Polish Culture In America

July 9, 2012
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Tadeusz Kosciuszko, an officer in the American Revolution, this sculpture, commissioned by Boston’s Polish community to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Kosciuszko joining the Continental Army. Sculpted by Theo Alice Ruggles Kitson, and originally unveiled in 1927, it stands in the Boston Public Garden. Photo Credit: Wikimedia

The traces of the Polish culture occur nearly everywhere in the United States, which is no surprise since this ethnic group reportedly immigrated to the United States first in 1609. At www.everyculture.com, it is in fact, noted that, “Poles numbered among the earliest colonists in the New World and today, their numbers exceed 10 million. They represent the largest of the Slavic groups in America.”


Some believe that Poles sailed with the Vikings to the “New World” before the 1600s, but it is a fact they were in Jamestown in 1609 working as craftsmen in order to create products needed during that time, and included some of the best glassmakers and woodworkers in the new colonies. Today, the largest Polish populations live in the northeast and Midwest part of the United States, but even so, this group of people left a sound and lasting impression on American life in most areas of the country.

A Polish explorer named Anthony Sadowski a well-known Pole who is still remembered today in the Midwest for setting up an important trading post along the Mississippi River, which later became the city of Sandusky, Ohio. Other Polish names playing integral roles in early America included two noblemen Tadeusz Kościuszko and Casimir Pułaski. Both men fought on the rebel side in the Revolutionary War with Pulaski killed in the battle of Savannah and still honored today on October 11, a day known by Polish Americans as Pulaski Day.


A number of important Polish Cultural Centers around the country include the most prominent as the Philadelphia Polish American Cultural Center, Miami’s American Institute of Polish Culture, and Cleveland’s Polish American Cultural Center. The center in Cleveland, named in honor of Pope John Paul II, one of the most important popes of the modern era, and from Krakow, Poland.


With the current numbers of Polish Americans living in the United States, they represent about 3.2 percent of the entire population of the United States. An important note is that there is no distinction in the United States census between Polish Americans and descendants of non-ethnic Poles, such as Jews or Ukrainians born in Poland, and consider themselves Polish nationals.


With that, some say the estimated 10 million Polish Americans might count for a lower number of Americans of true Polish ethnic descent. Whatever the case, Polish Americans remain the largest European ethnic group in the United States of Slavic origin.


The 2000 United States Census pointed out that at least 667,000 Americans, over five-years-old speak Polish at home, which is approximately one-fourth of those who speak a language other than English within the United States. Overall, Poles continuously brought their customs to the Unites States as well as a way of life that integrated into the America lifestyle of the 21st century.