The Greek Press
ANDREW T. KOPAN
Americans are impressed by the fact that of all the emigrants from Europe who have come to the United States, the Greeks preeminently continue to speak their native language (although decreasingly so) and to pass it on to the younger generations. 1 The Italians, Czechs, Poles, and others who arrived in the United States in large numbers during the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth forgot their mother tongue after thirty to forty years. It is rare today for their children to speak languages other than English. With the Greeks, however, it seems that precisely the opposite has happened and continues to happen. This is attributed to a number of factors: the strong social and ethnic cohesion of the Greek immigrant family; the presence of an extensive Greek ethnic press; and the influence of the Greek Orthodox Church with its extensive ethnic school system and infrastructure.
While Greek immigrants were primarily an illiterate group when they immigrated to the United States, they were, nonetheless, descendants of one of the most literate societies in the world and were keenly conscious of that heritage. Despite the low level of literacy, there prevailed a strong oral tradition which was reflected in the constant retelling of famous stories from their history, especially from the classical and Byzantine periods. Accordingly, twentieth- century Greek immigrants felt kinship with Homer and Plato as well as with Byzantine culture; nor could they forget that the New Testament and the development of the Christian Church were largely Greek achievements.
The Greek ethnic press developed rapidly in the United States. Greek immigration did not peak until 1907, when 36,404 immigrants arrived. 2 By then, several Greek-language newspapers, including a daily, were already in existence.
One of the principal factors which led to the early establishment of newspapers in the Greek communities of the United States was the Greek immigrants' passion for nationalism and politics. The desire to be informed about political events in the old country and to keep abreast of Greece's wars with Turkey in liberating portions of "unredeemed Greece" made them insatiable devourers of news. This was not unlike the Greek homeland, where readers combed the various news-