Title Reviewed:
America's Polish Heritage: A Social History of the Poles in America

Author Reviewed:
Joseph A. Wytrwal

Powell A. Moore


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 385-386

Article Type:
Book Review

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America's Polish Heritage: A Social History of the Poles in America. By Joseph A. Wytrwal. (Detroit, Mich.: [Endurance Press], 1961. Pp. xxxi, 350. Maps, bibliography, appendix, index. $6.50.)

Despite the subtitle, this is not a social history of the Poles in America. Instead it is largely a laudatory account of the part played by individual Poles and those of Polish descent in American life. That the study is not entirely historical is indicated by the emphasis placed on contemporary personalities. If the author's objective was to satisfy the pride of Polish-Americans, he did his job well. The depth of his scholarship is also indicated by the fact that he covers the period from 1608 to 1960 in only 294 pages.

Dr. Wytrwal inserts much superfluous material in this study. Pages are devoted to phases of Polish history, particularly in the years before 1870, which have no connection with Polish emigration to America. Gilda Gray and her "shimmy" dance are given almost a page. Also, is it necessary to present a long list of baseball, football, and golf stars, many of whom are active today, merely because they are of Polish descent? The author was apparently concerned with the sale of his book. Otherwise, the listing of the names of at least 150 delegates of Polish descent to the Democratic national conventions of 1956 and 1960 and to the Republican convention of 1960 in the same footnote is hardly justified.

The most scholarly portions of this volume are those chapters devoted to the numerous fraternal organizations for Polish-Americans. The objectives of these orders were to satisfy the longing of the bewildered immigrant for security in a strange land, to protect his economic interests, to preserve a degree of Polish culture as well as to retain contact with the mother country, and finally to fit the immigrant into the American pattern of life. The largest and most important of these organizations were the Polish American Catholic Union (PRCU) and the Polish National Alliance (PNA). The former was dominated largely by the clergy while the latter was more under secular control.

This study is based almost entirely on secondary material such as Polish-American publications and the works of writers of Polish descent. There is an excellent bibliography, and the index is adequate.

Powell A. Moore, Indiana University

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.