Series: Salem's Polish Community

With support from the National Park Service's Ethnography Program, researchers interviewed community members about their memories of the neighborhood, studied materials in archives, museums, and library collections, and pieced together an ethnohistorical account of Polish Salem from the 1870s to the present day. The information on these pages is excerpted the final report from the project, "In the Heart of Polish Salem: An Ethnohistorical Study of St. Joseph Hall and Its Neighborhood."

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Article 1: St. Joseph Society and St. Joseph Hall

    A large group of people gathered in front of three-story brick building on Derby Street.

    The St. Joseph Society was founded in 1899, as a branch of the national Polish Roman Catholic Union of America. It was unique among Salem's Polish organizations in constructing its own meeting hall rather than adapting an existing building—a clear statement that Poles intended to set down roots here. Read more

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Article 2: Salem's Polish Catholic Church and School

    Black and white photo of children lined up outside the front of a wooden school building.

    Ethnic parishes and schools were a cornerstone of most Polish immigrant communities in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America, although there was intense debate about how central a role Catholicism played in Polish identity, and how Polish Catholic parishes should relate to the Irish-dominated American Catholic Church. Read more

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Article 3: Poles and Yankees at the House of Seven Gables

    A black and white photo of men and women on stage for a performance.

    The House of Seven Gables Settlement Association, established in 1908 by wealthy Salem native Caroline Emmerton, was a part of a national movement in which progressive educators and social reformers established residential programs intended to assist immigrants and help them become good American citizens. Read more

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Article 4: 9 Daniels Street and the Polish American Citizens Club

    Black and white photo of rows of men sitting at tables at a formal banquet.

    Founded in 1916, the Polish American Citizens Club seems to have emerged from older efforts to promote citizenship and naturalization among Salem's Polish immigrants. With its close ties to religious, fraternal, cultural, military, and other groups in the city, the region, and Polish America in general, it was effective in registering Polish American voters and electing politicians. Read more

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Article 5: Chopin Choir

    A group of men and women in tuxedos and gowns for a formal portrait.

    Polish nationalists at home and abroad saw classical Polish music and literature as an important tool for mobilizing emigrant support for the fragile Polish state between the world wars. Local leaders in immigrant communities like Salem's promoted Polish culture as a way to combat stereotypes of Poles as heavy laborers suited only for the lowest-paying industrial jobs. Read more

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Article 6: Poles at Work in Salem's Industries

    Huge mill complex, with buildings ranging from one to three stories in height.

    Salem's "golden age" of maritime trade was over by the 1830s, and like many New England towns and cities, it turned to manufacturing in the later part of the nineteenth century. The Derby Street neighborhood became home to many factories, including numerous small leather companies and also the city's largest mill: the "Pequot Mill" of the Naumkeag Steam Cotton Company. Read more

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Article 7: Polish Legion of American Veterans

    A formal portrait of men in uniform outside a building.

    The Polish American Veterans Association was one of many different groups of Polish World War I veterans, several of which amalgamated in 1931 to form the Polish Legion of American Veterans. Read more

  • Salem Maritime National Historic Site

    Article 8: 128 Derby Street

    Black and white photo of Bentley Street in Salem after a heavy snowfall.

    This former firehouse at the corner of Derby and Bentley Streets was a meeting place for several of Salem's Polish organizations between the 1920s and the time it burned down in the 1960s. These groups reflected different time periods and generational experiences in Polish Salem. Read more