From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 40INVITATION TO ATTEND A CELEBRATION IN HONOR OF THADDEUS KOSCIUSKO
April 23, 1894
Poles fleeing harsh economic and political conditions at home emigrated in increasing numbers to this country from the 1870s through the 1890s. In 1870 they numbered less that one percent of Chicago's population but by 1890 they represented over five percent. Most settled on the northwest side and by 1892 over 30,000 were living in this area. Since 1930 Polish Americans have been the city's largest white ethnic group. Most early immigrants were of peasant birth and in Chicago most found employment as laborers. There were also businessmen in the clothing, cigar manufacturing, and meat marketing industries, and skilled tradesmen such as blacksmiths, carpenters, and shoemakers. Poles maintained their ethnic identity in the Catholic Church and in various social and mutual benefit associations. The full council accepted this invitation.
Thaddeus Kosciuski, 1746-1817, was a Polish soldier and statesman. During the American Revolution he volunteered his services to the colonists and distinguished himself at New York and Yorktown. In his native country during the war following the proclamation of the constitution of 1791, he took a leading part and gave able service as a divisional commander. He returned to Poland in 1794 to lead an uprising which at first had achieved exhilarating success. In the end the overwhelming Russian and Prussian forces crushed the rebellion. Upon his death Kosciusko's remains were taken to Kroków and buried in the cathedral there. This Polish patriot had been a democrat in the tradition of Jefferson and Lafayette.
Points to Consider
Who was Thaddeus Kosciusko and why were Chicago Poles holding a celebration in his honor?
Which Polish hero is most celebrated in Chicago today? How did his career resemble that of Kosciusko?
In which parts of the city were Poles concentrated in 1894? In which part today?
Why was there no Polish alderman to present this invitation?