Society of American Archivists Records, 1935-[ongoing]

 
Contents List

Biography/History

On June 23, 1888, Michael Kruszka, an immigrant journalist from Slabomierz in Prussian-held Poland, published the first edition of the Kuryer Polski. Despite having a mere three employees and assets of only $125, Kruszka's inaugural headline boldly announced that the Kuryer Polski was the "Only Polish daily in America representing Polish interests in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central and South America." For seventy-four years the newspaper lived up to its initial proclamation by promoting the welfare of Polonia communities scattered throughout the Americas. The Kuryer Polski succeeded Kruszka's weeklies Dziennik Polski and Krytyka (1885-1888). In 1899, Kruszka incorporated the Kuryer Publishing Company. By 1915 the Kuryer Polski boasted a readership of more than 40,000. The Kuryer's position on many divisive issues facing Polish American communities throughout North America gained the newspaper national prominence.

Promoting Polish priests to high offices in the American Catholic hierarchy was among the most volatile issues the Kuryer Polski pressed. Milwaukee's Archbishop Sebastian Messmer opposed "the dangerous experiment...to give the Polish people a bishop." Messmer propounded that "Whenever a bishop would have any difficulty with a Polish parish their bishop would be appealed to. The Polish are not yet American enough and keep aloof too much from the rest of us." Michael Kruszka's brother, Father Wacaw Kruszka, was arguably the most assertive advocate for Polish representation in the Church's upper echelons. Contrary to the behest of Milwaukee's Archbishop, Wacaw traveled to Rome in 1903 to present his grievances against the German and Irish dominated American Church. Only in 1908 did the Holy See name a Pole, Paul Rhode, as auxiliary bishop of Chicago.

The Kuryer Polski also criticized clerical meddling in the political arena. Kruszka attacked the construction of St. Joseph's Church by alleging it burdened the working-class parishioners with a debt of at least $250,000. Kruszka's fervent support to place Polish language instruction in the Milwaukee Public school's curriculum further alienated the clergy. Many in the church judged Kruszka's efforts as an overt attempt to subvert parish schools.

To combat the Kuryer Polski, Archbishop Messmer persuaded members of the Polish clergy to establish rival Polish language newspapers. The first two, Sowo (the Word) and Dziennik Milwaucki (Milwaukee's Daily) failed within months of publication. In 1906 opponents of the Kuryer Polski published the Nowiny Polski under the editorship of Reverend Bolesaw Goral. Soon the rivalry between the Kuryer Polski and Nowiny Polski split Milwaukee's Polonia into two antagonistic factions. On 11 February 1912, Milwaukee's Archbishop Messmer issued an edict enjoining the faithful not to read the Kuryer Polski. Disobedience of the decree could result in excommunication.

On 12 June 1912, the Kuryer Publishing Company responded by organizing a demonstration of more than 25,000 opponents of Messmer's edict. Kruszka also established the fraternal insurance society, Federation of Poles in America, to counter both clerical sponsored associations and the Polish National Alliance. The PNA earned Kruszka's wrath by its refusal to side with the Kuryer Polski during the dispute with the church. The Federation of Poles in America continues to provide insurance coverage as Federation Life Insurance with its headquarters in Milwaukee. In 1918, a scant few months before Poland's rebirth, Kruszka died. Kruszka's son-in-law, Professor Stanisaw Zwierzchowski (Zowski), became President of the Kuryer Publishing Company. In 1922, after Professor Zwierzchowski moved to Poland to teach at the University of Warsaw, Chester Dziadulewicz assumed management of the company. Colonel Peter F. Piasecki, veteran of the Spanish-American War and former Postmaster General for Milwaukee, succeeded Dziadulewicz in 1938. The Kuryer Polski suspended publication on 23 September 1962 after the Internal Revenue Service declared the company delinquent on its taxes.

The Kuryer Polski's readers greeted the reestablishment of an independent Poland after World War I with a barrage of requests for information regarding citizenship status, currency transactions, travel arrangements and immigration visas. The Kuryer Publishing Company established the Kuryer Agency on 17 September 1919, to meet the demand for such assistance. The Agency handled these tasks until the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, rendered the services of such an agency superfluous.