Originally published on our multicultural marketing newsletter, réd.
the Polish American community
On a seemingly ordinary day, the idea to create the world’s most famous doll was born. Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler, daughter to Polish immigrant parents, created the Barbie doll in 1957 for her daughter Barbara who liked to play with paper dolls. It was also during that time when the Polish American community grew to around 3 million. Today, there are 9,757,528 (3.4 percent of the entire population) Polish Americans in the U.S., according to U.S. Census.
Poles represent the largest of the Slavic groups in America and as with most immigration stories, they had many waves of emigrants – four to be exact. Most were political dissidents at first, during the 1800s, until reasons changed ultimately for people in search of a better economic life. One of the earliest Polish names to have been taken note of is Anthony Sadowski, who founded what is known today as Sandusky, Ohio. Along with the first Polish settlements New York, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Chicago and St. Louis, Ohio remains home to one of the largest Polish American communities.
The first Polish settlement Panna Maria, a farming colony in Texas, was founded by more than 800 Catholic families. Representative of their religion and familial culture, it also served as their support system during their assimilation with the American way of life – financially and emotionally – and they were tightly knit due to national pride. Assimilation was smooth for the Polish community, evident with the 92.1 percent who speak English only at home today. Most Polish American families (63.5 percent of the population) earn their living in the fields of management, business, science and arts. Their median household income of $62,169 is significantly higher than the national average of $51,369.
Today, one of the largest Polish-American celebrations is Pulaski Day held in New York every October 11. The largest is Polish festival held in Milwaukee is set to happen this June. Among the most anticipated Polish holidays is Christmas season, when they carol around their neighborhoods in exchange for treats before they hold wigilia, their Christmas dinner. Other prominent Polish Americans are the Warner brothers Harry and Jack, actresses Sophie Tucker and Pola Negri, and Qtip inventor Leo Gerstenzang.
Polish American Organizations
The Polish American community has various organizations in the U.S., a few of which are listed below