Polish Immigrant Lives in Connecticut, 1909-1922

Promotion for concert by Polish pianist Padereswski.

Bridgeport Evening Farmer, April 10, 1916

Introduction

On May 16, 1910, on the occasion of the unveiling of statues of Pulaski and Kosciuszko in Washington, D.C. by President Taft, the Norwich Bulletin reprinted an article from the Hartford Times entitled “Poles in Connecticut.”  According to this piece, 804 children of Polish immigrants were born in Connecticut in 1908.  The reporter further stated:

The bulk of the Poles of Connecticut have settled in Hartford and New Haven counties.  .  .  They are employed in factories, till farms, and work as day laborers.  They constitute a considerable element of the labor employed in the industrial towns of New Britain and Southington.  Within a decade the Polish census of the state has probably expanded about 400 per cent.  .  .  Their importance as an influence in the industrial and agricultural life of Connecticut is likely to grow.

They settled in large numbers in Willimantic and Bridgeport, as well.  Connecticut-bound immigrants were part of the migration of an estimated 1.5 million ethnic Poles that arrived in the United States between 1899 and 1913 with the hope of finding jobs or starting farms.  The 1910 Census documented 55,356 Connecticut residents of Polish stock.  Of those, 35,472 were foreign-born and 19,874 born of Polish parents.  This was likely an undercount.  As Poland was not an independent nation at this time, ethnically Polish immigrants came from Galicia, which was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Empire; Congress Poland, which was under Russia’s thumb; and Silesia, or, Prussian-Poland.  It is likely that many Polish immigrants were categorized as Russian, Hungarian, German, or as another nationality.

Once here, Polish immigrants built Polonia, i.e. an amalgam of vibrant communities anchored by parishes, schools, commercial organizations, fraternal organizations, trade schools, labor organizations, and a rich cultural calendar of traditional celebrations.  While the community was sometimes divided over the kind of nation a future Poland should be, it was united, nonetheless, by the common dream of Polish independence throughout the World War I period.  In Connecticut workplaces, Polish immigrants, including Polish women, played an important role in the larger working class struggles for better wages, hours, and safe working conditions.  In Connecticut towns, they crafted a culture and daily life based on a unique blend of their Polish heritage and the promises of American citizenship.

—Damon Luna

   Timeline of Events

  • 1880- Polish National Alliance formation to hold on to Polish heritage.
  • 1887- Polish Falcons first established in America.
  • 1890- Polish mass immigration to the United States in search of industrial work.
  • 1903- Immigration Act of 1903 regulates the mass influx of immigration.
  • 1903- Sons of Poland established to aid immigrants
  • 1906- Naturalization Act of 1906 required immigrants to know English to be naturalized.
  • 1907- Immigration Act of 1907 increased regulations.
  • 1909- Polish parochial school founded in New Britain, Connecticut.
  • 1912- Alliance College allows Polish American youth to learn about their heritage.
  • 1917- Polish Falcon Trade School established in Bridgeport, Connecticut
  • 1917- Immigration Act of 1917 setting new requirements on who could enter
  • 1919- Paris Peace Conference recognizes an independent Poland.

 

 How to Search This Topic

To explore the topic of Polish immigrant lives in online Connecticut newspapers, go to http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/, click on the “Advanced Search” tab, select “Connecticut,” select the years “1909-1922,” and enter single-word terms in the box called “with ALL these words” and two or more word phrases in the box named “with the phrase.”  Hit search.

Suggested Search Terms
  • Polish Falcons
  • Polish American
  • Polish-Americans
  • Paderewski
  • Polish recruits

For further search in Chronicling America use “Advanced Search” tab, select “Connecticut,” select the years “1909-1922,” and enter these terms in the box named “with the words within 10 words of each other.”  Hit search.

Sample Word Combinations for Searching
  • Polish naturalization
  • Polish celebration
  • Polish Americanization
  • Polish immigration
  • Polish national defense
  • Polish St. Joseph’s
  • Polish Sacred Heart
  • Polish St. Michael’s
  • Polish strike
  • Polish Willimantic
  • Polish Putnam
  • Polish Danielson
  • Polish Bridgeport
  • Polish Norwich
  • Polish New Britain

 

Sample Search Results

 

Education

“Polish Leaders in Bridgeport Maintain Trade School Here for Benefit of Young People,” The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, November 11, 1918, page 8, col. 6-7.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1918-11-11/ed-1/seq-8/>

“Leads City. . . Wonderful Achievements of Polish Parish in New Britain,” Norwich Bulletin, March 18, 1910, page 2, col. 4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1910-03-18/ed-1/seq-2/>

 

Traditional Cultural Celebrations

“All Day Celebration by Poles,” Norwich Bulletin, November 26, 1909, page 7, col. 3-4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1909-11-26/ed-1/seq-7/>

“Polish Constitution Day,” Norwich Bulletin, May 11, 1914, page 5, col. 6.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1914-05-11/ed-1/seq-5/>

“Polish Residents Celebrate,” Norwich Bulletin, May 14, 1917, page 2, col. 3.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1917-05-14/ed-1/seq-2/>

Civic Life

“Independence Day was fittingly celebrated in this city Monday by members of St. Joseph’s Polish Society.  .  .  ,” Norwich Bulletin, July 6, 1920, page 8, col. 1-2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1920-07-06/ed-1/seq-8/>

“Polish Falcons to Have Great Parade Here,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, June 6, 1914, page 3, col. 5.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1914-06-06/ed-1/seq-3/>

“Local Firm to Build Orphanage in New Britain,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, April 4, 1922, page 9, col. 5.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1922-04-04/ed-1/seq-9/>

“Poles in Connecticut,”   Norwich Bulletin, May 16, 1910, page 5, col. 5. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1910-05-16/ed-1/seq-5/>

“Polish Falcons of City in National Welfare Drive,” Norwich Bulletin, July 25, 1922, page 5, col. 4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1922-07-25/ed-1/seq-5/>

“About three hundred residents.  .  .  attended the meeting.  .  .  under the auspices of Americanization Agent J. D. Elmendorf,” Norwich Bulletin, March 22, 1920, page 7, col. 2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1920-03-22/ed-1/seq-7/>

Labor

“Fifteen Hundred Strike,” Norwich Bulletin, April 29, 1912, page 2, col. 2-3.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1912-04-29/ed-1/seq-2/>

“Girls Hustle Men From Hall When They Hear Charge of Double-Crossing,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 19, 1915, page 3, col. 2-3.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-08-19/ed-1/seq-3/>

“Polish People Resent Warning by Priest,” “Weavers Will Walk Out,” “Textile Workers’ Leaders Address Mass Meeting,” “Socialist Editor Speaks Before I.W.W. Meeting,” Norwich Bulletin, May 6, 1912, page 2, col. 2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1912-05-06/ed-1/seq-2/>

“Evicted Strikers Return to Work,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, December 16, 1909, page 4, col. 6.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1909-12-16/ed-1/seq-4/>

“Dance in Union Hall. Conducted by Polish Socialists.  .  .  ,” Norwich Bulletin, November 27, 1911, page 5, col. 4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1911-11-27/ed-1/seq-5/>

Participation in World War I

“Danielson:  Polish Young Men .  .  . urged to enlist,” and “Putnam:  Polish Recruits Needed,” Norwich Bulletin, May 10, 1918, page 9, col. 3-4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1918-05-10/ed-1/seq-9/>

“Polish Citizens Eager to Enter On Fight for Nation,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, August 5, 1914, page 2, col. 1.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1914-08-05/ed-1/seq-2/>

“American Aviators Soon to Return,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, October 13, 1920, page 11, col. 1-2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1920-10-13/ed-1/seq-11/>

“Eleven Polish Heroes Headed by Brave Lieut. Chodzko Visit Bridgeport,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, December 14, 1918, page 3, col. 1-2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1918-12-14/ed-1/seq-3/>

 

Working for Polish Independence

 

“Recognition of the Kingdom of Poland,” Norwich Bulletin, January 22, 1917, page 1, col. 5.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1917-01-22/ed-1/seq-1/>

“Polish, Bohemian, and Slovak Leaders Pin Their Faith upon President Wilson and Russia,” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, January 25, 1918, page 9, col. 2-3.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn92051227/1918-01-25/ed-1/seq-9/>

“Famous Polish Pianist to Play for War Relief,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, April 10, 1916, page 10, col. 2.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1916-04-10/ed-1/seq-10/>

“Polish People Wage Campaign for Starving Countrymen,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, January 25, 1915, page 6, col. 4.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84022472/1915-01-25/ed-1/seq-6/>

 

Bibliography

Bucki, Cecelia.  “Connecticut’s Industrial Fortress” and “Ethnics in the 1920’s” in Bridgeport’s Socialist New Deal, 1915-36.  Urbana:  University of Illinois Press, c2001, pp. 11-40 and 68-99.

Greenberg, Ivan. “Vocational Education, Work Culture, and the Children of Immigrants in 1930s Bridgeport.” Journal of Social History 41 (1), Fall 2007, pp.  149–60.  Provides information on the lives of second generation Polish immigrant children in Bridgeport, whose parents came during the Progressive Era.

Anker, Laura. 1988.  “Women, Work & Family: Polish, Italian and Eastern European Immigrants in Industrial Connecticut, 1890-1940”. in Polish American Studies 45 (2), Autumn 1988,  pp. 23–49. Provides a look at the mass migration of female immigrants to Connecticut from Eastern Europe and discusses the important role Polish women who immigrated to Connecticut played in industry.

Blejwas, Stanislaus A. and Mieczyslaw B. Biskupski, eds.  Pastor of the Poles: Polish American Essays Presented to Right Reverend Monsignor John P. Wodarski in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of His Ordination.  New Britain, CT:  Central Connecticut State College, 1982.  This text includes important essays on the evolution and structure of Polonia in Connecticut, with special attention to within the clergy, Polish relations with the Democratic Party, and the lives of Polish American workers.

How the Poles Came to New England,” New England Historical Society.  Accessed on April 25, 2016 at http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/poles-came-new-england/.

“Poles in Connecticut,” Norwich Bulletin, May 16, 1910, page 5, col. 5.  Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.  <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014086/1910-05-16/ed-1/seq-5/>

“Progressive Era Investigations.” United States Department of Labor.  http://www.dol.gov/dol/aboutdol/history/mono-regsafepart05.htm.  Documents the investigations by the Connecticut Department of Labor into working conditions.

Pula, James S.  Polish Americans: An Ethnic Community. New York: Twayne Publishers: London: Prentice Hall International, 1995, pp. 1-66.  Provides a thorough overview of the Progressive Era and the lives of Polish immigrants.

Renkiewicz, Frank, Compiler and editor, The Poles in America, 1608-1972.  Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1973.  Contains key documents that illuminate Catholic missions, Polish American organizations, and everyday immigrant life.

Renkiewicz, Frank.  “Polish American Workers,” in Blejwas, Stanislaus A. and Mieczyslaw B. Biskupski, eds.  Pastor of the Poles: Polish American Essays Presented to Right Reverend Monsignor John P. Wodarski in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary of His Ordination.  New Britain, CT:  Central Connecticut State College, 1982, pp. 116-136.

Shea, Jonathan D.  “Newspaper Sources,” “Our Names in Europe and America,” and “Polish Parishes in the United States” in Going Home: A Guide to Polish-American Family History Research.  New Britain, CT:  Language and Lineage Press, c2008, pp. 79-83, 311-319, 345-346.

Shriver, William P.  Immigrant forces: factors in the new democracy.  New York: Missionary education movement of the United States and Canada, 1913.  http://catalog.hathitrust.org/api/volumes/oclc/4178811.html. Provides a good secondary overview of Polish immigrants during the Progressive Era.

Note:  There is a wealth of information on Polish immigrant life in Connecticut at the New Britain Public Library in New Britain, CT and also in the archives of Central Connecticut State University.  They both have an archives filled with primary source information on Polish immigrant lives, residential statistics, immigration patterns, events, accomplishments, and struggles.  Many of the primary sources, including those written by Father Lucyan Bojnowksi, a cleric associated with the largest concentration of Polish immigrants in the state, are in Polish.

 

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