19th century with the influx of immigrant labor from Europe to work in the granite industry. When the granite industry declined, many Italian immigrants left Hallowell, but some, including the descendants from the Neri, Arata, Masciadri and Rich families still live in Hallowell today.
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