Special Collections Department
and the Polish
|An exhibition celebrating Polish-American
heritage will be on display from September 22, 1999
through January 18, 2000 in the first floor exhibit area
of the Morris Library at the University of Delaware. The
exhibition is being held in conjunction with the October
celebration of Polish-American Heritage Month. The
exhibit consists of books and Internet resources that
illustrate the Polish immigrant experience, their folk
art and customs, and their music and dance. In addition,
the exhibit will highlight some famous Polish-Americans
who have made significant contributions in the fields of
science, music, sports, art, and literature. The exhibit
is curated by Sandra Ivanitch, Library Generalist, Access
Services Department, University of Delaware Library.
The Immigration Years
Between the years 1892 and 1954, over two million immigrants arrived in the United States from Poland. Changing social and economic conditions in Poland led to this mass migration of people. Few jobs were available, land was scarce, and religious, cultural and political oppression by the governments of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia motivated Poles to seek jobs outside of their homeland. America offered them many opportunities in its fast growing industries. Many immigrants went to work in the anthracite fields of Pennsylvania, the slaughterhouses of Chicago, and the leather industries of Wilmington, Delaware. These immigrants endured many hardships: pay was minimal, working conditions were poor and often dangerous, and health and death benefits did not exist or were minimal. Many took in boarders for extra income and children were encouraged to obtain employment as early as possible. Family, ethnicity, and religious and cultural institutions helped sustain these people as they adjusted to their new home.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell.
Jones, Maldwyn Allen.
Larsen, Wanda Blazejowska.
Miller, Donald L.
Thomas, William Isaac.
Wilmington and its industries. 1873.
Customs & Traditions
Polish immigrants retained many of their cultural customs and traditions. The most enduring customs are connected with the traditions of the church. For instance, pysanky, the brightly colored eggs created at Easter, symbolize Christ's tomb and the resurrection; and the Christmas Eve dinner or Wigilia, traditionally has an odd number of courses (13 are common, for Christ and the twelve apostles). Another custom, the art of paper cutting or Wycinanki, was used to decorate the walls of the home. The paper figures were traditionally cut with sheep shears. There are two basic kinds of Polish paper cut-outs, one-color symmetrical forms showing forest or woodland scenes called leluja, and multi-color compositions featuring flowers, roosters, or scenes of daily life.
Anstruther, Fay Sibyl Marie (Rechnitzer) Carmichael- ,
Obidinski, Eugene Edward.
Polanie Club, Minneapolis.
"Pysanky: not just another Easter
Music & Dance
Music holds an important place in the hearts of all Polish people. When the immigrants came to America, they brought with them the music and dances that reflect the region of Poland from which they had come. Chopin was deeply influenced by the melodies for Polish folk dances such as the krakowiak, the mazurka, and the polonaise. He was called "the poet of the piano" and he composed hundreds of pieces for that instrument. Another notable pianist and composer was Ignace Paderewski. He composed many piano works as well as an opera, a symphony, a concerto, and songs.
Pawlowska, Harriet M. ed.
Polish Intercollegiate Club of Philadelphia.
Sheet Music collection in Special Collections.
Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation.
McGrayne, Sharon Bertsch.
Manning, Clarence Augustus.
Mizwa, Stephen P. (Stephen Paul).
Singer, Isaac Bashevis.
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