Roman B.J. Kwasniewski Photographs, 1897-1959,  (bulk 1920-1931)


Roman B.J. Kwasniewski (originally Kwaśniewski), son of Jozef and Wanda (Dyniewicz) Kwasniewski, was born June 10, 1886 in Chicago. His father, 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 stationary; and manufactured badgers, banners, and artificial flowers. Also, Jozef 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. Dyniewicz 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.

In the 1890s, the family moved to Milwaukee. 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). He managed his parents store until 1913 when he opened Park Studio at 1024 West Lincoln Avenue. After the 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 became the parents of 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 addition to being a prolific photographer, he was an inventor as well. When his father became deaf late in life, the son 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, he took over responsibilities of writing for and editing the agricultural page of the Kuryer Polski.

Kwasniewski was active in many local business and community organizations. His hours of business were frequently sporadic, 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. During the depression Kwasniewski's financial difficulties forced him to curtail his community activities. Shortly before his death, Kwasniewski turned over most of his duties and offices to his son-in-law.