Friday, September 08, 2006

The History of the Polish Press in Detroit, Part 2 of 2

The History of the Polish Press in Detroit by R. Jarzabkowska (Part 2 of 2)
(Excerpt from Poles in Michigan Vol. 1 Detroit, Mich, 1953)

For ten years after 1875 not even one Polish newspaper was published in Detroit. Finally, in August just before the elections, the "National Gazette" ("Gazeta Narodowa") appeared. It was published by J. Piotrowski, owner of a busy printing-house, the first Polish book-selling firm in Detroit. Its editor was Joseph Zawisza, one of the first apostles of the Old World's Socialism in America. Actually, the paper was sponsored by the ward politicians of the Democratic Party. The publication was, of course, strictly seasonal. About the "National Gazette" we only know that one of its co-editors was Hieronym Derdowski, the popular Polish Kashub writer, author of the poem "About Mr. Czorlinski," later managing editor of the intoxicating "Veteran."

The radical tone of the "National Gazette" which was imparted to this journal by the Socialist, or rather anarchist, Joseph Zawisza, stirred Fr. Paul Gutowski, parish priest of St. Casimir's (the second Polish parish in Detroit). Fr. Gutowski, a very active Catholic worker opposed the "Gazette" with a periodical entitled "Polish Pilgrim" ("Pielgrzym Polski").

It was published by a company with Fr. Gutowski as the president at its head, A. Kolakowski as secretary, and K. Nowakowski as treasurer. The editor of the "Polish Pilgrim" was Derdowski. For the final months of the newspaper's existence, after his resignation in 1888, the editorship was assumed by Casimir Olszewski, a locksmith by trade, and later publisher of "Truth" ("Prawda").

Olszewski's management did not last long. Toward the end of 1888 Fr. Gutowski's publication ceased to exist. It was still too early for Detroit to have a newspaper.

The newly baptized editor C. Olszewski did not give up.

The first number of "Truth" appeared toward the end of 1888. In 1893 the ownership of this weekly was transferred to a young, learned, native-born, former professor of the Polish Seminary in Detroit, Dr. Ilowiecki, editor of "Freedom" ("Swoboda") the first Polish daily in Detroit. "Truth" was published for only a few months in Detroit. It was acquired by a wealthy businessman of Bay City, Valentine Przybyszewski, who was later twice moderator of the Polish National Alliance. The publication then moved to Bay City and there existed without a break until the end of the First World War.

In the meantime, Anthony Paryski, a young postal clerk from Lowicz, Poland, established, in partnership with H. Skupinski, a new periodical in Detroit - the "Star" ("Gwiazda") in 1889. Paryski became later a founder and publisher of the "America-Echo," which exists to this day. Fr. Kruszka described the new periodical as an "existing horror" in respect to style, meaning, and writing.”

The life of the Polish immigrants in Detroit entered an era during which there was a burning need for a press. They ended the pioneer stage of this life and become accustomed to the new conditions of living, required a special intellectual nourishment. It could oniy be supplied by a newspaper.

This was perfectly appreciated by Fr. Joseph Dabrowski, the wonderful man in the patched cassock. In 1891 he established the weekly "Sunday" ("Niedziela") whose nominal publisher became the Polish Seminary and its first editor Fr. Dr. Barrabasz, a talented writer, author of two poems; but the moving spirit behind it was Fr. Dabrowski.

This was a popular weekly, with lively and interesting editing. It was printed in the Seminary, on the primitive, little printing press which Fr. Dabrowski brought from the Convent of the Felician Sisters.

The publication prospered during the life of Fr. Dabrowski but began to fail after his death. In 1905 "Sunday" ceased its publication.

Almost simultaneously with "Sunday", the Missionary Fathers established a monthly in Detroit under the name, "Forget-Me. Not" ("Niezapominajki"). After a few years this monthly ceased its publication.

Finally — in 1896 there begins to be issued a Polish daily paper called "Freedom" ("Swoboda") which had been established by Dr. Ilowiecki as a weekly.

Stanley Osada—a contemporary observer—issued this opinion about the paper: "'Freedom' belonged to the best edited periodicals of its time." Fr. Kruszka, who was personally acquainted with Dr. Ilowiecki, observed that the tone of his articles was frequently very sarcastic and cutting; "this man of great heart, kind to the detriment of his own interest, frequently generous but nevertheless discouraged, lashed out with the whip of satire totally oblivious that he was missing his target."

From Fr. Kruszka we also learn that "Freedom" carried columns on Polish doings in Detroit. This important source of sociological and historical information from which Fr. Kruszka drew so abundantly, disappeared without a trace.

"Freedom", which fell in 1898, was, then, the first Polish daily in Detroit and the ninth attempt to establish a lasting Polish daily paper in America.

In the same year "Polonia," another Polish journal, appeared in Detroit. For the second time it was not the private individuals but a union of societies establishing it as its organ. "Polonia", with editor Stanley Kapcia, was the organ of the Polish Roman-Catholic Society which after a few months amalgamated with the Polish Roman-Catholic Union.

Toward the end of the last century, then, the City of Detroit had three simultaneous, Polish periodicals: the daily "Freedom" and two weeklies, "Sunday" and "Polonia." In this short period Polish Detroiters were well served by this segment of the press.