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Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago

Workers on the South Side, 1880-1922

With a new Preface by the Author
How did working-class immigrants from Poland create new communities in Chicago during the industrial age? This book explores the lives of immigrants in two iconic South Side Polish neighborhoods—the Back of the Yards and South Chicago—and the stockyards and steel mills in which they made their living. Pacyga shows how Poles forged communities on the South Side in an attempt to preserve the customs of their homeland; how through the development of churches, the building of schools, the founding of street gangs, and the opening of saloons they tried to recreate the feel of an Eastern European village. Through such institutions, Poles also were able to preserve their folk beliefs and family customs. But in time, the economic hardships of industrialization forced Poles to reach out to their non-Polish neighbors. And this led, in large part, to the organization of labor unions in Chicago’s steel and meatpacking industries.

322 pages | 28 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1991, 2003

Chicago and Illinois

History: American History, Urban History

Sociology: General Sociology


"A well-organized, thoughtful work which amply demonstrates the author’s command of the literature on labor, social, and class history. . . . Pacyga illustrates better than any previous author the relationship of Polish behavior in America to the traditional values and practices of Polish peasant society in Europe."

James S. Pula | Journal of American Ethnic History

“Its outstanding quality is the description of the life of its subjects. . . . [Pacyga] offers a graphic and vivid picture of what it was like for an unskilled, blue-collar foreign worker to labor in the arduous and dangerous environments of the slaughterhouse and the steel mill at the turn of the century”

Victor Greene | The Journal of American History

“A classic social history of one immigrant community. Yet it also links the experiences of Poles on the South Side of Chicago to broader elements of social, class, and labor history. [Pacyga’s] work offers important insights into American history during the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era.”

The History Teacher | August 2005

“Scholars who have followed the recent scholarship of Lizabeth Cohen’s Making a New Deal (1990) and of Robert A. Slayton’s Back of the Yards (1986) will wish to study Pacyga’s valuable monograph in more detail.”

Joseph J. Parot | American Historical Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface to the Paperback Edition
1. Poland, Chicago, and the New Economic System
2. Working and Living in Packingtown: Back of the Yards, 1890-1914
3. Working and Living in Steel City: South Chicago, 1890-1914
4. Remaking the Polish Village: The Communal Response
5. Defending the Polish Village: The Extracommunal Response
6. Years of Crisis, 1918-1922

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