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“New” Immigrants and the Polish Community in Salem
Primary Sources

Theme: Social Change and Social Reform
Topic: "New" Immigrants and the Polish Community in Salem
Date: 13 July 2006

Primary Sources from Partner Collections
Primary Sources from Local Archives and Collections | Photographs
Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions

Sources selected and annotated by SALEM in History staff.

Primary Sources from Partner Collections

Water and Fire Map of Salem, ca. 1895-1900 [detail]
Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.
(Phillips Card Catalog # 912.7446/S16/T2)

This detail shows the area that was considered the "Polish" community in Salem. Other images included here:
map overview | map key | additional text


Lodge, Hon. Henry Cabot. “Immigration” 19 February 1891. Washington, D.C.: U.S. House of Representatives, 1891.  (Phillips Card Catalog # E / L822 / 1891)

Born in Boston, Henry Cabot Lodge, (1850-1924) was the first Ph.D. graduate in political science (1876) from Harvard University.  He went on to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1887 to 1893, and from 1893 to 1924 in the U.S. Senate.  He fought against U.S. participation in Foreign Affairs, and was a leader in the Immigration Restriction League.  This organization was founded 1894 in Boston by men who were concerned about the large number of “new” immigrants who they considered undesirable.  They believed that adding a literacy requirement for immigration would limit unwanted new settlers without any appearance of discrimination according to race, religion, etc. 

Before 1882, there were no immigration restrictions for entry into the United States.  With rising number of immigrants, however, the  federal government began to impose new legislation.  The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, for example, halted immigration from that country for 60 years.  In 1891, the U.S. Office of Immigration was created as a division of the U.S. Treasury Department. It was responsible for processing, inspecting, admitting, or rejecting all immigrants seeking entry into the United States.

Current immigration figures today are estimated at about 900,000 legal immigrants and perhaps another 3000,000 illegal immigrants per year.

Lodge, Henry Cabot.  ... Speech by Henry Cabot Lodge On Immigration... Before The Boston City Club, Boston, MA, on March 20, 1908... Washington, Gvt. print office, 1908. (Phillips Card Catalog # E / L822 / 1908)

In comparing Cabot’s text from 1891 to 1908, there are clear shifts between some of the rhetoric he used.  In 1891, he looks to Jacob Riis (12) not only in describing the conditions of tenement areas, but also in typing certain ethnic groups in a manner similar to Riis.  In 1908, however, he states: 

In what I am about to say I have no reflections to cast upon the people of any race or any nationality, and I say this because it is the practice of the demagogue who neither knows nor cares anything about the seriousness of this question to endeavor to make political capital among voters of foreign birth by proclaiming that any effort to deal intelligently with the question is directed against them individually. (2)

Meek Publishing Co. Naumkeag Directory for Salem, Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Hamilton, Manchester, Middleton, Topsfield and Whenham. vol. 18, 1910 [excerpts from Salem, MA]  Available at the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum. (Call number D44/S1/1910)

Entries from streets in the Polish area of Salem – Hardy, Derby, and Turner – can be compared here with Essex and Chestnut, where few names typical of Polish heritage are found.  Entries also include names that are found on Salem 1910 census records. 

U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor. Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth Census of the United States, 1910, Population, Massachusetts, Salem. (Selections from Ward 1, Enumeration Districts 452 and 453) (Available at the Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, microfilm)



Dominick Family Letters.  Dominick Family Papers, 1912 – 1973.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  Translations by Joseph S. Duda. (Phillips Library Manuscript: MSS 0.322) 

These four letters and a postcard were written to the Domenick family from their relatives in Poland.  It appears that some letters are missing pages.  Correspondence suggests that letters  were often infrequent, and that the Dominick family in Salem sent home supply packages to their relatives in Poland.


Photo:  Pequot Mills Christmas Party, n.d. Dominick Family Papers, 1912 – 1973.  Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.  (Phillips Library Manuscript: MSS 0.322)

The Pequot Mills cloth manufacturer employed a great number of Salem’s immigrant populations.  Accounts from Polish community members today suggest that women, especially, worked at the mills.  Men were often employed in tanneries and shoe industries of various sizes in Salem, Lynn, and Danvers.


Bachorowski, Alphonse S.  Seventy years in Salem.  p. 30-33.  From the Magazine, “Poland” Jan, 1931. Contains information on the Poles in Salem, MA  (E / B119.5 / 1931)

Written in 1936, Bachorowski’s article reviews changes to the Polish community from 1859, when Edmund A. Yasinski (the first Polish immigrant to Salem, according to Bachorowski) moved into Derby Street.

“50th Golden Jubilee” 28 May 1954. St. John the Baptist Church, Salem, MA. Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum.

Although there are no records to substantiate the oral tradition, the Polish community believes that before St. John the Baptist came into use by its congregation, a home on Union Street was used for worship.  St. John the Baptist supported the Polish community with a Polish school where children learned both English and Polish languages.  Today, the school provides language education on weekends.  This program provides information about supporters, including a number of Polish or Polish American organizations and businesses.

Frayler, John.  Polish Community Organizations Extant Over a 75 Year Period...” ca, 2000. Salem Maritime Historic Site, National Park Service.

This list suggests that Polish community members in Salem had a vibrant social experience in Salem.

Wolkiewicz, Edward (Buddy Walker).  “The Polish Clubs of Salem,” 2006. Peabody Essex Museum.

Musician Buddy Walker (b.1925) played in Salem’s Polish clubs, and he has also provided a filmed oral history of his experiences as a performer and member of the community



Duda, Abaigeal, Leah Ingraham, and Anna Kichorowsky.  Exploring Salem’s Past: Salem’s Polish Community (An Oral History).  Salem: SALEM in History in Conjunction with the National Park Service, 2006

The central quesitons of this oral history documentary film project are:

  • What physical and cultural factors led to the creation and sustenance of a Polish community in Salem?
  • What do current members of Salem’s Polish community believe caused changes in the community over time?

To date, four members of Salem’s Polish community provided responses to questions about their experiences in this city: Linda Moustakis, Edward Luzinski  (with Stanley Rybicki), Delores Jordan (with her sister, Alice), and  “Buddy Walker” (Edward Wolkiewicz).  For information about the completed DVD, please contact the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, National Park Service. 


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Primary Sources from Other Local Archives and Collections



75th Anniversary, St. Joseph Polish Society NO. 604. PRCUA, Salem, MA. 27 October 1974.  Salem Public Library, Salem, MA.

This program highlights some of the organization’s many accomplishments since its inception.  St. Joseph’s society was organized in 1897-99 as a mutual-aid organization to provide families immigrating to Salem from Poland both economic and social insurance.  The third floor offered housing for those who had just arrived and not yet found a place to live.  Additionally, St. Joseph’s obtained its own Chaplain and advisor; the first was Rev. Joseph Czubek in 1901.  The present building location at 160 Derby Street was purchased in 1909, and today is part of the Salem National Maritime Historic Site, National Park Service.

Driscoll, Anne.  “Historic Salem Surges Anew with Diversity” Boston Globe 28 April 1991.

This article describes changes over time in Salem’s ethnic communities.

McCabe, Kathy. “Poles Maintain Civic and Ethnic Pride”  Salem Evening News 4 August 1987.

While McCabe’s article discusses the history and contributions of Salem’s Polish community, it also describes some of the obstacles facing ethnic groups that typically held individual festivals in the city.  The two major problems, she cites are a lack of volunteers and a fear of liability.  Her article suggests that pride and devotion to one’s community is waning due to apathy.

“Turn of the Century Turns Salem into Melting Pot” Salem Evening News 16 August 1989. (Available at the Salem Public Library)

Salem’s current Latin immigrant population and its gathering places and community centers are discussed along with some major immigrant populations that settled in Salem in the past, such as the Polish and French-Canadians.


The following are from the private collection of Linda Moustakis, Salem, MA:

St. Joseph’s Baseball Team, n.d. 

Wedding Photo, n.d.

Girls and Boys at the time of their religious Confirmation ceremony, n.d.

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Additional Primary Sources Used in Content and Follow-up Sessions



Lazarus, Emma.  The New Colossus, 1883. Available on-line at: [viewed 1 July 2006].

This famous poem is carved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island, off New York City.  It is a required primary document in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

Riis, Jacob A. How The Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York.  NY:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1890.

Hypertext Edition by David Phillips, Yale University on-line at: [viewed 1 July 2006]

Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was born in Denmark and immigrated to the United States in 1870.  As an immigrant, he faced the extreme poverty that many in the tenement slums of major cities experienced.  He later became a police reporter with a particular interest in reform by the 1880s.  Using photography to “document” the conditions in New York immigrant communities, he became a powerful voice for change.  His best known work is How the Other Half Lives.  The following is an excerpt from that publication:

In the Bohemian quarter it is made the vehicle for enforcing upon-a proud race a slavery as real as any that ever disgraced the South. Not content with simply robbing the tenant, the owner, in the dual capacity of landlord and employer, reduces him to virtual serfdom by making his becoming his tenant, on such terms as he sees fit to make, the condition of employment at wages likewise of his own making. It does not help the case that this landlord employer, almost always a Jew, is frequently of the thrifty Polish race just described. (chapter 12)


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