Sacco, (Ferdinando) Nicola(1891–1927) born in Torre Maggiore, Italy; and Vanzetti, Bartolomeo (1888–1927) born in Villafalletto, Italy; anarchists, accused robbers/murderers. Sacco, son of a landowner, emigrated to the U.S.A. (1908) where he worked in a Milford, Mass., shoe factory (1909–20). Vanzetti, son of a well-to-do farmer, emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1908 and settled in Plymouth, Mass. (1915), where he worked as a fish peddlar. Although lacking in formal education, both read on their own and became interested in Socialism and a philosophical anarchism—both men spent some of 1918–19 in Mexico to avoid the draft because of their opposition to participating in the war. In 1920, Sacco and Vanzetti were charged with murdering two men while robbing a payroll (about $16,000) at a South Braintree, Mass., shoe factory. Although the evidence was largely circumstantial and often controversial, they were convicted in 1921 and sentenced to die. During the long appeals process, there was a worldwide protest, orchestrated mainly by liberals and the left wing, but after a special governor's committee upheld the trial, they were executed (1927), even though another man had since claimed to have committed the crime. The case would never cease to be controversial, for many believe that the men were really punished for being radicals, anarchists, draftdodgers, and Italian immigrants. Countless books and articles as well as many novels, poems, and plays have been written about the case. Although there is no absolute proof or universal agreement, some experts now believe that Sacco was, in fact, guilty, but that Vanzetti was not.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.