Welcome to the Archives!
The Archives of the Polish Museum of America are the center for documentation and research on the history of Poles and Polish Americans. Located on the fourth floor of the Museum’s building they are considered to be one of the most important sources of information for those interested in the Polish past in America. The archival holdings consist of the following:
H. Misterka & E. Targonska (photo: J. Siegel)
Research Policies (revised January 2012)
The Archives are
not accessible to the public.
can view archival materials by calling or writing with two days’ advance
notice. When an order is processed, the archival material will be
available for research in the PMA Library.
Assistance, including preparing materials and reshelving:
per hour, first hour free
Photocopies and non-flash photography (patron’s own camera) of archival
$1 per page
(restrictions may apply)
Scans available by request
In some cases,
patrons may request research to be done by the Archivist. A $10 fee is
charged for all requests, and includes 30 minutes of research. This fee
applies to unsuccessful searches as well.
research is needed and approved by the patron, an additional fee of $20
per hour will apply.
about the Parish Jubilee Books Collection
This collection includes original publications from Polish
parishes across the US. Although the Polish Genealogical Society of
America (PGSA) has created an ongoing indexing project of these books,
copies from the originals can only be obtained from the PMA Archives.
For the Jubilee
books that have already been indexed, the following rules and fees
$5 search fee
$1 per page
be limited to 2-3 titles
include a self
addressed and stamped envelope
payments must be addressed to the PMA Archives
information can be found at
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Special archives article - Spring 2013
Remembering the Founder of the Archives and Museum:
Joseph L. Kania
12, 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the passing Joseph L. Kania,
prominent President of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America
(PRCUA) in 1934-1941and 1946-1953, and creator and founder of the
Archives and Museum of the PRCUA, which continues as The Polish Museum
of America (PMA). Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the PRCUA
national headquarters building where the PMA is located, Kania’s
anniversary of passing inclines one to reconsider this man once more.
The merits of this modest but extremely hard-working man have often
been described. Here, however, we will reexamine a few facets of
Kania’s life, including his direct involvement with the Museum, and
give a new appreciation for this outstanding Pole.
was a man of action. As a young boy, his father would say, “Świat
tu pod wierzbą,
trzeba tylko zacząć
[the world begins here, under this willow, you only need to go
forward]. Kania interpreted this as his own credo in life: anything
can be done, you must only begin.
Kania was born
in southeastern Poland on April 17, 1897. In 1902, he immigrated to
America with his mother and brother to join his father in
Philadelphia. The family moved to Detroit in 1905, where Kania
received his formal education at St. Hedwig School. As a member of St.
Hedwig Church and its choir, Kania organized the Drama Circle and
directed productions of comedies and historical and biblical dramas.
As a natural
leader, Kania was appointed by Detroit’s Mayor Charles Bowles to the
Public Lighting Commission; shortly, he was promoted to Vice-President
of the Commission. In 1921, Kania began a career in banking. He was
promoted to branch manager of the Michigan State Bank in 1926, and
later of the Guardian National Bank of Commerce in 1931. Kania was
also employed in the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office. In 1928, he was
elected as national vice-president of the PRCUA. At the 41st
convention in 1934 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Kania was elected to
his first term as PRCUA President. He and his family moved to Chicago,
where he created a new success in founding a museum for Polonia.
In 1978, on the
25th anniversary of his passing, Kania’s daughter, Josephine Piegzik,
wrote about her father’s life in “From Immigrant to President” (Polish
Museum of America Quarterly, v.7, no.1&2). She wrote:
For many years
it was Joseph Kania’s great wish to establish a repository for the
mementos, artifacts, and documents that reflected Polonia’s
contributions to the welfare of its adopted country and to the
heritage of its mother country. Without relaxing his hold on reforms
with the PRCUA, Kania drew up a plan to staff and house an archives
and museum in the PRCUA building and presented this plan to the PRCUA
Board of Directors in October, 1935.
chapter “Trzynaście lat Muzeum Polonii” in Księga Diamentowa
Zjednoczenia Polskiego Rzymsko-Katolickiego 1873-1948, Arthur L.
Waldo quotes Kania:
after extensive study that it is the museums and archives that most
accurately reflect national culture and historic events, and that they
not only record the high degree of a nation’s learning but serve also
as a center and workshop for academic and scientific research,
contributing to the growth of enlightenment, and that there, in
Polonia, they will evoke the respect of others for Poles in America, I
propose the establishment of a permanent Museum and Archives of
Polonia at the Polish Roman Catholic Union.
The plan was
of the PMA are integrally connected with the life and works of the two
great figures of Joseph Kania and Mieczysław
Haiman. Haiman, Associate Editor of the PRCUA daily, Dziennik
Zjednoczenia, had earlier been assigned by Kania to reorganize the
Library of the PRCUA. According to an October 17, 1935 article in the
Dziennik Zjednoczenia, the rich and valuable document
collection of the Polish National Committee provided the basis for the
Archives; Haiman had already spent a year organizing and researching
these papers as well. Kania now appointed Haiman as the first curator
of the Archives and Museum.
grew immediately and regularly. On a consistent basis, the Dziennik
Zjednoczonia ran articles about new acquisitions. Almost daily,
appeals to the Polish-American public requested donations of a variety
of items: old books and newspapers,
printed matter of all kinds,
souvenirs celebrating the jubilees of
parishes and associations,
photographs, letters, convention
buttons from various
old coins -
to the Archives
In January 1937, the Museum formally opened to the public.
According to Piegzik, it “was greeted on both sides of the Atlantic as
a major event in the history of Polonia.”
articles in the Dziennik Zjednoczenia appeared about the
Museum’s opening during that first month, and by February 13th, the
daily reported on the first members of the Polskie Towarzystwo
Historyczno-Muzealne/ Polish Museum & Historical Society, which
was formed under Kania’s initiative. On March 4, Kania sent out a
further appeal for others to join the society. By April 17, over one
hundred members had joined. The society’s first convention was held on
January 9, 1938.
In 1939, Kania,
along with several delegates of the PRCUA, visited Poland,
establishing close contacts with Polish institutions and
organizations. Among these included the Związek
Polaków z Zagranicy/
World League of Poles Abroad, which aided Poles tremendously during
the Second World War. Although the group did not know it at the time,
their return voyage was the last trip of the MS Batory prior to
the German attack on Poland initiating World War II. Captain Eustaszy
Borkowski, known as the “Wilk Morski” (Sea Wolf), was left
without a position or a ship after this voyage was completed. Based on
Haiman’s correspondence files and many press clippings, we know that
Kania and Haiman tried to help alleviate Borkowski’s situation. On
several occasions, Borkowski lectured at the Museum, helping to raise
money for his livelihood.
outbreak of WWII, the Museum focused on new responsibilities of
protecting items of Polish national heritage. Following the 1939-1940
New York’s World Fair, the exhibits featured in the Polish Pavilion
could not be returned to Poland. Due to issues of storage and
security, Commissioner General Stefan de Ropp, as a representative of
the Polish government, decided selections of the exhibition must be
auctioned. Thanks to efforts led by Kania and Haiman, the Museum was
able to purchase a large part of this collection for $24,000, paid in
$500 monthly installments. Other items from the Polish Pavilion were
also moved to the Museum on deposit from the Polish government.
Due to the
influx of such a large quantity of art and artifacts, alongside the
ever increasing donations which intensified during the war, Kania’s
earlier decision to expand the Museum into the PRCUA’s grand ballroom
on the third floor proved wise. Exhibits of the new acquisitions as
arranged in this space opened on May 3, 1941; the ceremonies were
attended by Polish Deputy Prime Minister Stanisław
Prime Minister Władysław
Sikorski viewed an early presentation of the new exhibits on April 19
as one of the first visitors prior to the official opening.
came in 1941. On November 3rd, the original room housing the Museum
was rededicated to an exhibit of souvenirs and artifacts once
belonging to Igancy Jan Paderewski. The collection was given to the
Museum following his death on June 29, 1941. As stated in an October
10, 1941 document, its core consists of a:
memorabilia, in holy memory of President I.J. Paderewski, willed to
the ownership of American Polonia, and assigned for preservation to
PRCUA Archives and Museum in Chicago, by the holy memory of Antonina
Paderewska-Wilkonska, Consul General Sylwin Strakacz, and Ignacy G. Kołłupajło.
This exhibit and
what is now known as the Paderewski Room were fully renovated in 2009.
President, Kania also permitted its printing division to publish the
written works of Haiman and Arthur L. Waldo. Subjects covered all
matters concerning Polonia, including biographies of Kosciuszko and
the histories of Polish immigration throughout the United States, such
as in Polish Past in America. Between the years of 1936 to
1947, the Annals of the Archives and Museum of the PRCUA was
issued yearly. These materials continue to help researchers, not only
in knowing the history of the Museum, but also the history of Poles in
Museum grew significantly during this time, the war brought additional
duties to Kania. He served as Chairman of the Polish American
Council’s Committee on Polish Refugees, and as Director of both the
National Catholic Resettlement Council and the Inter-Catholic Press
Agency. Following the war, in the early 1950s, Kania agreed the
Archives should preserve the files of Rada Polonii Amerykańskiej/
American Relief for Poland (RPA/ARP). This charitable organization
operated in the United States from 1938-1973. Once concluded, the
final batch of files and documents were received by the Archives,
making it the largest, most complete, and most important archival
collection at the PMA. Kania was also active in the RPA/ ARP.
Documents he authored that are part of the collection include the
"Statement of Policy on DP Program," January 15, 1949, and the "Report
on Displaced Person Activities of ARP," May 1, 1950, as Chairman of
Displaced Persons Activities.
efforts did not go unnoticed; throughout his life, he received many
accolades from military and lay organizations. He was awarded the
Papal Knighthood from His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, and inducted into
the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Samuel Cardinal Stritch in
September 1949. Kania died in Chicago on April 12, 1953, during his
fourth term as President of the PRCUA. His earnest spirit continues in
the efforts of the Museum, and in the rich history of Polonia.
Written by H.
Translated by T.
Joseph L. Kania (1897-1953)
By Halina Misterka & Teresa Sromek, PMA Archivists
Thank you to Monika Kowzon-Switalska from the Mlawa Archive in Poland,
whose third working visit focused on the
continued cataloging and updating of the Sezam database.
Rare Document Collections Cataloging Progress
Cataloging work continues. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Michal Kulecki,
of the Archiwum Glowne Akt Dawnych (AGAD)/
Central Archives of Historical Records in Warsaw, we have 28 detailed
summaries and descriptions of documents in
the PMA Royal Letters Collection. A brief list of these documents
· Zygmunt II August (1555; 1566)
· Zygmunt III Waza (1597)
· Jerzy Ossoliński, Great Crown Chancellor under Władysław IV Wasa
· Jan II Kazimierz Waza (1668; 1672)
· Eleonora Habsburżanka, wife of Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki (1683)
· Jan III Sobieski (1683; 1691)
· Maria Kazimiera d'Arquien, wife of Jan III Sobieski (1697; 1710; 1715)
· August II Mocny (1701; 1704; 1715)
· Krystyna Eberhardyna Hohenzollernówna, wife of August II Mocny (1722;
· Stanisław Leszczyński (1717; 1753)
· August III Sas (1734; 1752)
· Maria Józefa Habsburżanka, wife of August III Sas (1742)
· Stanisław August Poniatowski (1788; 1791)
Some of these documents, alongside Dr. Kulecki’s descriptions, were
recently presented during special PMA events.
One of these includes the December 22, 1791 document in book format with
three attached wax seals. During the
time of the Great Sejm, Stanisław August Poniatowski, the last King of
Poland, granted nobility status to Mikołaj
The document consists of 2 sheets of parchment, bound in red leather.
Both sides of the cover are decoratively
embossed with the royal bookplate. Include inside is a colored drawing
of the Stoss coat of arms.
Along the cover’s spine is strung a woven cord of red and white silk
floss on which hang three impressions of seals in
red wax, in metal tins: seal of his Royal Majesty, lesser seal of the
Crown, and lesser seal of Lithuania.
In addition to the king’s, other important signatures are found on this
document: Hugo Kołłątaj, Deputy Chancellor of
the Crown and also co-author of the Constitution of May 3, 1791; and
Joachim Chreptowicz, Deputy Chancellor of
Lithuania, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and one of the organizers of the
Commission of National Education.
Monika Kowzon-Switalska in the PMA Archives.
Targonska from the Lublin Archive in Poland, whose third working visit
focused on the continued cataloging of the American Relief for Poland/
Rada Polonii Amerykanskiej Collection. This collaboration was
sponsored by the Dziedzictwo kulturowe [cultural heritage]
program of Poland’s Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and
Naczelna Dyrekcja Archiwow Panstwowych/ Head Office of the State
Archives. With PRCUA’s cooperation, a spare office was repurposed as a
work and storage space for a large portion of the over 200-cubic-foot
collection. Although many materials were surveyed, organized, and
cataloged, this project is ongoing. The PMA hopes to see Mrs. Targonska
again in the near future. Dziekujemy!
Monika Kowzon-Switalska, visiting archivist from the Mlawa Division of
the State Archive in Warsaw, who will continue entering PMA Archives
collection information into SEZAM, an archives database.
also to Teresa Sromek, who was recently hired as a full-time Archivist
and Librarian. Ms. Sromek has worked at the PMA, first as an intern in
the fall 2008, while completing her MLIS from Dominican University.
Then, she volunteered in the Archives throughout 2009, and was hired as
a part-time contractor in Jan. 2010. Her extra hours are already filled
with many projects in the Archives.
Document Collections Cataloging
Diligent work in cataloging the recovered rare documents recently
returned to the Archives is currently underway. After completing an
initial inventory of approximately 430 documents, several categories
were identified: Royal Letters (80); Kosciuszko (130); Pulaski (10);
Great Immigration, 1831-1870 (70); American Civil War (5); Authors &
Artists (40); Prominent Poles, including Alexander Chodzko, Jozef
Haller, and Ignacy Moscicki, among others (35); and items for further
research (60). The return also included 3 items for the Rare Books
Collection; 14 maps; and almost 250 pieces for the Graphic Arts
Collection, primarily portrait prints and other images. The goal is to
scan each original item and safely store it in a new, archival-quality
sleeve and folder. The scanned images will then be transcribed,
translated, and researched for historical context.
Thirty documents represent kings, queens, and the royal court of Poland,
spanning from 1555 to 1791, as well as two letters from 1813 by
Napoleon, Emperor of France. Sixty documents represent various Polish
nobles, including individuals from the Czartoryski, Lubomirski,
Malachowski, Ossolinski, Poniatowski, Potocki, Sobieski, Sulkowski, and
Wisniowiecki families, as well as other related documents.
Recently, Head Archivist Halina Misterka met with Dr. Michal Kulecki of
the Archiwum Glowne Akt Dawnych (AGAD)/ Central Archives of
Historical Records in Warsaw. The 30 royal letters, written in Latin,
French, Italian, and archaic Polish, require his expert linguistic
capabilities. Relying on the scanned images, the PMA will gain better
insight of its oldest documents through this cooperation, and we thank
him for his efforts.
The AGAD staff was asked to initially consider the Aug. 14, 1668
document in Latin, signed by Jan II Kazimierz Waza and bearing his royal
seal. Because of their expertise, we now understand not only what is
written, but also its historical significance. This document is a
confirmation by Jan II Kazimierz Waza, at the request of the Reformed
Franciscan Order, of the fact that Zygmunt III Waza granted a parcel of
land in Warsaw on Mar. 13, 1624, so that a church and monastery could be
erected. The text of Zygmunt III Waza’s decree is repeated in this 1668
document, as the original was destroyed during the Swedish Deluge. The
result was St. Anthony of Padua Church, which still stands in the center
of Warsaw (swietyantoni.com.pl).
to the Archives
On Aug. 9, TVN24’s Washington Bureau Chief and Correspondent, Marcin
Wrona, filmed a news segment on improvements at the PMA and Archives. It
aired on Aug. 11.
Representatives of Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited on Aug.
27. Janusz Cisek, Undersecretary of State; Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk,
Minister-Counsellor, Department of Cooperation with Polish Diaspora; and
Zygmunt Matynia, on his last official visit as Consul General of Poland
in Chicago, had an opportunity to view a selection of rare documents in
the process of being cataloged. On Sep. 6, the PMA greeted the new
Consul General, Paulina Kapuscinska, for an
introductory visit. The Archives looks forward to future cooperation
with the new representative.
Daniel W. Stowell, Director & Editor, and Stacy Pratt McDermott,
Assistant Editor, of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project of the
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, also
visited the Archives. Their project will create a comprehensive digital
collection of documents written to and by Lincoln. A scan of the Aug.
10, 1861 document appointing Alexander Bielaski as aide de camp to John
A. McClernand, with Lincoln’s signed approval will be included. The PMA
is happy to be part of such an important and detailed project. More
information can be found at
By Halina Misterka & Teresa Sromek, PMA Archivists
L-R. Misterka & Sromek surveying the returned documents.
On March 8, 2012, the PMA Archives received a unique donation of a
handwritten document by Tadeusz Kosciuszko from 1794. Chet Schafer
generously selected our institution as the repository for this rare
treasure, and we sincerely thank him. Chet Schafer is well-known in
American Polonia, broadcasting for over 60 years on the radio as a Polka
deejay. The Chet Shafer Show airs every Sunday afternoon on WCEV
1450 AM. Mr. Schafer is a longtime member and friend of the PMA. In
2004, he and his late wife, Dolores, received the PMA Polish Spirit
Award. He is also very active in PRCUA Society #1612, the Polonus
Philatelic Society, and the International Polka Association.
Mr. Schafer purchased the Kosciuszko document from an associate several
years ago, and always intended to donate this particular item to the
PMA. The document is a proclamation after a series of successes by
Kosciuszko as Naczelnik Najwyzszy Sily Zbrojnej Narodowej
[Commander-in-Chief of the Supreme National Armed Forces], which
cumulated in early September 1794, when he and his troops repelled an
attack on Warsaw from Russian and Prussian forces.
proclamation, he calls upon his countrymen: Wasze powstanie przylozyc
by sie moglo do udecydowania Ojczyzny naszej przeznaczenia. Nie zostaje
mi nic wiecej jak jeszcze raz Wam przypomniec o powinnosci prawych
[Your uprising could
decide the fate of your Homeland. There is nothing more I can say but to
remind you of your filial duties to your Homeland.] It was written at
the main camp in Mokotow on September 11, 1794, and includes a seal,
which states: Wolnosc, Calosc i Niepodleglosc [Freedom,
Integrity, and Independence].
This donation coincided with the official State of Illinois observation
of Pulaski Day, hosted by the PMA. Like Kosciuszko, Kazimierz Pulaski
fought for the same ideals of freedom, integrity, and independence, in
both Poland and the United States. Several Pulaski documents from the
PMA Archives Collections are on temporary exhibit at the Museum.
Two charts from that exhibit concern the troops Pulaski led in the
American Cavalry during the Revolutionary War. Before serving as a
General in the American military, Pulaski fought for Poland, as a leader
in the Bar Confederation. This was an association of Polish nobles
formed at the fortress of Bar in Podolia in 1768 to defend the internal
and external independence of Poland against Russian influence and
against King Stanislaw August Poniatowski and Polish reformers who were
attempting to limit the power of the magnates.
The exhibit includes a four-page handwritten letter, dated August 22,
1772, one of several letters written by Pulaski following his exile from
Poland. He was accused of the November 3, 1771 assasination attempt on
King Stanislaw August Poniatowski. In this letter, he proclaims his
patriotism and innocence of these accusations. The judicial process
began on June 7, 1773, and he was found guilty in absentia and
sentenced to death. In 1777, he immigrated to North America as a soldier
of fortune. He died of wounds suffered in the Battle of Savannah, never
returning to his homeland. In 1792, when the Russian Embassy briefly
lost power in Poland, Pulaski was postumously cleared of these charges.
Misterka & T. Sromek
Cooperation with the NDAP [Naczelna Dyrekcja Archiwow Panstwowych (Head
Office of State Archives in Poland)]
On Nov. 12, 2011, the PMA was visited by Barbara Berska, PhD, Deputy
General Director of State Archives, and Pawel Pietrzyk, author of
Informator o zasobie archiwalnym Instytutu J. Pilsudskiego w Ameryce
[Guide to Archival Collections of the Pilsuski Intitute in America],
(published by NDAP, Warsaw, 2011). They toured the Museum with PMA
Director Lorys. Dr. Berska was highly impressed with the improvements
since her last visit in 2008.
The main focus of Dr. Berska’s visit was the Archives and continuing
projects in cooperation with the NDAP. We again applied for
for care of archival materials abroad under the program, Dziedzictwo
kulturowe [cultural heritage], sponsored by the Ministry of Culture
and National Heritage.
Berska confirmed the NDAP’s acceptance of the application, and two
archivist from Poland will assist the PMA in 2012. After these
cooperative projects are completed, the NDAP will publish an archival
guide of the PMA, similar to the Pilsudski Institute guide.
We thank the Head Office of State Archives in Poland for their
continued and invaluable support.
to our appeal
Thanks go to Ms. Krystyna Markut, who as a result of our recent appeal
to our readers sent a brief history of the American Institute for Polish
Culture, Tampa Bay, FL, in response to Marshal Law in Poland. We
continue to seek materials on this significant event in Polish history
and Polonia’s response to it.
of January 2012, the Archives research policies have been revised,
listed at the top of this page.
Misterka & T. Sromek
copyright The PMA
Touring the PMA. L-R: Barbara Berska, Jan Lorys, and Pawel Pietrzyk
In the Paderewski Room
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H. Misterka and E. Targonska (photo: J. Siegel)