Segments in this Video

Polish Immigrants in Chicago (04:37)


Arriving around the turn of the century, nearly a million Poles now live in Chicago. Polish immigrants resisted integration and chose to keep their language, religion, and traditions intact.

Polish Immigrants Arrive in America (05:47)

Polish immigrants recall their first days in America--the polluted air, stockyards, garbage, and poverty. Forced to live in very bad conditions, the early immigrants were shocked to find that their dream of America was impossible to reach.

Polish Steel Workers (03:35)

A Polish immigrant recalls how he went to work at age 12 and was assigned the lowliest of jobs because Poles were at the bottom of the pecking order. Germans and Irishmen held most of the supervisory jobs in the iron and steel mills.

Polish Immigrants: Hard Life and Hard Work (03:53)

Polish immigrants came to America with few skills and little education. Seen as an expendable workforce by most employers, they received no benefits, no job security, and no income when they were ill.

Polish Immigrant's Story (06:55)

A Polish immigrant's story unfolds through his son's narration and archival photographs. A man recalls his return to Poland in 1908 to see his mother and his village. He felt that America was his true home.

Chicago in the Early 1900s (04:11)

A Polish immigrant describes Chicago in the first part of the century. Conditions for Polish immigrants were crowded and ethnic gangs were prevalent, though the Polish seldom formed gangs. Archival photographs bring the narration to life.

Great Depression in Chicago (03:46)

Half of Chicago's workforce was unemployed with the unskilled and non-English-speaking immigrants suffering the most. A Polish man recalls facing prejudice and discrimination when he tried to get aid for his family during the Depression.

Immigrant Success Stories (06:28)

A Polish immigrant tells his story of determination and success in the U.S. Air Force where he became a Lt. Colonel. A Polish museum celebrates Polish heroes from the American Revolutionary War to Paderewski, musician, composer, and statesman.

Polish Pride and Old Polish Neighborhoods (04:49)

Polish immigrants in general did not aim high, but worked to pay their bills and to ultimately own their homes. Chicago's former Polish settlements have given way to African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexican populations.

Polish Jokes, Polish Gratitude (03:59)

Polish immigrants discuss insults and jokes commonly associated with their ethnic group. In general, Polish immigrants are grateful for what Chicago and America have offered them.

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City of the Big Shoulders

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Polish immigrants were the driving force behind Chicago’s remarkable industrial growth. But they never achieved political cohesiveness, and while a million Poles now live in Chicago, their political power is not commensurate with the number of votes they cast. (52 minutes)

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL3373

ISBN: 978-1-4213-7860-2

Copyright date: ©1976

Closed Captioned

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