The Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey was published in 1942 by the Chicago Public Library Omnibus Project of the Works Progress Administration of Illinois. The purpose of the project was to translate and classify selected news articles that appeared in the foreign language press from 1855 to 1938. The project consists of 120,000 typewritten pages translated from newspapers of 22 different foreign language communities of Chicago.

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This article was published in 1886.
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  • Chicago Tribune -- [Unknown date]
    Our Polish Citizens

    Chicago has nearly 50,000 People from the unhappy Land of Poland. Where and how they live and what they do.-

    Some wrong impressions corrected.

    Faithful workers, sincere Patriots, and thrifty citizens - their reams of Political Independence.

    Leaving other foreigners altogether out of the question there is no doubt that the countrymen of Kosciuszko and Pulaski deserve well the kindliest consideration not only of every true American but every true man of every nationality. They are of a brave, chivalrous, patriotic, high-principled and self-sacrificing race. They have waged a splendid battle for freedom in their own country, and the swords of their warriors glanced in the sunlight of freedom's onset in this as in every other land, they have been champions of right and justice in every nation. It is of one of their countrymen that a hostile Queen - she of - Sweden once wrote: "The empire of the world was his if it was intended for one potentate". John Sobieski, of whom this was written rolled back the tide of Islannite 2conquest 200 years ago under the walls of Vienna, when treacherous Frank, intriguing Hun, and quarreling Teuton invited Islam subjugation by the Christian world. Kara Mustapka and his horde of Asiatic Marauders were by him vanquished for ever, the Crescent went down before the Cross, and preachers throughout Christendom made sermons at the close of 1683 on the text, "There was a man sent from God whose name was John", and they likened the Polish king to the Lord's messenger. Since then dire disaster has befallen the people whose leader and whose soldiers saved Europe and Christendom. Russia preys on Poland's fields where Sobieski reigned"; the Austrian lords it over Galicia, Bismark decrees the expulsion of patriot Poles from Posen, and the Pontiff of the Church to which Sobieski was so devotedly attached decrees the banishment and the degradation of their patriot prelate and bestows on their persecutor the most exalted decoration in his gift. And so it comes about that the men of "the best blood" of "warring Europe" are obliged to seek their fortunes in other lands than their own.


    In the United States hundreds of thousands have found refuge and a home.


    Statisticians differ as to the number. The best informed of the Poles say - and most probably truly - that the Polish population of America must remain a conundrum for some time to come. The census reports of 1880 form no coiterion, as the largest Polish immigration has been since that year. Some estimate it at half a million, others as high as 800,000, and some at less than 400,000. In accordance with the general rule governing the location of foreign-born citizens, Chicago has a very large number. Mr. Peter Kiolbassa, one of the most intelligent Polish gentlemen in the city, estimates it at from 40,000 to 45,000; others, including the editor of the Polish Gazette, a weekly paper published here, place the number as high as 80,000. It is, however, safe to say that the Polish population of the city does not exceed 45,000. There are probably 50,000 Poles in the county. The Polish immigration to this city did not assume any extensive proportions until the year after the fire- 1872. Some Poles came here from Detroit and other points, then attracted by the report of high wages. There were less then 1,000 Poles before the fire. Many of these came soon after the abortive Polish revolution of 1863; others, who enlisted as soldiers of freedom in the Union army, settled here after the "late unpleasantness". Ever since the dispute between Archbishop Ledochowski and the Prussian Government, the Poles have come here by the 4thousands yearly. The Archbishop's brother, an eminent musician, settled here, and that may have something to do with Chicago becoming a favorite city for Polish settlement. One result is that most of Chicago's Poles are from the Prussian or German provinces of Poland. The immigrants from Posen or Silesia are probably 75 per cent of the Polish population. The Russian Poles, principally from Warsaw and Lithuania, number about 6,000 and the Galician or Austrian Poles number about 5,000. The Polish Jews number about 2,000, but the Polish Christians refuse to recognize the latter as fellow-countrymen and express a very bitter feeling for them.


    The Poles are located in three separate sections of Chicago. The largest and earliest Polish settlement is that between Milwaukee Avenue and the Northwestern Railroad track, the central point being the Roman Catholic Church of St. Stanislaus Kostka, at the corner of Noble and Bradley Streets. This settlement contains a population of at least 25,000 souls. The pastor of St. Stanislaus' Church says there are over 10,000 communicants of the Polish nationality in his parish. This would indicate a population of 30,000. The second largest settlement has its nucleus at the church of St. Adalbert, at the corner of Seventeenth and Paulina Streets, in the Sixth Ward, and extends into Fifth Ward along Laurel Street and Ashland 5Avenue. This settlement is estimated at 10,000. The third settlement is that around Ward Street, near the city limits. It numbers about 4,000, and the principal centre is St. Josaphat's Church.

    There are besides various small Polish settlements in other parts of the city and a scattering population. There are about 1,000 Poles who reside about the corner of Thirty-ninth street and Ashland avenue; some in the city, some in the Town of Lake. The Polish population of South Chicago, attracted by the rolling mills, is about 2,000, and there are at least 2,500 Poles in and around the Lamont Stone-quarry region. There is a small Polish colony in the vicinity of Pullman.


    The immigrant Poles are nearly all of the peasant class. They worked garden patches and fed cows on the commons in Posen, Lithuania, or Galicia. They were accustomed before they came to this country to poor fare and hard work, but in material things they had a certain degree of independence. They have to work hard here, and voluntarily accomodate themselves to poor fare until they have made a little money. Probably 10 per cent of them are mechanics, tailors, shoemakers, bricklayers, blacksmiths, and carpenters. About 60 per cent of them can read and write in their own language.


    The peasant men usually seek work like their kinsmen, the Bohemian, in the lumber-yards, the sawmills, and the wood-working establishments. They were willing to work for poor pay, but all of them who have been here any considerable time are now members of trades unions or of the Knights of Labor. They don't take the "ratting" nowadays. Many of them work in the brickyards, and in the Fourteenth Ward. Some hundreds of them find employment in the rolling mills and the establishments growing out of that industry. In the Fifth and Sixth Ward they find employment in the packing and slaughter houses, glue factories, and brickyards. Those who reside on the North Side, work at brickmaking during the season and take to anything that turns up during the winter months. They are not arraid of hard work and there are no shirks, among them. In Lemont they are employed in stone-quarries: at South Chicago, in the rolling mills. The general verdict is that they are faithful, persevering, and persistent workers.

    The Secretary of the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company said yesterday: "They are good workers or we would not employ them. All the reports we receive concerning them are in their favor". Mr. John Cudahy, the well-known packer and Board of Trade man, said: "We employ Poles frequently in loading and unloading. They are excellent and faithful workmen". The fact that large numbers of them have been employed at the North Chicago Rolling 7Mills and Belleview speaks well for them as working-men. The work in these places is of the most laborious character. The Poles are able to stand it, however. They are a sturdy, athletic race, strong limbed and active. They are found loyal to the interests of their employers, and, though hot tempered, they are not quarrelsome and never domineering.


    Owing probably to the part taken by the Polish quarrymen in the Lamont trouble last year, there is an impression that the Poles as a class are troublesome workingmen. This does them injustice. They strike the same as other workingmen do. They are seldom the leaders though. They stand by their colors, and, like other strikers, make it uncomfortable for "scabs" They are reckless of personal danger, and are very ugly customers in a riot. There are no Socialists among them. They have an abhorence of the Socialist leaders, who are nearly all from Berlin, Bismarck's Country, and Bismarck is not popular with them. The German Socialists, led by Spies, invited the Polish workmen to one of the Sunday meetings recently when resolutions condemning Bismarck's Polish policy were passed. After the resolutions were acted on, the speakers began to indulge in the usual Communistic rant about the eight-hour movement, liberty, equality, etc.


    The Poles took it that Spies and his associates were playing a confidence game on them. They left the meeting in a body and expressed their indignation at the attempt to identify them with a Socialistic propaganda. Mr. Kiolbassa and Mr. Smulski, editor of one of the local Polish papers, say that there are not two Socialists among the Polish population of Chicago. Their religion and their distrust of the Socialist leaders, if not their Judgment, prevent them from having anything to do with the Socialistic societies. Mr. Kiolbassa says that Spies has been trying to get around them of late, but his game will not work. The Poles are very sensitive on this subject, and their leaders intimate that the stories that they are inclined to be Socialistic, originate with the agents of the German Government. They feel very bitter towards German newspaper-men on this account, and one local German editor they denounce in very strong language. On the whole, indeed, they are not on good terms with former Teutonic fellow-subjects. They say that, not satisfied with having tried to destroy their native mother tongue, the German Government, through its agents and by means of German literature, is trying to poison the minds of the world against them. One Pole translated with approval, portions of a recent speech by their Ostrowiec in the Prussian Chamber on this subject. The Polish Deputy, addressing the Germans, said: "We hate no nation, not the Germans.


    but you cannot expect us to be fond of the instruments of our annihilation. Our crime is that we are Poles and Catholics, and our last sin is that we cleave to our mother tongue. You want to make pariahs of us - an Ireland of our province. But we shall cling to our ideals, and you shall not succeed. The Reichskanzler says, 'you are weak, I am strong, and when I am hungry I shall eat you up'. This appetite may grow, but the Poles are so tough that he will not be able to digest us". Another matter that the Poles complain of is that they are represented as disposed to be vicious. The statistics of crime in Cook County prove this not to be the case. The case of Mulkowsky is not one in king. He was a deported criminal from a German prison, they say, the German Government and not Poland is responsible for his Chicago crime.


    There is an impression abroad that the Poles are not cleanly in their personal habits - that they delight to live amid squalor and to go about in rags. This is also a false impression, but it has been industriously circulated by their enemies. Visits to the Polish quarters of the city during the week proved them to be, on the whole, cleanly in their habits and rather fastidious in their mode of life. They are somewhat crowded, to be sure, in some quarters of the city, but this is the result 10largely of the poverty of the more recent arrivals. George Street in the Fourteenth Ward is largely inhabited by Poles. Some cases of overcrowding have been reported to the Board of Health, but the record is not so very bad. The following is a summary of the reported cases for three months on George Street:

    First month - Twenty-four rooms, seven families, thirty-six persons.

    Second month - Six rooms, three families, ten persons.

    Third month - Thirty-three rooms, twenty families, fifty-six persons.

    The last month looked bad. But these were the "reported" cases, it must be remembered. Cases were also reported from Cleaver, Holt, and Dickson streets. A visit was made to this neighborhood. A bad state of things exists there. It is, as a Pole said,: "the black spot" in the principal Polish district of Chicago. The houses are of frame, scarcely one of them is connected with the street sewer, the hydrants are all on the outside of the houses, covered over with a sort of brick vault to keep the water from freezing. But investigation showed that the Polish residents of the loosely-put-together frame houses behind the brick vaulted hydrants were not entirely to blame. They rent the lots on which their shanties stand from a person named Hune or Wendt at $50.00 per year. He stipulates that he is not to pay for any improvement that may be made, the Polish house-11owners refuse to make sewer or water connections that may be confiscated, or to make other improvements demanded by proper sanitary regulations. The landlord has been prosecuted for not making the improvements, but the law was made to protect not to punish him. He got free. These tenants were fined in some instances. They are nearly all recent importations and are miserably poor. They get out as fast as they can. This "black spot", as it is called, is about the only one of its kind in the Polish residence quarter. It is not nearly as bad as very many places throughout the city. The instances above cited are regrettable exceptions to the general rule in Polish Chicago. Scores of houses visited at random were found to be tidily arranged, clean, and neat. Where there was not a carpet in the best room-and there usually was one - the floor had been well scrubbed. There was not much attempt at ornamentation. A rude picture of a Polish Saint or patriot adorned the walls. The furniture was frugal, but adequate. The Poles are a proud race, and some instances admittance to the premises was naturally denied. A knowledge of the Polish vernacular might have secured it. A very good percentage of the Polish houses looked quite comfortable exteriorly, and information gathered concerning their interior indicated that they were well and neatly furnished. The Pole however, is not a spendthrift, and his helpmate is nearly always 12a hard-headed practical economist, who insists on having a comfortable wallet before indulging in "extravagance" "decoration", or "luxuries". But the Polish districts as a rule compare well with other workingmen's districts of the city for health and cleanliness.

    All the members of the Polish household who can work, do work. The women do not spend all their time on housework. Following the example of the Bohemians, many of them sew pantaloons and vests for down-town clothing houses at their homes. Others do washing and scrubbing for more prosperous citizens. The young girls work largely in tailoring and dressmaking establishments on Hubbard street, and several hundred Polish girls and boys work in cigar factories, much to the chagrin of many of their intelligent countrymen. As a rule, the Polish young women do not take kindly to domestic work. The boys go to work at an early age as messengers, factory hands, etc.


    The Poles are essentially a social people. Attached to every church are a number of religious, patriotic, and benevolent societies, all of a more or less social character. There are thirteen benevolent organizations attached to the Fourteenth Ward Polish church, and two or three patriotic 13and literary societies. St. Adalbert's Church, in the Fifth Ward, has six benevolent societies, and the North Side Polish church has three. They meet weekly. They have theatrical entertainments every week conducted in the Polish language, singing, and a literary entertainment. The West Side Poles are now arranging for the erection of a hall for theatricals and public meetings to cost $70,000. Then there are balls, dances and other entertainments among them almost every night. As a rule, these entertainments are quickly conducted. It is only when the young rowdies of the Fourteenth Ward or of Bridgeport intrude themselves on these entertainments that there is trouble. The Poles are a proud and haughty race and readily resent and punish any insult, especially if offered to their women. The latter, it may be remarked, are, as a rule, comely and good-looking. A homely young Polish woman is seldom met with, and very many of them are beautiful, with clear complexion, blue eyes, regular nose, well-chiseled lips, and well developed chin. The older women, despite their many hardships, retain many traces of their former beauty, though it cannot be said that their sunbrowned faces are set off by the black shawls which they wear over their heads. The young women dress in bright colors and appear to advantage. There is an idea in some quarters that the Polish men are intemperate. This 14is not the case. Some of them occasionally indulge in "schnapps", but the favorite beverage is beer, or, among the well-to-do people, German or Hungarian wines. The countrymen of Sobieski are as demonstrative as Irishmen when they indulge in too much "schnapps", but they seldom or ever fight, and they always make up. "If I fall our with my countrymen", said a strapping young Pole, "I meet him the next day and say, "My brother, let us forget our quarrel, let us be friends". "I grasp his hand and our quarrel ceases". Patriotism is the healing influence, for, whether born in Galicia, Lithuania, or Posen, the Pole is a Pole and a patriot. They usually marry young and have, as might be expected, large families. The average is about six. They suffer, as others, in their respective wards, with their defective sewerage and bad sanitary regulations, from infant mortality.


    The Poles are nearly all devoted Roman Catholics. Their devotion to their pastors sometimes exceeds their devotion to the church and leads to much unpleasantness occasionally, as at Detroit lately and in Chicago some years ago. This is the natural result of the state of affairs in Prussian and Russian Poland. In Posen the official language and the language of the public schools is German. In Russia the official and school language 15is Russian. The language of the priest in the pulpit and in the confessional is always Polish. The Catholic clergy are the preservers of the national language and literature and of the national traditions. They keep ever present the hope that Poland shall yet be a nation. An Irish priest of Chicago, assuming that the Poles had given up their language after the Russian ukase against it, wrote: "Poland now is Poland in nothing but in name". If this assumption were correct, the Poles admit that his conclusion would be irresistably so. Hence, they deem it the highest patriotism to preserve their mother tongue, and as the priest is at the same time the preserver and the teacher, all Poles regard him with affection and esteem. "The Dominant Polish idea", said the very intelligent Polish gentleman connected with the Health Department who acted as interpreter and guide in the Polish quarter the other day, "is, Poland again a united and self-governed nation". In Russian Poland the priest teaches the language at the peril of his life and shelters the errant Polish schoolmasters. In Posen the priests teach the Polish language publicly and do not hesitate to avow their reasons. So intent is the Chicago Pole in keeping up the traditions of his country, so dominant is the patriotic idea, that he is careful to have his children all taught the language in the church school. Only about 10 per cent, if so many, of the Polish 16children attend the public schools, therefore, and then only after they have attended the church school and learned the principles of creed and patriotism in the mother tongue. Every Polish church has a school attached. That connected with St. Stanislaus Church is attended by over 2,000 children, who are taught by eighteen sisters of Notre Dame. The instruction is not wholly in Polish. "The Irish Sisters", said Father Barzynski, "teach English" - which was good enough in its way, but was not intended as a commentary on Irish patriotic ideas. The older boys are taught by the priests. The English instructor is the Rev. Mr. Mahoney, a graduate of Boston High School, who unites in his person the priest and the soldier. He is an alumnus of the military-ecclesiastical college of St. Mary's, Kentucky, and not only teaches English but drills the young Chicago Poles, teaches them the use of rifle and bayonet, and is thus preparing them for the conflict for the restoration of Poland, should it come in their day. It is astonishing how universal this patriotic feeling is among the Poles. They do not make much display of it. A pale-faced, handsome young Polish drug-clerk was asked whether all Poles of Chicago- those from the German and Austrian provinces, as well as those from Russian Poland- believed in restoration of Poland. "Certainly", he replied, "and all the decrees that Bismarck, Czar, or Kaiser may make cannot prevent it". His eyes blazed 17as he uttered this. It appears that there is a large Polish patriotic society in this country in affiliation with the patriotic organizations in the old land. There are nine branches in Chicago, with a membership of over 2,000. These branches are the Smma (sic.) Polska, Nos. 1 and 2, the Harmonia, the John Sobieski, Tow. Mlod. Przyjaciol, Tow. Polski Krakow, the Polonia, the Pulaski Guards, and the Kosciusko. The organ of the organization is published in Milwaukee, but all the Polish papers in America advocate it. There are four weekly Polish publications in Chicago-Gazeta Polska, which claims circulation of 8,000, and the Polish Catholic, edited by M. Smulski, which has a circulation of about 5,000. The two other publications are for Sunday reading and are of a literary character. Both the newspapers are respectable looking journals. The editor of the Gazeta conducts in connection with his establishment a fine bookstore filled with the choicest Polish literature, which is both varied and extensive. The large patronage he enjoys is an indication of a literary taste which has survived in Poland through a century of gloom and darkness. The favorite author of the present day is Joseph Kraszewski, whom Bismarck has frequently committed to prison for alleged sedition utterances. The leading Poles here say that Bismarck's decrees will have no permanent 18effect. They are interested now as to the reception which the Pope's appointment of Bishop Dunder as successor to Archbishop Ledochowski will meet in Germany. They say that the new Bishop is a Pole and a patriot, but many are disposed to criticize the Papal action which led to Cardinal Ledochowski's withdrawal. They have great confidence in the ability and patriotism of the Polish Deputies in the Prussian Parliament, all of whom, by the way, are not Catholics, three of sixteen being Colonists, but sound patriots every man of them. There are not many professional men among the Poles of Chicago. There are four or five good doctors, one artist of some prominence, about half a dozen men of considerable literary ability, and seven or eight druggists, besides the clergymen, about five in number. They are progressive and quick-witted, and will soon have a goodby representation.


    In politics the Poles are somewhat divided. They are largely influenced by their surroundings. In the Fifth and Sixth Wards nearly half of them are Republicans. Many of them work in foundries and rolling-mills and are influenced by protective theories. In the Fourteenth Ward a majority of the Poles have acted with the Democratic party hitherto, but there is a split this time. A number of the young men have established a young Polish 19Republican Club, and John Scherrmann, son of the leading Polish resident of the ward, has become a Vice-President of the Republican ward organization. The Irish Democrats in the ward, it is claimed, "hog" everything, and last spring entered into a combination with Alderman Schack and other German politicians to defeat John Barzynski, a leading Pole, for Alderman. It goes without saying that there is not much love between the Germans and the Poles, growing, of course, out of the Old-World conflict. The Poles, as they continue to acquire property, will array themselves on the side of good government. They do not seem to be greatly ambitious for political honors or political offices. There are about half a dozen Poles on the police force, as many more in the Fire Department, and perhaps half a score have appointments as clerks, inspectors, etc., in the various governmental departments of the city, county, and Nation.


    What do the Poles do with their money? The husband works, so does the wife, so do the children if they are able. What becomes of their earnings? There are six exclusively Polish building and loan societies, with an average membership of 350 to the society in the Fourteenth Ward. Their money goes into the funds of the association until they have enough 20to build. Then they put it into brick and mortar. As a result, there are thousands of comfortable Polish homes in Chicago owned by the occupants; One can find them any day along Noble, Cornelia, Blackhawk, Bradley, West Ohio, and other streets in the Fourteenth Ward; on Paulina, Hoyne, Laurel, thirty-fifth, and thirty-first streets in the Fifth and Sixth Wards. There are two Polish building societies in the latter. There is also a Polish building society on the North Side. The fact is that the Poles, like every other industrious element of our population, are prospering and getting rich. The first idea of the married Pole, when he settles down in Chicago, is to make enough money to buy a home in the city or a farm in Minnesota, Dakota, or some other place. Success usually attends his efforts. Last year one agency here sent eighty-five families of Poles to farms which they have purchased with money earned in Chicago. They have not such a reluctance to quit city life as people of other foreign nationalities. The immigrants from Poland usually consist of families. Few unmarried men and hardly any unmarried women come here from that country. The result of Polish family thrift is that 40 per cent, perhaps as high as 50 per cent, of the Poles own their homes. All of them hope to own them. Very many are comparatively wealthy. All the 21Poles who lived here before the fire, with scarcely an exception, are well-to-do. Mr. Anton Scherrmann, a fine looking old gentleman who came here soon after the suppression of the Polish rebellion of 1863, owns half a block of frame and brick houses on Noble Street and several houses on other streets. Standing on the sidewalk before his houses he said with considerable feeling and emphasis: "All this property to the west as far as Ashland Avenue is owned by Poles except that spot", (pointing to the Venne block of shanties on Cleaver Street, already attended to). "Yes", he continued, "the Poles are progressing and prospering". His son, a fine young man, who is Vice-President of the Republican Club of the Fourteenth Ward, is also a large property owner, and his son-in-law, only 28 years old, is the possessor of half a block. All along Noble, Blackhawk, and other Fourteenth Ward streets, and on Eighteenth street and Blue Island avenue in the Sixth Ward, there are neat and apparently well-patronized groceries, meat markets, restaurants and shoe-shops kept by Poles. There are indications of their prosperity everywhere. Wherever a very poor Polish family is to be found it turns out that its members are recent arrivals from Poland. There are no Polish beggars, and few applications are made from Polish families to the County agent. There are numerous benevolent societies belonging to the nationality to relieve the individual distress 22of brother Poles. The crowded frame shanty, without proper sanitary arrangements, only serves to bring more into relief the general thought and resulting comforts. The percentage of Poles in the saloon business is quite large, but they keep well-conducted places, and there are few loafers around. They are all making money, saving it, and investing in homes or real estate. They have not as many substantial dwellings as the Bohemians, with whom, by the way, they earnestly sympathize in most things, but it must be remembered, they have but recently come to Chicago.

    The value of their property is now estimated at $10,000,000. They are a valuable addition to the industrial population of Chicago, in spite of many drawbacks, and their struggles for success are well worthy of sympathy and the encouragement of every patriotic citizen.

    III A, I C, I D 2 a 3, I D 2 a 4, I E, I F 1, II A 2, II B 1 c 1, II D 1, III B 2