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  • Italian American Innovators
    How Their Inventions Make Our Daily Life Just a Little Bit Nicer
    Part 1 of 3: Hanna-Barbera, Bank of America & The Shopping Mall
    Italian Memories

    by Cookie Curci

    The entire world is familiar with the accomplishments of the great Italian inventors, artists and explorers. The artistic contributions of Leonardo da Vinci to the art world, the genius of Guglielmo Marconi to science, and of the discovery of America through the explorations of Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo). But what of the lesser known inventors and innovators, the ones whose creativity and inventions have given America some of its most beloved daily used products and places.

    For decades, Saturday morning television acted as a mother's helper, keeping the small fry in the house occupied with their favorite animated morning shows cartoons and weekly series. The Jetsons, Tom & Jerry, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and dozens of other characters. These popular TV animations were created by the imaginative mind of Italian American, Joseph Barbera and his partner William Hanna (Scottish-American). Joseph Barbera had been working as an accountant for a New York bank firm when, to his surprise, Collierís magazine bought a cartoon he had created. Barbera, inspired by his small success, decided to give up accounting and embarked on a career as a cartoonist. Together Hanna and Barbera received seven Oscars in the 10-year period that ended in 1953. The names Hanna and Barbera were joined for good when the pair formed Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1957.

    The next time you use your Bank of America charge card you can thank Amadeo Giannini, the Italian American executive who founded the Bank of America and made it all possible. Amadeo Pietro ("A.P.") Giannini (1870-1949) established the bank in 1904 in San Francisco. In 1919, he innovated the system of branch banking. Originally called the Bank of Italy, it changed names in 1928 and, in 1998 merged with NationsBank Corp. Giannini financed the Golden Gate Bridge, and the fledgling film industry, including Cecil B. DeMille's "Ten Commandments," and Disney's "Snow White," as well as California's aerospace and agricultural industries.

    In the world of fashion there are few of us who haven't heard the names Gucci, Dolce, Cassini or Versace, but what of the man who invented the first California shopping mall, the place where all Americans go to pay homage to these clothing designers The innovator who created suburbiaís shopping malls was Edward J. DeBartolo, the son of Italian immigrants, who worked his way up from construction jobs when he was 13 years old in 1922 to become a successful real estate developer who built the first American shopping plazas in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

    Part 2: Jacuzzi, Barnes & Noble, Ghirardelli & Mr. Peanut
    Part 3: Chef Boyardee, Mama Celeste, Jeno's, Big Mac & Gallo

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