History of the Kuryer Polski newspaper (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Michał Kruszka was born in Słabomierz, Poland on September 28, 1860 to Jan and Anna Kluczyńska Kruszka. His father was a wealthy farmer and was married twice, with 13 children born of these two unions.
Michał Kruszka was well-educated and came to the United States in 1880. He worked in the Singer Sewing Machine factory in New Jersey as well as other positions in New York and Chicago. He also attended evening business school and learned the printing trade. Kruszka married Jadwiga Linkiewicz in 1882 and they had one daughter, Felicya Aurelia. In the fall of 1883 he arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as an agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York.
In 1885, Kruszka began a Polish weekly paper called Tygodnik Anonsowy and then the Krytyka, one which proved to be a success. He then conceived to publish a Polish daily and in November 1887 a group formed the Dziennik Polski. Unfortunately, inexperience and strife caused the paper to fold within 6 months and Kruszka lost everything.
Despite this setback and the pessimistic opinion of many people that a daily Polish paper was likely to fail, Kruszka borrowed $125 from two friends and poured his heart into a new venture, a Polish daily called the Kuryer Polski. The presses began running in June of 1888. Kruszka was tireless in his vision to report the news and cultivate an educated Polish-American population. Slowly the paper gained readership and the company grew in size and scope.
Kruszka also served in Wisconsin politics, serving in the state assembly as well as the state senate during the 1890s.
On June 27, 1908 the Kuryer Polski celebrated its 20th anniversary by printing the largest newspaper edition ever made in Milwaukee. It featured 66 pages of “selected reading matter and high class advertising.” The greeting (in Polish and English) thanked their readership of 70,000 Polish people in Milwaukee and 4 million Polish people in America. “The Kuryer Polski is the oldest Polish Daily in America; it is also the most popular one; it is also the most influential one.” Kruszka would occasionally print articles in both Polish and English when he had important news to report.
Kruszka sought to provide information so that the Polish immigrants could become great American citizens. By the same token, he demanded respect for the Polish-Americans by promoting their representation and fair treatment in the churches, politics, fraternal organizations and other facets of society. To achieve these goals, he wrote articles about religion, government, real estate, social programs and also exposed scams and schemes. Some officials in power felt that his words were too harsh, and to those he replied, “When I sound a delicate piano string, I use a soft little mallet. But when I have to straighten a crooked rail, I use fire and a sledgehammer.”
He vehemently supported the case for a free and independent Poland, and for a time (1915-1917) published a weekly column called “Poland’s Cause” in Polish and English so that a variety of readers could understand his position and thus, hopefully support the most worthy cause.
Kruszka’s drive for Polish representation in the Roman Catholic Church put him at great odds with Archbishop Sebastian Messmer, who urged a boycott of the Kuryer Polski, even issuing a pastoral letter forbidding the reading of it. Messmer and the Archdiocese even began a rival paper called the Nowiny Polskie to counter some of Kruszka’s opinions. The Nowiny was never as popular as the Kuryer, but the rift led to a schism in the church and consequently three Polish National Catholic Churches were built in Milwaukee and their attendance grew. The consternation between Kruszka and his Kuryer and Archbishop Messmer and the Archdiocese went on for years. Both sides as well as other parties filed several lawsuits and countersuits against one another for conspiracy and libel. This nearly 25 year battle between the Kuryer and the church continued until the death of Michał Kruszka on December 2, 1918. (Recommended reading: Anthony J. Kuzniewski, Faith and Fatherland: The Polish Church War in Wisconsin, 1896-1918. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980.)
Michał Kruszka’s half-brother was the Rev. Wacław Kruszka (1868-1937). He was a priest, historian, and activist for Polish representation in the episcopate. Delicately but with difficulty he managed to balance his Catholic work with his passion for Polish history, culture, and language. He was also often at odds with Archbishop Messmer over the issue of rights for Polish priests. (Recommended reading: Wacław Kruszka, A History of Poles in America to 1908 Part Four: Poles in the Central and Western States. Edited with an introduction by James S. Pula. Translated by Krystyna Jankowski. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2001.)
Michał Kruszka was a passionate visionary. With his death, the paper perhaps lost some of its fire, but it continued to be a foremost authority on news about Poland and Polish-America. The Kuryer Polski continued to be published until September 23, 1962.
Kuryer Polski Indexing Project
“Old newspapers can be a gold mine of information to genealogists, as the Dziennik Chicagoski project has proven. The goal of the Kuryer Polski project is to highlight the work of Michael Kruszka and to make genealogical information about Milwaukee Polish-Americans available to more people. In January 2005, I began to index obituaries from microfilms ordered via interlibrary loan, beginning with 1900. I intend to continue working on this project for many years to come.
The transcriptions are subject to human error, but I have compiled the data to the best of my abilities.” –Karen Wolniakowski Duffy
This index of obituaries begins with January 1900 and ends with December 1935. Primarily, these are only the paid notices that announce local and regional deaths. Because obituaries of the time cost money, only a small amount of deaths were publicly announced in the papers. These notices are valuable, however, and may contain information related to birth, immigration, church affiliation and family names. The WWI years have very few paid death notices. Some entries listed on this index are also news articles announcing the deaths of prominent citizens or they may also be news items about tragic accidents. The date listed on the index is of publication and not of the actual death.
Index of Engagement, Marriage, Anniversary, and Birthday Announcements
This index is comprised of the announcements of prominent people who were engaged or married, as only they were mentioned in the newspaper, sometimes with photos. For a very short time there was a “Śluby” column that mentioned general marriages, and those are listed here. Primarily, anniversaries and birthdays mentioned in the newspaper relate only to milestones like 25 or 50 years of marriage or 100 years birthday. The date listed on the index is of publication and not of the actual event. After 1920, some weddings were also mentioned in a column called "Notatki Osobiste" or another called "Z Życia Polonii Milwaukiej." Some entries in the Type column show "Born " and a date. These refer to biographies from the newspaper column called "Pionierzy Polscy w Milwaukee" (Polish Pioneers in Milwaukee). The Polish Pioneers series contains extensive biographies as well as photographs of these notable Milwaukee Polonia.
Obtaining copies of Obituaries or Announcements
1. The Milwaukee Public Library Central Branch has a set of Kuryer Polski microfilm which you may view on site or by interlibrary loan to find the issue you need.
Milwaukee Central Library
814 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53233
2. The University of Wisconsin-Madison library has a complete set of Kuryer Polski microfilm. The full catalog of available Kuryer Polski papers can be viewed at this link:
Anyone wishing to can view them on site in Madison or work with their local library to borrow the films.
3. For a copy of an obituary or announcement listed here, you may contact
Karen Wolniakowski Duffy
10544 Michigan Avenue
Hayward, WI 54843
exact match: enter the name exactly the way you want it found (e.g., Adam will find ONLY Adam).
match first: enter the first part of name to be matched (e.g., Adam will find Adam, Adamik, Adamowski).
wildcard search: enter any part of the name (e.g., Adam will find Adam, Adamik, Adamowski, and Hadam).
Provided you are using "match first" or "wildcard search", you may use the % character to represent any number of letters and the _ (underline) character to represent one specific letter. Additional explanation here.