Croatian American

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Croatian American
Američki Hrvati
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Total population

414,714 Americans[1]

1,200,000+ (est.)[2]
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
Croatian Canadian, Yugoslav American,
European American

Croatian Americans (Croatian: Američki Hrvati) are Americans of Croatian descent. In 2012, there were 414,714 American citizens[1] of Croatian descent living in the United States as per revised 2010 United States Census. The figure includes all people affiliated with United States who claim Croatian ancestry, both those born in the country and naturalized citizens, as well as those with dual citizenship who affiliate themselves with both countries or cultures. Croatian Americans are closely related to other European American ethnic groups, especially Slavic Americans and are predominantly of Roman Catholic faith. Regions with significant Croatian American population include metropolitan areas of Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, Southern California and especially Pittsburgh, the seat of Croatian Fraternal Union, fraternal benefit society of the Croatian diaspora. Croatia's State Office for the Croats Abroad estimated that there were up to 1,200,000 Croats and their descendants living in the United States.[2]



According to the 2007 US Community Survey, there were 420,763 Americans of full or partial Croatian descent.[3] 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.[4] As of 2012, there were 414,714 American citizens[1]. It is estimated by the Croatia's State Office for the Croats Abroad that there are around 1,200,000 Croats and their descendants living in the United States today.[2]

In the 2006-2010 American Community Survey, the states with the largest Croatian-American populations are:[5]


  • 1880 estimate: 20,000[6]
  • 1980 census: 252,970[7]
  • 1990 census: 544,270[8]
  • 2000 census: 374,241[8]
  • 2004 community survey: 401,208[9]


The first major immigration of Croats was recorded in 1715.[10] At the time, approximately twelve hundred Croatian Protestants, whose 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 in the valley of Savannah River.[10] Those settlers introduced silk-worm cultivation in Georgia. The community prospered for 150 years, until it was demolished during the Civil War.[11]

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 the 1830s, various groups in the Austrian Empire sent financial aid to America to support missionary activities.[11]

Many early Croat immigrants settled in New Orleans[10], and were employed as traders, artisans and fishermen. By the 1860s, there were around six hundred Croat families in New Orleans. Several families settled permanently in Alabama. During the Civil War, some three thousand 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.[11]

Significant emigration from what is now Croatia dates 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.[12][13]

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 residence.[14][10][12]

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.[12] 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, 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, Minnesota 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.[12] 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. Beginning in 1965, America saw a new influx of Croatians, some of them political refugees, most of them younger families seeking economic security. 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.[12] 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.[13]


Group of Croatian men in the club of town Joliet in Illinois around 1900

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.[15]

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 United States arrived in those places.[13]

Croatian Place district in San Pedro, Los Angeles, California.

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.[12] 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 the 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.[12]

An unspecified number of Croats also settled in Washington state and Oregon, particularly metropolitan areas of Seattle and Portland respectively.[16][12]

Some of the first groups of immigrants settled in Pennsylvania as well.[13][12] 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.[17]

The first Croatian settlers in Michigan appeared in late 19th century.[12][16] 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.[13][12] New York City served merely as a station on their way further into the United States, mainly the Midwest.[18] In 1906, a real Croatian settlement did not yet exist in New York. Eventually many Croats settled throughout parts of New York City, especially in northwestern and northeastern Queens County, in such neighborhoods as Whitestone, Astoria, Bayside and Douglaston.[citation needed]

During the Klondike Gold Rush, a group of 3,000 Croatian immigrants settled in Alaska and Canada.[16] A few hundreds of Croatians also settled in Alaska finding employment in the fishing industry.[16] Today, Alaska may be home to 50,000 persons of Croatian descent, about one-eighth of the state population.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]


Croatian diaspora is predominantly Roman Catholic.[12] Croatian missionaries founded parishes, churches and benevolent societies throughout the country wherever Croatian Americans settled.[12] Often, the priests were the only educated members of the Croatian colonies, 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.[14] 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.[12] Today, there are over 30 Croatian parishes in North America.[19][better source needed]

Social association[edit]

Part of a series on
Croatia, Historic Coat of Arms, first red square.svg

Croatian Americans maintain a close relationship with their homeland.[12] The diaspora is considered to have played a pivotal role in securing Croatia's victory in Croatian War of Independence by providing substantial financial aid and advocating for American involvement in the conflict.[20] Chain migration contributed to the creation of settlements of Croats coming from the same regions of Croatia.[14] They were connected because of their similar occupations that they had, equal social status, Catholic religion.[14] 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.[21] Beside these informal gatherings, Croatian Americans established several thousand organizations of different importance. In his work, "Early Croatian Immigration to America After 1945", Prpic states that there were around 3,000 organizations founded between 1880 and 1940 in the United States.[21] 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.[18] 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.[21][18]


The Croatian American organization Croatian Fraternal Union is a society with long roots in the U.S. It was started in 1897.[22] During World War II, the organization provided financial aid for Croatia.[22] The CFU contributes to Croatian Americans by scholarships and cultural learning.[22] 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.[23] The Croatian American Association is a group which lobbies the United States Congress on issues related to Croatia.[24]


In 2007, the annual Croatian Film Festival in New York was founded by The Doors Art Foundation.[25]

White Croatians[edit]

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. 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.[26]

Well-known Croatian-Americans[edit]

Well-known Croatian-Americans past and present include:









See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "2012 American Community Survey". US Census. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c Croatian diaspora in the USA
  3. ^ S0201. Selected Population Profile in the United States[dead link], Population Group: Croatian (109-110), Data Set: 2007 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Survey: American Community Survey.
  4. ^ Croatians in America. May 28, 2007.
  5. ^ "2006-2010 American Community Survey Selected Population Tables". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ Croatian Americans
  7. ^ Persons Who Reported at Least One Specific Ancestry Group for United States: 1980
  8. ^ a b Ancestry:2000
  9. ^ 2004 American Community Survey
  10. ^ a b c d Preveden, Francis (1962). A History of the Croatian People. New York: Philosophic. 
  11. ^ a b c Thompson Dele Olasiji, Migrants, Immigrants, and Slaves: Racial and Ethnic Groups in America, pp. 119-123
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Čuka, Anica (April 14, 2009). "Hrvati u SAD-u [Croats in the United States]" (in Croatian). Archived from the original on December 17, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "Veza s Hrvatima izvan Republike Hrvatske [The relation to Croats outside Croatia]" (in Croatian). Archived from the original on December 17, 2014. Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c d Gorvorchin, Gerald G. (1961). A History of the Croatian People. Gainesville: University of Florida. 
  15. ^ Prpic, George J. "CROATIANS - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History". Retrieved 27 September 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c d Francis H. Eterovich; Christopher Spalatin, eds. (1964). Croatia: Land, People, and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 
  17. ^ "Croatia: Small Country Has Big Impact on Pittsburgh". Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c Shapiro, Ellen (1989). The Croatian Americans. New York: Chelsea House. 
  19. ^ "Croatian parishes". Retrieved December 17, 2014. 
  20. ^ Vladimir Benković (1999). Dokumenti iz iseljeništva - Uloga hrvatskih intelektualaca u borbi za slobodnu Hrvatsku [Documents from exile - the role of Croatian intellectuals in a fight for independent Croatia]. AMCA Toronto. 
  21. ^ a b c Prpic, George (1971). The Croatian Immigrants in America. New York: Philosophic. 
  22. ^ a b c Croatian Fraternal Union of America. May 28, 2007.
  23. ^ NFCACF
  24. ^ Croatian American Association
  25. ^ Croatian Film Festival Opens in New York
  26. ^ US Senate-Reports on the Immigration commission, Dictionary of races or peoples, Washington DC, 1911, p. 40, 43, 105. [1]
  27. ^ Shelly Gledhill:Colby Vranes, awaiting his mission in life
  • Dele Olasiji, Thompson (1995). Migrants, Immigrants, and Slaves: Racial and Ethnic Groups in America. University Press of America. ISBN 9780819197382. 
  • Prpic, George (1971). The Croatian Immigrants in America. New York: Philosophic. 
  • Shapiro, Ellen (1989). The Croatian Americans. New York: Chelsea House. 
  • Preveden, Francis (1962). A History of the Croatian People. New York: Philosophic. 
  • Francis H. Eterovich; Christopher Spalatin, eds. (1964). Croatia: Land, People, and Culture. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 
  • Gorvorchin, Gerald G. (1961). A History of the Croatian People. Gainesville: University of Florida. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Adamic, Luj (1945). A Nation of Nations. New York. 
  • Antic, Ljubomir (1992). Hrvati i Amerika. Zagreb: Hrvatska sveucilisna naklada.  (Croatian)
  • Bonutti, Karl (1974). Selected Ethnic Communities of Cleveland: A Socio-Economic Study. Cleveland: Cleveland State University. 
  • Cordasco (1971). Dictionary of American Immigrants in America. New York: Philosophical Library. 
  • Habenstein, R. W.; Wright, R. Jr. (1998). Ethnic families in America: Patterns and variations (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-444-01319-9. 
  • Momeni, Jamshid A. (1986). Race, Ethnicity, and Minority Housing in the United States. New York: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-24848-6. 
  • Thernstrom, Stephen (1980). Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-37512-2. 

External links[edit]