History of the Kuryer Polski newspaper (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Michał Kruszka was born in Słabomierz, Poland on September 28, 1860 to Jan and Anna Kluczyńska Kruszka. His father was a wealthy farmer and was married twice, with 13 children born of these two unions.
Michał Kruszka was well-educated and came to the United States in 1880. He worked in the Singer Sewing Machine factory in New Jersey as well as other positions. He also attended evening business school and learned the printing trade. Kruszka married Jadwiga Linkiewicz in 1882 and they had one daughter, Felicya Aurelia. In the fall of 1883 he arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as an agent for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York.
In 1885, Kruszka began a Polish weekly paper called Tygodnik Anonsowy and then the
Krytyka, one which proved to be a success. He then conceived to publish a Polish daily and in November 1887 a group formed the
Dziennik Polski. Unfortunately, inexperience and strife caused the paper to fold within 6 months and Kruszka lost everything.
Despite this setback and the pessimistic opinion of many people that a daily Polish paper was likely to fail, Kruszka borrowed $125 from two friends and poured his heart into a new venture, a Polish daily called the
Kuryer Polski. The presses began running in June of 1888. Kruszka was tireless in his vision to report the news and cultivate an educated Polish-American population. Slowly the paper gained readership and the company grew in size and scope.
Kruszka also served in Wisconsin politics, serving in the state assembly as well as the state senate during the 1890s.
On June 27, 1908 the Kuryer Polski celebrated its 20th anniversary by printing the largest newspaper edition ever made in Milwaukee. It featured 66 pages of "selected reading matter and high class advertising." The greeting (in Polish and English) thanked their readership of 70,000 Polish people in Milwaukee and 4 million Polish people in America. "The Kuryer Polski is the oldest Polish Daily in America; it is also the most popular one; it is also the most influential one." Kruszka would occasionally print articles in both Polish and English when he had important news to report or a crucial point to convey.
Kruszka sought to provide information so that the Polish immigrants could become great American citizens. By the same token, he demanded respect for the Polish-Americans by promoting their representation and fair treatment in the churches, politics, fraternal organizations and other facets of society. To achieve these goals, he wrote articles about religion, government, real estate, social programs and also exposed scams and schemes. Some officials in power felt that his words were too harsh, and to those he replied, "When I sound a delicate piano string, I use a soft little mallet. But when I have to straighten a crooked rail, I use fire and a sledgehammer."
He vehemently supported the case for a free and independent Poland, and for a time (1915-1917) published a weekly column called "Poland's Cause" in Polish and English so that a variety of readers could understand his position and thus, hopefully support the most worthy cause.
Kruszka's drive for Polish representation in the Roman Catholic Church put him at great odds with Archbishop Sebastian Messmer, who urged a boycott of the
Kuryer Polski, even issuing a pastoral letter forbidding the reading of it. Messmer and the Archdiocese even began a rival paper called the
Nowiny Polskie to counter some of Kruszka's opinions. The Nowiny was never as popular as the
Kuryer, but the rift led to a schism in the church and consequently three Polish National Catholic Churches were built in Milwaukee and their attendance grew. The consternation between Kruszka and his
Kuryer and Archbishop Messmer and the Archdiocese went on for years. Both sides as well as other parties filed several lawsuits and countersuits against one another for conspiracy and libel. This nearly 25 year battle between the
Kuryer and the church continued until the death of Michał Kruszka on December 2, 1918. (Anthony J. Kuzniewski,
Faith and Fatherland: The Polish Church War in Wisconsin, 1896-1918. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980.)
Michał Kruszka's half-brother was the Rev. Wacław Kruszka (1868-1937). He was a priest, historian, and activist for Polish representation in the episcopate. Delicately but with difficulty he managed to balance his Catholic work with his passion for Polish history, culture, and language. He was also often at odds with Archbishop Messmer over the issue of rights for Polish priests. (Wacław Kruszka,
A History of Poles in America to 1908 Part Four: Poles in the Central and Western States. Edited with an introduction by James S. Pula. Translated by Krystyna Jankowski. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2001.)
Michał Kruszka was a passionate visionary. With his death, the paper perhaps lost some of its fire, but it continued to be a foremost authority on news about Poland and Polish-America. The
Kuryer Polski continued to be published until September 23, 1962.