Roman B.J. Kwasniewski Papers, 1892-1953


Roman B.J. Kwasniewski, son of Jozef and Wanda (Dyniewicz) Kwasniewski, was born June 10, 1886. Sources differ as to his birthplace; family members state that he was born near Stevens Point, Wisconsin, while a biography published during Kwasniewski's lifetime lists his birthplace as Chicago. His father Jozef, a native of Jaroslaw, Poland, was educated at Lwow prior to coming to the United States. He owned a shop at 654 Becher Street, Milwaukee, where he maintained a lithography and printing business, sold his own oil paintings and portraits as well as books, statuary, religious and church items, picture frames, and stationery, and manufactured badges, banners, and artificial flowers. Jozef Kwasniewski also taught mechanical drawing, and edited the agricultural page of the Kuryer Polski until his death on May 17, 1927.

Roman Kwasniewski's mother, Wanda Dyniewicz, was the daughter of Albertyna and Wladyslaw Dyniewicz (1843-1928), who founded, edited, and published the Chicago Gazeta Polska. Dynewicz opposed his daughter's marriage at the age of 16, and although he allowed the young married couple to live on his property in central Wisconsin for a time, he wrote his will so that only a Dyniewicz could inherit the property. Roman was the only child of the Kwasniewskis.

As a young man, Roman Kwasniewski was educated at Milwaukee public schools until he was ten years old; he then attended St. Hyacinth's parochial school from 1898 to 1900, South Division High School, from which he graduated in 1904, and Marquette University (1926-1928, evening courses). He managed his business at 1024 West Lincoln Avenue. After the photo studio was sold, he continued the artificial flower business begun in 1897 by his mother. At Marquette University Kwasniewski studied real estate, and subsequently pursued that career part-time. Kwasniewski married Mary Drozniakiewicz, daughter of Matthew and Paulina (Szymanski) Drozniakiewicz, and the couple had three children: Edward, a chemist; Adele, wife of John Kaczmarowski; and Roman L., an industrial engineer.

Kwasniewski is best known for his photographic documentation of early twentieth century Milwaukee, especially of the Polish American community. In 1980, 2,000 prints and 10,000 glass plate negatives from his studio were donated to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Library. In addition to being an outstanding and prolific photographer, Roman Kwasniewski was an inventor. When his father became deaf late in life, Roman invented a typewriter with a light signal rather than a bell to indicate the margin. He assisted his son-in-law in designing a special glass vent for use in metal plating processes, perfected a method to straighten and salvage scrap wire for the stems of artificial flowers, and invented a camera able to take a roll of glass negatives before others were available commercially. Following the death of his father Jozef, Roman Kwasniewski took over the responsibilities of writing for and editing the agricultural page of the Kuryer Polski.

Roman Kwasniewski was active in many local business and community organizations. His hours of business were frequently irregular, which enabled him to devote time to the Polish National Alliance, the Polish Falcons, Pulaski Council, the Lincoln Avenue Businessmen's Association, the Marquette Real Estate Association, the Knights of Columbus, the Boy Scouts, and other groups. As financial secretary (and later, president) of PNA Lodge 1510, Kwasniewski often paid the dues of members himself, rather than trying to collect them. During the Depression, however, Kwasniewski's financial difficulties forced him to curtail his community activities. Unknown to his family, for many years Kwasniewski carried on an extensive correspondence with relatives in the United States and Poland, in search of information about his family history. Shortly before his death, Kwasniewski turned over most of his duties and offices to his son-in-law. Park Studio has twice been sold since 1980, and in 1981 was owned by Dorothy Dixon.

Kwasniewski's son-in-law, John Kaczmarowski, has held many positions in the Milwaukee area, including probation officer, welfare fraud investigator (1930s), social worker, South Division High School counselor (1952-1957), and personnel director at Allis-Chalmers. He and his wife, Adele, still live in a home in Greenfield which was one of four built by Kaczmarowski's father, John Jozef, as a family commune.