The Polish-American Press
A. J. KUZNIEWSKI
The Polish-American press has always been a particularly clear window through which to view the self-understanding and assimilation of the sons and daughters of Poland in the United States. It was obvious even to the first generation of Polish-Americans that their journalistic enterprise was connected with their adjustment to the New World. When, for instance, a turn-of-the-century historian attempted to explain the prominence of the press in the Polonian immigrant community, he cited the example of the Americans, for whom "the newspaper is as necessary as a piece of bread or a glass of water." This national passion for news and journalism, he argued, had a "decided influence" on the growth of the Polish-American press. 1 Although many of the newcomers had been familiar with newspapers in partitioned Poland, 2 American freedom and prosperity attracted ambitious young writers and publicists who brought journalistic vitality and popularity to countrymen in America. Their journalism addressed the needs of a group which, by the very act of immigration, had constituted itself as no longer purely Polish. The result was a press whose strengths, peculiarities, changes, and disagreements have represented an evolving community with remarkable and sometimes dramatic accuracy.
Because Polish immigrants were frequently recorded in the United States as nationals of one of the three countries that had partitioned their homeland in the eighteenth century, statistics on the number of immigrants are only estimates. Most scholars agree, however, that about 2 million Poles settled permanently in the United States between 1850 and 1924. Beginning with agricultural settlements in Texas and Wisconsin before the Civil War, the first wave of Polish immigrants came mostly from Germany before 1890. Thereafter, Galician Poles from the Habsburg Empire and then Russian Poles rounded out the figure. Most of the newcomers found employment in the expanding industrial cities of the Northeast and in mining centers in Pennsylvania. By 1920 Chicago counted 400,000 Polish- Americans. New York and Pittsburgh followed with about 200,000 each; Buffalo, Milwaukee, and Detroit numbered 100,000; and Philadelphia and Cleveland had at least 50,000. Descendants of the original immigrants and a new influx