John Daniels, Director of the Buffalo Social Survey Buffalo Illustrated Morning Times January 23, 1910
…The present article takes up the history of the Poles in a general way, leaving special phases of it to be dealt with later in connection with the discussion of present social and economic conditions.
The writer not only welcomes, but earnestly invites the bringing to his attention of any facts which might correct, modify or contribute valuable additions to this article. He hopes that those who may be in possession of such information will be kind enough to write to him at 547 West Ferry Street
. He especially hopes that the Poles themselves will subject this and all subsequent articles to the most careful scrutiny, and will call to his notice any serious errors or deficiencies. He has himself made every effort to verify all his statements and has submitted a preliminary outline of this article to a number of well-informed persons, most of them Poles. But he recognizes that in a limited time it is impossible to cover such a large subject with complete thoroughness, and especially in view of the fact that the results of the Buffalo Social Survey may be published in more detail later on, he will be grateful for all additional information.
The subsequent articles will appear in The Illustrated Express every two weeks. The next one will deal with the economic progress which the Poles have made, and the following that with the industrial situation of the rank and file among them.
The Poles in Buffalo
The Poles claim to have had a share in Buffalo’s founding. Among the named of the members of the Holland Land Company, which in 1793 bought from Massachusetts a strip of territory that included the greater part of the site of the future city, and which soon afterwards began selling land to the incoming settlers, appear those of Piotr and Jan Stadnicki. Though in some accounts the Dutch spelling Pieter and Stadnitski occur, yet it would seem likely that the bearers of these names were Polish gentlemen who had taken up their abode in Holland after the first partition of their own country in 1772. A story current among the Poles in Buffalo today has it that Jan Stadnicki actually came to Buffalo and assisted Joseph Ellicott in making the first survey of the city’s streets, and Father Waclaw Kruszka, in his recent history of the Poles in America, assumes this tradition to be true and assigns to Stadnicki the distinction of having penetrated further West at that early date than any other of his countrymen. In spite of painstaking research I have not been able to verify the story, and I am inclined to think that it had its rise in a confusion of Stadnicki with Mayor Henry I. Glawacki, who came to America a few years after the Polish insurrection of 1830, took up his residence in Batavia, subsequently became a general agent of the company which succeeded the Holland Land Company, and did assist Ellicott in some further surveying. The facts concerning Glawacki may be found in the History of Genesee County, and there is a fuller typewritten biography of him in the possession of the Buffalo Historical Society. Unfortunately, no such records are available concerning Stadnicki. But for many years, down to the early 80s, what is now Church Street bore his name, in his honor.
Colonel Kasimiers Stanislaus Gsowski, though not a Buffalonian, nevertheless touched the edge, so to speak, of Buffalo’s history. The son of a Polish nobleman, he had to come to America in 1832. After a varied experience he went to Toronto in 1841, became prominently connected with the department of public works and was subsequently, from 1871 to 1873, the principal engineer in constructing the International Bridge across the Niagara River. The present large colony of Poles at Black Rock have constantly before them this memorial of the achievement of one of their countrymen in the New World.
Immigration of Later Years
The immigration of Polish peasants to America began in the ‘50s, with the settlement at Panna Marya, Tex., Parisville, Mich., and Polonia, Wis. Most of the immigrants landed in New York and went directly to the Central States. But, from the beginning, a few ended their journey at Buffalo, usually for the employment here. The census of 1870 showed about 135 natives of Poland in the city. It is probable that by the beginning of the year 1873 there were about 500 Poles here. About 30 families lived in the vicinity of St. Mary’s Church on Broadway and Pine Street and there were some on Ash, Walnut, Spruce, Sycamore, Genesee and Carroll Streets. Many of these first settlers are still alive and prospering at the end of 40 years.
Building of Saint Stanislaus
At that time the majority of the Poles attended St. Mary’s Church. Joseph Bork, former City Treasurer, was a member of that church. Mr. Bork had observed that in the years 1871 and 1872 Polish immigrants in large numbers were passing through Buffalo on their way to Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee and other Western points, and it occurred to him that some of these immigrants might be induced to stop at Buffalo. The rector of St. Mary’s, Father E. F. Shauer, later provincial of the Redemptorist Order in the United States, advised him that the surest way of bringing about this result would be to build a Polish church and school. The Polish immigrants, said Father Shauer, were unwilling to live where there were no priests of their own nationality and no religious services and school instruction in their own language.
Acting at once upon this suggestion, Mr. Bork, early in 1873, deeded to the Catholic diocese a piece of land on Peckham Street, extending north 300 feet between Townsend and Wilson Streets, and on this land a few months later put up a frame building for combined use as a church and school. Father Jan Pitass, a young Polish priest born in Silesia and educated in Rome, and who had come the Buffalo in May, 1873 from Niagara University where he had been ordained, was put in charge of the new parish. He celebrated his first mass at Saint Michael’s on Washington Street on June 8th and soon afterward moved into the new building.
The starting up of Polish communities in the United States has usually been marked by the erection of churches. In Buffalo, the founding of the Church of Saint Stanislaus was undoubtedly the principal cause of the great increase in the number of Polish immigrants which soon followed, and Father Pitass may be regarded as the godfather of the present Polish colony.
But Mr. Bork played the part of nurse to this colony in its infancy. He owned the land from Smith Street east to the Belt Line and from Howard Street north to Broadway. In the section between Smith and William streets and Fillmore Avenue he began to build one-story frame houses and to sell them to the Poles on the basis of $25 or $50 down with the rest payable under mortgage. In three months he put up about 300 such houses.
Panic of ’73 and Hard Times
In 1873 came the famous panic and after it a period of hard times. Mr. Bork maker a statement that the Poles did not, however, feel the ill effects for a couple of years, and that, all in all, none of the immigrant groups which have come to Buffalo secured as good a start as did they. Most of the men were working as street laborers, and many of them were employed in sewing for dealers in ready made clothing. Thanks to Mr. Bork’s policy of never renting a house, and to natural Polish thrift, a very large proportion of the families were rapidly acquiring the ownership of newly built little homes. They added to their income by taking lodgers.
The Polish colony increased threefold or fourfold in size in the year 1873. In 1874 and 1875 the increase amounted to 25 percent and 20 percent. This shows that the immigration was beginning to decline in those years, and by the beginning of 1876 it had apparently ceased, and some of the immigrants were returning to the old country.
Yet in this period the district bounded by Fillmore Avenue , Broadway, Smith and William Streets steadily built up and became the Polish quarter. Most of the families who were living in the neighborhood of Pine Street and Broadway moved thither, chiefly to be with the main colony of their countrymen…
The Influx of 1879-81
The depression consequent on the panic of 1873 disappeared toward the close of the ‘70s, and by 1879 a period of high prosperity had set in. Throughout the country there was a sudden expansion of Polish immigration. Buffalo was affected by this and, it would appear, to a greater extent than other cities.
During the severe winter of 1878-79, most of the men who had been out work found employment in shoveling snow from the railroads. The return of good times was felt in generally higher earnings. The Poles began to write home enthusiastic reports of the opportunities here, and to urge their friends to follow in their steps. What was more to the point, they began to send over money to pay the steamship passages of families and relatives.
These influences combined to bring about a great increase in the Polish immigration to Buffalo. The colony had begun to grow again in 1877 and in the next year increased by fifteen to twenty percent. Then in 1879 began a tremendous influx. At the beginning of that year there were about 2,500 Poles in Buffalo. By the end of the year there were close to 3,500 and in the course of the following year that number nearly doubled.
The influx reached its height the following winter, and continued, in only slightly diminished proportions, through the spring and summer of 1881, by which time there were between 9,000 and 16,000 Poles in the city.
Congestion and Suffering
The Poles are by nature thrifty, cautious, and not given to taking risks. Very few of the immigrants were actually destitute on their arrival. Most of them brought a little nest egg sufficient to insure their getting along tolerably, provided only the conditions to which they came proved favorable. And the majority did manage to get a foothold surprisingly quickly.
But in such great numbers were the Poles pouring into Buffalo at this time that it was impossible for them all to secure steady employment and to provide themselves with decent housing. Though dwellings were being built rapidly in the district about Saint Stanislaus, they were built primarily for sale and, even when rented, were beyond the reach of many of the immigrants. Such had to go to the poorest tenements, where they could get bare living space, sometimes even mere sleeping spaces, for as small a payment as possible. Destitution, overcrowding, and severe suffering inevitably resulted. In an interview published on June 18,1881, Dr. A H. Briggs, one of the physicians of the health department, stated that in one tenement on Carroll Street he had found 50 people under one roof, seventeen living in a single room fourteen feet square, and all the rooms so packed at night that it was impossible to open the doors. In that house there were thirteen sick children.
Question of Poor Relief
The assertion was made in many quarters that the Poles, though they were industrious and provident, nevertheless pursued a policy of subsisting on poor relief themselves while they sent their earnings to relatives in Poland to defray the cost of transportation to America , and that they accompanied their remittance to their kinsmen with assurances that the latter could likewise depend, after their arrival, on comfortable support from the overseers of the poor. It was alleged that such action on the part of the Poles, combined with exaggerated accounts of general prosperity over here, was the principal cause of a flood of immigration which was pouring into Buffalo and therefore, indirectly, of the suffering which existed. In order to get at the facts in this matter, if possible, I have gone carefully over the books in the office of the overseer of the poor, which contain the records of these early years. My findings are as follows: in theyear ended October 1878, of which time there were from 1,750 to 2,100 Poles in the city and when the hard times due to the panic of ’73 were beginning to make themselves felt, 107 Polish families received poor relief to the extent of $3,007.53, out of a total expenditure of $83,523.33. In the following year, 152 families were assisted to the extent of $4,872.29 out of a total of $98,089.99. In 1877, the same number of families were helped but the amount given fell to $3,731.27 out of a total of $96,658.98. In 1878 when, as has been mentioned, the depression was disappearing , the number of families assisted fell to 78 and the amount of relief to $1,459.67. In 1879,82 families redeived $590.89. In 1880, with a Polish population of about 2,500, nineteen families received $787.75.
These figures certainly do not lead to the conclusion that dependence on poor relief was at all general on the part of the Poles or even that it existed to an abnormal degree among them. On the contrary, they would appear to prove that as the Poles secured an industrial foothold, they ceased to make use of such assistance.
But, the question of causes aside, the overcrowding and suffering became so bad that not only philanthropic agencies, but the city itself was forced to take action. The health department made expenditures for extra employment of physicians and maintained a system of inspection of immigrants for the purpose of guarding against contagious diseases. The Common Council, at a meeting early in June, had appropriated $500 for the erection of temporary quarters in the form of barracks to provide shelter for the most needy. These barracks were completed by the 10th of June and one section was reserved for quarantine purposes. They were located at first on Rich Street near Best, but owing to protest from the residents in that vicinity were after a few weeks moved to Fillmore Avenue between Broadway and Lovejoy. At the outset, lodging was furnished free, but a little later it was voted to collect rent proportionate to the means of the tenants. The following December these barracks were sold by the city to George Bork, brother of Joseph Bork. One of the most conspicuous landmarks of the Polish district, they continued standing and served for living purposes for several years.
Be it said again that the great majority of the Poles in Buffalo were not in need of these special measures of assistance and did not fall on either public or private agencies. Owing to no small degree to these measures, but in far greater degree to high wages and plenty of employment, the conditions of the less fortunate minority were rapidly ameliorated, and by the settling in of winter in 1881, the situation was developing along normal lines.
Mr. Bork resumed his building operations in the Polish district about this time. Evidence of the economic progress the Poles were making is had in the fact that he sold houses to many of the families who were living in the barracks, entering into advance contracts with them while they were still occupying the barracks quarters. Mr. Bork began to build some two-story houses, advising the Poles to buy them and to help pay for them by renting part of the house. There were very few families who bought houses from him in the early ‘80’s, he states, that had not paid for them in two years.
It has been estimated that by the autumn of 1881 there were between 9,000 and 10,000 Poles in the city. Immigration in great numbers continued down to the hard times of 1893. From such information as is at present available it would appear that more Poles came to Buffalo between 1884 and 1888 than to any four-year period before or since. By 1890 there must have been about 20,000 Poles in Buffalo, in spite of the fact that the census for that year showed only 8,870 persons born in Poland.
Through the middle ‘90’s, as had been the case through the middle ‘70’s, there wasnot a little re-migration to Poland. Immigration started up again in 1897 and though it did apparently did not attain, in single years, proportions equal to those of the period 1884-1888, yet it is probable that the total number of immigrants for the entire decade, 1897-1907, was larger than that for the decade 1883-1893. The depression which began in ’97 caused another contraction which is only now beginning to relax. There is every reason to believe, however, that with a period of prosperity now setting in, the Polish immigration will again become large.
The great majority of the Polish immigrants in Buffalo, down to 1890, were from German Poland. Since then, the German Polish immigration has fallen off over 80 percent. About 1890, the immigration from Galicia, the Austrian Polish province, began to increase rapidly and ere long assumed first place. Not long afterward the Russian immigration started up, and though not at present as large as the Austrian, bids fair to surpass it in a few years. Today about 50 percent of the foreign-born Poles in the city are from German Poland, about 30 percent from Austrian Poland and about twenty percent from Russian Poland. As a rule, those from Germany are the best educated, the majority of them having had an elementary schooling equivalent to that given in the first five or six grades of our public schools. The immigrants from Germany are also perhaps a little better off materially and there is a larger proportion of persons having trades among the. But in native capacity there is little difference between the immigrants from these three parts of Poland. The German Poles, having been in Buffalo longer than the others have, of course, a larger list of successes to their credit, but the Austrian and Russian Poles are rapidly evening matters up. In the last four years, the Russian immigration has doubled, owing to hardship brought about by compulsory military service in the Russian-Japanese War and afterward and to the revolutionary disturbances. The great majority of the immigrants from all three sections are peasants. More of the Austrian Poles return to the old country, especially in hard times. As respects political, economic and social freedom, conditions are much better in Austrian Poland than in either of the other two districts. That is one reason why the Austrian Poles are more inclined to go back. On the other hand, Austrian Poland is overcrowded and the land is impoverished. That is why the Austrian Poles usually return to America, after all.
The boundaries of the Polish colony began to extend in the latter ‘80’s. The present church of Saint Stanislaus, begun in 1882 and the building of which was supervised by Father Pitass in person, was complete in 1885. That same year, Mr. Bork, in partnership with others, bought the land from Broadway north to Sycamore and from Fillmore Avenue east to the Belt Line. In the central part of that district, in the following year, a second Polish church, Saint Adelbert’s, was erected. The land about it, as the church was being built, was a cornfield, but after the crop was gathered Mr. Bork laid out and sidewalked many of the present streets. Before the church was completed, he had put up 300 houses, and by the following summer, 800.
The two outlying Polish colonies sprang up about this time. The Church of the Assumption was founded at Black Rock in 1889, and the fifth church, Saint Casimira, was erected on Cable Street, near the eastern city line, in 1891.
As for the principal Polish district, its growth up to the present, in respect both to geographical extension and numbers, has been roughly marked by the erection of churches. The fourth church, that of Saint John Kanty , was built in 1890 on the corner of Brownell Street and Broadway, carrying the areas of settlement to the south of Broadway, east of the Belt Line toward Bailey Avenue
, though it is only since 1900 that his locality has been built up compactly. The Church of the Transfiguration was built in 1893, near Saint Adelbert’s, on Stanislaus and Mill Streets, and signifying the continued building up of the older section. The last Church, the so-called independent or Old Catholic Church, was built in 1894 on the corner of Sycamore and Sobieski Streets, and was also in line with the eastern trend of Polish settlement in the city. Corpus Christi Church, located on the corner of Clark and Kent Streets, was built in 1898. Then, in 1908, the Church of Saint Luke was built at the corner of Sycamore Street and Miller Avenue, as an outpost at the northeast. The youngest church of them all is that of Saints Peter and Paul, erected last year on the corner of Clinton and Smith Streets for the benefit of about 200 families living south of William Street.
The Poles in Buffalo Today (1910)
The towers of the present church of Saint Stanislaus, reaching high into the sky above the small frame building, still standing, which served as church and school from 1873 to 1882, symbolizes the growth of the entire Polish community in numbers, area, wealth and influence, since its beginning. Today there are approximately 70,000 Poles in Buffalo. The part of East Buffalo which they occupy extends a mile and a quarter from east to west and nearly a mile from north to south. In place of one church, there are ten churches. This district is compactly built up with homes, and all through it are scattered stores and business places which testify to the great economic advance which has been made. Today, instead of being strangers in a strange city, the Poles constitute one sixth of the total population, and have representatives in the government of the city, county and state.
Surely the social and economic situation of these people is sufficiently important to merit the most careful attention, with an eye directly equally to the progress which has been made and is being made, and to the removal of any serious obstacles which impede still greater progress.
In the preceding article of this series, which appeared in The Illustrated Express for January 23d, and outlined the history of the Poles in Buffalo, it was pointed out that the Polish colony had its rise with the building of the Church of Saint Stanislaus in 1873, and that it entered upon a large and rapid increase in 1880.
Though allusion was made to the stress brought about by the panic of '73, and to some inevitable unemployment, congestion and hardship attendant upon the great influx of 1880, yet it was stated that from the first the Poles began to acquire the ownership of little homes built specially for sale to them, in the Saint Stanislaus neighborhood, and that probably no other of the several immigrant groups which have come to Buffalo got so favorable a start. "The Poles," it was remarked, "are by nature thrifty, cautious and not given to taking risks. Very few of the Immigrants were actually destitute on their arrival. Most of them brought a little nest egg sufficient to insure their getting along tolerably, provided only the conditions to which they came proved favorable." And emphasis was put on the fact that an Industrial foothold was secured surprisingly quickly by the great majority of the numbers who poured into the city in 1880.
Since then, 30 years have elapsed, during which the Polish colony has grown tenfold or more, from about 7,000 to at least 70,000 souls. Has there been a corresponding economic advance? If it is true, as has been said, that the Poles got a good start, is it also true that they have made good material progress? What is the colony's showing, from an economic point of view, today?
There questions it is my purpose in the present article to try to answer.
Ownership of Property
One of the most reliable tests of a people's economic condition, in the broadest and deepest sense, is had in the ownership of property. Such ownership denotes first, that the owners, generally by Industry and thrift, must previously have risen in the economic scale not a little above the point of bare fighting subsistence; and second, that the owners are now in possession of one of the solidest foundations on which economic stability and progress can rest.
Three of the clerks in the city assessors' department have devoted two weeks to going through the 1909 books and setting down the location and assessed value of the property owned by Poles. Two circumstances have made this task -- and for that matter, others related to the same subject -- far easier than would otherwise have been the case. One is that at least 90 per cent, and probably 95 per cent of Polish names are recognizable as such, from their spelling and especially from their characteristic endings. It is true that some names have been Germanized, but the proportion is slight. It is also true that a larger number of Poles assume American names, but in the great majority of instances these names are merely for convenience in coming and going among Americans, have not been adopted by legal procedure and do not appear in legal transactions, like the purchase of property. The other favoring circumstance is that 95 per cent of the Poles live in four districts, the boundaries of which were given in the preceding article, and in parts of which they constitute almost the entire population. It has been practicable, therefore, for the clerks in the assessors' department to confine themselves to these districts, and within these districts it has been possible to identify the Polish names with a close approach to certainty. Moreover, all doubtful names were noted, for purpose of verification later.
The principal Polish district begins several streets west of Fillmore Avenue and extends east nearly to Bailey Avenue. It is bounded on the south by William and Curtiss streets and the New York Central Railway, and on the north by Genesee street and Walden avenue. In the section between Shumway and Herman Sstreets, as outside boundaries on the west, and taking In the western side of Fiilmore avenue, the assessed value of the property owned by Poles is $1,235,300. This Includes Saint Stanislaus Church and school and two charitable Institutions maintained by the Felician Sisters, non-taxable property assessed at $239,860.
The great bulk of this property is situated in the part of this section bounded by Coit and William Streets, Fillmore Avenue and Broadway, which was the original nucleus of the colony. But the Poles have for some time been moving into the very open and pleasant locality north of Broadway, and in many instances displacing the German residents. Still more recently they have crossed Sycamore, and are now on the way to Genesee. Fillmore Avenue, north of Broadway, is to the Polish district what Delaware avenue is to the West Side.
In the section Including the east side of Fillmore avenue, and extending eastward to Bailey Avenue -- thus comprising the remainder of the principal Polish district -- the property owned by the Poles totals to $5,130,305 in assessed value. This Includes non-taxable property, consisting of six churches, assessed at $1,184,845.
Throughout most of that part of this section which lies west of the Belt Line and south of Sycamore street, the Poles own nearly all of the property. East of the Belt Line to Koons avenue, Wick and Deshler streets, and from Sycamore street south to the railroad, which is the district built up since 1900, they own $1,185,775, out of a total assessed valuation of $1,929,670, which Is 56 per cent of the whole. Their holdings extend to within one block of Bailey Avenue, To the northward, they are pushing closer and closer to Walden avenue, and, in a few instances, have crossed It.
Combining the above figures, it appears that In the principal Polish district as a whole the Poles own property of an assessed value of $8,385,805, of which $1,424,695 1s non-taxable, making the taxable property $4,940,910.
Figures for outlying Districts
The most compactly settled of the three smaller Polish communities is that in the neighborhood of Saint Casimir's Church, which is situated a little south of Clinton street near the eastern city line. The boundaries of this district are, roughly, Gorski Street
on the west, Buffalo Creek on the south, the city line on the east and Griswold street on the north. Within these boundaries, the Poles own property assessed at $228,886, including $50,300 non-taxable. This Is approximately 50 per cent of the total assessed value for the district.
The Poles at Black Rock are not so compactly grouped, but are to a large extent intermixed with Ruthenians, Hungarians and Germans. The great majority of them, however, live in the section bounded by the Scajaquada Creek on the south, by the Belt Line extending from the Black Rock station to the Elmwood avenue station, on the West and north, and by Elmwood Avenue on the east. In this section Polish property holdings amount to $339,505, of which $44,980 is non-taxable.
There is another smaller scattered settlement of about 800 Polish families in the district about the new Church of Saints Peter and Paul, situated on the corner of Clinton and Smith streets. The proportion of these families who own property is, however, much smaller as yet. The scattered holdings in the district amount to $48,360, of which $7,665 is non-taxable.
$12,000,000 in Market Value
Adding the figures for these four districts gives the total assessed value of property owned by Poles as $7,038,435, of which $1,533,145 is non-taxable, leavIng the taxable and taxpaying total $5,505,890.
From Information received I believe that this assessed value may be assumed to be about 60 per cent of the actual value of the property. On this reckoning, the market value of the Polish property, taxable and non-taxable, is $11,730,726. The market value of the taxable property alone is $8,176,483. I think It may safely be assumed also, that isolated property holdings of Poles in other parts of the city would bring these totals close to $12,000,000 and $9,500,000 respectively.
Progress of 30 Years
These figures show beyond question that in the 30 years which have elapsed since the Poles began to come to Buffalo in large numbers, the increase in the amount of property owned by them has far outstripped their increase in numbers. The appreciation In the value. of property in the districts where they live, and especially in the principal district lying east of Fillmore avenue and north and south of Broadway, has been tremendous, and this appreciation of value has, in the main, been brought about by the Poles themselves, through their populating and building up of these districts and the creation thereby of a demand for all kinds of business.
Over 4,000 Polish Homes
Ninety-five per cent of the number of taxable pieces of property owned by Poles and close to 90 per cent of the value of their holdings consists of homes and land to be used for the erection of homes. The number of vacant lots held is very small; only 512, as compared with 4,304 built up. Though many of the built-up lots are occupied by stores and business establishments of different sorts, in a majority of cases the proprietors and their families live on the premises, so that these stores may be regarded as homes. It is probable that the number of business buildings which do not serve for dwelling purposes also, would be roughly matched by the number of homes to be found here and there in other parts of the city. So that it is safe to put the number of Polish homes at approximately 4,304 and steadily increasing. It is impossible to state at the present time, however, what the proportion of those families who own their homes is, compared to the total number of families, and it is also impossible, without further data, to estimate the total Polish population on the basis of the number of homes owned,. Material necessary to these calculations is now being gathered.
Mortgages on Polish Property.
A very large proportion of Polish families begin to buy a home after they have been in the city about a couple of years and have saved up from $200 to $400 to enable them to make an initial payment and give a mortgage for the balance. In the preceding article it was stated that the Polish Immigration to Buffalo has steadily continued and that probably a larger number of immigrants came here in the decade 1897-07 than in either of the two previous decades. It is, of course, true, therefore, that the majority of the Polish homes are still subject to mortgages. The amount of mortgage liability varies in the case of different neighborhoods, according to the length of time the neighborhood has been builtup. In the section from Coit street east to the Belt Line, and from William and Curtiss Streets north to Broadway, probably 60 per cent of the homes, at least, are free and clear of encumbrance. On the other hand, in the larger part of the section east of the Belt Line, and of that north of Sycamore street , probably not more than ten per cent. are clear. It seems to be the general opinion of those best informed that, taking the several Polish districts together, the proportion of unmortgaged property would be between 25 and 30 per cent, and that the average lien on the balance would equal about 60 per cent of its value.
In order to ascertain the most important facts regarding the size, durationand general satisfactoriness of Polish mortgages, letters requesting detailed information were sent to the savings banks, savings and loan associations, insurance companies and individual dealers known to carry a large number of theme mortgages. I desire here to express my grateful appreciation of the prompt and painstaking replies received.
The testimony thus obtained has been of a remarkable unanimity at almost every point. The great majority of mortgages, it is stated, are incurred at the time of the purchase of the property, and for improvements afterwards. The proportion incurred to secure funds to put Into business ventures is very small, showing that the Poles, as a rule, prefer to let their business undertakings grow more slowly, if necessary, than to risk the loss of their homes or even to assume a certain present burden for the sake of an uncertain future gain. The mortgages given to obtain money for showy expenditure -- as among other elements of the city's population, for automobiles -- is nil. The mortgages generally range in amount from $800 to $2,000, but are usually about $1,200. They run from five to eleven years, but seven or eight years is their average duration. Though there are an increasing number of more expensive dwellings, the majority of Polish homes are worth from $1,200 to $5,000, and the value of commonest occurrence is about $1,800. The ratio of the amount of the mortgage to the full value of the property is, except in the case of savings banks, which lend only to the extent of 50 per cent, very high, not infrequently in cases where second mortgages are taken, reaching 90 per cent. The number and total value of mortgages on Polish property have not shown either an appreciable increase or an appreciable decrease recently, but have remained at about the same point, which indicates, apparently, that on account of the steady growth of the Polish population in numbers and material well-being, new mortgages by new home-builders have been incurred as those previously incurred have year by year been paid off.
But it is in connection with the questions relating to the general satisfactoriness of the Polish mortgages, and to the squareness of the Poles in their mortgage transactions, that the testimony which has in part been summarised Is most interesting. Though the letters which have been received are confidential, so far as the identity of the writers are concerned it is permissible for me to quote from them without giving names.
Here is what one writer, who, from the number of Polish mortgages he holds, is well qualified to speak, has to say: "The Poles are a hard-working, honest, saving lot of people. It is the ambition of every Polish family to own their own home. As a rule, these mortgages are paid off, right from the start. I have no recollection, at the present time, that we have ever foreclosed one of them. We consider them very good."
This from an equally authoritative source:"We have found them to be honest and square in their dealings. They are thrifty and as a rule pay their interest promptly, and seem to be anxious to reduce the principal of the mortgage as soon as possible. It is quite unusual for us to be obliged to foreclose a Polish mortgage."
Says another: "They are quite thrifty and deal intelligently with mortgage matters, interest and principal; some of them who can't speak a word of English come to my office to make payments of both principal and interest; this experience is had with both men and women, but most of the mortgage payments of interest and principal are made by women and girls. I have not had but one or two foreclosures of Polish mortgages in fifteen years. I have taken a great many of them for myself and my clients and have always found them most satisfactory and am still taking them."
And finally, the following: "Through the handling of a number of estates I have for the past eight years had control of a very large number of mortgages given by Polish citizens; probably 400 in all. During these eight years I have had but one foreclosure. I find that the Polish citizen first desires to own a home and that he and the entire family will bend their entire energies toward the payment for that home, and that it is very, very seldom they lose their property through foreclosure proceedings. I have found them square in their dealings, and as a race believe them to be industrious and thrifty."
Nearly all Polish homes are insured at close to their full value, and fully 80 per cent of the tenants class insure their furniture. I have talked with the four Polish underwriters of fire Insurance, and have sent out to the 67 other underwriters In the city letters of inquiry, many replies to which have already been received. As it appears, however, that the matter of insurance is rather more closely related to housing conditions, it will be taken up in a subsequent article which will deal with these conditions.
Deposits in Savings Banks
So much for the subject of ownership of real estate and homes. A closely related test of economic well-being consists of deposits in savings banks. The, American Savings Bank, established last July, has already kindly furnished a list of the number and amount of its Polish deposits (of course, without giving the names of the depositors). Similar information is expected later from the three other savings banks. The value of the service they will be contributing, in furnishing this information, will be realized when it is stated that in order to check off the Polish deposits they will be obliged to go through about 185,000 accounts in all. Meanwhile, two of these banks have given estimates of the amount of their Polish deposits. Assuming that these estimates are close to the actual facts, it would appear that in these two banks and the American bank, the Poles have nearly $6,000,000. To this must be added the amount in the remaining bank, which did not make an estimate.
There are about a dozen commercial banks in which Poles carry accounts. These banks, too, have gone to the trouble of looking-up the number and value of such deposits. The nine which have already been heard from have 424 Polish accounts, totaling to $126,185 These figures are more valuable in showing that there are a good many Polish businessmen dealing with a number of different banks, than in affording evidence of the wealth of these business-men. Intelligent businessmen -- and the Polish businessmen are intelligent -- keep the bulk of their funds profitably invested and maintain only such bank balances as are necessary for purposes of daily business convenience. In this connection, I may mention that one of the trustees of the American Savings Bank Is Dr. Francis E. Fronczak, the acting health commissioner, and that Stanislaus Lipowicz, the wholesale grocer, is a director of the Union Stock Yards Bank, in which there are also a number of Polish stockholders.
What of the Future?
Yes, the Poles have made great economic progress in 30 years -- of that there can be no doubt They have a right to be proud of this progress and the City of Buffalo may congratulate itself upon the possession of a great number of naturally industrious, thrifty citizens. But while the economic showing of the Poles today is very favorable to them, is it favorable enough to satisfy them and to satisfy those who desire to see them realize their potentialities to the full?
The other side of the situation appears when the value of the Polish property holdings is compared with the total value of property for the city as a whole, The total assessed value of taxable and-non-taxable property for the entire city is $328,722,536 and of taxable property alone, $277,874,805. Of these totals the corresponding Polish totals form two per cent, and 1.8 per cent. The Polish population, however, is at least eighteen per cent of the population of the city. So that if the Poles were to own property of an amount proportionate to their part of the population, they ought to own nine or ten times as much as at present. To expect that they, who are comparative newcomers to Buffalo and who have as a rule come without much other capital than their good muscle and good sense, should own so large an amount of property at the present time would, of course, be unreasonable, but to expect that their property holdings shall constantly increase in proportionate value is entirely reasonable. This proportionate increase will not come, however, while the Polish holdings are confined to the few districts in which the Poles now live, and while business property continues to constitute so small a part of their holdings. The Poles must get possession of property in other and more highly assessed sections of the city, and especially in the business sections, for it is the business property which swells the total valuation for the city to so high a figure. The Poles must follow in the footsteps of the Germans in this respect, and they must have an eye, too, lest the aggressive Italians, still more recent comers than they themselves, outstrip them in acquiring the ownership of property in the downtown districts, The signs are, however, that the rising generation of Poles are coming to realize their opportunities and are preparing to take advantage of them.
In the following article, which will deal with the Poles in Business, I Intend to take up the large number of Polish business establishments and to tell the stories of the growth of a few of the largest of them to their present proportions.
No one who passes through East Buffalo on a Fillmore, Sycamore or Broadway car, can fail to be impressed by the many stores and other business places displaying Polish names. But from these car windows can be seen only a small portion of the principal Polish district, to say nothing of the several outlying sections. And because to most people the Polish colony is terra incognito, few know how large a number and what a varied assortment of Polish business places there are in Buffalo.
Inquiry on my part elicited, even from comparatively well-informed quarters, widely differing estimates. I soon realized that the only way in which I could secure accurate and complete information would be actually to go over the ground myself and make a list of all Polish establishments.
Street to Street Canvass That was the course, therefore, which I adopted. I expected that this peripatetic enumeration would take not more than two or three days at the longest.
The start was made on Sycamore street , proceeding eastward from a little west of Fillmore avenue. My equipment consisted of a trusty pencil, a bunch of note cards, and an exceedingly keen and stealthy look. Most Polish names are easy enough to identify. But with their many letters strangely combined, they are by no means easy for the unaccustomed eye to make out clearly, especially when the observer wishes to keep at a courteous distance, and they are still less easy to transfer to paper rapidly and correctly. He who runs cannot read such appellations as Szynakiewicz and Niebieszczanski. Moreover, in order to guard against omissions or errors, I found it necessary, with respect to places not unmistakably marked by Polish names, to ascertain the nationality of the proprietors by inquiry in the vicinity and often inside the places in question.
The whole procedure was not lacking in humor. As I made my way along, now on this side of the street, and now on that; now assuming an attitude of apparent indifference on a corner, while furtively endeavoring to decipher the inscriptions on half a dozen windows, and again in desperation taking up a brazen stand immediately in front of some doubtful place; and all the time writing mysteriously on the cards I carried - I confess that I reminded myself of a certain character who, in the Bible, is said to walk up and down over the earth, and I have no doubt that this resemblance was obvious to those who beheld my strange performances.
The most serious obstacle in the way of rapid progress in this count was the unexpectedly large number of Polish business places. There proved to be 63 on Sycamore street alone, and my personally conducted census of them consumed most of the first day. The second day, having enumerated 44 places on Fillmore avenue, between Sycamore and William streets, I resolved to save Broadway, the principal thoroughfare, until the last, and meanwhile to hurry through the side streets, which, beginning at Coit street on the west, run north and south from William street and the New York Central to Broadway, and from Broadway to Walden avenue, with Peckham, Lovejoy, Stanislaus and a number of shorter streets intersecting them, east as far as Bailey avenue. I reasoned that as all these streets were built up with dwellings, short work could be made of counting the few scattered shops which might be found on them. But it transpired that on Coit street and the corners formed by intersections there are eleven Polish business places; on Detroit, seventeen; Townsend, nineteen; Wilson, fifteen and so on. The programme of hurrying had to be abandoned and I settled down to an itinerary the completion of which, with other work intervening, took, instead of several days, several weeks.
Information from other Sources
This street-to-street canvass of the principal Polish district was supplemented by information secured in other ways. One of Buffalo's most prominent Polish citizens, Dr. Francis E. Fronczak, the acting health commissioner, has given great assistance, especially in furnishing lists, prepared from the registration records in his department, of the Polish milk dealers, bakers and, confectioners, junk dealers and midwives. The number of Poles holding licenses for selling meats, and of Polish second-hand dealers was ascertained from the license clerk in the Mayor's office. Similar information concerning Polish market men in the Broadway market was taken from the market books kept in the Comptroller's department. The number of Polish saloons was secured from the excise commission. The cordial willingness of city and state departments to cooperate in the work undertaken by the Buffalo Social Survey has been most gratifying, and the assistance given has been invaluable.
The data collected from these sources have been compared closely with that which I gathered by means of the street-to-street canvass which has been described, and thus duplications have been eliminated and possible omissions avoided, so far as the main Polish district is concerned. The following tabulation for that district is, therefore, approximately complete:
Polish Business Places
Groceries (of which from 75 to 80 are full-fledged groceries, 41 hold licenses to sell meats and nine to sell milk
Saloons (including a few bottling works and wholesale liquor firms)
Butcher shops (including one which holds a license to sell milk)
Marketmen in Broadway Market
Dealers in insurance, real estate, steamship tickets and foreign exchange
Milk dealers (including a few dairies; the others simply retailing milk supplied by dairies)
Dealers in religious wares
Painters, Paperhangers, etc.
Furniture stores (dealing also in junk and secondhand goods)
Printing plants (outside of newspapers)
Paper flower stores
Wholesale and retail flour, feed, hay and grain
Wholesale and retail lumber yard
Wholesale and retail coffee and spices store
Bicycle repair shop
Furniture repair shop
Rain-pipe repair shop
Coffee and tea store
Secondhand and junk store
Hair tonic manufacturer
Teams for hire
Paint and oil store
In outlying Communities The Polish colonies in Black Rock, Clinton street near the city line, and the scattered settlement through the large district lying south of William street and east of Bailey avenue have not yet been covered street by street, but through the information received from the several quarters which have been mentioned, and general inquiry, the majority of business places situated in these sections have probably been accounted for. Those which have been located thus are as follows:
Black Rock District
Clinton Street-City Line
Restaurant (with bar)
1,200 business Places It appears by the first of the lists given above that, in the principal Polish district, the number of groceries which hold licenses to sell meat is almost as large as the number of butcher shops. The same situation, doubtless, exists in the outlying sections, and it may be assumed that of the 31 places where meat is sold in these sections, about fifteen are groceries. To these should be added, perhaps, fifteen to 25 groceries which do not sell meats, and which, for that reason, cannot be discovered from the meat-license records. There would be about the same number of business places of other kinds than those included in the lists relating to these outlying sections, and at least twice as many painters, paperhangers, carpenters, plumbers and dressmakers. These items would bring the number of business places in these sections up to 228, which, added to the 773 places enumerated in the main district, would make over 1,000. But in this main district also there are, without any doubt, a great many more painters, carpenters and the like, than were actually counted, as only those were counted which could be located by signs displayed, and the great majority of them do not have any such signs. The same thing is true to a certain extent in the case of dressmakers and tailors. Making these allowances, it is safe to say that, all told, there are in Buffalo approximately 1,200 Polish business places and business proprietors.
This means that if the Polish population of Buffalo is 70,000, one Pole out of every 58 (this 58 including not only adult men, but women and children) is a business proprietor. If the Polish population is 80,000, the ratio would be one in 67. An effort will be made later to ascertain the corresponding ratio for other elements of the population, and for the city at large, but it may be presumed that the showing of the Poles in this respect is highly creditable. Aside from the questions of relative volume of business transacted, and relative income from this business, the mere fact that there is such a large number and such a large proportion of independent proprietors among the Poles is, especially when taken in conjunction with their ownership of homes, as discussed in the preceding article of this series, significant of their innate independence of character. Many of the Poles in Buffalo today, and the ancestors of nearly all of them, have, from time immemorial, been peasant owners of small farms in Poland, and their agricultural communities have been largely self-sufficing. This traditional mode of living has implanted in the Poles a deep-seated attachment to economic independence, which has become almost second nature to them, and which is now manifesting itself in their new and vastly different American environment.
Among the many kinds of Polish business establishments, first place, numerically, is occupied by saloons. So far as can be determined from examination of names, the directory published by the excise commission last December shows that there were at that time 221 Polish holders of liquor licenses. To these should be added a few whose nationality could not be determined, either from the names or from the location of saloons, and a larger number who, with the full return of good times, have gone into the saloon business since this directory was printed. From a comparison of the number given in the directory as situated in the main Polish district, which is 149, and the number I actually counted in that district and of whose Polish proprietorship I made certain, which was 176, it would appear that 27, at most, have started up in this district within the last few months. The addition of the 27 brings the, total up to 248, to which must be added also those of recent appearance in other localities. According to this reckoning there must be at least 250 Polish saloons in Buffalo. The instances in which I found saloons on three of the corners of street intersections were by no means rare, and in several cases saloons occupied each of the four corners. Their distribution is widespread. Besides the proportionately large number, 34, in the small Black Rock section, and the six in the compact colony at Clinton street and the city line, there are 32 in other localities. Most of these are scattered through the region south of William street, extending west even across lower Main street, but several of them are situated on the northern part of Fillmore avenue and on one of the streets leading from Fillmore in that vicinity.
Many of the saloons are very small and extremely meagre in their equipment, evidently being barely self-supporting, and are also objectionable from the point of view of cleanliness and sanitation. It is an interesting fact that 33 of the 250 or more liquor licenses are held by women.
The total number of liquor licenses outstanding in Buffalo at the time the excise commission's last directory was issued, was 1,571. Taking 221 as the minimum number of licenses held by Poles at that time, it will be seen that they hold over fourteen per cent. of the total number. In the preceding article, it was pointed out that the Poles own only 1.8 per cent. of the taxable property of the city. The proportion of Polish salons is, therefore, eight times as great as the proportion of property owned by Poles.
Other Kinds of Business
After saloons, in point of number, come what, for lack of a better description in a single word, must be called groceries. Of a total of 215 to 225 of these places, only 75 to 80, however, carry what grocers consider a full line of goods. The others are, so to speak, neighborhood shops, which sell, beside the household necessities in the way of groceries, a hundred and one other things, and in fact practically everything which the families in the immediate neighborhood may need from day to day, and which they find it convenient to buy in small quantities nearby. A smaller number of shops, which sell nearly everything except groceries - toys, stationery, newspapers, tobacco, candy and what not - utterly defy any definite classification and can only be listed as miscellaneous.
Of the 76 persons who are licensed to carry on trade in the Broadway market, 32 are Poles, and of these thirteen are women. Indeed, it may be noted in passing that the Polish women form a conspicuously large element among the proprietors. Of the 35 inside stalls in the market, sixteen are rented by Poles. At the Comptroller's office, I was told that this market has the reputation of being the promptest in rent payments and the cleanest in the city. The large number of Polish midwives is indicative both of a large demand for the services they render of the comparatively simple provisions for meeting this constant demand. Of the 46 midwives whose names given in the 1909 directory, 26 are Polish.
That there are 25 dealers in insurance, real estate, steamship tickets and foreign exchange, evidences the extent these kinds of business. Of these four are fire-insurance underwriters out of a total of about 70 in the city. The eighteen contractors find plenty building to keep them employed. The undertakers, each of whom has monopoly of the burials of a particular church, are among the wealthiest in the Polish colony, especially one them, Jan Platek, who has been an undertaker for Saint Stanislaus Church since its foundation. The number of Polish lawyers, physicians and dentists is small at present, but will soon be increased by the graduation of many students attending the University Buffalo and other schools. Of the news papers, two are dailies and two weeklies. The names of three of them, Polak w Ameryce, Polak Amerykanski, Gazeta Buffaloska, imply that the Poles in America are thinking of their present and future in this country and are here to stay.
Some larger Places, Polish Companies
In the foregoing lists, all business places, from the smallest to the largest, have been included. The great majority are small. Indeed, the very numerousness of the means that the greater number must be small and must remain small, till gradually, as the standard of living of the Poles rises and their demand for all sorts of commodities grows more discriminating, the larger, more enterprising and more efficient business places secure so great a part of the trade that the smaller ones will be forced to drop out. At the present time, the upward progress of many Polish business places, which are, no doubt, destined to outdistance others in the same field, is clearly discernible.
The Star Plating Works, owned and operated by Michael J. Nowak and situated at No. 98 Broadway, near Elm Street , are the largest nickel, copper and silver-plating works in the city, outside of those connected with manufacturing plants. The restaurant of the Lubelski Catering Company, at
No. 210 Pearl street , the proprietor of which is Max Lubelski, will, when the present quarters are extended through to Eagle street by early spring, be one of the most spacious restaurants and catering establishments in Buffalo. Stanley E. Mrugowski, in partnership with a German, John F. Zinns, is a prosperous tailor of No, 519 Washington street ,near Huron street.
The leading Polish company is the Polish Stock Company which, with a capital of $50,000, more than half paid in, is very successfully conducting a large clothing store on Broadway. The Polish Savings and Loan Association is the nearest approach as yet to a Polish bank. This company was authorized last March to carry on a banking business. It has already received $10,000 to $12,000 in deposits, at four per cent interest, and has lent this money out on first mortgages at six per cent. Its board of directors is composed of nineteen of the most successful Polish businessmen who, between them, are, in all probability, worth close to $1,000,000. The Frontier Preserving Company, at
No. 648-656 Michigan Street , and Our Soap Company, at No. 341 Davey Street, thought having German managers and, for the most part, German employees, are controlled by Polish stockholders.
A few conspicuous Successes
Though space forbids more than the briefest account of the growth to their present proportions of a few of the leading Polish business establishments, yet such an account is more likely to give the public a sympathetic understanding of the difficulties Polish businessmen have overcome, the headway they have already made, and the greater progress which they give promise of making in the future.
The largest Polish managed business in Buffalo is that of A. Schreiber Brewing Company, whose brewery, situated on Fillmore Avenue , a little south of Broadway, stands among the foremost in the city as respects size and output. I have not been able to ascertain how many Poles are interested in this company or what proportion of its shares they own, as compared with those owned by Germans living in New York. But there is no doubt that Mr. Schreiber, who is a Pole, is the actual directing force of the company. He was born in Raciaz, West Prussia, in 1864 and came to New York in 1881. At first he had difficulties enough in getting work. But after a time he secured a place in the office of Marx & Itawolle, manufacturders of glycerine and sealing wax, and from that time his evident ability insured his rapid promotion, u n t i l finally he became the firm's general agent for the ilnited States and Mexico. The plant, the building of which was begun in that year, has subsequently increased greatly in size and extent of ground occupied. Mr. Schreiber has for a number of years been at the head of the Polish National Alliance, holding the position of censor, which is above that of president. He has been a civil-service commissioner, and has acted on a board of immigration investigation appointed by the National Civic Federation. He lives on Main street near Summer street.
In the fields of real-estate, mortgages and comp a n y operations, three men who who stand out prominently are Frank Ruskiewicz, Boreslaw Dorasewiez and S. S. Nowicki. Mr. Ruskiewicz, who came from German Poland to Buffalo with his parents in 1888, as a boy of thirteen, until 1896 earned his living at hard rough labor. Then, through an appointment he received in the capitol at Albany he was enabled to take advantage of opportunities for a business college course, which he completed in Buffalo. In 1901 he was made license clerk, and field this position for four years. At this time he began to invest his savings in building lots, on which he erected dwellings for sale to his countrymen. Pending their sale, he would mortgage them to raise money for further operations. Subsequently he would sell the property for a cash payment of $500 to $600, with the remainder payable under second mortgage. Mr. Ruskieweicz has manipulated this system with remarkable success. During his four years as license clerk, he bought 81 lots, of which only five are unsold at present. In 1908 he bought 41 lots on Gibson Street, north of Broadway, and soon had them built up. Last year he bought 40 lots on Brownell and Deshler Streets, and 71 on Reed, Guilford and Genesee Streets.
Boreslaw Dorasewicz, whose office is in his fine, large dwelling at No. 750 Fillmore Avenue , was born in Wilkomierz, Russian Poland, in 1866, both his parents being members of the old Polish nobility. He came to America in 1877 in order to escape compulsory service in the Russian army. His first employment was in a clothing store in Chicago. Soon realizing that lack of knowledge of English was a tremendous obstacle in the way of advancement, he went to the University of Notre Dame to study, from there to Saint Hedwig's Parochial School at South Bend, Ind., as a teacher. After remaining there two years, he came to Buffalo in 1880 and taught in the parochial school of Saint Stanislaus Church and also in one of the public night schools. In 1891, while still continuing to teach, he entered into his present business of dealing in insurance, steamship tickets, foreign exchange, real estate and mortgage. He soon was able to give up his teaching. Since that his time his business has constantly grown. He has given special attention to mortgages, and is said to have over $75,900 out on loans on city property. Mr. Dorasewicz was in 1893 appointed admeasurer of vessels and United States gauger, and in 1895 was made deputy county clerk. In 1899 he was elected supervisor from the old eleventh ward, and was reelected in 1901, being the first Republican to carry that ward, which was overwhelmingly Democratic.
S. S. Nowicki, whose business is of the same nature as that of Mr. Dorasewicz, is especially identified with Polish business companies, with the effort to unite Polish businessmen in a progressive movement, and in general with all liberal and public-spirited enterprises. He is a young man, 37 years old, was born in German Poland and came to this country with his parents in 1881. The reason for his father's emigration was that he could not tolerate the oppression of the Poles by the German Government. At the age of fourteen he was forced to go out and earn his own living, as his father had died. With his earnings he paid for a business school education. Soon after completing the course, he secured employment in the office of the C. M. Clark Company, an insurance firm, with which he continued for eleven years, and then entered in business for himself, at No. 607 Fillmore avenue . He owns considerable property and is a leading stockholder in the four Polish companies which have already been mentioned. He is now acting president of the Polish Business Men's Association.
The wholesale grocery of Stanislaw K. Lipocvicz, the wholesale and retail lumber yard of M. A. Cwiklinski, and the manufactory and wholesale and retail flour, feed and grain store of A. Nowak & Son, all have remarkable histories of growth. Mr. Lipowicz came to Buffalo with his parents in 1885. Five years after his arrival, having meanwhile worked at various employments, he opened a small grocery at the corner of Peckham and Townsend streets with a capital of about $100. At present he has a large store on Broadway, with a special track running up in the rear and keeps four teams constantly busy delivering goods. His employees number about fifteen, including three agents and collectors. Mr. Lipowicz is a director of the Union Stockyards Bank and is also a large stockholder in the Polish companies. Mr. Cwiklinski, who is the largest Polish contractor as well as the only proprietor of a lumber yard, came to Buffalo in 1848, not quite seventeen years old. For awhile he worked at digging and was then for 1 1/2 years in the freighthouse of the New York Central Railroad. He then became a carpenter and worked for various firms, all the time saving money and looking forward to going into business for himself. About twenty years ago he began business as a contractor and as the Polish district built up he handled an increasing amount of the building. He took on the lumber business as a profitable adjunct about six years ago, and has been !I in his present location at Nos. 31-51 Lathrop street since that time. His property holdings are worth approximately $100,000, and the extent of his business is indicated by the fact that he has contracts to the value of $80,000 now on hand. He carries an average of 60 men on his payroll.
Albert Nowak, the senior partner of the firm of A. Nowak & Son, came to Buffalo from German-Poland in 1885. His first employment brought in only $7 a week, and as he had a family of six children to support he was not able to provide them with luxuries. After a while his wages were increased, and the family was enabled to save a little. With these savings, he opened a small grocery on Peckham street , which prospered. A year later, the business was moved to the corner of Broadway and Lathrop street, where a building had been put up to house both a grocery and saloon. In 1893, spare room in the rear of the store was utilized by the putting in of a small assortmnent of chicken grains and feed, representing an investment of about $10. That part of the business increased so promisingly that the grocery and saloon were eliminated, and a stock of hay, straw and feed was added. In 1901 the property formerly owned by the Buffalo Carriage Company, at the intersection of the Belt Line and Broadway, was bought, and made over to facilitate economical handling of the commodities sold. This improvement with the close proximity of the railroad, saving costs of drayage, resulted in a great growth of the business. In 1906 Mr. Nowak's son, Maxwell, who had been aiding his father for four years, was taken into the firm. Maxwell Nowak had been educated at public School No. 24 and at the Masten Park High School. He brought into the management of the business not only great natural ability, but an American point of view and progressiveness which bore immediate fruit in still greater business advances. A temporary setback was caused by fire which wiped out the entire plant on October 8, 1909. But in order to hold the established trade, temporary quarters were immediately secured and the work of reconstruction taken up. The present plant is built on the most up-to-date principles, having a milling, elevating and shipping capacity of fifteen cars daily, and a storage space sufficient to warehouse over 100 cars of grain and feed. The property on which the plant is built measures 300 feet, adjoining with the Belt Line, has a frontage of 175 feet on Broadway, and extends back 150 feet on Lathrop street. This is one of the four largest feed mills in Buffalo. The staff of employees numbers 40, of whom 30 are Poles.
Polish Firms on Main Street At the conclusion of the preceding article, dealing with Polish ownership of property, the opinion was expressed that in order to bring their property holdings from 1.8 per cent of the total for the city up to eighteen per cent, which is about their proportion of the population, the Poles must acquire property outside of the present Polish districts, and especially in the business sections of the city, where property is most valuable. The same comment must be made regarding their business operations. There are as yet no large Polish manufactories in the manufacturing districts and there are no Polish stores on Main Street. These are two lacks which the Polish businessmen must deal with before they can rest content. They must cease to depend entirely on the trade of their own fellow countrymen in Buffalo and to emerge into the general business community of the city and compete for the trade of the city at large. A few Polish names along Main Street, as an entering wedge for more, would do wonders not only in drawing the attention of the public to the business progress of the Poles, but also in stimulating the Poles themselves to break away from their exclusively Polish moorings and to steer their course into the vastly larger American field, with its vastly greater opportunities.