Kuryer Polski Records, 1907-1961


The Kuryer Polski, the first Polish language daily newspaper in the United States, was founded in Milwaukee in 1888 by Michael Kruszka. Kruszka (1860-1918) immigrated to the United States from Slabomierz in German Poland in 1880, working first in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago prior to settling in Milwaukee. There he taught himself the printing trade and established a printing business, and in 1885 began publishing the Tgodnik Anonsowy (Advertising Weekly), soon succeeded by the weekly Krytyka. With a group of Polish labor leaders, Kruszka initiated in 1887 the short-lived daily paper, Dziennik Polski. The following year the Kuryer Polski was begun as a weekly (later daily) newspaper to serve the needs of the ever-increasing Polish population in Milwaukee and throughout the country.

The newspaper prospered under Kruszka's editorship, although Kruszka himself was often surrounded by controversy and conflict. During the 1890's a battle began between Kruszka and the Milwaukee Roman Catholic church hierarchy and clergy which was to rage for nearly twenty-five years and have far-reaching effects. At the heart of the dispute were several of Kruszka's beliefs and causes, including teaching Polish language classes in the public schools, equal rights for the Polish clergy in the Catholic hierarchy, opposition to extravagant and financially-burdensome church buildings, and opposition to those in the hierarchy who tried to put the Kuryer Polski out of business. Kruszka's only supporter among the clergy was his brother, Reverend Waclaw Kruszka, who fought for equal rights for Polish priests until his death in 1937.

As part of the conflict with Kruszka, the Church hierarchy organized a clerical paper, the Katolik, which was published from 1895 to 1898. In 1899, the clergy began the daily Dziennik Milwaucki, which continued for six years. The battle was joined in earnest in 1907 when Milwaukee Archbishop Sebestian Messmer established a rival newspaper, the Nowiny Polskie, to which he contributed 1,000 dollars. The Polish priests in the diocese were also assessed sums ranging to 500 dollars to support the new paper.

The climax of the situation came during a 1912 convention of Polish priests in Detroit, from which Reverend Waclaw Kruszka was barred. Convention participants decided to blacklist thirteen Polish newspapers, among them the Kuryer Polski and the Dziennik Narodowy in Chicago, in which Michael Kruszka also held an interest. Shortly thereafter a number of bishops, including Archbishop Messmer, issued pastoral letters forbidding the reading of the Kuryer and the Dziennik. Publication continued, however, despite numerous lawsuits instituted by both parties to the dispute.

Although the conflict calmed with the outbreak of World War I, there were several far-reaching results of the controversy. Since the largest of the Polish fraternals, the Polish National Alliance, refused to take sides in the matter, Michael Kruszka organized the Federation of Poles in America to provide him with popular support. The group outlived the dispute, and was later known as Federation Life Insurance of America. Secondly, the involvement of the Roman Catholic Church contributed in the growth of the Polish National Catholic Church, which established three parishes in Milwaukee during this period. Michael Kruszka continued to work for the improvement of conditions in Poland and for the rights of Polish-Americans; in addition to the Kuryer Polski he began publication of the English language paper Poland's Cause.

Michael Kruszka died December 2, 1918, and was succeeded as publisher and president of the Kuryer Polski by his son-in-law, Professor Stanislaus Zwierzchowski. When Professor Zwierzchowski departed Milwaukee to assist the post-war reconstruction of Poland, he retained his position with the paper but active management was turned over to Chester Dziadulewicz. Dziadulewicz was succeeded by Colonel Peter F. Piasecki. The Kuryer Polski suspended publication on September 23, 1962.