Friday, January 29, 2016

Newspapers of Schenectady's Immigrants

The amount and variety of news we can receive in 2016 is non-stop and never ending. Tablets, phones, Facebook, and Twitter, and the 24-hour news cycle are all relatively new ways to keep updated on current events. These along with the more traditional newspapers can make the process overwhelming. Flashback to 100 years ago and you might have the opposite problem. News was limited to newspapers and through other people that you interacted with throughout the day. A unique way to receive news came along with the advent of the first radio news program in August, 1920. From there, the next innovation was the television with the first news broadcast on TV in 1930 and the first regular news broadcast in 1940. Absolutely none of this matters if you can’t understand the language, customs, and traditions of the country you just moved to. So just how did the growing immigrant population in Schenectady figure out what was going on in their city? Certain pioneering immigrants started newspapers that highlighted the issues that were important to these immigrant groups. Many of the papers were published in both English and in the native tongue of the publisher and were generally published as a weekly paper. This entry focuses on the German, Italian, and Polish newspapers of Schenectady.

Oswald E. Heck and the Herold-Journal

Oswald E. Heck as a young man. In addition to his skills as a newspaper editor, Heck published a book of poems in German titled Leben und Weben (Life and its Weavings) in 1922. Photo courtesy of the February 1, 1923 issue of the Daily Gazette.
German immigration to the United States increased dramatically in the 19th Century and they were the largest group of immigrants from 1840 to 1880. Schenectady’s commercial and industrial growth during this time drew many Germans to the area. Many early German immigrants worked in broom manufacturing, but ALCO and GE soon became the main draw to Schenectady. The first German language newspaper in Schenectady was the Deutscher Anzeiger (German Indicator) which was formed in 1873 and lasted until 1897. Three years later another German paper was established, Das Deutsch Journal. Oswald E. Heck who had worked as a compositor on the Deutscher became the editor of a new German paper named Das Deutsche Journal. Heck came to Schenectady with his family and started working for ALCO, but his knack for writing led him to work for the Deutscher where he learned to set type and would write an occasional article. Heck and Das Deutsche Journal compositor Thomas Unseld Sr.  would go on to start another German newspaper in 1910 named the Schenectady Herold. World War I caused the merger of the Herold and Das Deustche Journal, creating the Schenectady Herold-Journal which published its first paper in April, 1917. With a new name came a new headquarters and the paper moved to 206 Clinton St. The paper was growing and required an even larger quarters by 1921 when the offices moved to 151 Barrett St. Unseld Sr. died in 1951 and his post as treasurer of the Schenectady Herold Printing Company was filled by his son, Thomas Unseld Jr. Heck died in 1954 and left his interest in the company to his children, Oswald D. Heck (who was very important in NYS politics, but that’s a story for another post), Else Raag, and Edwin Heck. The paper continued until 1964 when it ceased publication. Microfilm of the Schenectady Herold-Journal for certain years can be found at the archives of the University of Albany.

Italian-American Giornale

Collage of Italian language newspapers featuring Viva l'Italia, Il Corriere Di Schenectady  and Albany's La Capitale. Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
One problem with researching ethnic groups through newspapers is the lack of an actual newspaper to research.  Researcher and future presenter at the Schenectady County Historical Society Robert Pascucci was quoted in a June 25, 1984 Gazette article that few of the ethnic newspapers remain today and that “This material has been lost in the Capital District…Unfortunately, the interest doesn’t seem to have been there.” As far as news reports on the Italian-American community, modern researchers don’t have a lot of resources to turn to. The news that was published in Schenectady’s larger newspapers often focused on the criminal aspect.  Schenectady Papers like The Evening Star covered the arrests of Italians sometimes reporting in broken English with headlines like “Me Take-A You Life." With articles like those, it’s no surprise that Italian immigrants started their own newspapers.  One of the most prominent Italian papers in Schenectady was Ettore Mancuso’s The Record (Previous librarian, Melissa Tacke wrote a great post on Ettore Mancuso and The Record). The Record focused on the concerns of Italian-Americans, and often published articles and advertisements in both Italian and English. Other Italian language papers in Schenectady were the Il Corriere di Schenectady and The International, but few issues of these papers exist today. The library’s Ettore Mancuso Collection has issues of The Record and a guide to this collection can be found here.

Enthusiasm of the Polish Press

Article from the Feb. 6th issue of the
 Gazeta Tygodniowa. Courtesy of
Phyllis Zych-Budka.
A common thread that ran through the papers run by Schenectady’s immigrants was a willingness to support their fellow countrymen along with their new city. The previously mentioned Record would often publish articles promoting local Italian businesses and push for Schenectadians to buy local.  Similar to that idea, Polish papers like Tygodnik (Weekly News) and Gazeta Tygodniowa (Weekly Gazette) would boost the accomplishments of Schenectady’s Polonia. SCHS member Phyllis Zych-Budka is currently writing a book about the Maska Dramatic Club, which was a Polish theater group. Phyllis recently brought in several articles from various Schenectady Polish newspapers relating to various Maska plays and events.  The difference in tone between the Polish papers and English papers is quite noticeable. The English papers were more factual, relating the location of the play, a brief description of the plot, and who was in the cast. The Polish papers were very descriptive and the publishers are adamant about getting people to attend and support events put on by other Polish-Americans. Examples of the publisher's style can be seen in the clippings posted.  

Article on the 50th anniversary of General Electric where the Polish division achieved first place in the float contest. The float featured F.G. Halturewicz as Thomas Edison and Stanley Zych as Steinmetz. The author goes on to write that "Our float was excellent, beautiful, and in good taste, full of color and most important depicted the progress of General Electric..." Clipping and translation courtesy of Phyllis Zych Budka.

The Grems-Doolittle Library is looking for issues or clippings from some of these difficult to find newspapers or if you know of any other immigrant run newspapers. Contact Librarian, Michael Maloney at 518-374-0263 or if you have any leads.

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