My maternal grandparents —Gaetano Spera and Antoinetta Pizzichillo — immigrated from Potenza, Basilicata, Italy,  on separate ships in 1906 and 1912. They were married in 1913 so I requested a copy of their marriage license application from the Denver Public Library’s Western History/Genealogy collections.

After reading through the document, something caught my eye:  the court clerk recorded Gaetano Spera’s name as “Kate” and made him the bride, while Antoinetta was the recorded as the groom.[1]

I thought, well, there must have been some language misunderstandings going on. Both people were recent Italian immigrants and did not have a good grasp of the English language.

Last night I was  doing some random searches in the Denver Post archives looking for some other “Spera” family articles, and  I came across an article from 10 December 1913 in the Denver Post.

Just a point of historical context, the court clerk, Benjamin Stapleton, who adjudicated the issue, and got into a heated argument with Gaetano, was elected mayor of Denver in 1923 with Ku Klux Klan support.[2] The governor at the time, Clarence J Morley, was also a member, as well as the Denver Police Chief.  The Klan was ascendant in Colorado during the 1920’s and thankfully was fought back.

[1] City and County of Denver, Colorado, Application for Marriage License, no. 58497, for “Kate” Spera and Antonette Pizzichillo, 1913; “Marriage License Applications, 1903-2004, from Denver Public Library, Western History/Genealogy.

[2]Wikipedia (, “Benjamin Stapleton,” rev. 22:38, 4 February 2018‎.

Denver (Co.) Post, 14 December 1913, 10.