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  • Jannotta Family Collection

The Janotta Family Collection contains photographs relating to conductor/composer Alfredo Jannotta, his wife, activist and author Stella Skiff Jannotta, and their family. Several photographs belonged to their son, Navy Rear Admiral A. Vernon Jannotta.

Alfredo Jannotta immigrated from Italy by way of London to Boston in 1865 where he taught voice at the New England Conservatory of Music. He married his first wife, Alice Prudy and they had a son, Edward, before Alfredo moved to Cincinnati in 1868. Alfredo spent 12 years in Cincinnati teaching vocal performance as well as conducting the Cincinnati Choral Society and organizing the first Cincinnati orchestra. He moved back to Boston in 1881 but moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1882 and finally to Chicago in 1888 where he established himself as a vocal teacher.

While teaching in Chicago, Jannotta taught vocal lessons to Stella Skiff whom he married in 1893. Skiff was the daughter of Iowa businessman Vernon William Skiff and his wife, Mary Frances Coffin. Her brother, Frank Vernon Skiff founded the Jewel Tea Company which later grew into a national grocery store chain including Jewel, Osco, Eisner, and White Hen.

Skiff continued her singing career after marrying Jannotta and briefly taught lessons. Between 1894 and 1898, she gave birth to sons A. Vernon, Francis, and Joseph. Between 1917 and 1918, Stella adopted three foster daughters, Margaret, Marion, and Betty (Elizabeth).

In the early 20th century she began taking an active interest in causes including the suffrage movement and socialism. Stella Jannotta joined the Chicago Political Equality League (predecessor to the Chicago League of Women Voters) in 1907. She wrote for the propaganda arm of the organization, including a 1916 article entitled "Public Opinion" which she revisted several times over the following decades.

A. Vernon Jannotta, the oldest son on Alfredo and Stella, served in the United States Navy in both World War I and World War II. He rose through the ranks of the Navy and the Naval Reserves, eventually retiring as a Rear Admiral in 1954. Jannotta received several military honors including the Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. 

Jannotta began working at the Jewel Tea Company in 1919 and held several positions at the company for the next 50 years. He also held several executive positions or held stakes in several companies including Lehman Brothers, Motor Institute of America, Tapp, Inc. and Consolidated Trading Corporation.

The finding aid for the Janotta Family Papers, 1809-1972 at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum may be found at http://alplm-cdi.com/chroniclingillinois/items/show/358.

Photographs in this collection include images of Jannotta and Skiff family members as well as students of Alfredo Jannota.

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