|Regions with significant populations|
|Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, California, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Missouri|
|American English and Croatian|
|Predominantly Roman Catholicism|
|Related ethnic groups|
- 1 Demographics
- 2 History
- 3 Settlements
- 4 Religion
- 5 Social association
- 6 Organizations
- 7 Culture
- 8 White Croatians
- 9 Well-known Croatian-Americans
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
According to the 2007 US Community Survey, there were 420,763 Americans of full or partial Croatian descent. According to the United States Census Bureau of Statistics (1990) there were over 344,270 Croatian Americans who identified themselves as being of Croatian descent or being born in Croatia. It is estimated by the Republic of Croatia's State Office for the Croats Abroad that there are around 1,200,000 Croats and their descendants living in the US today.
- Pennsylvania (50,995)
- California (45,537)
- Illinois (44,065)
- Ohio (41,430)
- New York (26,607)
- Michigan (20,547)
- Florida (16,360)
- Wisconsin (15,775)
- Indiana (13,306)
- Washington (13,268)
- New Jersey (13,154)
- 1880 estimate: 20,000
- 1980 census: 252,970
- 1990 census: 544,270
- 2000 census: 374,241
- 2004 community survey: 401,208
The first major immigration of Croats was recorded in 1715. At the time, approximately twelve hundred Croatian Protestants, whos ancestors had left the Austrian Empire after unsuccessful peasant revolts in 1573 and anti-Reformation edict in 1598, arrived in the American colony of Georgia. They settled on the right bank of the Savannah River where a creek, which they named Ebenezer, flows into the river. Those settlers introduced silk-worm cultivation in Georgia. The community prospered for 150 years, until it was demolished during the Civil War.
In 1683, a Croat Jesuit, named Ivan Ratkaj (Juan Ratkay) established a mission in northwest New Spain. In 1746, another Jesuit, Ferdinand Konšak (Consago Gonzales), drew the first dependable map of Baja California. Beginning in 1783, Joseph Kundek, a Croat missionary, helped to develop several midwestern towns, including Ferdinand and Jasper, both in Dubois County, Indiana. In 1830s, various groups in the Austrian Empire sent thausand of dollars to America to support missionary activities.
Many early Croat immigrants settled in New Orleans, and were employed as traders, artisans and fishermen. By 1860s, there were around six hundred Croat families in New Orleans. Several families settled permanently in Alabama. During the Civil War, some three thausand Croats resided in the South, mostly in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Hundreds of them volunteered for the Confederate Army and Navy. After the defeat of the Confederacy in 1865, many Croats who had served in the Confederate military moved to the West.
Significant emigration from the region of Croatia can be said to date from the late 1890s and early 1900s, peaking around 1910, when many Croatians, the majority of them Roman Catholics, began emigrating to the United States. Many were economic immigrants, while others considered themselves political refugees.
Like other immigrants of that period, they migrated to find employment. Many of them, mostly single young men but, often, married women with or without their families, settled in small towns in Pennsylvania and New York as coal miners or steelworkers. Many also settled in factory towns and farming areas in Midwestern states such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. For most of the single men, the stay was only temporary. Once they had saved enough money, many Croatian men returned to Croatia. However, those who did choose to stay found permanent homes where they had found jobs and sent for their families.
Within a comparatively short period of time, Croatians could be found all over the United States from New York to California, from New Orleans to Minneapolis-St. Paul. As it went through its most rapid expansion during the time of the 1890-1914 Great Migration and shortly thereafter from the onset of the First World War to the general clampdown on immigration in 1924, Croats and other South and West Slavs and members of other groups peaking in influx at the time were prominent in the history of the mining industry in the Iron Range of Minnesota; much the same is the case with the forestry-related industries there, elsewhere in Minnesota and in much of Wisconsin. A notable Croatian-American from the Iron Range was Rudy Perpich, the 34th and 36th Governor of the state representing the Democrat/Farmer-Labor Party; he served terms in office from 29 December 1976 to 4 January 1979, and from 3 January 1983 to 7 January 1991, spans of time which add up to make him the longest-serving governor in the state's history. In private life, Dr Perpich was a dentist and after leaving office in 1991 assisted the post-Communist government of Croatia He was born in Carson Lake, Minnesota (now part of Hibbing) on 27 June 1928 and died of cancer in Minnetonka on 21 September 1995.
A new wave of Croatian immigrants began to arrive after World War II. These were mostly political refugees, including orphans whose parents had been killed during the war, individuals and families fleeing Yugoslavia's Communist authorities. Most of these Croatians settled in established Croatian colonies, often among relatives and friends.
It was assumed that this would be the end of Croatian immigration. But, beginning in 1965, America saw a new influx of Croatians, some of them political refugees, most of them younger families seeking economic security and a prosperity impossible to find in Yugoslavia.
Those arriving in the 1960s and the decades that followed settled mostly in larger cities. These immigrants were better educated and more liberal than their forebears in America, but they were also influenced by the new European standard of life and opposed to the Communist ideology forcefully imposed upon them in the totalitarian state of Yugoslavia.
They sought "the good life"-a decent job, a balanced education for their children, good housing and utilities, the ability to be vocal in their political views in democratic America, and the freedom to live out their deeply rooted religious convictions.
Gradually, this new wave of immigrants joined Croatian Catholic parishes and organizations, and soon became the contemporary bearers of Croatian culture and tradition in the United States.
Currently, only a small number of Croatians continue to emigrate, mostly those who have relatives already well established in America.
The first recorded Croatian immigrants to the United States arrived in 1850, often via the resettlement from nations that are presently known as Austria, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal, and southern France. During this period many Croats, who were employed in manufacturing the maritime sector of the Mediterranean states, began emigrating to the Americas. This first wave arrived in regions of the United States where employment opportunities were similar to where they had arrived from. By the middle of the 20th Century, the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York City and the region of Southern California had the largest populations of people with Croatian ancestry.
One known Croat, Jola Jurisic, was a pioneer in establishing the large-scale cultivation and marketing of oysters. By the late 19th century, the Croats controlled the oyster business. In San Pedro there is even a stretch of street called "Croatian Place". There are reportedly more than (today) 35,000 Croats in San Pedro, making it the biggest Croatian community on the Pacific coast. California had Croatian immigration colonies even before the wave of new immigration, but greater Croatian settlement throughout the Los Angeles-Long Beach and Santa Ana/Anaheim regions in Orange County, California; also in Northern California, and the Phoenix area of Arizona. The first Croatian immigrants in the US arrived in those places.
One of the most important companies established by the Croats was "The Slavonian Gold and Silver Company". San Francisco became the center of Croatian social life in California, where they established the first Croatian emigration society in 1857. Tadich Grill in San Francisco is a relic from that era and (still Croatian owned) currently is the oldest restaurant in the entire state of California.
Even earlier the Los Angeles basin was a major destination for Croats, and in downtown Los Angeles at the beginning of the 20th century many Croats were involved in the locksmith industry. The Los Angeles area was a major destination for the post-fishing villages existed back in the beginning of 19th century, where greatly experienced Croatian fishermen contributed to the development of modern fishing trade.
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Area was a major destination for the post-1980s Yugoslavian immigration, including Croats and Bosnian Croats from Bosnia and Herzegovina escaped the Bosnian civil war in the 1990s. They formed several communities in Orange County; San Diego; the Inland Empire (California) region (i.e. Moreno Valley); and the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, but extending into the High Desert suburbs of Lancaster and Palmdale; and Ventura County in recent years.
Three other main Croatian centers in Washington state were Seattle, Anacortes and Roslyn. The high percentage of Croats can be illustrated by the fact that in 1922-23 there were 23% Croatian pupils in Roslyn schools. Croatian immigrants scattered in the western US states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming in the 1880s-1920s period.
Some of the first groups of immigrants settled in Pennsylvania as well. As a major industrial center of the state, Pittsburgh employed a lot of immigrants from Croatia, many of them were working in the heavy industry. At the beginning of the century there were around 38,000 Croatians in Pittsburgh. It was estimated that there were more than 200,000 Croatians and their descendants living in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s. Also included are Serbs, Bosnians and Slovenes from what was once Yugoslavia in the 20th century will move there as well.
The first Croatians in Detroit appeared around 1890. In Illinois, the Croatians started concentrating mostly around Chicago. Although it was created a bit later, the Croatian settlement in Chicago became one of the most important ones in the United States. The settlement especially started developing after World War I and Chicago became the center of all Croatian cultural and political activities. It is calculated that there were roughly 50,000 Croats in Chicago in the 1990s, while there were altogether 100,000 Croats living in 54 additional Croatian settlements in Illinois. Croats form a large community in Indianapolis in Indiana since the 1910s, as well in Gary, Fort Wayne and South Bend.
Furthermore, Croatian settlement in Kansas City played an important role as well. This settlement, too, was founded in the last decades of the 19th century, with the first neighborhood west of Armour Packing Co. and along James Street. The Strawberry Hill neighbourhood of Kansas City is an example of a city quarter almost entirely founded by Croats. First Croatian Settlement in St. Louis started forming very early. It generally consisted of immigrants who came from Louisiana along the Mississippi toward the north. According to Ante Tresic-Pavic, who visited the US in 1907, there were around 4-5 thousand Croats in St. Louis. The majority of them lived in boarding houses and had low paid jobs at that time.
New York City served merely as a station on their way further into the United States. Later, during the mass immigration of Croats, this city became the most important center from which they moved into various parts of the US. In 1906 a real Croatian settlement did not yet exist in New York. Eventually many Croats settled thru out parts of New York City, especially in northwestern and northeastern Queens County, in such neighborhoods as Whitestone, Astoria, Bayside and Douglaston.
Alaska appeared to be a destination for Croatian immigrants in the early 20th century starting with the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-99 as well Croatian immigrants into Canada at the time. A few hundreds of Croatians settled in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Sitka. They established small shops and businesses relating to the local fishing industries. Today, Alaska may be home to 50,000 persons of Croatian descent, about one-eighth of the state population.
Recently arrived Croatian immigration into some states like Florida (esp. the Orlando and Tampa Bay areas), Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas (i.e. the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas) and Oklahoma should be noted. Croats, alongside Bosnians (includes Bosnian Croats) make Tennessee their home, with Nashville to soon become the country's main Balkan Slav community by the 2010s.
Croatian priests, mostly diocesan clergy, came in precious few numbers with the earliest immigrants towards the end of the 19th century. They were true missionaries. They traveled from place to place wherever their people settled, preaching parish missions and organizing religious, cultural, and benevolent societies. Often the priest was the only educated member of the Croatian colony, and thus they had to assume leadership roles; moreover, they were among the first to learn English well and often served as translators and interpreters. Their primary responsibility, however, was the organization of Croatian Catholic parishes in the urban centers with substantial Croatian populations. Thus, at the beginning of this century there were Croatian churches in Pittsburgh and Steelton, Pennsylvania, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Saint Louis and other cities. The oldest parish is St. Nicholas Church in Pittsburgh, founded in 1894; several others were erected in the early 1900s, such as the Church of the Nativity in San Francisco. Even before being officially established in 1926, the Croatian Franciscan friars traveled throughout the United States, establishing and assisting in Croatian parishes and keeping alive the religious and national sentiments of their people.Croatian Roman Catholics in America form a vital part of the American Catholic Church. This is due in large measure to the pioneering and ongoing efforts of their priests and sisters, whose witness has enabled the Croatian immigrant community and their children and grandchildren born in the United States to remain faithful to their Catholicism and their Croatian roots. Today there are altogether 32 Croatian parishes and 3 missions in the US.
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Croatian Americans have been closely connected to one another almost since the day they left their home country. Chain migration contributed to the creation of settlements of Croats coming from the same regions of Croatia. They were connected because of their similar occupations that they had, equal social status, catholic religion and many other bonds that are sometimes much stronger than formal organization. The most popular informal meeting points of Croatians were the saloons. They were usually engaged in various charity organizations, and were among the first Croatian immigrants who learned to speak English. A great number of them had a very harsh daily routine, which largely appeared to be bed-factory-bed. But the positive side of the saloons cannot be denied. Beside these informal gatherings, Croatian Americans established several thousand organizations of different importance. In his work, "Early Croatian Immigration to America After 1945", George Prpic states that there were around 3 000 organizations founded between 1880 and 1940 in the United States. Croatians first started founding charitable, cultural, educational, religious, business, political, sporting or athletic organizations. All these organizations were firmly rooted in the settlement where they were initiated. Croatians were a minority group both in relation to Americans and other nationalities. Furthermore, the Croats came with the latest groups of immigrants, which lead to a further feeling of insecurity. Moreover, most of them did not speak English and had low paid jobs, which created an inferiority complex as well. Therefore, they found security within an organization of their own ethnic group. Another special type of gathering was happening around tamburica, which was often among the necessary items that a person from Croatia took to America. Tamburica and Singing clubs were not joined until March 1949 in Cleveland, where the "American-Croatian Singing Association" was founded. Croatian Americans had strong feelings about their homeland and they frequently demonstrated them publicly.
The Croatian American organization Croatian Fraternal Union is a society with long roots in the U.S. It was started in 1897. During World War II, it sent money to aid Croatia. The CFU contributes to Croatian Americans by scholarships and cultural learning.
The National Federation of Croatian Americans Cultural Foundation was founded in 1993 as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the interest of the Croatian people - embodying heritage of culture and language, integrity in human rights and equality in self-determination, advancing economic development, and freedom from persecution. 
The Croatian American Network is a popular Facebook Group for communication and networking.
In 2007, the annual Croatian Film Festival in New York was founded by The Doors Art Foundation.
In Poland there existed an ethnic group called White Croats (Bijeli Hrvati) which emigrated to United States. The group was concentrated around Krakow and mostly emigrated due to Nazi and later Stalinist oppression in Poland. It is interesting to add that according to American documents, from the beginning of this century, there were about 100,000 immigrants to the U.S. born around Krakow (Poland) who declared themselves to be Bielo-Chorvats, i.e. White Croats by nationality.
Well-known Croatian-Americans past and present include:
- Mirko Ilić - graphic designer and comics artist
- Ivan Meštrović - sculptor and Professor at Syracuse and Notre Dame
- Vinko Nikolić, writer, poet and journalist
- Maksimilijan Vanka - painter
- Matthew Yuricich - special effects artist, Academy Award winner
- John Malkovich, actor, Croatian on father's side
- Ivana Miličević, actress
- John Miljan, actor
- Jenna Elfman, actress
- Gloria Grey, actress
- Branko Lustig, film producer, Academy Award winner
- Lou Lumenick, film critic
- Judah Friedlander, actor and comedian
- Zlatko Baloković, violinist
- Tony Butala, lead singer of vocal group, The Lettermen
- Zinka Milanov, operatic spinto soprano
- Tomo Miličević, musician and lead guitarist of the alternative rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars
- Guy Mitchell, pop singer
- Krist Novoselić, bassist of Nirvana
- Mia Slavenska, prima ballerina
- Louis Svećenski, violinist and rector of the Boston Academy of Music
- Milislav Demerec, geneticist
- Terry Jonathan Hart, former astronaut
- Jacob Matijevic, NASA engineer
- Mario Puratić, inventor of Puretic power block
- Bogdan Raditsa, historian
- George M. Skurla, aeronautical engineer for the Apollo Program
- Henry Suzzallo, president of the University of Washington
- Dinko Tomašić, sociologist
- Mark Begich, congressman
- Nick Begich, congressman
- Michael Anthony Bilandic, mayor of Chichago
- Dennis Kucinich, congressman
- John Kasich, governor of Ohio
- Mary Matalin, Republican political consultant
- Rudy Perpich, governor of Minnesota
- George Radanovich, congressman
- Michael Stepovich, governor of Alaska Territory
- Anthony Francis Lucas, oil industry pioneer
- Mike Grgich, winemaker
- Franjo Vlasic, founder and namesake of Vlasic Pickles
- Anthony Maglica, entrepreneur and inventor of Maglite flashlights
- Bill Belichick, professional football coach
- Jason Chorak, college football player
- David Diehl, professional football player, Croatian on mother's side
- Elvis Grbac, professional football player
- Toni Kukoč, professional basketball player
- Mickey Lolich, professional baseball player
- Roger Maris, professional baseball player
- John Mayasich, hockey player
- Kevin McHale and John Havlicek, NBA hall of famers, both share Croatian ancestry on their mothers' sides (Starcevic and Turkalj being their mothers' respective maiden names)
- George Mikan, professional basketball player
- Johnny Pesky, professional baseball player and announcer
- Gene Rayburn, game show host
- Lou Saban, football coach
- Nick Saban, professional football coach
- Goran Suton, basketball player
- Rudy Tomjanovich, professional basketball player and coach
- Danny Vranes (Vranješ), professional basketball player (NBA)
- Fritzie Zivic, boxer, held the world welterweight championship
- Louis Cukela, United States Marine, two-time Medal of Honor recipient
- John J. Tominac, also Medal of Honor recipient
- John Owen Dominis, Prince Consort of Hawaii
- William Feller, mathematician
- Gary Gabelich, race car driver.
- Jakša Cvitanić, mathematician
- Ron Kovic, anti-war activist
- Norman Cota, US General
- Peter Tomich, United States Navy Sailor
- Croats of Chile
- Croatian Australian
- Canadians of Croatian ancestry
- European American
- Hyphenated American
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- Persons Who Reported at Least One Specific Ancestry Group for United States: 1980
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- Rudy Perpich
- Croatian Fraternal Union of America. May 28, 2007.
- Croatian American Association
- Croatian Film Festival Opens in New York
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