Phil, the Fiddler

Author: Horatio Alger


Among the most interesting and picturesque classes of street children in New York are the young Italian musicians, who wander about our streets with harps, violins, or tambourines, playing wherever they can secure an audience. They become Americanized less easily than children of other nationalities, and both in dress and outward appearance retain their foreign look, while few, even after several years’ residence, acquire even a passable knowledge of the English language.

In undertaking, therefore, to describe this phase of street life, I found, at the outset, unusual difficulty on account of my inadequate information. But I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of two prominent Italian gentlemen, long resident in New York—Mr. A. E. Cerqua, superintendent of the Italian school at the Five Points, and through his introduction, of Mr. G. F. Secchi de Casale, editor of the well-known Eco d’Italia—from whom I obtained full and trustworthy information. A series of articles contributed by Mr. De Casale to his paper, on the Italian street children, in whom he has long felt a patriotic and sympathetic interest, I have found of great service, and I freely acknowledge that, but for the information thus acquired, I should have been unable to write the present volume.

My readers will learn with surprise, probably, of the hard life led by these children, and the inhuman treatment which they receive from the speculators who buy them from their parents in Italy. It is not without reason that Mr. De Casale speaks of them as the "White Slaves" of New York. I may add, in passing, that they are quite distinct from the Italian bootblacks and newsboys who are to be found in Chatham Street and the vicinity of the City Hall Park. These last are the children of resident Italians of the poorer class, and are much better off than the musicians. It is from their ranks that the Italian school, before referred to, draws its pupils.

If the story of "Phil the Fiddler," in revealing for the first time to the American public the hardships and ill treatment of these wandering musicians shall excite an active sympathy in their behalf, the author will feel abundantly repaid for his labors.

NEW YORK, APRIL 2, 1872.


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Chicago: Horatio Alger, "Preface," Phil, the Fiddler in Phil, the Fiddler Original Sources, accessed May 25, 2024,

MLA: Alger, Horatio. "Preface." Phil, the Fiddler, in Phil, the Fiddler, Original Sources. 25 May. 2024.

Harvard: Alger, H, 'Preface' in Phil, the Fiddler. cited in , Phil, the Fiddler. Original Sources, retrieved 25 May 2024, from