As to the work, I am working in the same factory, and brother also is working in the same factory, where he was working formerly. And as to our country, brother says he will not return, because there is nothing to return for . . . He has no property there, and it is better for him in America, because in our country he could not even earn enough for a loaf of bread. And I also do not know whether I shall return or not. If I can return then perhaps I shall return some day or other, and if not I don’t mind, because I do ten times better in America than in our country. I do better today than brother, because I am alone.
Adam Raczkowski in a letter to his sister, June 27, 1906
Adam Raczkowski followed his sister Helena and brother Franciszek from Poland to America in 1904. The brothers settled in Wilmington, Del., where Adam worked at a factory. In the 1918 book The Polish Peasant in Europe and America, authors William I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki (University of Chicago Press) share insights about immigrants’ experiences through letters among the siblings in America and a sister, Teofila, who stayed in Poland.
More than a million Poles immigrated to the United States, primarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. About 80 percent were from rural areas. But like Raczkowski, most immigrants took industrial jobs in steel mills, iron foundries, slaughterhouses and refineries in cities such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo.
Historians, sociologists and genealogists have been intensely interested in immigrants’ adjustments to America. Learn what your ancestors’ new lives may have been like in the books listed at Immigrant Arrivals: A Guide To Published Sources.
From the January 2010 Family Tree Magazine