History of the Poles in Baltimore
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The history of the Poles in Baltimore dates back to the late 19th century. The Polish community in Baltimore numbered 122,814 as of 2000, making up 4.8 percent of Baltimore's population. The Polish community is largely centered in the neighborhoods of Canton, Fell's Point, Locust Point, and Highlandtown.
The first Polish immigrants to Baltimore settled in the Fell's Point neighborhood in 1868. Polish mass immigration to Baltimore and other U.S. cities first started around 1870, many of whom were fleeing the Franco-Prussian War. Many of the Polish immigrants came from agricultural regions of Poland and were often considered unskilled workers. Many worked as stevedores for Baltimore's International Longshoremen's Association. Other Polish immigrants worked in the canneries, some travelling to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi to work in the seafood canneries during the winter months. After the abolition of slavery, farmers had lost their slaves and wanted a cheap source of labor. Following changes in U.S. immigration laws many Central and Eastern European migrants, particularly Polish and Czech, came to Maryland to fill this need. These changes also affected other nations.
The majority of the Polish immigrants were Roman Catholics. The first Polish-Catholic parish to be formed was the St. Stanislaus Kostka church, which was organized in 1880. The Holy Rosary Church parish was founded in 1887. However, many were Polish Jews. Polish Jews helped found the B'nai Israel Synagogue in 1873.
By 1893, the Polish population was starting to become the backbone of Baltimore's laboring class. 1,500 were arriving in Baltimore annually and by 1893 there were 23,000 Polish-Americans living in the city.
During the early years of the 20th century the Polish population became more established in Baltimore. The Polish community established ethnic clubs, Polish-language newspapers, and create their own savings and loans societies. By 1910, Eastern Avenue in Baltimore was known as the Polish Wall Street of Baltimore.
In the census of 1960, Polish-Americans comprised 15.2% of Baltimore's population. The Polish-born was a percentage of the total foreign-born population was 62.6% in Fell's Point, 38.5% in Locust Point, and 74.7% in Southeast Baltimore.
The Polish community has declined in numbers over the years, but there is still a strong Polish presence. The Polish National Alliance is located in Baltimore and maintains an archive of several thousand documents in the Polish language. There are a number of Polish delis and restaurants still in operation, such as Krakus Deli, Polock Johnny's, Ostrowski of Bank Street, and Ze Mean Bean Café. In 2011, Baltimore's long-running Polish festival left Baltimore after 37 years of being held there; the festival was relocated to Lutherville-Timonium, due to the shrinking size of the Polish community in Baltimore.
The Polish community is Southeast Baltimore is sometimes referred to affectionately as Little Poland.
Notable Polish-Americans from Baltimore
- Mike Bielecki
- Kendel Ehrlich
- Hank Kazmierski
- Greg Kihn
- Barbara Mikulski
- Ric Ocasek
- Edward Rowny
- Mitchell T. Rozanski
- Leon Uris
- Leo Wolman
Fictional Polish-Americans from Baltimore
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- "John Slebzak, Page One". Lewis Hine Project. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- Fred Shoken. "A History of the B’nai Israel Congregation of Baltimore City". Retrieved 12 May 2014.
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- Belfoure and Hayward, Charles, Mary Ellen (2001). The Baltimore Rowhouse. New York, N.Y.: Princeton Architectural Press. p. 198. ISBN 1-56898-283-6. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
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- "No Polish festival this year for shrinking Fells Point community". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- "An olde-world craft? Of course you can cut it". Baltimore Guide. Retrieved 2014-05-12.
- Polish Community of Baltimore
- First Polish immigrants
- Polish Treasures
- Maryland's Polish Festival
- Polish National Alliance