Beautifully engraved certificate from Kuryer Publishing Company
issued no later than 1913. This historic document and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of an eagle and the company's name in red print. This item has the signatures of the Company’s President, Michael Kruszka and Secretary and is over 96 years old.
The Kuryer Polski, the first Polish language daily newspaper in the United States, was founded in Milwaukee in 1888 by Michael Kruszka. Kruszka (1860-1918) immigrated to the United States from Slabomierz in German Poland in 1880, working first in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago prior to settling in Milwaukee. There he taught himself the printing trade and established a printing business, and in 1885 began publishing the Tygodnik Anonsowy (Advertising Weekly), soon succeeded by the weekly Krytyka. With a group of Polish labor leaders, Kruszka initiated in 1887 the short-lived daily paper, Dziennik Polski. The following year the Kuryer Polski was begun as a weekly (later daily) newspaper to serve the needs of the ever-increasing Polish population in Milwaukee and throughout the country.
The newspaper prospered under Kruszka's editorship, although Kruszka himself was often surrounded by controversy and conflict. During the 1890's a battle began between Kruszka and the Milwaukee Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and clergy which was to rage for nearly twenty-five years and have far-reaching effects. At the heart of the dispute were several of Kruszka's beliefs and causes, including, teaching Polish language classes in the public schools, equal rights for the Polish clergy in the Catholic hierarchy, opposition to extravagant and financially-burdensome church buildings, and opposition to those in the hierarchy who tried to put the Kuryer Polski out of business. Kruszka's only supporter among the clergy was his brother, Rev. Waclaw Kruszka, who fought for equal rights for Polish priests until his death in 1937.
As part of the conflict with Kruszka, the Church hierarchy organized a clerical paper, the Katolik, which was published from 1895 to 1898. In 1899, the clergy began the daily Dziennik Milwaucki, which continued for six years. The battle was joined in earnest in 1907 when Milwaukee Archbishop Sebastian Messmer established a rival newspaper, the Nowiny Polskie, to which he contributed $1,000. The Polish priests in the diocese were also assessed sums ranging to $500 to support the new paper.
The climax of the situation came during a 1912 convention of Polish priests in Detroit, from which Rev. Waclaw Kruszka was barred. Convention participants decided to blacklist thirteen Polish newspapers, among them the Kuryer Polski and the Dziennik Narodowy in Chicago, in which Michael Kruszak also held an interest. Shortly thereafter a number of bishops, including Archbishop Messmer, issued pastoral letters forbidding the reading of the Kuryer and the Dziennik. Publication continued, however, despite numerous lawsuits instituted by both parties to the dispute.
Although the conflict calmed with the outbreak of World War I, there were several far-reaching results of the controversy. Since the largest of the Polish fraternals, the Polish National Alliance, refused to take sides in the matter, Michael Kruszka organized the Federation of Poles in America to provide him with popular support. The group outlived the dispute, and was later known as Federation Life Insurance of America. Secondly, the involvement of the Roman Catholic Church contributed in the growth of the Polish National Catholic Church, which established three parishes in Milwaukee during this period. Michael Kruszka continued to work for the improvement of conditions in Poland and for the rights of Polish-Americans; in addition to the Kuryer Polski he began publication of the English language paper Poland's Cause.
Michael Kruszka died 2 December 1918, and was succeeded as publisher and president of the Kuryer Polski by his son-in-law, Prof. Stanislaus Zwierzchowski. When Prof. Zwierzchowski departed Milwaukee to assist the post-war reconstruction of Poland, he retained his position with the paper but active management was turned over to Chester Dziadulewicz. Dziadulewicz was succeeded by Col. Peter F. Piasecki. The Kuryer Polski suspended publication on 23 September 1962.
On 23 June 1888, Michael Kruszka, an immigrant journalist from Slabomierz in Prussian-held Poland, published the first edition of the Kuryer Polski. Despite having a mere three employees and assets of only $125, Kruszka's inaugural headline boldly announced that the Kuryer Polski was the "Only Polish daily in America representing Polish interests in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central and South America." For seventy-four years the newspaper lived up to its initial proclamation by promoting the welfare of Polonia communities scattered throughout the Americas. The Kuryer Polski succeeded Kruszka's weeklies Dziennik Polski and Krytyka (1885-1888). In 1899, Kruszka incorporated the Kuryer Publishing Company. By 1915 the Kuryer Polski boasted a readership of more than 40,000. The Kuryer's position on many divisive issues facing Polish American communities throughout North America gained the newspaper national prominence.
Promoting Polish priests to high offices in the American Catholic hierarchy was among the most volatile issues the Kuryer Polski pressed. Milwaukee's Archbishop Sebastian Messmer opposed "the dangerous experiment...to give the Polish people a bishop." Messmer propounded that "Whenever a bishop would have any difficulty with a Polish parish their bishop would be appealed to. The Polish are not yet American enough and keep aloof too much from the rest of us." Michael Kruszka's brother, Father Wacaw Kruszka, was arguably the most assertive advocate for Polish representation in the Church's upper echelons. Contrary to the behest of Milwaukee's Archbishop, Wacaw traveled to Rome in 1903 to present his grievances against the German and Irish dominated American Church. Only in 1908 did the Holy See name a Pole, Paul Rhode, as auxiliary bishop of Chicago.
The Kuryer Polski also criticized clerical meddling in the political arena. Kruszka attacked the construction of St. Joseph's Church by alleging it burdened the working-class parishioners with a debt of at least $250,000. Kruszka's fervent support to place Polish language instruction in the Milwaukee Public school's curriculum further alienated the clergy. Many in the church judged Kruszka's efforts as an overt attempt to subvert parish schools.
To combat the Kuryer Polski, Archbishop Messmer persuaded members of the Polish clergy to establish rival Polish language newspapers. The first two, Sowo (the Word) and Dziennik Milwaucki (Milwaukee's Daily) failed within months of publication. In 1906 opponents of the Kuryer Polski published the Nowiny Polski under the editorship of Reverend Bolesaw Goral. Soon the rivalry between the Kuryer Polski and Nowiny split Milwaukee's Polonia into two antagonistic factions. On 11 February 1912, Milwaukee's Archbishop Messmer issued an edict enjoining the faithful not to read the Kuryer Polski. Disobedience of the decree could result in excommunication.
On 12 June 1912, the Kuryer Publishing Company responded by organizing a demonstration of more than 25,000 opponents of Messmer's edict. Kruszka also established the fraternal insurance society, Federation of Poles in America, to counter both clerical sponsored associations and the Polish National Alliance. The PNA earned Kruszka's wrath by its refusal to side with the Kuryer Polski during the dispute with the church. The Federation of Poles in America continues to provide insurance coverage as Federation Life Insurance with its headquarters in Milwaukee. In 1918, a scant few months before Poland's rebirth, Kruszka died. Kruszka's son-in-law, Professor Stanisaw Zwierzchowski (Zowski), became President of the Kuryer Publishing Company. In 1922, after Professor Zwierzchowski moved to Poland to teach at the University of Warsaw, Chester Dziadulewicz assumed management of the company. Colonel Peter F. Piasecki, veteran of the Spanish-American War and former Postmaster General for Milwaukee, succeeded Dziadulewicz in 1938. The Kuryer Polski suspended publication on 23 September 1962 after the Internal Revenue Service declared the company delinquent on its taxes.
The Kuryer Polski's readers greeted the reestablishment of an independent Poland after World War I with a barrage of requests for information regarding citizenship status, currency transactions, travel arrangements and immigration visas. The Kuryer Publishing Company established the Kuryer Agency on 17 September 1919, to meet the demand for such assistance. The Agency handled these tasks until the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, rendered the services of such an agency superfluous.
History from Kuryer Publishing Company (Milwaukee, Wis.). Records, 1893-1961. UWM Manuscript Collection 46. University Manuscript Collection. Archives. UWM Libraries. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and OldCompanyResearch.com.