The Papers of the Sperati Family, 1888-1952 | Luther College Archives

Collection Overview

Title: The Papers of the Sperati Family, 1888-1952Add to your cart.

ID: LCA/RG15/Sperati, f

Primary Creator: Sperati, Carlo A. (1860-1945)

Other Creators: Sperati, Emma Hoffoss (1870-1952)

Extent: 3.8 Linear Feet. More info below.


The collection is arranged into 6 series.

The first series, Correspondence, comprises the great majority of the collection.  The series is arranged starting with the correspondence between Carlo A. Sperati and his wife Emma Hoffoss Sperati.  First in the series is correspondence to Emma Hoffoss Sperati from Carlo A. Sperati from 1887-1891.  Next in the series is correspondence from Emma Hoffoss Sperati to Carlo A. Sperati from 1888-1891.  Finishing out the series is correspondence to Carlo A. Sperati from friends and family dating from 1882-1939.

Series II contains Carlo A. Sperati’s time as faculty At Luther College.  This series first includes daybooks and expense accounts kept by Carlo A. Sperati from 1893-1917 and a daybook kept by Sigvald Sperati, son of Emma Hoffoss Sperati and Carlo A. Sperati, in 1936.  Also included in this series are clippings collected from Luther College Concert Band tours from 1916-1942 while Carlo A. Sperati was the director of the Concert Band.  Programs from concerts either given by or directed by Carlo A. Sperati from 1887-1936 are also included.  A napkin saved by Emma Hoffoss Sperati from a picnic in 1904 is included as well.  The napkin is signed by several Luther faculty and alumni.  Closing out the series is a collection of sermons given by Carlo A. Sperati during his tenure at Luther College.

Awards, Honors and Memorials make up series III.  Included in this series are Awards and honors received by Carlo A. Sperati by the Norwegian-American Lutheran Church.  In 1891 Carlo A. Sperati graduated from Luther Seminary, and his diploma is part of this series.  Also included are the wills of Carlo A. Sperati and Emma Hoffoss Sperati as well as memorials to them from friends and family from Carlo A. Sperati’s death in 1945 and Emma Hoffoss Sperati’s death in 1952.

The fourth series contains Scrapbooks.  This series contains, first, one scrapbook put together for Carlo A. Sperati in honor of his 80th birthday in 1941.  The scrapbook contains a collection of letters from students, alumni, faculty and governmental representatives.  Next in this series are scrapbooks collected by Sonja Strom Scarseth, granddaughter of Carlo A. Sperati, while she was a student at Luther College from 1949-1953. This series also has a family photo album and two herbaria of pressed plants created by Emma Hoffoss Sperati as a young woman.

Series V includes the poetry of Emma Hoffoss Sperati.  The series includes handwritten and typed copies of poems by Emma Hoffoss Sperati written between 1920 and 1940.  Some of the poems were dedicated to children and grandchildren of Emma Hoffoss Sperati.

Series VI contains Realia.  Included is a tin cookie box where most of the correspondence in Series I was stored by Carlo A. and Emma Hoffoss Sperati.

Languages: Norwegian, English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

Collection contains musical scores, correspondence, Luther College day books, a realia tin cookie box, awards, honors, memorials, and poetry

Biographical Note

Carlo Alberto Sperati (Carlo A.) was born to Italian musician Paolo Agostino Sperati and Marie (Nielsen) Sperati on December 29, 1860; he was their eighth child. His mother died when he was five and his father then married Mathilde Bendixsen. Sperati started taking music lessons and performing at an early age. When Sperati was seventeen, his father consented to let him go to sea, which was something Sperati had been yearning to do since he was a young boy. After a few years at sea, Sperati came to Luther College to study Theology in the summer of 1884. He found out about Luther through the Seaman’s Mission in Brooklyn, New York. Luther's first president, Laur Larsen, had established the mission in 1860.

While at Luther, Sperati was a member of the Orchestra and the Concert Band. In addition, he formed a singing group called Lorelei. During his second year, Sperati joined the faculty part-time as a singing instructor. Sperati is best known for his development of the Luther College Concert Band. He was a Luther student from 1884 to 1888. While a Luther student, he organized the Turning Club in 1886. In 1887 Sperati became engaged to Emma Hoffoss, who lived in Decorah, when he was twenty-six and she was sixteen. The following year Sperati graduated from Luther and Emma Hoffoss graduated from high school. After his graduation from Luther, he attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Sperati and Emma Hoffoss were married on August 25, 1891 at First Lutheran Church in Decorah, Iowa. Directly after the wedding they traveled to Whatcom County, Washington where Sperati served as pastor to the local Lutheran congregation.

In the fall of 1894, Sperati and his wife both became faculty members at Pacific Lutheran University. Sperati taught music and voice and Mrs. Sperati taught at the Primary School. During this time Sperati also served as a Pastor in Tacoma, Washington. In 1905, Sperati became the musical director at Luther College, where he remained until he retired in 1943. While a member of the Luther faculty, he also taught religion classes, but was most well-known for his music activities. He led the Concert Band on extended European tours, and helping it win international acclaim. He also directed performances of Handel’s Messiah. Sperati was known for his strict discipline, demand for perfection, and patience when working with music students.

The Speratis had a total of eight children. Sperati retired from directing the Luther College Concert Band after thirty-eight years in 1943. Sperati died on September 12, 1945 at home in Decorah at age eighty-four. Mrs. Sperati continued living at 501 High Street until her failing health made it necessary for her to move to a nursing home, where she died on February 5, 1952.


Carlo Alberto Sperati ble født  29. desember 1860, som åttende barn av den italienske musikeren Paolo Agostino Sperati og Marie Nielsen. Mora døde da han var fem år gammel og faren giftet seg da med Mathilde Bendixsen. Sperati begynte å ta sangtimer og opptre i tidlig alder. Da han var sytten fikk han lov av faren til å dra til sjøs, noe som hadde vært hans store drøm siden han var liten.

Sommeren 1884, etter flere år til sjøs, kom Sperati til Luther College for å studere teologi. Han fikk høre om Luther gjennom Sjømannsmisjonen i Brooklyn, New York, som ble grunnlagt av Luthers første president, Laur. Larsen. Mens han studerte ved Luther, var Sperati medlem av orkesteret og Concert Band, kjent som “Banditti.”  I tillegg dannet han en sanggruppe kalt Lorelei som holdt en konsert på Steyer’s Opera House i Decorah april 1885. I løpet av hans andre år ved Luther ble Sperati ansatt som deltids sanginstruktør.

I 1887 forlovet Sperati seg med Emma Hoffoss. Året etter gikk han ut av Luther og Emma Hoffoss gikk ut av High School. Sperati begynte da på Luther Seminary i St. Paul, Minnesota. Sperati og Emma Hoffoss giftet seg 25. august 1891 i First Lutheran Church i Decorah, Iowa. Rett etter bryllupet dro de til Whatcom County, Washington, hvor Sperati begynte som prest. Høsten 1894 ble både Sperati og hans kone ansatt ved Pacific Lutheran University. Sperati underviste i musikk og stemme-trening og fru Sperati underviste i barneskolen. På denne tiden var Sperati også prest i Tacoma, Washington.

Våren 1905 dro Sperati tilbake til Luther som musikkprofessor. Speratifamilien, som nå omfattet syv barn, Carsten Emmanuel, født 1893; Paolo Hoffoss, født 1894; Karen Marie, født 1896; Dagmar, født 1897; Angelo, født 1900; Vittorio, født 1901; og Camilla, født 1904, flyttet inn i et hus i 501 High Street som er det nåværende offisielle gjestehuset til colleget. Sperati dirigerte Concert Band og begynte å undervise i kristendomsavdelingen. Det åttende speratibarnet, Sigvald Robert, ble født i Decorah i 1908.

I 1943 sluttet Sperati som dirigent for Luther College Concert Band etter 38 år. 84 år gammel, 12. september 1945, døde han hjemme i Decorah. Fru Sperati fortsatte å bo i 501 High Street til hun måtte flytte inn på et eldresenter på grunn av sviktende helse. Hun døde der 5. februar 1952.

Administrative Information

Repository: Luther College Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 10 boxes

Use Restrictions: Though we may hold the property rights, Luther College Archives does not hold the copyrights for all materials. Individuals may use materials for non-commercial, private use, but commercial users must secure permissions from the copyright holders and/or Luther College Archives to reproduce, publish, or quote protected materials and photographs. For more information about the Luther College copyright and fair use policy, please visit

Separated Materials: The scrapbooks, scripts, and programs donated by Sonja Strom Scarseth were removed in March 2024 and reprocessed in a new collection under her name. They had originally been processed as part of Series 4: Scrapbooks.

Preferred Citation: Cite unpublished materials: The Sperati Family Papers, RG15 Manuscripts, Luther College Archives, Decorah, Iowa

Finding Aid Revision History: 11/26/19: EC updated the preferred citation.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: At Luther College],
[Series 3: Awards, Honors, and Memorials],
[Series 4: Scrapbooks],
[Series 5: Emma Hoffoss Sperati Poetry],
[Series 6: Realia],

Series 5: Emma Hoffoss Sperati PoetryAdd to your cart.
Box 7: Emma Hoffoss Sperati Poetry, 1920-1940Add to your cart.
Folder 1: Emma Hoffoss Sperati's Letter to Ragnhild Noer, 1939Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Emma Hoffoss Sperati Poems (Untyped and Mounted), 1930-1940Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Emma Hoffoss Sperati Poems (Untyped), 1920-1940Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Emma Hoffoss Sperati Poems (Typed), 1930-1940Add to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Correspondence],
[Series 2: At Luther College],
[Series 3: Awards, Honors, and Memorials],
[Series 4: Scrapbooks],
[Series 5: Emma Hoffoss Sperati Poetry],
[Series 6: Realia],