History of the Order of AHEPA 1922 - 1972
The Greek Immigrant in the United States
The most comprehensive book dealing with the subject of Greek immigration, and the story of the American of Greek descent is The Greeks in the United States by Dr. Theodore Saloutos, Chairman of the Department of History of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he has been teaching since 1945. This 400 page book is a scholarly and complete treatise of Greek immigration and the social, economic, religious and community life of the Greek-American. It also contains the most complete bibliography on the subject, available. It was published by Harvard University Press in 1964.
I am taking the liberty of quoting liberally from Dr. Saloutos' book. He describes the "beginnings" of Greek immigration to America:
The Beginning of Greek Immigration
For all practical purposes the pace for immigration to this country was set by the Greeks of the Peloponnesus, the islands, the mainland, and the Ottoman-dominated areas who came during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries -- the poor but energetic who arrived in large numbers. The Spartans were the first Greeks in the modern era to give signs of emigrating, even though in the beginning it was for brief periods of time, and only to neighboring lands. Heavier emigration from Sparta began during the 1870s and reached a peak between 1890 and 1910, when an estimated three-fourths of the male population between the ages of 18 and 35 departed for the United States, and, to a lesser extent, for Russia, Egypt, Turkey, and central Africa. Many Spartans viewed this exodus with alarm and believed their province had been cursed by God.
Triggering the initial flow of immigrants from Sparta was an obscure young man named Christos Tsakonas, born in 1848 in the village of Zoumpaina. After completing two years in the village grammar school, Tsakonas set out for Piraeus, then he left for Alexandria, Egypt, from where he left in 1873 for the United States. He returned to Greece for a brief visit, in 1875, and then left again for America with five compatriots. This group seems to have constituted the nucleus for the succeeding waves of immigrants from Sparta. In 1877, twelve or fifteen men left from the village of Tsintsinon for America. Early in April, 1882, about seventy more left for America.
The Greek immigrants often arrived in America without any clear-cut objectives in mind and without special training. It was usually the lack of opportunity at home that convinced the Greeks to emigrate, and usually they left to find employment, for they had been told that there was a great demand for Greek laborers in the United States, that money is to be had in abundance, and that the American government would furnish transportation. The Greek press and Greek government tried to restrain this emigration, with stories of the conditions of the Greek in the U.S., and one letter from America said: "All day we sell candy with a basket tied around our neck, and they call us in American, English, German, dago, that is, beggars, and so many other names that we do not understand. If we did understand them we would be going to jail every day.
After 1890 Greeks began departing from all parts of the country, but the outflow was greatest from the Peloponnesus. The exodus of the 1890s was precipitated by the decline in the price of currants, the principal export crop of Greece. The big currant customers, France and Russia, enacted a protective tariff that literally legislated Greek currants out of the market, to protect their own vineyards, and the sharp decline in the demand for currants brought disaster to the Greeks, who in the meantime had destroyed their olive trees to profit from the active currant trade. The response of many Greeks to this depressed state of affairs was emigration. Once an immigrant reached the United States, he wrote his parents immediately; within a few more days he followed up the letter with a small sum of money. This had a chain reaction, and it persuaded others to leave for America in the hope they could earn money and send money back to their families.
Greek Immigration Numbers
Dr. Saloutos lists totals of the number of Greek immigrants who arrived in the United States, but also indicates that exact numbers are not available, due to incomplete records:
Greeks emigrating from the Ottoman Empire, especially before 1912, usually left for political rather than economic reasons, from Macedonia, Epirus, the island of Mytilene (Lesbos) and the Dodecanese. Tensions were high among the Bulgars, Turks and Greeks, after 1903. In 1908 the new Turkish Constitution was adopted which required Greeks in Macedonia and other parts of the Turkish Empire to render military service, which persuaded many to leave those areas. In 1905 between four and five million dollars were received bv families in Greece from relatives in the United States. There was scarcely a village in Greece which did not benefit from immigration. The Greek immigrants gained the reputation quite early of sending more money home per capita than the immigrants of any other nationality. In some districts in Greece the cancellation of mortgages was one of the most important results of immigration.
The exact number of Greeks reaching the United States probably will never be known. The Greek government failed to keep a record of departures, especially during the early years, and those it kept later are incomplete. Furthermore, the Greek definition of a Greek is more inclusive than the American which complicates matters. Nationality according to the Greeks, is eternal; it cannot be transferred or obliterated. If a man's father is a Greek, he is also a Greek, regardless of where he was born or now lives. The United States, on the other hand, accepts the country of a man's birth as the criterion of nationality. Whereas the American authorities considered persons born of Greek parents in Bulgaria and Turkey as Bulgars and Turks the Greeks claimed them as Greeks. Nevertheless, compared with that from other European nations, immigration from Greece was small, as the table indicates.
Approximately 500,000 Greeks had reached the United States prior to the Second World War. This total includes those arriving from non-Greek territories who called themselves Greeks and wanted to be counted as such. If one considers those arriving from the Kingdom of Greece only, the number would be nearer 430,000. But some claim these figures are far too conservative, and that from 600,000 to a million arrived.
The Will to Work
About 95 per cent of the Greeks arriving from 1899 through 1910 were males. The Greek brought with him the sturdy qualities of the peasant -- perseverance and a willingness to work. For a Greek, work, to be in business, to succeed, were moral duties. But as an immigrant he knew that he had to start as a dishwasher, a laborer, a railroad worker, a bootblack, or a street peddler.
Inability to speak English became a major problem, for it was difficult to find his way, seek employment, or receive advice without knowledge of the language. This language barrier explains why in the beginning so many Greeks had to confine themselves to menial tasks. The resourcefulness of the Greeks as street vendors was confirmed at the start. A Washington correspondent wrote in 1904: 'Not everyone knows that ninety-nine of every hundred of itinerant vendors is a Greek and that every Georgios or Demetrios among them, boy or man … is a small capitalist, and carries anywhere from fifty to several hundred dollars concealed about his person.' Shoeshining furnished an ideal entering wedge for an immigrant, and it was relatively easy for a man with small savings to start his own shop, and the Greeks did this in increasing numbers, but they began to established well-equipped, even ornate shops in the high rent areas. They organized chains of these parlors, and a certain Smerlis operating chiefly in New Jersey is credited with having more than a hundred establishments under his control at one time.
During the spring of 1915, a gang of one hundred men was transported from Chicago to the railroad line near Omaha. After laboring for two days, their services were suddenly terminated and they were ordered to leave. In the uninhabited prairies, without friends or funds, they spent an entire day without food and slept in the open fields. In an act of desperation, they began dismantling the railroad tracks. They were arrested, but the judge handling the case freed them, and ordered the railroad company to provide them with transportation to Chicago. In the spring of 1913, some 1,500 Greeks were reported as leaving Lowell and other small New England towns for Chicago, Omaha, and other western cities to find employment. For a time, Greeks gave signs of establishing a 'thalassocracy' in America. Thousands of fishermen were lobster fishermen in Rhode Island; sponge divers in Florida; and caught lobsters and fish in California in rivers and at sea. On the Sacramento River they organized the first Greek fishermen's association in the country.
In 1919 about 650 Greeks were engaged in agriculture in California. But asking them to revert to farming from other labors, was asking them to revert to a way of life they had already rejected. Farming in the U.S. also involved a high initial capital investment, and was a long range enterprise.
Opposition and Animosity
The older non-Greek immigrant groups made the earlier years of the Greeks uncomfortable, resented their coming, and visited upon them the same recriminations which their predecessors had suffered. A fresh and inexperienced group of Greek workers were hired in 1904 to replace strikers in Chicago and received abuse for taking the job. The animosity of union labor and native Americans was felt in many instances. In Mountain Valley, Idaho fifty armed and masked men threatened 100 employed Greeks and warned them to leave town within twenty-four hours.
Anti-foreign opposition stemmed also from other quarters than unions. On July 15, 1907, the acting consul general of Greece in New York wired Secretary of State Elihu Root protesting the attacks on Greek stores in Roanoke, Va., which the local authorities were unable to restrain. In an exchange of correspondence, Governor Claude A. Swanson informed Robert Bacon, the acting secretary of state: 'The local and state authorities are fully prepared to maintain law and order and to protect the Greek residents of the city in their rights and privileges. You will note from the letter of the mayor that full reparations will be made to the Greeks for any damage sustained.'
Joel H. Cutchins, the mayor of Roanoke, in a letter to Governor Swanson, accused the Greeks of disregarding the advice of the municipal authorities: 'I have urged them repeatedly being anxious to give them every protection, to report any person who refused to pay a bill for refreshments, and that I would see that the parties were brought before the Police Court. I have been exceedingly anxious to prevent friction, because this city is made up largely of working men and members of labor organizations, and they are not especially friendly to the foreigners living in the city. Very few of these Greeks can speak English, and if a customer gets a fifteen cent lunch, and there is a misunderstanding as to the price, there is hardly a Greek in the place that will not upon the least provocation, grab a butcher knife or some other weapon and make for the complaining customer. This action on their part causes our people to be incensed, and it is with difficulty that we can prevent the smashing of their places of business. We have been on the eve (sic) of two riots since July, and nothing but the quick, prompt and effective work of the police force prevented trouble … I am somewhat inclined to believe that they are too presumptious, and if they continue to multiply here as they have during the past year, and do not change their method of collecting bills and settling disputes you will find dead Greeks in Roanoke before another year rolls around.'
Accounts continued to circulate that the United States was a land of ceaseless toil, privation, danger, and the 'grave of practically one-half the Greek segment.' This, it appeared to some, placed a responsibility on those being returned to Greece at government expense: they were obliged to give first-hand accounts to their uninformed compatriots of the dangers involved in emigrating to the United States. The wealth of America was to be had through hard work, not idle dreams and wild hopes.
It is unknown to what extent the frightening pictures of immigrant life were subscribed to by the newcomers themselves. Most certainly the immigrant tide was not checked, and it is known that many Greeks in America protested bitterly against the picture that was being circulated about them and their status. California, in a stinging editorial entitled 'Let us See' denounced the leaders of the Greek government who were circulating such uncomplimentary portrayals. It also predicted in unequivocal terms that more good would emanate from the immigrants in the United States than from those who had gone to other parts of the world. Greek politicians who found it expedient to speak in sanguine terms against the departure of their compatriots were reminded that it was their disregard for the plight of the peasant classes in Greece that was indirectly responsible for the exodus to the United States, and that this exodus would continue until the Greek government found effective means of alleviating the condition of the rural population.
Perhaps the most highly dramatized clash over this particular issue was one involving Lambros Coromilas, the Greek minister to the United States, and the Atlantis of New York. In a blistering article, Coromilas was accused of maligning the immigrants and grossly misrepresenting their position in the United States. In one of his reports he is said to have depicted America as 'a living hell' in which 'hunger, wretchedness, despair, decay, idleness, fasting, and we don't know what else, reigned.' The Greeks in America were described as dying in the streets from hunger, becoming 'rag and bone pickers,' leaving for Chile, or depending on the Italians for charity. Not one word was uttered about the many who were gainfully employed or thriving. George Horton, the United States minister in Greece, according to Atlantis, upon hearing of this false representation, went directly to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to register a protest. On his last trip to the United States, Horton had visited various Greek communities and found the people in a prosperous condition. In appreciation, the New York daily devoted a full-column editorial to praise of Horton for coming to the defense of the immigrants and four columns to a merciless attack against Coromilas and his commentary.
Perhaps the most publicized, if not the most flagrant, assault on the Greeks in America occurred in South Omaha, Nebraska, early in 1909. The colony of this suburban community consisted of about eighteen hundred, to which must be added another three thousand living in Omaha proper. It appears that this number was swelled by the seasonal workers who came into South Omaha during the winter months in search of work in the slaughterhouses. Some of these men probably were strikebreakers brought in to replace striking employees at a time when jobs were scarce. At any rate, a strong feeling of resentment had been built up against them by some segments of the local population.
Anti-Greek feeling broke out into the open on February 19, when a Greek, in the company of a woman of presumably questionable virtue, killed a South Omaha policeman. On the following day a petition signed by more than five hundred persons accused the Greeks of being outlaws who disregarded the laws and ordinances of the city, 'attacked our women, insulted pedestrians … maintained gambling dens and other forms of viciousness,' and created the general conditions that had brought about the murder of a police officer. In response, a public mass meeting was arranged for Sunday afternoon, February 21, 1909, 'to adopt such measures as will effectively rid the city of undesirable Greeks and thereby remove the menacing conditions that threaten the very life and welfare of South Omaha.'
The mass meeting assembled at the city hall of South Omaha, with a few city officials and policemen in attendance and with the full knowledge of the municipal authorities, who made no effort to restrain the crowd. Two members of the state legislature and some local politicians were among those whipping the crowd into a frenzy, which-after being fired with such cries as 'One drop of American blood is worth all the Greek blood in the world' and 'It is time we were ridding our city of these people'-embarked on its mission of avenging the policeman. Estimates of the size of the mob ranged from several hundred to several thousand. 'Picture in your mind,' wrote the Evening World Herald, 'an aggregation of about 400 men, about half under the age of 21 years. Of these perhaps one fourth are negroes, of the balance a majority are unmistakably of foreign birth. About half carry hammers or clubs.' The riot began late in the afternoon of February 21 and lasted until midnight. The mob seems to have accomplished its purpose of destroying the property of the Greeks and driving twelve hundred from the city; in the process it inflicted its wrath on people from Austria-Hungary and Turkey who were mistaken for Greeks.
On May 13, 1909, Governor Schallenberger, in response to a request from the State Department, submitted a detailed report of the losses suffered in the riot and a list of claims totaling $248,419. Findings concluded that a policeman, said to have been drunk, attempted to arrest a man and a woman to whom he was talking on the ground that she was disreputable, and that she now has been proved a virgin. Thirty-six merchants had been ruined-the United States held South American countries responsible for destruction of property against U.S. citizens, but did not want to recognize its responsibilities when U.S. citizens destroyed property of aliens.
A bill was pending in Rhode Island in 1909, which if passed would have banned non-citizens from fishing for lobsters, and it was claimed this was aimed directly at the Greeks of Newport, Providence and Fall River who were crowding out 'the natives in a very profitable and competitive trade,' and gaining too much control over the lobster-fishing industry. Atlantis resented the indiscriminate use of the word 'Greek' as employed by many newspapers of the country and protested that too many scandals, crimes, court cases and other incidents involving Russians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Syrians, and peoples of other nationalities were being pinned on the Greeks. 'After all we Greeks of the United States have plenty of problems of our own without having the Slavs burden us with theirs.'
In 1909, the city of Chicago raised the license fee for peddlers from $25 to $200 a year, to drive out the peddlers of fruit and vegetables, aimed against the Greek and other nationalities. One Greek was a garbage hauler, and his business so increased that his Irish competitors warned him: 'Get out of the garbage business or we will kill all of you Greeks.
In his book "From Alien to Citizen" (1914) Edward A. Steiner tells of his visit to a Kansas town:
Not long ago I went to lecture in a Kansas town; one of those irreproachable communities in which it is good to bring up children because of the moral atmosphere. Upon my arrival, I was cordially received by a committee, and one of its members told me that the jail was full of criminal foreigners-Greeks. What crimes they had committed he did not know. I made inquiries and found that 6 Greeks were in the county jail. They had been arrested in September, it was now March, and were charged with the heinous crime of having gone to the unregenerate state of Nebraska, where they purchased a barrel of beer which they drank on the Sabbath Day in their camp by the railroad. Possibly, these Greeks were just ignorant foreigners and now harbour no sense of injustice suffered; possibly they still think this country 'the land of the free and the home of the brave.' They may even be ready to obey its laws and reverence its institution~. I do not know this they feel, but I do know this: those Greeks were kept in prison for breaking a law of which they were ignorant, and even if they were aware of its existence and broke it knowingly, the punishment did not fit the crime.
They were kept as criminals and regarded as criminals; they were unvisited and uncomforted, and they were incarcerated at a time when their country called for her native sons to do battle against the Turk, (1912). Some day, the sense of injustice suffered may come lo them and they will ask themselves whether every man in Kansas who drinks beer is punished as they were. They will wonder why real criminals go free, or escape with normal punishment. I venture to predict that in some great crisis, when this country needs men who respect her laws and love her institutions, these men and multitudes of others who have suffered such injustices as they have, will fail her.
I pleaded for those imprisoned Greeks that night and my plea was effective. The just judge who condemned them, pardoned them; but so just was he that the fine of $100 each, not yet paid, was left hanging over them, and to their credit be it said, they remained in that town and paid every cent of it. This judge no doubt knows his New Testament; he certainly made the Greeks pay the 'uttermost farthing' before his outraged sense of justice was appeased. Those Greeks spent, together, over 3 years in jail, forfeited more than $1,500 in wages and lost in bodily health and self-respect beyond calculation.
I have insisted that to solve the problem we must approach it fraternally and not prejudicially. Upon the vast army of workers who free us from hard and dangerous toil we must look with the respect due their calling. The man who goes into the depths of the mine and exchanges his day for night, that we may change the night into day; the man who faces the boiling cauldron and draws ribbons of fire from the furnace for our safety and comfort; the man, the woman and. the child who have bent their backs to stitch our clothes, have not only justified their existence but have made ours easier, more beautiful and safer. That they are Hungarians, Italians or Jews ought to make no difference, for after all they are human, and this problem of immigration is a human problem with far reaching consequences.
The Greek immigrant was caught in the middle of persecution against all immigrants, which included discrimination as well as violence. A few instances were: A dozen Greek immigrants working in a lumber mill in the state of Washington awakened in the middle of one night to find their barracks building on fire. Their fellow workers – non- Greeks -- had set the building afire as a gentle reminder that they were not wanted there. They all left the next morning for Seattle, to seek other work. (My father was one of those workers.) Their "crime" was working for lower wages.
Helen Zeese Papanikolas writes about the Greek mine workers in Utah, in the Utah Historical Quarterly publication "Toil and Rage in A New Land, The Greek Immigrants in Utah," and their labor problems. The book was published in 1970 and tells the story in detail of the many problems of those people, as well as a fight during which Bruce Dempsey, the brother of Jack Dempsey, was killed.
A handsome young Greek lad was a partner in a confectionery store in the midwest, in a small town, with another Greek-American. Business was good, and everyone liked the pair and their store, until the younger Greek started "dating" the daughter of a local non-Greek banker. The father told the older partner to get rid of the young Greek, or his business would be ruined, since he didn't want his daughter dating a Greek. The young Greek left town, and the other soon sold his store, and also left. An Irish girl married a Greek, in another instance, and her family never spoke to her again. Reason? She married a Greek.
During the height of the Ku Klux Klan frenzy after World War I, Greek confectioneries and restaurants went "broke" or were sold to non-Greeks at give-away prices because of the effective boycott that the Klan put on such places of business. Greek confectionery stores and restaurants doing as much as $500 to $1,000 a day business, in the South, and parts of the Midwest, fell to as little as $25 a day business; the only recourse was either sell out or close up. The Klan boycott was made effective by the Klan threat to other citizens seen entering those places of business. This was a crucial period for all late immigrants, and blacks.
Young Greek men working in the kitchens of restaurants in the South were taken, along with black workers, by the Ku Klux Klan on lynching "parties" into the woods, where the Greeks were roughed up and released, but the blacks were lynched. I do not know of any instances when a Greek was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan, but of many instances where they were intimidated and told to leave town. Another favorite warning of the Klan to the Greek was not be "seen with a white girl."
The Greeks "demonstrated a mania for forming local, or topika, societies that many Americans found difficult to understand," states Dr. Saloutos.
These were actually either "state" -- "province" -- or town or village societies -- composed of persons from the same localities in Greece. It was almost a natural tendency for these immigrants to form such societies, and many of them still exist today. Saloutos says that there were about 100 such societies in existence in the United States as early as 1907, and that there were thirty in New York City alone.
An effort was made about 1910 to form a PanHellenic Union, which was established for the purpose of drawing together all Greek immigrants into one national society. But the fatal step taken in its establishment was the election of Greek Minister to the United States Coromilas as the president, which further identified the organization as having for its main purpose a direct tie with Greece. "The PanHellenic Union spoke early and often about 'the national language, the national treasury, the national strength, and the binding tie' and to protect 'national interests' from the Bulgarians and others," says Dr. Saloutos. "The Union was bitterly criticized as such for his policies for the Union, aimed solely at furthering the interests of Greece, and ignoring the immigrant."
The First World War
Although during the Balkan Wars, prior to World War I, thousands of Greek immigrants went back to Greece to fight for their home country against the enemy, practically all of them returned to the United States at the end of the war. In some populated areas, the Greek immigrants went overseas in large groups, after having formed volunteer units.
When America declared war against Germany in World War I, the Greek immigrants responded with every means available to demonstrate their loyalty, by volunteering for the U.S. armed forces, they bought Liberty Bonds and Victory Bonds and backed America's entry into the war with full support of their adopted country.
Dr. Saloutos' book "The Greeks in the United States" gives the following examples of this patriotism:
Once Congress voted for war, the Greeks seized every opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty. They responded enthusiastically to the call for volunteers in the armed forces, purchased liberty and victory bonds, passed resolution after resolution expressing their determination to see the war fought to a victorious conclusion, pleaded with their compatriots to contribute their utmost to the war effort, and served notice that as a national group their loyalty was second to none.' We are, as a race, Greek, and will remain so, but America is our country, America is our home, our estate, our family, our church, our education, and everything we possess. Therefore, it is our holy duty to fight and protect our country which is our life.'
One Greek cabled Woodrow Wilson: 'In the name of my countrymen and as an echo of the feelings of three hundred thousand Greeks who are living in this country, I respectfully report to you that we are ready at your Excellency's order to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of our glorious and beloved country.'
An editorial in a Greek newspaper said: 'Now it is no longer a question of being pro-Ally or pro-German, but it is a question of pure Americanism. And we, the Greek-Americans -- loyal Americans – are here to stand by the flag -- the flag that flies over 'land of the free and the home of the brave.' One Greek editor advised Greeks to register for the draft under their full Greek names, and not under any anglicized or abbreviated names, so that 'your full Greek name must be registered in the annals of Greek-American history.' Purchase of liberty bonds was urged upon all individuals, societies, and organizations: 'Distinguish yourself; buy more than your neighbor; buy more than you can. But the best way is to buy as a group. Let us have Greek meetings and make our object known. Let us lead, so that other nationalities will follow our example. United States government bonds are our safety and our security.
By May, 1918 the Greeks in the country were said to have purchased an estimated $10 million in liberty bonds, the purchase of those in Chicago alone exceeding $2 million. According to local press releases the Greek residents of Chicago subscribed on the average of $167.83 per capita, which was said to be the highest of any national group. These high purchases were attributed to the intense patriotism of the people, their desire to demonstrate their loyalty to the country, and the fact that the purchasers were preponderantly unmarried males and prosperous businessmen.
According to George Creel, the head of the Committee on Public Information during the first four drives, the Greeks purchased $30 million worth of bonds during the first four drives, and all these came in small amounts that represented sacrifices. The Greeks continued to enlist in the U.S. armed forces, and their leaders kept encouraging them to do so. It was estimated that 60,000 Greeks served with the U.S. armed forces, cited from an article by George Creel in the Literary Digest in 1919. All evidence shows that the Greek-Americans supported the war effort with undiminished energy and devotion. Differences between royalists and Venizelists over the foreign and domestic policies of Greece in no way detracted from their loyalty to the United States. If anything, these differences inspired them to outdo each other in displaying their loyalty to the country.
This Chapter in American history was the turning point in the lives of many. For the majority the die was cast: they were now Americans and in the United States to stay.
The pioneer confectioners were Eleutherios Pelalas of Sparta and Panagiotis Hatzideris of Smyrna, who established a lukum (sweet) shop shortly after their arrival in 1869. This partnership was terminated within a brief time; in 1877 Pelalas assumed the management of an American-owned establishment in Springfield, where he later opened a number of stores. Hatzideris, on the other hand,formed a partnership with another associate in New York, which handled more commercialized brands, such as "Turkish Delight" and "Greek Prince." Hatzideris eventually returned to Smyrna, but his partner continued the business under the name of Haggis Greek American Confectionery Company, with plants in New York, Memphis and Pittsburgh. The establishment of Pelalas and Hatzideris furnished employment for many of the first immigrants from Sparta, providing an opportunity to learn the skills of the trade. Chicago became the Acropolis of the Greek-American candy business. 'Practically every busy corner in Chicago is occupied by a Greek candy store,' reported Hellenikos Astir in 1904. At one time it was said that 70 percent of the Greek candy merchants in the United States were or had been residents of Chicago. In 1906 it was estimated there were 925 candy stores in Chicago.
The restaurant business represented the first stable economic base on which many ambitious immigrants built their fortunes. It brought the Greek businessman into closer contact with the general public, which in many instances found him to be a hard-driving and industrious person. Many students worked in restaurants as a means of meeting college expenses. There is no evidence that the Greek had a better ability to prepare food than any other native-born American. The Greek understood his business, knew what his patrons wanted, and worked hard to satisfy them. They began in this business around 1900, first with restaurants to feed their compatriots, then branching into lunchrooms with frankfurters and quick lunches and other items at reasonable prices. At first many in Chicago had traveling lunch counters, then the city passed an ordinance banning the sale of food on city streets. They then opened permanent restaurants. According to one report, there were 564 restaurants owned and operated by Greeks in San Francisco.
The success of the Greek restaurant man aroused the resentment of rivals who found it difficult to compete with him, of Americans who opposed foreigners, and of an unsympathetic press. Often, they were baited by their customers into arguments, by refusing to pay for food. Rival restaurant men complained because Greeks used electric signs over their restaurants and asked the Greeks to discontinue this practice lest they all become slaves to the electric company.
A virulent form of anti-foreignism manifested itself against the Greek and Chinese businesses of Phoenix, Arizona, which were accused of imperiling the future of the Phoenix merchants. A headline in a local labor journal read: 'Greek Peril Confronts Phoenix Merchant.' The article stated –
"Here we have in Phoenix three individuals, brothers, who have grown from one small little business house until they now own or control FIVE big establishments. These with the Chinese restaurants constitute a menace to the economic possibilities of Phoenix. They are a menace to YOU."
The more successful ones moved into the better and more prosperous areas of town, neighborhood communities, shopping centers, and downtown areas. In 1919 one of every three restaurants in Chicago is said to have been operated by a Greek, a substantial number of whom were located in the Loop, the central business district.
Late in 1917 a measure was before the city council of Chicago that threatened to deprive thousands of aliens, including many Greeks, of the right to do business in the city unless one had become a citizen of the United States or declared his intentions of becoming one. Commissioner of Health John Dill of Chicago in Oct. 11, 1919, stated:
"The Department has no record of Greek restaurants segregated from the records operated by all nationalities, but the experience of the Department of Inspection is such that the claim could not be made that Greek restaurants were different in rank as regards sanitation and methods from other restaurants."
If the Greek restauranteur succeeded where others failed it was because he was a better businessman, worked long hours, and had imagination and foresight. He used standard, nationally advertised foods, but as a rule he did not excel his competitors in the preparation of them. His prices were a trifle lower, but his overhead expenses were about the same. He avoided the establishment of the cabaret eating house, with an orchestra and dancing, even though in Chicago he maintained a thriving trade in the heart of the business district where the cabaret prevailed. This, in essence was the formula for his success.
During the mid-1920s many still complained of anti-Greek whispering campaigns, and to a lesser extent, of pressure from big chains and other competitors. What they resented most was competitors who, unable to overtake them by fair methods, resorted to unfair competition. They were unjustly accused, they felt, of being dishonest in business dealings, unfair to employees, disrespectful to women, unappreciative of home and family life, and dangerous to the community. I recall as a youth frequently passing a lunchroom on Third Street in Milwaukee called 'Twentieth Century Lunch': the sign in its window read 'Operated by an American.' A Santa Rosa, California, newspaper carried the following advertisement:
"John's Restaurant, Pure American. No Rats, No Greeks."
Dr. Saloutos' book "The Greeks in the United States":
Ahepa was active in the efforts to liberalize the immigration laws so as to permit the entry of more Greeks into the country. Its representatives appeared before Truman's Commission on Immigration and Naturalization to explain why more of their compatriots should be permitted to enter. In the process they emphasized the poverty in Greece, the homeless and orphaned children, America's need for laborers, and the reputation the American Greeks -- the immigrants of yesteryear -- had established for sobriety, industry, and integrity. The McCarran-Walter Immigration and Nationality Act was hardly the answer to Greek prayers.
More comforting to them was the veto message of President Truman, which denounced the measure as being more unworthy than the one of 1924: 'Today we have entered into an alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty, with Italy, Greece, and Turkey against one of the most terrible threats mankind has ever faced. We are asking them to join us in protecting the peace of the world. We are helping them to build their defenses, and train their men in the common cause. But through this bill we say to these people: You are less worthy to come to this country than Englishmen or Irishmen; you Italians, who need to find homes abroad in the hundreds of thousands -- you shall have a quota of 5,656; you Greeks struggling to assist the victims of a Communist Civil War -- you shall have a quota of 308; and you Turks, you are brave defenders of the Eastern flank, but you shall have a quota of only 225.'
The enactment of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 offered hope to many. One of its provisions authorized the issuance of immigrant visas without requiring assurances of employment or housing for 15,000 from Italy, almost 2,000 from Greece, and 2,000 from the Netherlands. An amendment to the Act in 1954 permitted the allotment of special non-quota visas to Italy, Greece, and the Netherlands in either the refugee or relative preference group.
More than 56,000 entered the United States from 1946 to 1960, chiefly as non-quota immigrants; for the annual quota of Greece, as we have noted, was only 308 during most of this period. Their arrival on a year-to-year basis was as follows:
For the first time since the 1920s, the Greeks were beginning to arrive in substantial numbers and in a manner reminiscent of the earlier days.
By way of conclusion, I should point out that this study of the Greek people in the United States suggests some striking parallels between their problems of adjustment and those of the older and even pioneer groups. One is that they never lost interest in the country they left behind, any more than did the English, the French, or the Germans. They became embroiled in the political and religious upheavals of the mother country and on various occasions fought them out with a passion that equaled and even exceeded that of their compatriots abroad. They also brought with them the institutions they had known at home. The main difference is that the problems of the Greeks were compounded by the fact that they came to America later, spoke a strikingly different language, and worshiped in a church oriented toward the East. If the Greeks seemed less adaptable, it was because too much was expected of them. Their detractors never realized that these same criticisms had been hurled at earlier immigrants who were now accepted as respectable members of American society. The Greeks' late immigration was a temporary handicap, but it was no deterrent to a people who took pride in their individualism and national background. They overcame the initial obstacles, put down firm economic roots, and became a well integrated part of the American community."
Greeks in America
One of the most interesting books about the Greek immigrant is "Greeks in America" by Thomas Burgess, published in Bostn in 1913. Thomas Burgess was a member of the American Branch Committee of the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union.
Since it was published in 1913, only a few short years after the Greek immigrants entered America in large numbers, the book has special interest to living Americans who immigrated to the United States, and their descendants. For this reason, I have taken large sections of the book and published them here, since the book is no longer available, except through a few public libraries.
(I am indebted to Dr. Theodore Saloutos of UCLA for my copy of this book, which he gave to me. Dr. Saloutos has probably the largest and finest private library of books, articles, magazines, correspondence, and newspapers dealing with the subject of the Greeks in the United States, which he has gathered over a period of thirty or more years. All Americans of Greek descent should be grateful to him for his foresight in seeking this material, from all parts of the country, which otherwise might have been lost or destroyed.)
Excerpts from GREEKS IN AMERICA by THOMAS BURGESS (Published in 1913)
Thomas Burgess presents a sympathetic view of the Greek immigrants, placing himself in their position, as newcomers to a strange land, with strange customs, language, and living conditions:
What is needed is that each particular people should be studied separately with care and portrayed separately with completeness. This book is an attempt to do this with the Greeks. It is all too easy to pick to pieces the bad in the character of another, be it man or race. Too much do we Americans look down on the foreigners among us, little realizing that those foreigners are looking down on us at the same time. We need most to learn to recognize the good qualities in the Greeks (and other foreigners too) and to give them opportunity to develop those good qualities; nor can we expect them to become useful citizens until we do so learn.
Patriotism and Orthodoxy are inseparably bound together in the heart of the Greek -- wealthy Greeks the world over have vied with each other to embellish their fatherland and provide for the education and relief of their compatriots at home, and the poorer Greeks banded into societies all over America and elsewhere, are continually sending home contributions. Greeks have long constituted the majority of the professional and foreign diplomatic classes of the Turkish Empire. Greek scholars have occupied a number of chairs in the universities of Europe and also a few in America, as Professor Sophocles of Harvard. And finally, Greek wanderers from all classes may be found, Odysseus-like in every nook and cranny of the world. Thirty years ago, in 1883, there were scarcely any Greeks in the United States. At the present time (1913) they number over a quarter of a million, scattered throughout the length and breadth of our country, an important, intelligent, and little appreciated part of our population.
In 1848 there arrived in New York 91,061 Irish, 51,973 Germans, and ONE GREEK. In 1858 there were TWO GREEKS who arrived, and from 1847 to 1864 the total number of Greeks entering this port was 77.
Up to 1891 the causes of emigration was that of any migratory people to go to a promising country, and the few that came early, wrote to their relatives in Greece, who came in gradually growing numbers thereafter. In 1891 a great change begins, and the cause was industrial stagnation, ever shifting changes in government, and the failure of the all important currant industry. With hard times at home, the Greek came because of economic necessity. Greeks had no religious oppression or government oppression at home and did not come for "freedom's sake" as did man, from other countries. The cause was economic.
But, no one in Greece really knew, nor do they know now, the conditions as the, actually are in America. All are doomed to bitter disillusionment, when they find here hard, inevitable toil, the like of which they never dreamed of at home. Nor did they expect the wretched tenements in which crowds of men are obliged to herd, in order to pay their debts and support the family left at home. Nor could they foresee the danger, the disease, the ever ready pitfalls of temptation, the exploitation by vagabond compatriots or unscrupulous Americans.
New York was their first settling place, then later Chicago, Boston, and a few other large cities. It was a tale of hardship and adventure. Some one of the first in New York struck upon the happy scheme of buying a little candy, and with a tray about his neck, wandered about the city selling to passersby. Others followed this example, and by 1882 over a hundred Greeks were peddling candy, fruit and flowers. This was the start of that business of catering to these minor wants of us Americans for which in later years the Greek has become so well known. (1913) After the tray peddler had learned a few English words and saved some money, he purchased a push-cart and established his trade at some street corner. After some time, when he had more capital, he set up a candy, flower, or fruit stOregon It was about 1885 that the first Greek shop, that of a florist, was established on Columbus Avenue in New York. Those who went to Boston or Chicago did likewise.
Burgess continues his narrative in his book "Greeks in America" with various information about the type of work and business that the Greek immigrants eventually grew into, and their success in these fields, as of 1913.
In 1885, a Greek established a Greek restaurant in the lower Eastside of New York, on Roosevelt Street, which became a rendezvous of Greek peddlers. In 1888 a company of 150 Greeks landed in New York, and were sent by representatives to Eastern Quebec to build a railroad. After working one week the concern failed and the Greeks were stranded, in a strange land, without money or knowledge of the language, and without a guide to show them the way back to the U.S. After days of suffering they finally came to a village in Maine, where the people took care of them, paid their fares to Boston, where they found some of their own people.
In practically every city or town of any size today, there are Greek immigrants; probably no other race or people so disseminated in every part of the country, who recently immigrated here. They are patriots, loving their native land, and with keen knowledge of its past as well as present political events. They nearly all have had more or less schooling, some a great deal-90 per cent surely can read their Greek newspapers, which they read avidly. They are extremely clannish. Finally, most of them have the typical Greek genius for adaptability and versatility in business. With the newcomer Greek, in the majority of cases the money earned must go for paying back what he borrowed to buy his passage over, and for the support of his family left behind, which is a most sacred duty to every Greek, and for his own support. All this means hard work and hard living conditions.
It is the ambition of most Greeks whatever menial employment they have been obliged to start with, to set up for themselves in independent business. Many have attained this ambition, and shown remarkable aptitude, some becoming rich; and reports to the contrary notwithstanding, most of them show business honesty, better at any rate than that of some of the Americans with whom they have to deal. Remember we are treating here only of the immigrant, the peasant class in the main.
Just before the Spanish War, two Greek brothers by the name of Stephanos, peasants from Epirus, started a cigarette business with a capital of $35. During the Spanish War they sent, as presents to the officers of the U.S. Army, boxes of their cigarettes. This advertising expedient started the ball rolling, and in ten years they were millionaires. Now they own one of the largest cigarette factories in the country, in which they employ some hundred of their fellow men. This is on Walnut Street, Philadelphia. The Stephanos cigarettes are sold all over the country and are of high grade. The first cigarettes made by Greeks in this country were those of one Anargyros, who began in New York nearly 25 years ago. Ten years back he sold out to the American Tobacco Company and returned to Greece a rich man. M. Melachrinos and Co. of New York has a big establishment, and the product is widely sold. There in five years a fortune was made. There are several smaller concerns of equal rank in this line doing a large business.
Confectionery and Fruit Stores
The first Greek in America who started in the candy business was a sailor in New York, a native of Smyrna, about forty years ago, (1870) before the tide of emigration set in. His name was Hadzi or Hadzikiris. From a peddler he became a great manufacturer of candy. Among other brands he put out the well known "Rahat", (a Turkish name-Turks, but not Greeks, are very fond of sweets). He organized a corporation under the name of "Greek-American Confectionery Company," or "The Novelty Candy Company." Some years ago he sold out to his American partner and returned to Smyrna, an old man. So rapid has been the growth of these stores, that there is actually not a city or town of any size in the country without at least one Greek confectioner or fruiterer, running from a cheap, though almost always clean place to the very height of perfection in the trade. In New York there are about 150. But Chicago has over 400 confectionery establishments, almost a monopoly of the trade there. There are also some successful wholesale establishments in Chicago, New York, Boston, and the Southern states. The Greeks have been of immense benefit in encouraging our Pacific coast fruit industry by bringing it everywhere in the eastern states in contact with the consumers.
The 150 Greek florists of New York City furnish a remarkable spectacle of Greek enterprise. They are first class places, and form a kind of monopoly. It is through them that the Annual Greek Ball in New York is marvelous in floral decorations. And twenty years ago these same florists were carrying their whole floral stock about their necks, as peddlers. There are 15 or 20 such businesses in Chicago, and some in Philadelphia and Minneapolis, but very few anywhere else. Mayor Gaynor of New York, on his daily walk to City Hall, gets his boutonniere from a Greek flower girl's stand.
In Chicago there are 600 to 800 Greek restaurants, and in New York some 200. In every Greek colony also is found that institution peculiar to Greek and oriental life, the coffee house. The coffee houses of England are really Greek in origin. The first was introduced at Baliol in 1652 by one Konopios, a Cretan. The coffee house to the Greek is a social club, a reading room. Like other people, the Greek has also taken up and opened businesses such as grocers, barbers, tailors, furriers, cobblers, and others.
The bootblack stands, or the "Shoe Shine Parlors" operated by Greeks are now almost as familiar a sight all over the land as the Greek candy stOregon They have beaten or are heating the Italian trade in this line. (Greeks usually do win in competition, for in addition to their native shrewdness, they attend to business, give good return for the price, and keep good looking establishments; they are invariably polite also, and affable in so far as they can speak our language.) There are many bootblacks in Greece, not established in parlors, but walking the streets with their boxes, like the bootblacks on our ferry boats. The Greek started here working shining shoes, then he set up his own small shop, hired other Greeks, who in turn worked awhile, left and started their own stands. And so it grew. Often a successful man comes to own or run five or ten such establishments.
Great numbers of Greeks are employed in the big hotels. They hold all grades of rank in the hotel: dishwashers, omnibuses, waiters, captains, head waiters, and bell boys, porters, and some assistant cooks, etc. Among the hotel employees are found a large proportion of the best educated Greek immigrants, government clerks at home, University of Athens law or medical students, and the like. The bell boy who respectfully carries up the grip of some great millionaire American pork-packer is in all likelihood the much more cultured man of the two.
This is as good a place as any to put in the moving picture business and vaudeville shows with which the Greeks have been successful. They run a good part of Coney Island, where the property and concessions owned by them amount well into the millions. One season, a Greek, John Economopoulos, was elected "king" of the Mardi Gras there. These shows are to be found mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and others of the eastern and central stales. K. Pantages, a native of Andros, with headquarters in Seattle, is a man of remarkable enterprise, who has come to control a large number of theaters throughout the Western states.
Fisheries and Farming
There are Greek Fisheries at Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, and the unique and interesting sponge fishing colony of Tarpon Springs, Fla. Except in some few instances, the Greek immigrant peasant has not taken up his former agricultural and pastoral pursuits. In California there are several flourishing farms owned and run by Greeks, and also a few Greek farmers in New York, Massachusetts, and some Southern states.
Millworkers, Railroad Laborers, and Miners
Many Greeks are railroad laborers in the West, every state from Chicago to the Pacific. In the winter months they flock to the cities and live in idleness; in the working months they are scattered all along the railroad lines. Their employers have found them industrious and manageable workmen. In Colorado and other western states, a goodly number of Greeks have become miners. In this work the wages are high, sometimes more than $3.00 a day for the most dangerous and skilled labor. In Alaska there are probably some 500 Greek miners at present, and formerly there were mOregon There are some Greeks in the foundries of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia. There are a few lumbermen and lumber mill laborers in the far West. There are Greeks working in the slaughterhouses of Chicago, Omaha, Kansas, and elsewhere. In New England, the Greek workers in the mills number into the thousands; however there is little chance in the mills for the Greek to display his natural enterprise as he does in independent business.
"Greeks in America" by Thomas Burgess continues with the progress and conditions prevalent throughout the country in the development of church and community associations, which the Greeks established as soon as they achieved any moderate number of persons within any city or town. The reader must remember that these reports are of conditions as they existed here in America in 1913. They show the determination of the Greek immigrant to establish social organizations and churches for his family, and to retain the customs and traditions of his ancestors, to be handed on to his children, and future generations Burgess continues:
Community and Institutional Development
It was at the beginning of the period of induced immigration, in 1891, that Prince George, the second son of the Greek Monarch, passed through the United States. He was returning home from a visit to Japan, where he saved the Czar of Russia's life from the assassin's hand. On landing in San Francisco, he was met by a demonstration of a few hundred Greeks. While stopping for a time in New York, he received at his hotel a few of the leading Greeks of that city, and he left with them the idea of organizing a Greek society. Thus, it came about that the 500 or so compatriots of New York established the society called "The Hellenic Brotherhood of Athena" and this society sent to Greece the request for a priest. Almost at the same time another organization, "The Therapnean" afterwards called "The Lycurgos Society" was formed in Chicago for the purpose of establishing a church, and in a short time a second priest had been called for and sent to that city. Such was the beginning of the Orthodox Greek Communities in America.
There was an earlier Greek church long before the period of immigration, built and organized by the Greek cotton merchants in New Orleans in the year 1867. It still flourishes; and, curiously enough, the same priest who was sent to the first community in New York in 1891 is now its pastor, the Rev. P. Ferentinos, who is also the senior living American Greek priest. The sacred vessels and the vestments of this church were given by the Czar of Russia. It is also worth noting that the administrative council of this church has long kept its minutes in the English language. The following interesting facts must also not be omitted, although since we are dealing here with only Greek communities, they must be consigned to a footnote: In Chicago in 1882 a Slavo-Hellenic union was formed and called a Greek-born priest of Russian education to minister to all the Orthodox Churchmen there. In Seattle about the same time the Greek sailors who had settled there placed themselves under the Russian Bishop, who provided a Greek priest, graduate of a Russian seminary. Also, in Galveston, Texas, some Greek sailors established a church, but being unable to support it, gave it over to the Russian Bishop, and the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in both languages. But in all these places, as soon as the Greeks became numerous enough, they established their own purely Greek church communities under the jurisdiction of Constantinople or Athens.
The Boston community bought a church building, the first owned by Greeks after that of New Orleans. In 1904, the New York Greeks bought a church at 151 1/2 East 72nd St., cost $65,000; in 1905, those of Atlanta, Ga.; all the rest have been built or bought since then. The churches actually erected by the Greek communities by 1913 numbered sixteen, which were new construction, after the Byzantine pattern, located in: Lowell, Boston, Ipswich, Mass., Manchester, N.H.; Newark, N.J.; Charleston, S.C.; Tarpon Springs, Fla.; Chicago (2); Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Minneapolis; Pueblo, Colo; Salt Lake City, Utah; Portland Oregon; San Francisco; and one in Montreal, Canada.
Those church buildings purchased which were formerly Protestant and Anglican Churches, and made into Greek churches, are in: New York, Philadelphia, Nashua, N.H.; Providence, R.I.; Pittsburgh; Baltimore; Atlanta; Savannah, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Chicago; Milwaukee; and Denver. In 1913, there are 55 such communities in the United States and 2 in Canada-Montreal and Toronto.
There are now societies of some sort in every town or city where there are over a hundred fellow-countrymen. Most of these are benevolent or patriotic in purpose, or are formed for the banding-together in a town of all Greeks from one particular locality in Greece or Turkey. In the large communities there are a great many such societies. The objects are to cultivate friendship among the members, help those in need, care for the sick or provide that they be cared for in hospitals, pay funeral expenses, etc. Rare it is, almost unknown, that a Greek pauper "goes on the town," or is aided by an American charity organization. The Greeks are too proud for that, and they look after their own needy. Then, too, many of these societies send contributions home to Greece to help some poor church or school or hospital or orphanage or the like. In 1910, the Society of the Panargenians undertook the praiseworthy resolve to give each year the all necessary marriage dowry for one orphan girl, chosen by lot, in the native province of the members. At times of great catastrophes these societies contribute their little to Greece and Turkey. In New York, there is a "Greek-American Athletic Association" with a membership of two hundred Greeks, with their own gymnasium, who have won many a prize at A.A.U. meets.
Also in New York is the women's Charitable Fraternity or "Sorority of Ladies"-the "Adelphoty" who raise funds at the church, among the Greek shops, and by an annual ball, to aid needy Greeks, care for them, and furnish a ticket home to Greece, if need be. There are also such women's societies in Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco.
List of Associations in 1913
A sample list of various of these organizations are given here:
Association of Florists; Association of Confectioners; Charitable Adelphoty of Ladies; Greek-American Athletic Association; Volunteer Company (military) (formed to send men to aid Greece in the Balkan wars); Naupactian Brotherhood (a district in Greece); Skourovarvitsian Brotherhood (a district in Greece); The Phoenix Pan-Cretan Society; Hope Society, Imbrian; Philoktetes, Lesbian Brotherhood; Pittakos, also a Lesbian Brotherhood from Lesbos; Hephaistos, Lemnian Brotherhood; Brotherhood of Marmara (from Thrace, near Constantinople); Ganochorriton Brotherhood (Thrace); Messenian Society, The Annunciation; The Olympos Brotherhood of Litochoritons (from Macedonia); Naoussaian League (Macedonia); Society of Deskate (Macedonia); Brotherhood of The Kozantinans (Macedonia); Epirian Concord League (Epirus); Unanimity Brotherhood (from some particular District); The Good Hope Brotherhood (from some particular District); The Society of Demetsanitons, Gregory V (the martyr Patriarch of 1821 from his birthplace in Peloponnesus).
There is also another kind of society among the Greeks, which will appeal especially to Americans, which societies have for their object the instruction of the immigrants towards Naturalization as American citizens, such as the Hellenic-American Political Club of Tarpon Springs, Fla. Such Associations exist in Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and elsewhere. In an interview with the Sunday World, September 24, 1911, Mr. Wallace, Clerk of Courts in New York, said: "The most intelligent applicants for naturalization papers are Greeks." In the past few years there have been many petitions in all cities by the Greeks.
The Pan-Hellenic Union
We come now to the society for all the Greeks of America. The idea originated with the great Michael Anagnos. Anagnos did his utmost for the cause of his immigrant brethren in America. He moved freely among the Greeks of the Boston community, frequenting their restaurants and coffee houses, helping many recent immigrant to get a foothold, contributing freely to the Greek churchin Boston and elsewhere, officiating as chief speaker at the celebration of the Greek Day of Independence. At one time he was the president of the Boston community, and he was the founder and president of the National Union of Greeks in the United States, which society, though defunct after his death in 1906, was the forerunner of the present Pan-Hellenic Union. In 1904, two years before he died, he formed an organization in Boston and had it chartered under the name of "The National Union" with objects much the same as the present society, and by lectures in New York and Chicago, he tried to found a few branches. However, with his death, the plan fell through.
A committee of local presidents of various Greek societies met in a convention in New York in the autumn of 1907 and organized under the name of "The Pan-Hellenic Union." The next convention was held in Chicago, and the next in Boston. In 1910 the headquarters was fixed in Boston for four years. Thus we have a new phase of Greek association, distinct from the local community and binding together the Greeks of different localities for the whole country. During the working out of its organization, the inevitable Hellenic factions and jealousies arose within and without.
By the end of 1912 the Union had some 150 branches throughout the country. The men at the helm of the Union, its administrative council, are not immigrants, but men of refinement and education, professional men and representatives of the great Greek commercial houses. His Excellency Coromilas, ex-Minister to the United States, gave the Union its first by-laws. The past president was Professor Ion, formerly on the faculty of the Boston University Law School. The present president is Mr. Sinadinos, a manager of the Boston branch of the great Egyptian cotton house of Choremi and Benaki. Dr. Vrahnos, a Boston physician, is the vice president." (The association lived for only a few short years, and died out shortly after World War I -- Editor)
"Greeks in America" in 1913 continues with information on the Greek language newspapers of that day. Burgess states that there were 16 Greek newspapers in the United States in 1913; today's figures are closer to about twelve newspapers, only two dailies, both published in New York City. The others are either weekly publications, or bi-weekly. The two remaining Greek dailies are The Atlantis, and The National Herald, both almost exclusively printed in the Greek language, except for two pages in English, in the Sunday editions. The weeklies run about 40% Greek and 60% English; one is entirely in the English language (The Hellenic Chronicle). Burgess describes the Greek immigrant's obsession with his Greek newspapers
In 1894 Solon J. Vlastos founded The Atlantis Greek newspaper in New York. In 1904, Socrates Xanthaky founded The Pan-Hellenic, also in New York. These are the only two daily Greek newspapers in the United States at this time. The Atlantis also publishes the Atlantis Illustrated Magazine monthly. There are now 16 Greek newspapers in the United States: New York, 2 daily and 2 semi-weekly; Boston, Lowell, Lynn, Manchester, Pittsburgh, 1 weekly each; Chicago, 1 semi-weekly and 2 weekly; Salt Lake City, 2 weekly; San Francisco, 2 weekly.
The Greek above all men loves to devour his newspaper. If you enter his place of business for a friendly chat and he is reading his paper, you must wait. This is not discourtesy, for the Greek is the most courteous of men; it is habit. Indeed the newspaper, above all else, keeps him in touch with the fatherland and with his fellowcountrymen here, and it also tells him of American life. The Greek newspapers contain the happenings in Hellas, especially the politicsevery Greek is a well-versed and fluent politician. A list of the religious and other holidays is given in them. Then the reader finds the social and commercial events and progress of his compatriots all over America; the weddings (now almost every day and mostly of Greek with Greek), the funerals, baptisms, new business openings, new churches, new societies. Then there is the general news of the country, and also the world news under the foreign associated press. These papers are written in good Greek-and remember that, contrary to the notion of many Americans, practically all the Greeks in America can read good Greek just as practically all Americans can read good English. Much have these newspapers done toward the enlightenment and general development of the Greeks in this country; but, also they have done much to animate the factional feeling which is so common and deplorable.
The Patris, published in Lowell weekly, by a Greek gentleman of education, Michel latros, has as its object to satirize the foibles of the Greeks in America. There is a monthly magazine in English, edited by a Greek, T.T. Timayenis of Boston, The Eastern and Western Review. Besides general matter, it usually contains articles about Greeks and Greece. A number of books have been published by Greeks in America to help the Greek immigrant understand his adopted country and its language.
In 1903 Atlantis put out the "Greeks' Companion in America," giving information concerning the passage to America, the geography of the United States, immigration laws, etc. "Thermopylae Almanac" by Mr. Booras appeared in 1904, giving in addition to such facts some account of the Greek colonies in the United States. Then Atlantis published some Greek-English lexicons; English lesson books based on the Holendorf method; a "History of the United States" which has run through two editions; a "History of Greece"; pocket dictionaries; and several other books. The most complete and valuable book for the Greeks in America is the "Greek-American Guide and Directory" published annually since 1908 by Seraphim G. Canoutas, graduate in law of the University of Athens, and in 1912 of an American law school, who came to this country in 1905. This book is widely used, and is commended by the Greek officials in America and Greece. It contains all sorts of useful information for the immigrant: American laws, history, geography, statistics, customs and life; the story of Greek immigration; and a complete account of all the colonies and communities in the United States and Canada, with many pictures; and also a full list in English of the Greek churches and clergy, merchants, shopkeepers, physicians, newspapers, etc. etc. with addresses, listed by states and cities. Mr. Canoutas obtained much of his information by a tour of every state in the Union (except Arizona and New Mexico).
Practically no Greek immigrant on his first arrival brings his wife. For financial reasons he obviously cannot. She and the little children are left in Greece and the father slaves here to support them. Thus, we find, as with most recent immigrants, crowds of men herded together without the mellowing influence of family life, and subject to terrible temptations. Moreover, to the Greek, coming from a country where the bringing up of girls is strict and the sexual morality is splendid, the freedom of American girls and women, good as well as bad, both shocks and allures him. In Greece no decent girl would ever be out after dark without an escort. And the shameless immorality of our factory towns and of many other kinds of towns all over the country cannot but corrupt the lonely newcomer. But how is it when he has learned English and come to understand American life and ideals? Does American law and public sentiment teach him to hate the immorality that he sees? Quite the contrary. He never heard of in Greece that terrible laxness in divorce laws, that rank looseness among the "leaders of society", that daily scandal mongering of newspapers, which things are the crying shame of this free land of ours. The Greeks are not corrupting us; we are corrupting them. Nay, rather in Greece the relation of the sexes is almost puritanical. Holy matrimony is a sacrament and a responsibility the most sacred and binding, children the best of blessings, -- the family there is still treated as the foundation of society. There it is that the great salvation of the Greek men is the coming of the women.
In 1891 there were scarcely any Greek families in America. Little by little those who were married began to send back or go back for their wives. It was not, however, until 1905 that any appreciable number of women began to immigrate. Numbered by hundreds before in the United States, they can now be counted by thousands. This is encouraging, but the proportion is still infinitesimal. Sometimes they live in poor tenements, sometimes in their own house for in nearly every city or town where the Greeks are counted by scores, some few have bought and own their homes; this is especially true in some of the southern cities. As we mentioned above, Greek weddings occur almost every day, and but few are mixed marriages. Of late, unmarried girls have been coming more and more with their brothers or parents, and many come already affianced. God grant that the family life may fast increase among the Greeks in America.
As the Greek families are becoming established, there are the Greek children to be educated. To the American public schools they can and do go, and prove bright scholars; but this means a severance from the language of the fatherland, ancient as well as modern, and from the religion not only of Greece, but from all religion. Thus, after the development of the Greek Churches, naturally follows the development of Greek schools. No Sunday-schools exist in Greece; for there the Catechism, the Bible, and the Prayers are taught as a fundamental part of the curriculum from the beginning to the end of school days in every school in the Kingdom and enslaved Greece. Naturally the Greek father feels that our American schools are fundamentally lacking for the child of the Church and Hellas. This need first began to be felt only about four or five years ago. There are thus far schools in Boston, Lowell, Lynn and Chicago of from fifty to a hundred pupils, and smaller schools in a number of other places. A large and suitable building was purchased in the autumn of 1911 in the Bronx, New York, costing $35,000 to be used as a school and as a dormitory for the care of poor and destitute Greek children. The schools we are discussing are for the children, not for the grown men.
Much has been thoughtlessly said and written against the Greek keeping up his language and his interest in his native country and his "merely formal" religion. "Such things prevent his becoming a good American," those people say. Yet Greek, Greece and the Orthodox Church are and have been down the centuries ever since St. Paul's time, the three sources of all that is lofty in Greek character. If we try to cut off the Greek child from these, what have our schools to offer in return? Nay rather, if you wish him to become a good and useful American citizen, allow him every incentive to that refining culture in the sublimest of languages and literatures, which our people sadly need; that unswerving patriotism which so many of our boys have ceased to feel; that holy religion which, whatever its seeming formalism, is at least a reminder of the presence of the Christ whom the majority of Americans have forgotten. In the few Greek schools that have been established, though far from perfected as yet, the pupils get training for the American high school as good as, I doubt not often better than, in the American grammar schools. In the Boston school, for example, you may hear the bright-eyed Greek lad of thirteen translate Xenophon to perfection, or English into good classic Greek.
Thomas Burgess continues his 1913 narrative of the Greeks in America by describing the beginnings of the "professional" men and other aspects of life among the Greeks in this country:
The Professional Class
About five years ago, some of the well-educated men of Greece, lured by the oft-reported successes in America, came to America. They were medical, law, philological, and even theological students who had not yet begun their careers at home, practicing lawyers, teachers, government clerks, and the like. Bitter has been their disillusionment, and the stronger and more courageous took employment in hotels and factories far below their station in life; the others who could not stoop to menial work, took miserable pay in newspaper offices, clerkships, etc. There are a number of Greek lawyers in the United States, but few as yet have been admitted to the bar because of the extreme difficulties of learning the language of legal English and the endless variety of laws peculiar to the country and the different states. With physicians it is not so hard, as medical terms and practices are more or less alike the world over. There are some forty or fifty Greek physicians in various parts of the United States, half of whom are duly licensed, and most of the rest will be shortly. These physicians and the lawyers too, got their degrees from the University of Athens, and a few studied in France or Germany.
Dr. Constans is a successful practitioner in Washington, D.C. He immigrated to America, and started a barber shop in Washington. He took up the study of medicine and Georgetown University evening school, and had only a partial gymnasium education in Greece. He is also a demonstrator on the faculty of Georgetown University medical department. There are between 30 and 60 Greek students in American colleges. Phoutrides, a student at Harvard, formed "Helicon", Greek Students' Association in November, 1911, with 13 charter members. By 1912 they had 40 members. Among them: A. Phoutrides of Harvard who graduated in 1911 summa cum laude; Dr. Kyriakides of Michigan, inventor of a new chemical compound in organic chemistry; N. Catsainos, recipient of one of the highest prizes at M.I.T.; N. Cassavetes, valedictorian at Mt. Hermon Academy and student at Harvard; Kavakos, who took first prize in sculpture a few years ago at the Institute of Maryland and went abroad on a $4,000 scholarship to Germany. (There is also a Greek Professor of Music at New Mexico State College.)
The Call To Arms
We have seen how the Greeks in America have become banded together in various ways for united activities and benefits, and how through it all one of their chief objects has been to keep alive the fire of patriotism, the love for the fatherland. When the glorious Balkan War which has swept the Turk from Europe broke out in the autumn of 1912, the call to arms sounded throughout America. And the vaunted patriotism of the Greeks everywhere proved itself no idle boast. Never before in history has such a spectacle been seen: hosts of immigrants sacrificing their all and hastening home from all over the world to fight for their oppressed brethren and to gain back the century-enslaved lands which are Greek by right. Thus was Greece furnished with a sufficient supply of soldiers and sailors. Splendid enthusiasm was displayed in every colony of Greeks in the United States, and those who did not go, contributed generously. That autumn and winter at our Atlantic seaports the crowds of embarking patriots were familiar and inspiring sights, as they marched to the ships, singing their national anthem and receiving the final blessing from their priests. Between 40,000 and 50,000 reservists and volunteers went to Greece from America. Most of these saw active service and acquitted themselves nobly in the victorious war. It is an almost certain prediction to make that nearly all of them will return to America -- except those who have given their lives for the holy cause on the field of battle.
Greek Independence Day
Let me quote a typical account from the Biddeford Journal April 15, 1912, of Biddeford and Saco, Maine where there is a community of 500 Greeks, who celebrated Greek Independence Day, March 25th:
The 91st anniversary of the Independence of Greece was celebrated by the American-Greek residents of Biddeford and Saco, Sunday, with special services in National Hall, a street parade led by Panchaud's band and patriotic features that were symbolic of the liberty gained through centuries of struggle in the mother country. The committee in charge of the programme for the day were Nicholas Collins, E. Boucoubalas, George Vassals and Peter Victor, and under their direction the patriotic services were carried out with great credit to this newer element to our citizenship, and the pride of the older residents who viewed the parade.
The religious service that was after the Greek Orthodox form was held in National Hall, and was impressive, though not long. Following this came an address to the Greek people by Michael latros of Boston who is the editor of the weekly publication, The Patris. It was a heart to heart talk that this educated leader had with the people of his country and his race, fired by patriotism strong with enthusiasm for the future of his people, who, loving freedom at home, are enjoying this same privilege in "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Following the service the company left the hall, formed in line and to the music of the band and led by George Vassals of the committee, marched down Main Street. It was an imposing sight. Directly following the leader came the Sacred Battalion, a platoon of young men bearing the American flag, the blue and white ensign of Greece and the banner of the Pan-Hellenic Union. Then marched the men of the race, in all, a band of 300 strong. A platoon of police acted as an escort.
Erect and with firm tread, in perfect step to the music, they moved along, not forgetting to recognize with bared head the American flag, that in anticipation of the celebration had been displayed by citizens all along the route; nor the Greek flag that was displayed wherever there were Greek homes or places of business. It was an object lesson to older as well as younger Americans and by the most dispassionate should not be soon forgotten. It was expressive of the same love for liberty that has marked the Greek race since the early Peloponnesian struggles. The spirit that under Miltiades won great victory over the Persians at Marathon; that stood at the pass of Thermopylae under the brave Leonidas. Not only the recognition of the day but the coming of Mr. Iatros to the city will mean much for the local Greeks. Their organizations will now be fired by a deeper spirit of the true patiotism, recognizing the truth of the fact brought out by this patriot and orator, that the power to be of the best lies within themselves.
"Life in the Great Cities" is Burgess' description of the Greek immigrants in the metropolitan areas of America, and he includes a study of the Greeks in Chicago, written by Miss Grace Abbott of famous Hull House of Chicago, which we are also reprinting because of its historical value, as well as its favorable portrayal of Greek life in Chicago. Burgess writes:
Life in the Great Cities
Probably the correct estimate of the Greek population of Chicago is 20,000. Let us quote from Canoutas' "Greek American Guide", translating literally:'Before 1882 there were a small number of Greeks in Chicago. These organized, with some Slavs, the Helleno-Slavo Brotherhood, which later was called the Good Deed Brotherhood, and invited a Greek priest, a graduate of a Russian school, to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. By 1891, when their number had reached 100, they organized the "Therapnean Society" later called "Lycurgos Society" for the purpose of establishing a Greek church. The first church building was erected in 1898 under the presidency of K. Loumos, "Holy Trinity" at 1101 Johnson Street. Two more churches were established soon thereafter, which include St. Constantine, and The Annunciation.'
In Chicago there are some twenty-odd local societies, and a branch of the Pan-Hellenic Union. This city has the largest number of Greek business concerns of any city in America, especially confectioners, fruit stores, and restaurants. There are ten Greek physicians, two dentists, two pharmacies, a Greek bank, several lawyers and two newspapers-a hi-weekly of six pages, Athena, and a ten-page weekly, Star. A proportion of the Greeks of Chicago, have become naturalized.'
"A Study of the Greeks in Chicago"
From the American Journal of Sociology, Nov. 1909 by Miss Grace Abbott, Director of the League for the Protection of Immigrants
Appreciating that its immediate neighborhood was becoming Hellenic, an investigation of the Greeks in Chicago was made by Hull House in order that with reliable information about their housing conditions, their occupations, their family life, and their housing conditions, their occupations, their family life, and their ambitions, the resources of the House could be made more useful to its new neighbors. For this purpose (in 1908) 350 Greek residences were visited and 1,467 Greeks counted on the schedules. These were not confined to any one neighborhood, but were representative of the city's entire Greek population, the wealthier as well as the poorer. During the winter and spring a Greek-speaking woman was employed by Hull House to do systematic visiting among the Greek families of its neighborhood and among the Greek boys of the downtown district. Upon the information thus secured by Hull House this study is almost entirely based.
The largest settlement of Greeks in Chicago is in the 19th Ward, north and west of Hull House. Here is a Greek Orthodox Church; a school in which children are taught a little English, some Greek, much of the achievements of Hellas and the obligation that rests on every Greek to rescue Macedonia from the Turks and the Bulgarians; here too, is the combination of Greek bank, steamship ticket office, notary public, and employment agency; and the coffee houses, where the men drink black coffee, play cards, speculate on the outcome of the next Greek lottery, and in the evening sing to the accompaniment of the Greek bag-pipes -- or evidence of their Americanization -- listen to the phonograph. On Halsted Street, south of Harrison, almost every store for two blocks has Greek characters on the windows; and recalling one's long forgotten college Greek, one learns, that the first coffee house is the Cafe Apollon, and that their newspaper, The Hellas, is published next door. A block west, on Blue Island Avenue one finds the Parthenon Barber Shop and a Greek drug stOregon If an American were to visit this neighborhood on the night of Good Friday when the stores are draped with purple and black, and watch at midnight the solemn procession of Greek men march down the streets carrying their burning candles and chanting hymns, he would probably feel as though he we’re no longer in America; but after a moment's reflection he would say that this could be no place but America, for the procession was headed by eight burly Irish-American policemen and along the walks were 'Americans' of Polish, Italian, Russian, Jewish, Lithuanian, and Puritan ancestry watching with mingled reverence and curiosity this celebration of Good Friday; while those who marched were homesick and mourning because 'this was not like the Tripolis.'
Although the Greeks have scattered much more widely over the entire country than the Italians and most other immigrants, still they are little known or understood. They have suffered both here and in Europe from extravagant praise or unreasonable criticism. Before the Civil War, in the days when the Native American or Know Nothing Party flourished, many good Americans were afraid that the immigrants, who then came principally from Germany and northern Europe, were going to destroy our institutions and ideals, and there was organized opposition to their admission. Now the fear is that, because the immigrants are coming from southern and eastern Europe, those prophecies of sixty years ago are about to be fulfilled. The average American, expecting every Greek to have the beauty of an Apollo and the ability of a Pericles, and reading only sensational newspaper accounts of some crime he may or may not have committed, concludes that the race has degenerated and constitutes a most undesirable addition to our population. This is manifestly unfair. The Greek immigrant should be accepted for what he is worth in modern society. And we should inquire not only as to his moral standards, his capacity for self-government and his economic value, but, equally important, whether his development in these directions is being promoted or retarded by the treatment he receives in the United States.
The only way of measuring the morality of a people is by the very low test of their criminality. For this the only statistics available are the records of the courts, police departments and penal institutions. These need most careful interpretation. Classifications are usually very carelessly made and do not distinguish between American of native and foreign parentage, so that no conclusions can be drawn as to the effect which residence in the United States has upon the conduct of the foreigner. It should also be remembered that the immigrant's offense is too often only his ignorance of the English language, which to an irritated Irish policeman is in itself a crime. Violations of city ordinances through ignorance of sanitary regulations, of the requirement of a license for peddlers, and of similar regulations, cause more arrests than viciousness. The newly arrived foreigner must speak through an interpreter, and a careless translation often gives the court an incorrect idea of what has been said. The testimony of the witnesses against him, and occasionally the charge, are not translated to him, and so he is unable to appreciate the full bearing of the questions asked him, and his chances for acquittal are fewer than the Americans.
The report of the Commissioner General of Immigration for 1908 shows that 15,323 aliens were retained in various penal and reformatory institutions of the United States. Of this number, 196 were Greeks. In the north central group, which includes Illinois and eleven other stales, 40 Greeks and 2,570 other aliens are reported so detained. These figures undoubtedly do not give the number of alien criminals for the entire year, but they seem incredibly small even for any one time of the year, when it is remembered that they include alien adult and juvenile offenders held in municipal, county, slate, and federal institutions. In Chicago those Greeks who go out to work on the railroads from April to November and spend four or five months in idleness in the city, although not counted in the official census, are probably the ones who are found most frequently in the municipal courts, charged with disorderly conduct. The fact that so many of the Greeks are independent peddlers and merchants instead of employees in some large factory is in part some explanation of their difficulties. Hotheaded and independent, they are, like the Irishman, drawn into disputes which often end in serious quarrels. Undoubtedly their criminal record in America is worse now than it will be in the future. The Greek is one of the last to come into this complex population of ours and the colony as a whole is still ignorant of our language and customs. The young men and hoys have been coming in large numbers during the past eight years, and women are following as the men graduate from work on the railroads to the proprietorship of a fruit stand or restaurant. Still a very large proportion of the Greeks are men between the ages of twenty and thirty -- the sex and age of the greatest criminality in all nationalities. This very large proportion of men makes the life of the Greek colony entirely different from that of a people who have been coming for the last thirty or forty years. The men who are here alone must live together in large groups, without the restraining influences which come with normal family relationships. Certainly, this would account for much of the immorality with which Greek men have been charged. In this respect they are worse than at home, due probably to the demoralizing effect which living in a city's congested district, where invitations to vice are on every side and where there is not counter claim or attraction of a home, always has on men or women. The most hopeful sign is that the Greeks who have been in the country for some time are coming to appreciate this and are trying to make their fellow-countrymen realize the danger which the situation presents.
Considered from other standpoints, the Greek is a most desirable immigrant. With the political training he has had at home, he should be able to adapt himself quickly to our republican institutions. Industrially he is a positive asset in the United States.
Because the colony is so largely masculine, large numbers of the men live together, keeping house on some cooperative arrangement, and form what may be called 'nonfamily' groups to distinguish them from the ordinary family group in which the wife or daughter does the housekeeping for the family and a lodger or two. Three-fourths, at least, of the laborers and peddlers belong to these non-family groups, while probably nearly the same proportion of the owners of ice cream parlors and restaurant keepers belong to the family groups. This shows very clearly how the system works. Like other foreigners, most of the Greeks must first serve an apprenticeship in the gangs that do the railroad and general construction work for the country. But their apprenticeship is shorter than most nationalities. A labor agent, who supplies two or three thousand foreigners a season for this sort of work, says that the Greek seldom 'ships-out' more than once or twice. In that time, he has learned some English and has accumulated enough money to venture on a small commercial enterprise for himself. He becomes a peddler, perhaps later owns a fruit stand and finally an ice cream parlor. By this time, he is ready to send for his wife and children, or some Greek woman who becomes his wife, and they are able to live comfortably and happily. During the short time he has been in Chicago the Greek has established his reputation as a shrewd businessman. On Halsted Street they are already saying, 'It Takes a Greek to beat a Jew.' Historically, there is, of course, some reason for this. Mahaffy, an authority on ancient as well as modern Greece, says of the Greeks: 'They are probably as clever a people as can be found in the world, and fit for any mental work whatever. This they have proved, not only by getting into their hands all the trade of the eastern Mediterranean, but by holding their own perfectly among English merchants in England.'
That they will become great business and professional men in the United States there can be little doubt. They come, willing to do any kind of hard physical work, but thriftily take advantage of every opportunity for advancement. The testimony of those experienced in teaching immigrants is always favorable to the Greeks. The teacher of the 'adult room' of the Jones School, which is just outside the loop in the downtown district, had 81 Greeks enrolled in 1908-09 out of a total of 252. She said of all the different nationalities represented in the room 'I think I have found the Greeks the brightest and quickest to learn.' At Hull House they have been eager and intelligent members of the regular classes and the men have shown ability in the organization and management of large clubs and classes for themselves.
The patriotism of the Greeks is one of his most prominent characteristics and takes very often the exceedingly boastful form usually credited to 'Yankees' in English novels. They are always ready to tell you of the superiority of the Greek soldier over any other, and the men who have been to college in Greece speak of American schools and American scholarship with almost German contempt. A small Greek boy was sure that he won the affection of his Irish schoolteacher by showing her pictures of 'the Athens'. Most of them feel it their duty to spread the fame of their noble race wherever possible. Approving of Hull House, they succeeded in convincing the Bulgarians, for the time at least, that it was intended for the Greeks alone, and the first Greek boy who went through the juvenile court felt that he had added to the glory of the Greek name and dignified that worthy American institution as well. While somewhat exasperating at times, this enthusiastic devotion to their mother country is after all a most desirable characteristic and one which the Anglo-American should readily appreciate.
Considering their Eastern training and traditions of almost Oriental seclusion, the Greek women adapt themselves very quickly to American customs. A Greek Women's Club has been meeting at Hull House once a week and a Greek Women's Philanthropic Society has been formed there by the more prosperous, who expect to help in various ways the unfortunate members of their colony. This charitable organization is eagerly encouraged by the men, for the Greeks, although extremely shrewd in their business dealings, are at the same time generous. They give liberally to one another in times of sickness or unemployment. On Tag Day for the children's charities of the city the women reaped a good profit in the Greek stores and coffee house on Halsted Street.
When three small Greek children were left without homes, it was not difficult to find Greek families in the neighborhood of Hull House who were willing to receive and care for them temporarily or indefinitely. Unlike the Italian women, they do not work outside their own homes or at sweatshop work. Out of 246 Greek women and girls over fifteen who were visited in the investigation, only 5 were found to be at work. This is not alone because the Greek man usually succeeds in business, but because he considers it a disgrace for his wife or his sister to work, and the entire family often suffers that this tradition that 'the women must not work' may be upheld.
The Greek, then, upon acquaintance prove to be bright, industrious, and capable men and women. Better than some, and not so well as others, they are meeting the dangerous temptations which come with long hours and unwholesome living conditions. What they become as a result of their American environment should be an American responsibility. The best way to help them and the city is not by the general condemnation which is too often meted out to 'the stranger within our gates' but by recognizing their ability, industry, and capacity for good citizenship and uniting with them to suppress the vice and exploitations from which they suffer.
This picture of the Chicago Greeks will also apply to New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco, where there are smaller numbers. There were 1,000 Greeks in San Francisco before the earthquake, which destroyed their Church, but many more poured in thereafter.
Lowell is the home of the largest Greek colony in the U.S. outside of New York and Chicago, with 8,000 communicants in its Greek Orthodox parish. Lowell is a mill town and the first immigrants came here in 1891. The first were peddlers, but the depression of 1892 forced them to go to work in the mills of Lowell. They started at $3 or $4 a week as sweepers, the dye house, etc. In 1894, a Greek grocery was established, and a bakery. Many got better jobs in the mills, and were earning $6, $7, and $8 a week by then, and sent money to needy friends in Chicago and New York to come to Lowell for work; and they also sent money home to their families in Greece.
The 1913 population of Lowell is made up of (among the total of 100,000) 2/5 Irish and English; 1/5 French Canadians; 8,000 Greeks; and several thousand each of Poles, Swedes, Portuguese, and Jews, and also a goodly smattering of Syrians, Armenians, Norwegians, Slavs etc., at least 40 nationalities. It is stated that there are in Lowell also a few Americans!
Back in those early 1890's the sons of Hellas began the third important migration into Lowell, after the first migration of the Irish, and the second of the French Canadians, and each migration underbid the wages of the earlier workers. The coming of the Greeks made the Irish and the French, who had held down the mill jobs heretofore, mad. The Greeks proved themselves the steadier workmen. From time immemorial, Monday and often Tuesday had been held sacred as 'drunk days' when habitual Hibernian or Franco 'hang-over' retarded the mill machinery. The Greeks were free from drink and were good for work all the week, and the overseers naturally favored them because of that. From the very beginning these two dominant races attacked and ill-used the new Greek laborers and hounded them from good lodgings. Their attacks grew as the Greek colony grew. At night, when the mills poured out their operatives, the poor, scared Greeks would gather twenty or so together, take the middle of the street, scattered to their lodgings and dared not stir out till morning.
But one day when a Greek youngster was attacked, he thrust a jackknife into a Frenchman. This Greek was not arrested, and his stand had a most salutary effect. From that moment all a Greek had to do was to put his hand to his back pocket -- 'he has a knife! he has a knife!' -- the sons of Greece were attacked no longer and persecution became only indirect.
The increasing colony was obliged to segregate itself in Market Street because all other sections of the city refused them access. So, there they settled in tumble-down tenements. In 1895, a society was formed of which Mr. latros was president, which called the first Greek priest, discharged at that time from the New York community, Kallinikos Delveis. A hired hall was used for the church. In 1897 came the news of war with Turkey, and some 200 or 300 went to Greece. The war was short and they soon came back, bringing with them a large number of their countrymen. This brought the colony up to the 1,000 mark, and the stream of immigration became a river. In 1901 a building was bought on Lewis Avenue, the basement fixed up for a church. In 1904 the building was torn down, and construction began on the finest Greek church in America, except the one in Chicago, costing nearly $80,000. The church was completed in 1908. The $80,000 for the building and furnishing the church was collected by voluntary subscriptions, entirely from the members of the Greek colony. Within a year and a half, they raised $30,000. Times have become harder in Lowell, so there is an exodus of some of the 8,000 to the West, where they find work either in the vineyards of California or the railroad lines.
There are in Lowell at this time, 1913:
Rev. Constas Chatzedemetriou, with a congregation of almost 8,000 in one church; 3 Greek physicians (there used to be six); 1 dentist;-2 drug stores; 2 newspapers (Patris and Anagesis); 2 printing offices; 3 ticket agencies; 2 photographers; 1 importing house; 2 cigarette manufacturers; several dry goods stores; tailor shops; and shoemakers; 4 restaurants; some 30 groceries; a wholesale meat dealer; 6 bakeries; 25 or 30 coffee houses; 1 model saloon; about 10 confectioneries and fruit stores; a number of barbers; and a number of shoe shine parlors.
Most of these are huddled in the Market Street section. There are several farms, each owned jointly by four or five Greeks, and a number of farm laborers. The great bulk of the colony work in the mills at various grades of skilled and unskilled labor. The Greeks are well spoken of by the mill agents and overseers, and also by their landlords. The city authorities consider them the most peaceable of all foreigners.
Yes, conditions sanitary and otherwise are bad in those ramshackle germ-steeped tenements of Market Street. Burn them down, 0 American millionaire, and erect something in keeping with our vaunted American freedom and advanced civilization! One property owner by expending a very little money could do more than a thousand Greeks to remedy such conditions. The Greeks, having been inured by centuries of slavery under the Turk, stand it better than many other nationalities, and being more enterprising than the rest, they quickly better their lot. My point here is that we ought to stop blaming these foreigners for what is not their fault. In other parts of the country, where the Greeks are not so herded together, they live under very different housing conditions.
When the Greek coffee house was first established in Lowell, the chief of police objected to the Greek vice-consul, but finally agreed to allow them under suffrance. At the end of six months all ban was removed, and the police declared them one of the most beneficial institutions in the city. They are to the Greek what in a certain degree the saloon is to the American laborer, i.e., in its social aspects, without the harmfulness of the saloon. It would be a mighty good thing if our vociferous "temperance" societies would spend their tongues and pens in establishing and popularizing American coffee houses instead of frenzied prohibition -- at which latter spectacle our Greeks are ever wont to jest. Imagine a room, sometimes shabby, sometimes neat, filled with little tables, about which are seated moustached Greeks, talking, joking, playing cards, sometimes singing, poring over newspapers, and smoking cigarettes and drinking their thick, sweet Turkish coffee, served in tiny cups, or perhaps Moxie or some other soft drink. Here are discussed with relish and vivacity and factional intelligence the politics o[ the community, Greece, the United States. Here is the typical Greek spirit of comradeship and argument. In some coffee houses in other cities, and especially in the West, where idle railroad laborers congregate, there is much gambling and innocents are fleeced by professionals. But in Lowell there is little rabid gambling, except among a small group, the Mainates, from a particular section of southern Pelopponesus, Maina. These are the only professionals, and they are not all in favor with the rest of the community, nor do they carry on their trade in the coffee houses, but in private rooms.
As for drunkenness, as we have stated before, there is practically none among Greeks. In this they ever adhere to that fundamental maxim of the sages of Ancient Greece, "Measure in all things" or "Nothing in excess." I was told that in the past 20 years there has been only one arrest of a Greek on the charge of intoxication, and it was not at all certain that that man was drunk. The Greeks, when they can get it, drink beer with their suppers in lieu of the light wines they were always accustomed to at home. As has been the case everywhere else, so in Lowell the Greeks, however poor and wretched, have always taken care of themselves or each other. They are too proud to accept charity. During all the 20 years, except in one instance, the city of Lowell has never paid a cent to help a Greek individual or family, nor to bury a Greek. There are two city evening schools held in city school buildings exclusively for Greeks, in session four months of the year. These average 400 scholars and sometimes reach 600. English, history, arithmetic, etc. are taught. The Greeks prove good scholars and are well behaved. They are considered the most orderly and best evening schools in the city. Attendance is obligatory for minors by state law. No young foreigner between the ages of 14 and 18 (or, if illiterate, 21) can obtain or keep a job in the mills without his school card properly marked for attendance.
THE GREAT WEST
Throughout the West, the work on the railroad lines is done by Greeks, Bulgarians, Romanians, Croatians, and also some Italians. Each gang is treated as a racial unit, living in separate cars. The other nationalities sometimes fraternize in the same camp, but the Hellene never. The bosses declare the Greeks to be steady and cheerful. The quarters are freight cars, fitted up with 8 or 10 bunks, and separate cars for dining room and kitchen. The men go to and from their work on hand cars. Thus, they live in the warm months of the year, and in the winter months pile into the various cities which dot the Great West, all the way from Chicago to the Pacific. There was one instance in South Omaha where the Americans, after a meeting in their city hall, arose in a body and drove out the Greeks and destroyed their shops. The direct cause of this was the murder of a policeman, but the matter had been smouldering for some time before because of the idle railroad laborers some of whom had made themselves nuisances.
This South Omaha affair is discussed by Dr. Peter Roberts, International Immigration Secretary of the YMCA, in New Immigration, Macmillan, 1912 as follows:
In South Omaha, one of the most shameful riots ever known took place because of prejudice against the foreigner. A Greek went into the house of a young lady of questionable character, and a policeman following the man, arrested him without any overt cause whatsoever. The Greek resisted and, in the scuffle which followed, the officer was shot. That was Saturday night. The following Sunday morning as the bells were ringing, calling men to worship, a mob assembled and under the leadership of disreputable fellows, began storming the Greek quarters, smashing windows, breaking doors, and pursuing the terror-stricken and defenseless Greeks in all directions. On the corner of L Street and 24th Avenue was the firm of Demos Brothers -- superior men in every sense of the word, one of them being married to an American girl. This store was several blocks away from the Greek quarter, but on came the raging mob as the surging tide, lashed by gusts of rage and passion. They attacked the store at a time when the white-haired mother of the Demos Brothers sat quietly at the soda fountain. They smashed windows, tore to pieces the soda fountain, strewed on floor and street the contents of windows and cases and left the place, which represented an investment of more than $7,000 a mass of ruins. The brothers and their families fled for life. They had other stores in Omaha, which they immediately gave up, for they knew not how far this wave of fury, fanaticism, and savagery would sweep, and in a week they found themselves reduced by mob violence in Christian America from the position of prosperous merchants to paupers ... Instances of mob violence against the foreigners are also found in the East, and even in the South is not exempt.
The book "Greeks in America" continues with short descriptions of Greek immigrant life in St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Birmingham, Tarpon Springs, Florida:
From Canoutas' Greek American Guide
Of the Central States Missouri has the largest number of Greeks after Illinois. There are from 3,000 to 6,000 of our fellow countrymen there, often mOregon The largest Greek centers are St. Louis, Kansas City, and St. Joseph. In St. Louis the Greeks who live there permanently number some 2,000. In the winter time this number is nearly doubled by the coming of the many laborers from the railway lines. The Greek shops amount to about 200, and consist of candy stores, restaurants, bootblacking establishments, and the inevitable Greek workmen's centers, the coffee houses and the Greek restaurants, which are on Elm and Walnut Streets. Families about 70-80. Outside of those engaged in Greek shops, they are employed in the factories or the American hotels. The Greek community dates from 1905. At first the priests in Chicago took turns coming to celebrate the Divine Litergy, and then a regular pastor was appointed, from Boston, Rev. P. Phiampolis.
Salt Lake City
About 4,000 of our people are in the state of Utah, most of them workmen in the coal and other mines and on the railway lines. The chief center for the Greeks is Salt Lake City, where there is a community of the same name. At present there are some hundred Greek shops there, half of which deal entirely with the Greeks; these are concentrated on 2nd Street, S.W., where is the Greek colony, and consist of coffee houses, restaurants, groceries, saloons, barber shops, etc. The rest are entirely for American trade and are restaurants, a few candy stores, and bootblack stands. The progress of this colony till lately has been by leaps and bounds. In January, 1905, the resolution was adopted to call a priest and organize a church. On the 21st of April he came, the present priestly head, The Rev. Archimandrite Parthenos Lymperopoulos, appointed by the Holy Synod of Greece. On Palm Sunday the first Liturgy was celebrated in a hired hall. On May 10 they bought a lot for the church building, and on Oct. 25 the church edifice costing about $10,000 was turned over to the community. Among the best known there is Nicholas Stathakos, Leonidas and Evangelos Skleres. There are two newspapers, Light by Dr. P. Kassinikos and Progress by George Photopoulos.
About 6,000 to 8,000 Greeks live in Washington state. The majority are employed on railway lines, lumber mills, or in other work. Wages vary from $1.65 to $2.50 the day and in the winter most are concentrated in Spokane, Seattle, and Tacoma, where they find Greek coffee houses and restaurants. In the summer in Seattle there are about 1,000 Greeks and in the winter some 2,000 to 3,000 or more, from the conflux of the railroad laborers and others from Alaska, where some 300-500 work in the mines. About 50 families in Seattle. From Andros, Mr. Pantages began his theatre enterprises and here has his headquarters as owner and director of many theatres in various states west of Chicago. The first Greeks in Seattle were sailors who settled there more than 30 years ago. G. Chatzetamates from Tseme, Turkey and N. Petsas from Spetsai, who are still there from the original sailors. Years before, the former, with his brother in law, N. Mantsas, bought for a comparatively low price a lot at 757 Lake View Avenue on which they built a church, but being unable to support a priest, gave it over to the Russian Bishop.
Founded in 1907 and containing about 500 compatriots, it is perhaps the most perfect of the Greek communities in America. The Greek business concerns in this city, especially the confectionery stores, are among the finest in America, calling forth the praise and admiration of the Americans. The proprietors of these and almost all the Greeks here rejoice in a very excellent reputation. Their small but beautiful church in Byzantine style is one of the finest Greek churches in America.
This community of about 600 Greeks is one of the most peace loving and progressive in America, showing none of those absurdities which are usually to be seen in some of the other communities and colonies. Pastor is Archimandrite Joachim Alexopoulos.
This is typical of the Greek colonies of the South. Savannah and Atlanta are just as flourishing. In Birmingham with a population of 132,000 there are some 900 Greeks. Also 300 more in the city of Ensley, eight miles out. There are 60 Greek families in Birmingham. The stores are: 3 wholesale fruit; 1 hotel; 12 restaurants and lunch rooms; 34 smaller lunch rooms; 40 fruit stores and stands; 6 confectioneries; 4 billiard rooms; 3 saloons; 10 shoe shine places; 2 bakeries; 1 barber shop; 1 tailor shop; 1 fish market. Hotel "Reliance" only about 50 rooms and restaurant opposite railway depot. Twenty odd years ago the following Greeks came to this city: Christos Tsempelis or Zebal; Nicholas Kollias; Alex Kontas; Kostouros or Costello; and the brothers Papageorgios. The Greeks here do not congregate in one particular section of the city, but they own or rent their houses and lodgings anywhere like other residents. No coffee house in Birmingham, nor any Greek stores exclusively for Greeks. Greek church at corner of 19th street and C Avenue is a wooden structure but well equipped and cost $10,000. The men learn English in the evening schools, and the children attend public schools. In 1909, a few young Greeks organized the "Young Greeks' Progressive Society of Birmingham" for mutual protection and assistance, better acquaintance, drilling, athletics, etc. In 1911 it included about 150, almost all the young Greek men of the city. Most of the Greeks who have been in Birmingham over five years are naturalized and take great interest in politics. They have a branch of the Pan-Hellenic Union.
Tarpon Springs, Florida
Tarpon Springs, Fla., is unique and not typical. Here you are carried back to the shores of the Mediterranean; you feel yourself in sunny Argolis. All the quaint customs of Hellas are observed untrammelled; yet they are also public spirited American citizens. In this town of 4,000 there are about 2,000 Greeks living there. When you alight at the railroad station, you are struck by the Greek signs printed along with the English, announcing the time of departing trains. The Greek church, the club house, the really oriental coffee houses with the tables out of doors-all serve to make the visitor feel that a bit of Hellas has been set down in our country. Greek flags float beside our own. Along the quays ride at anchor numbers of queer diving boats, painted in striking colors and constructed on Greek models. In these curious craft the Greeks put out into the gulf and bring home the sponges. The Greeks here are highly respected and beloved by their fellow citizen, with whom they mingle freely.
Let us imagine ourselves there on the Feast of the Epiphany in January,1912. There is a spectacle like that in the harbor of Syra on this great feast day, but to be seen in its outdoor ceremony nowhere in America except Tarpon Springs. The church is packed. After the Divine Liturgy, the priest in full vestments goes to the center of the nave, where stands a vessel of water, which with solemn chant he blesses. 'Tis the commemoration of the Baptism of our Blessed Lord in Jordan, when by the Father and the Holy Ghost were manifested forth His Deity.' The parishioners are sprinkled with the holy water, and they drink of it, and fill bottles to take home with them to bring blessings on their houses.
The throng passes out of the church and forms the procession, led by the Tarpon Springs Cornet Band. Next comes the priest, and on either side of him, two guests of the community, priests of the Anglican Communion, the rector of the Redeemer, Brooklyn, the Rev. Thomas J. Lacev, Phd., who has traveled all the way south to participate in this ceremony. Behind them march a couple of Hellenes, bearing the flags of the two lands of the free. The great procession moved down Orange Street to Safford Avenue and then to Tarpon Avenue to the bayou. Moving close to the edge of the pier, the priest reads the Holy Gospel account of Our Lord's baptism with the singing of hymns, while in his hand he carried a small gutta-percha cross trimmed with silver. Out in the water are boats and in them stand the young Greeks who have been chosen to dive for the cross … Suddenly the band ceases playing and the chanting stops, and the little cross goes flying over the water. There is a great splash as eight divers plunge after it. For twenty minutes they keep diving. At last Stathes Klonares, a "skin diver" of the Mediterranean from Kalymnos, Turkey, who has been at the bottom for nearly five minutes, comes up and holds aloft the cross, his face gleaming with triumph and reverence. Amid loud applause and confusion the procession forms again; and, led by the victorious diver with the cross borne high above his head, they march back to the church, where the crowd disperses.
The first thing we must do is really to understand this interesting people, and to regard them not as mere immigrants from southeastern Europe, but as a distinct and separate race. It is with this object that this book has been written-to encourage a full, unprejudiced, and sympathetic understanding of our Hellenic fellow citizens. Moreover it is very important-more so with the Greeks than with most nationalities-to have a good knowledge of the history of their race, mediaeval as well as modern; and also of the life in Greece of the immigrants, before they sailed for America.
Philanthropically inclined people ask in this way, "What can we do to help the Greek?" This is not, however, the proper question at all; Rather they should ask, "What can we Americans do that the Greek may be given a fair and equal chance to help himself?" For first and foremost it is for Americans, who are true and unselfish Americans, to remove those obstacles which, in this land where all are supposed to be free, impede the Greek's progress. It is for us to cease blaming the foreigner for what is not his fault, but ours. Can America expect the foreigner not to be affected by those faults and failings which are all too common in Americans: lack of idealism and worship of commercialism, laxity in law, laxity in morals, laxity in religion -- and that, too, when the foreigner is placed in contact with the worst side of American life and has little opportunity to appreciate the best side?
Chiefest among all obstacles which impede his progress is the rank prejudice against the foreigner in general, found especially in the half educated and snobbish "middle class" Americans, -- and the parents or grandparents of many of these latter were themselves foreign immigrants. "The scum of the earth," "the off-scouring of Europe," are terms of abuse commonly used in speaking of immigrants today. With like appellations Americans used to dub the German, the Irish, and the Scandinavians. As a matter of fact, the recent immigrants, just as the earlier ones were, are not the "scum," uncultured though they be, but for the most part the strongest, the bravest, the most enterprising.
Finally, that which really counts, as it does in all else, -- our personal touch of man with man. Let those Americans who stand for that true ideal of Americanism which the Greek expected to find before he came to our shores-let such men and women learn to know their Greek neighbors by personal touch and sincere friendship. Only so can the Greeks learn to value the ideals of the true American.
This concludes our excerpts from "Greeks in America" bv Thomas Burgess, except for the following tables included in his book, which give an estimate of the number of Greek immigrants living in the various States:
Approximate Number of Greeks in the United States
By States & Cities - Compiled by Seraphim G. Canoutas
- Birmingham, Ensley: 1,200
- Gadsden and Attalla: 200
- Mobile: 400
- Montgomery 400
- Other Places 1,300
ARIZONA (1,000) Scattered
- Little Rock: 300
- Helena, Hot Springs, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, etc. : 700
- San Francisco and Oakland: 5,000
- Los Angeles: 1,000
- Sacramento: 1,000
- Other cities & Railroad Line workers: 10,000
- Denver: 500
- Pueblo: 700
- Laborers, Mines and Railroads: 2,000
- Ansonia: 300
- Bridgeport: 300
- New Britain: 200
- Norwich: 200
- Stamford: 200
- Other Places: 800
- Wilmington: 150
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (700)
- Tarpon Springs: 2,000
- Pensacola: 500
- Other places: 1,500
- Atlanta: 900
- Savannah: 500
- Augusta: 200
- Brunswick: 150
- Other places: 1,500
IDAHO (3,000 Scattered laborers)
- Chicago: 20,000
- Moline: 1,000
- Other places: 9,000
- Indianapolis: 500
- Other places: 2,000
- Des Moines: 300
- Sioux City: 500
- Other places: 1,700
- Kansas City: 300
- Independence: 300
- Other places (mostly laborers): 2,000
- Lexington: 200
- Louisville: 300
- Other places: 1000
- New Orleans: 700
- Other places: 800
- Biddleford: 500
- Lewiston: 500
- Augusta and Waterville: 200
- Westbrook and Portland: 200
- Other places: 400
- Baltimore: 800
- Other places: 700
- Boston: 3,000
- Lowell: 8,000
- Lynn: 2,000
- Peabody: 1,000
- Springfield: 500
- Ipswich: 500
- Haverhill: 2,000
- New Bedford: 800
- Clinton: 500
- Holyoke: 500
- Worcester: 900
- Fitchburg: 500
- Brockton: 300
- Salem: 500
- Other places: 10,000
- Detroit: 1,000
- Other places: 2,000
- Minneapolis: 600
- St. Paul: 400
- Other places: 1,000
MISSISSIPPI (Scattered 1,000)
- St. Louis: 4,000
- Kansas City: 2,000
- Other places: 2,000
- Billings: 200
- Butte: 200
- Great Falls: 400
- Other places (laborers): 2,000
- Omaha and South Omaha: 1,000
- Other places: 2,000
- Ely and McGill: 1,000
- Other places: 500
NEW HAMPSHIRE (8,000)
- Manchester: 3,500
- Nashua: 2,000
- Dover: 500
- Other places: 2,000
NEW JERSEY (2,500)
- Newark and Orange: 1,000
- Other places: 1,500
NEW MEXICO (Scattered 1,000)
NEW YORK (32,200)
- New York City with Brooklyn: 20,000
- Albany: 400
- Buffalo: 1,000
- Schenectady: 500
- Yonkers: 300
- All other places: 10,000
NORTH CAROLINA (Scattered 2,000)
NORTH DAKOTA (Not steady 2,000)
- Cincinnati: 500
- Cleveland: 500
- Youngstown: 500
- Akron: 500
- Canton: 200
- Toledo: 300
- All other places: 8,000
OKLAHOMA (Oklahoma City, etc. 1,000)
- Portland: 2,000
- All others (laborers): 4,000
- Philadelphia: 2,500
- Pittsburgh: 4,000
- Monessen: 800
- Reading: 600
- Other places: 10,000
RHODE ISLAND (1,300)
- Providence: 600
- Pawtucket: 400
- Other places: 300
SOUTH CAROLINA (Scattered 2,000)
- Memphis: 500
- Knoxville: 100
- Chattanooga: 100
- Nashville: 200
- Other places: 200
TEXAS (Scattered 4,000)
- Salt Lake City: 2,000
- Other places (laborers): 2,000
- Norfolk and Newport News: 500
- Other places: 1,500
- Seattle: 1,000
- Tacoma: 1,000
- Other places (laborers): 4,000
WEST VIRGINIA (2,000)
- Wheeling: 500
- Other places: 1,500
- Milwaukee: 3,000
- Sheboygan: 500
- Other places: 2,000
ALASKA (300 to 500)
Population Figures of Greece and Greek Immigration to the United States
The following comparison figures are offered showing the official population of Greece, and the number of Greek immigrants to the United States, from 1821. The loss in Greek population shown during the period of 1821 to 1828 is due to deaths during the Greek Revolutionary War for independence from Turkey which began on March 25, 1821 and was concluded in 1830, with freedom.
(1) The 1870 census includes the population of the Ionian Islands annexed lo Greece in 1864;
(2) The 1889 census includes the inhabitants of Thessaly and Arta annexed in 1881;
(3) The 1920 census includes the populations of Macedonia, Epirus, Crete, and the Aegean Islands annexed to Greece in 1913-14, as well as Western and Eastern Thrace and the islands Imbros and Tenedos annexed in 1919-20;
(4) The 1951 census includes the population of the Dodecanese annexed to Greece in 1947.
Thereafter, the annual immigration from Greece decreased until the revision of the U.S. immigration laws by Congress in 1965 which liberalized immigration and set aside the quota system which favored northern European countries and restricted the southern European countries which included Greece. In 1970, Greece ranked fourth among all nations in immigration to the U.S. with a total in that year alone of 16,464. Only Mexico, the Philippines, and Italy sent more immigrants than Greece. The countries which followed close behind in total immigration that year included Cuba, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, China, Canada, Portugal, Dominican Republic, India, Germany, Korea and Yugoslavia.
"Whom We Shall Welcome"
The President's Commission on Immigration and Naturalization published a report in 1953 entitled "Whom We Shall Welcome" which properly attributes and emphasizes American growth and development to the contributions of immigrant labor. A portion of that report states:
In a short period of human history the people of the United States built this country from a wilderness to one of the most powerful and prosperous nations in the world. The people who built America were forty million immigrants who have come since the Mayflower, and their descendants. We are still a vigorous and growing nation, and the economic, social and other benefits available to us, the descendants of immigrant forebears, are constantly expanding. Our remarkable national development testifies to the wisdom of our early and continuing belief in immigration. One of the causes of the American Revolution, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, was the fact that England hindered free immigration into the colonies.
Our growth as a nation has been achieved, in large measure, through the genius and industry of immigrants of every race and from every quarter of the world. The story of their pursuit of happiness is the saga of America. Their brains and their brawn helped to settle our land, to advance our agriculture, to build our industries, to develop our commerce, to produce new inventions and, in general to make us the leading nation that we now are. Immigration brought wealth to the United States, many billions of dollars. The immigrants did not bring this wealth in their baggage -- many arrived penniless and in debt -- but in their skills, their trades, and their willingness to work. In his testimony to the Commission, Dr. Louis I. Dublin, statistician and second vice president of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, pointed out that a young adult immigrant of eighteen years today is worth to the nation at least $10,000 since that is what it costs to raise the average American. The average net worth of such a person to the economy of the United States falls between $30,000 an-d $80,000 depending on his potential earning power. Throughout our history immigrants have in this way represented additional wealth to our country.
In the 145 years of unrestricted immigration into the United States, from 1776 to 1921, immigrants generally came when and where they were needed. There is no evidence that their arrival caused either unemployment or impoverishment. In the period of unrestricted immigration, the volume of immigration rose during prosperity but rapidly disappeared in times of depression when it would have contributed to unemployment. In general, immigrants came when they were needed and stayed away when they were not. Before quota restrictions were imposed, immigration was large in periods of full employment, small in times of unemployment. The great depression of the l 930's began almost a decade after the passage of restrictive immigration legislation. The unemployment of the 1930's therefore could hardly be attributed to immigration. On the contrary, a number of distinguished economists believe the restriction of immigration to have been one cause of the depression. Throughout American history rapid increase of population had provided a constantly expanding market for our products. The decline in population growth incident to reduction of immigration and to the declining birth rate in the 1920's removed one factor contributing to our expanding economy.
During the depression, quota restrictions were of no significance -- even the small quotas for Southern and Eastern Europe were unfilled. As in the earlier periods, with or without quotas and restrictive devices, prospective immigrants had no incentive or desire to come to this country in time of depression. In fact, in the depression years from 1931 through 1936, a total of 240,000 more aliens left than were admitted. The Commission finds no evidence that immigration either caused or aggravated the depression. Historically speaking, therefore, immigration has supplied much of the brain and sinew, the human resources that have created our nation. It came when and where manpower was in demand to build up America and raise its standard of living, but it has not of itself, caused depression and unemployment. The new immigrant has helped to enrich the native descendants of earlier immigration.
In reviewing the history of debates on the problem of immigration, the Commission was impressed by the fact that those opposing immigration appear to have been influenced … by a pessimistic outlook regarding the future economic growth of the United States. The nation was barely founded before a Congressman rose to say on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1797 that while a liberal immigration policy was satisfactory when the country was new and unsettled, now that the United States had reached maturity and was fully populated further immigration should be stopped! However, such views have continued throughout our history.
In 1921 the Immigration Committee of the House of Representatives again recommended complete termination of all immigration. By the 1920's there was widespread fear that the country could not profitably absorb immigration in the volume received before World War I. The territorial frontier was gone. The country was "filled up" in the sense that the good agricultural land was almost fully occupied and under cultivation. The economy was rapidly becoming industrialized, a "mature" economy was emerging, and therefore, it was argued, immigration had to be drastically curtailed.
With the 1921 Quota Act, originally designed for a one-year emergency, there began a wholly new departure in American law; a limitation on the number of immigrants that could be admitted into the United States. The Immigration Act of 1924 not only carried into permanent law the concept of a limitation on numbers, but also initiated the formula of selection on the base of race and nationality. The Immigration and Nationality (McCarran-Walter) Act of 1952 continued and strengthened the same principles. The onset of the depression in 1929 seemed to validate the views of those who feared that economic maturity meant the end of economic growth in the United States. This did not prove to be the case. Our economy has expanded by leaps and bounds. Our gross national product in 1924 of $140 billion (in 1951 dollars) grew to $329 billion in 1951; foreign exports of goods expanded from $6 1/2 billion (1951 dollars) in 1924 to $15 billion in 1951; manufacturing production increased by 140 per cent, and agricultural output by 51 per cent between 1924 and 1951. Our farmers had an average per capita income from farming of only $302 in 1924 (in terms of 1951 purchasing power) which rose to $760 per capita in 1951. These are but a few examples of growth since the 1920's and of the dynamic nature of our economy.
This economic expansion required an expanding labor force. The demands were met, as in the past, partly through natural growth and partly from migration. The labor force increased from 41.2 million in 1920 to 66 million in 1951. When the normal sources of European immigration were substantially cut off by our legislation of the 1920's, our industries had to seek other sources of labor. This they found in three ways: (1) by enormous migration from our own rural areas in the United States; (2) by increased immigration from Puerto Rico, the West Indies, and the non-quota countries of the Western Hemisphere, and (3) by special legislation providing for temporary immigration from neighboring countries. During World War II, and after, many hundreds of thousands of workers were drawn from the farms to man the factories and other establishments of our urban centers. Since 1940 over one and a half million southern Negroes moved to the cities of the North and West to fill the manpower shortages. The Negro population of the North and West more than doubled through this migration. But this was not enough. This source of manpower had to be supplemented by some 200,000 Puerto Ricans, and other West Indians. Quite aside from the movements of native white people in the United States, there were nearly 2 million total migrants who moved into the northern and western States from these internal sources in the decade 1940-50, and the movement continues unabated.
During this same period there was a net foreign immigration of one and a half million people that went chiefly to the industrial areas of the country. Thus, the total migration to the North and West from the South and from abroad during the forties was at least as large as the net immigration in the decade 1890-1900, the third largest decade of European immigration in our history. In other words, the northern cities continued to need immigrants but had to get them mainly from elsewhere than Europe. But even this was not enough to meet the demands of our growing economy. Congress also found it necessary to enact special immigration legislation admitting certain groups of immigrants temporarily to meet the manpower shortages, both in agricultural and non-agricultural employment.
As a result of acute labor shortages in agriculture during World War II, special programs for recruitment of seasonal and temporary workers from Western Hemisphere countries were undertaken by intergovernmental agreements. Large number of aliens were involved in these programs, both during the war and after. The greatest number of Mexican farm workers legally in the United States for this purpose at any one time during World War II was 67,860 around August 1, 1944. As many as 21,000 Jamaicans and 6,000 Bahamans, as well as small numbers of Canadians and other North Americans, entered the United States under similar programs from time to time during this period. After the war, and under a law enacted in 1948, this recruitment of immigrant agricultural workers was continued on a peace-time basis. During the year 1951, some 191,000 Mexican nationals were admitted temporarily for agricultural work. Even this movement of immigrants, authorized by Congress, is overshadowed by the illegal entry each year of over half a million Mexican "wetbacks." Specific agricultural activities have sometimes received explicit Congressional exemption from restrictive immigration provisions. Two enactments have authorized the granting of special quota immigration visas to skilled sheepherders, to be charged against future quotas. Under 1950 legislation, 250 were permitted to enter, of whom 125 were admitted during the fiscal year 1951. Another statute in 1952 authorized the admission of 500 more sheepherders.
In the original 1948 Displaced Persons Act, Congress provided a 40 per cent preference for agricultural labor, a further indication of Congressional recognition of immigration as a potential source of agricultural manpower. During the war a manpower gap also appeared in the non-agricultural occupations. A total of 135,283 Mexican nationals worked on railroads in the United States from May 1943 to August 1945. More might have been used, but the Mexican government imposed a maximum ceiling of 75,000 who could be permitted in this country at any particular time. During the fiscal year 1951 some 10,000 Canadian woodsmen were permitted entry into Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York to fill a need for manpower not otherwise available.
In the light of this experience under the restrictive limitations on immigration under the laws in effect since 1924, the Commission finds that immigration continues to be what it has always been in our history, a source of necessary manpower. Despite the efforts to change this situation by shutting off immigration from its customary sources, the American economy still continues to demand some form of immigration to meet the manpower demands of a growing and vigorous nation.
Population Growth and the American Future
The Migration and Refugees Services of the U.S. Catholic Conference reported its views on immigration and population growth as follows before the Presidential Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, in hearings held before the commission in 1971:
Immigration in the past has given strength to our country not merely in terms of manpower, new industries, inventiveness, but also in new ideas and new culture. Immigration policy becomes one of the many windows through which the world community views our country. It gives us the opportunity to lead by doing.
The concern is not what have we done in the past, perhaps not even what we are doing today, but what should we be doing over the next 30 or the next 100 years. Should we deny the admission of the fireside relative by following a policy of family de-unification? Should we deprive employers the skilled personnel to produce the goods and services in demand -- to the detriment of our population? Should there be no response by the American people to the cries of anguish of the persecuted and homeless by saying that in the year 2000 as was said nearly 2,000 years ago, 'There is no room in the inn'?
Numbers? How many bodies? What kind? What color? Is this how we view our immigrants'? Is this how we view ourselves?
This commission is concerned with population -- but it is also concerned with growth. I believe that for a country to remain viable and productive, population growth is vital to such progress. Immigration can and does play a part in such growth. With our present declining birth rate, the vitality through growth will diminish. It may, indeed, be that in the future immigration will not be viewed as a problem in the growth pattern, but as its salvation.
President Nixon's Statement on Immigration
On June 8, 1971, President Richard Nixon made the following statement on immigration to the United States:
One of the great problems that any society has as it becomes older, as it becomes richer, is that it tends to become more complacent, it tends to lose its drive, its dynamism, its imagination, frankly, its character. That is the history of civilizations over the past. And one mark of the American civilization has been that we have never fallen into that fault due to the fact that we have always had the infusion of new people, new people who come here with great idealism, with great determination, in a sense, as somebody would put it, they are people that are still trying to make it that aren't thinking in terms of having it made ... they contribute character, strength, and drive and that is what this country needs.
I hope America will always be the land of the open door, because as long as that door is open, it means that this land will continue to grow and continue to prosper and continue to have that drive which makes a great nation."
© Copyright Order of AHEPA
George J. Leber's book is copyright protected. However, any portions of this book may be quoted at length, provided that proper credit & acknowledgement is given to the book, author, publisher, and pages.
Leber, George J. History of the Order of AHEPA 1922 - 1972. Washigton DC, Order of AHEPA, 1972.