Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Map of Greek America 1909

An article on Materialities that Bind under review (sadly twice as long as the mandated minimum, so lots to cut if accepted), an article comparing the spatial distribution of Greek immigrants in two Pennsylvania towns just accepted (written with the brilliant digital humanist David Pettegrew), an article on documenting site abandonment in press, and an article comparing Greek and Italian sacred spaces in the making (an ambitious edited project that I’m scared I’ll fall flat in). Greek American archaeology finding its way in print. I want to share a map. Pettegrew and I started building these spatial distribution maps of Greek immigrant communities. Our collaboration started by comparing the two towns we teach in, Harrisburg and Lancaster, the homes of our two respective liberal arts colleges. We asked the question, what does the Greek American story begin to look like without the two big elephants of Chicago and New York? So we decided to quantify our question. The map above shows the location and size of Greek communities based on the reporting of the Greek Business Directory. We learned that half of the Greek immigrant population lived in small communities of 50-200 people scattered throughout the country, making our little Harrisburg and Lancaster case-studies the norm rather than the exception. Our study then zooms into the spatial distribution of Greeks within the two cities. This involved plotting every Greek individual’s residence based on the four relevant U.S. Federal censuses (1900, 1910, 1920, 1930). We found radical differences in how the Greeks in two small cities only 50 miles apart occupied the urban landscape. Stay tuned for the article to appear in Pennsylvania History.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Baptismal Records Greek Philadelphia

The Greek American Heritage Society of Philadelphia possesses a rare collection of parish records from the establishment of Philadelphia's Greek community in 1906. The records consist of hard-bound log books on membership, marriages, baptisms, and funerals. In summer 2016, my students digitized some of the logs, but the project slowed down because of the difficulty in transcribing the Greek and the large number of entries. I've been doing a little bit at a time over the last three years and have vowed to complete one project, the record of baptisms this year. I'm excited to announce a half-way point in transcription. Between 1907 and 1920 about 700 baptisms took place in the Greek Orthodox Church of Philadelphia. Most are infant baptisms, but there are a few adult baptisms. Having just entered birth number 296 in my database, I pause to make some general observations.

Greek American parish records surely exist, but none have been systematically transcribed, published, or shared. For this reason, making Philadelphia's records available to the general public wishes to set a precedent and a paradigm to be followed by others. Baptism records present to us a list of a each community's hyphenated Americans. Although surely many Greek offsprings did not get baptized in the Orthodox church, most did in the period under consideration. The sacraments of baptism, marriage, and funeral are, in fact, one of the practical motivations for organizing Orthodox churches to begin with. The great mobility of immigrants, both between the US and Greece and within the US makes them demographically invisible. In the first mapping of immigrants by the Hull House co-operative in Chicago (1895), the volunteers note that individual inhabitants were so mobile that the constitution of each house changed constantly from week-to-week. What can the list of the 700 first Greek Philadelphians tell us? Here is what the database looks like and some research objectives.
  • Each baptismal entry lists the village from which the father originates. This patrimonial connection to place allows us to reconstruct the regional profile of the American community. Oral traditions privilege the Peloponnese and Macedonia, but the data might prove more diverse. The first thing I want to do with the data is to create a geographical database of all the places of origin. This is a hard undertaking because Greece underwent a major renaming campaign in the 1920s. Once the original name is transcribed, one has to decode the village's modern name, and then find its location. The total village distribution will provide a regional profile of a Greek-American community and trace chronological trends over the course of 13 years.
  • The log gives ample evidence of the national diversity of the early community. Baptisms are not limited to Greeks but include Syrians, Serbians, and other Orthodox immigrants.
  • Greek American historiography has stressed the role of men in the community and focused on women mostly as picture brides. This may be the case in the large centers of Chicago and New York, but it does not seem entirely accurate. David Pettegrew and I have been doing a comparative sample of Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Harrisburg (for an upcoming essay in Pennsylvania History) and have concluded that the gender distribution in smaller towns is close to 50-50. Since baptism requires childbirth by a female, the Greeks baptized in the U.S. are all offsprings of a family unit. Greek American males fathered many offsprings back in Greece, but the baptismal records give a unique insight in the balanced mother-father family units.
  • The baptismal records show intensive intermarriage between Greek men and native women. Intermarriage is a phenomenon difficult to study through other sources. The records provide a glimpse of the scenario where the father's religious tradition (Orthodox) dominates over the mother's (Protestant or Catholic). Surely, many Greek offsprings entered the faith traditions of the non-Greek mother, but this would show up in the parish records of the other denomination.
  • The baptismal records also list the godparent. This should allow the reconstruction of some family networks between parents and godparents.
  • Finally, the baptismal records could be integrated with other digitized database, such as the list of all Greeks in the 1920 US Federal Census. There are 1,777 of them, so it will take me a little longer to complete that. This is when I'm envious of colleagues who have grad students to help them data crunch.
Wish me luck. In order to expedite the laboriously translation and transcription process, I think I will now focus on the place of origin. If I also manage to complete the map of all the Greek residences in Philadelphia in 1920, one should have a geographically expansive view of distribution within the city and distribution of origin within Greece. That should make two powerful maps. More importantly, it should stage all kinds of additional studies of place. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

1894 First Greek American Type Face

Newspapers offer an invaluable source of information for Greek American history. Atlantis (founded 1894) and the National Herald (founded 1915) were the two competing Greek language newspaper, which represented a double political dichotomy; Atlantis was Greek monarchist and US Republican, while the National Herald was  Greek Venizelist and US Democrat.

Atlantis, whose publication ended in 1972, is less known than the National Herald that continues to be in print, online, and recently digitized. The National Herald is a familiar image with its vivid Archaizing title read by grandparents and parents in the Greek American home. WPA photographer Jack Delano captured the newspaper's type face, as read by a steel worker in western Pennsylvania in 1941.

Originating in the 1930s, this Archaizing style of letters brings nationalistic associations of ancient grandeur. Although originating before its monopolization by the Metaxas dictatorship (1936-40), this font retains some unfortunate associations of militarism (and used today by the Golden Dawn Neo Nazi party). English language type face of the 1920s became equally historicist and classicizing. American print entered a golden age of Times New Roman and combatted the Victorian chaos of styles and lack of standardization.

Twenty years older than the National Herald, the type face of Atlantis is a product of the 19th century, where newspapers print occupied the same visual surface with wall advertising and posters. In addition to a strong serif, the letters have shadows that help them pop from the surface of the paper and grab your attention three-dimensionally. Like the fictive continent of Atlantis, the letter forms make one think of the extraordinary voyages of Jules Verne. Above, you see the title of the first issue of the paper, March 3, 1894. It might be the earliest example of Greek American letter press. As noted in earlier posts, a complete run of Atlantis survives in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, where I have photographed it above. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

1898 Greek Human Trafficking

The first Greek newspaper in the United States was Atlantis, published in 1894. The Balch Institute (founded in 1971 to collect ethnic histories) has a continuous edition of the newspaper, now housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The newspaper came out once a week and covered Greek and American news. It included a column on diaspora news that is simply incredible, as it provides rare snippets of daily life across the early diaspora. It records, for example, an instance of Greek human trafficking. Tom Gallant once argued that Greek American history cannot really move forward unless it comes to terms with the criminal elements of its heritage. The metanarrative of the poor industrious entrepreneur that achieves success through hard work and moral behavior erases the criminal elements within the early Greek community and the marginal groups like "sailors, artisans, labourers, and prostitutes." (Gallant 2009, p. 28)

I quote here the note in Atlantis 4, no. 213 (Feb. 11, 1898) p. 7.

"New York newspapers have published extensive article on the revelations brought forth by the Department of Immigration. According to the publications, there is a Greek gang residing at 93, 95 and 97 Cherry St. who have made a deal with the mayor of Kastori who provides them with unpaid Greeks from the village. The leaders of this human trafficking gang are Kalyvas and Pantazelos. We do not know the name of the mayor of Kastori who ransoms the fields of the poor immigrants as payment."

"Αι εφημερίδες της Νέας Υόρκης εδημοσίευσαν εκτενέστατα άρθρα επί των αποκαλύψεων του τμήματος της Μεταναστεύσεως. Κατά τα δημοσιευθέντα υπάρχει συμμορία Ελλήνων ενδιαιτωμένη εις τας υπ' αριθ. 93, 95 και 97 Cherry St. οικίας  ήτις ευρίσκεται εις συνεννόησιν μετά  του δημάρχου  Καστορίου  πέμπτοντας ενταύθα Έλληνας εκμισθουμένους αντί ευτελούς  μισθού εις άλλους Έλληνας ενταύθα. Οι αρχηγοί  της ενταύθα συμμορίας μετερχομένης είδος  σωματεμπορίας ονομάζονται Καλυβάς και Πανταζέλος, αγνοείται δε το όνομα του δημάρχου Καστορίου όστις λαμβάνει υπό υποθήκην τα κτήματα των πτωχών μεταναστών επί πληρωμή."

The mentioned village Kastori is located 15 miles south of Longanikos, Laconia and was renamed Kastania in the 1920s. the 90s block of Cherry Street in New York was torn down for a modern apartment building.


Gallant, Thomas. 2009. “Tales from the Dark Side: Transnational Migration, the Underworld and the ‘Other’ Greeks of the Diaspora,” in Greek Diaspora and Migration since 1700: Society, Politics and Culture, ed. Dimitris Tziovas, , pp. 17-29, Farnham: Ashgate.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ann Arbor's First Greek Garage Church: Holy and Unholy Spirits

Greek immigrants of the early-20th century held religious services in a diversity of spaces including stores, houses and garages. Last week, I had a chance to explore one such space, a garage in Ann Arbor, Michigan where Greeks held their first church services in 1927. The garage was also busted for illegal alcohol in 1930, and its owner (the priest's son) was arrested. The congruence of holy and unholy spirits makes this otherwise ordinary building a special specimen of diaspora architecture. Amazingly, the structure still survives and is owned by a lovely family who has taken excellent care of the property.

On March 21, 2019, I was honored to give the 17th Annual Dimitri and Imgard Pallas Lecture in Modern Greek Studies at the University of Michigan. My talk was called "Excavating Home: Archaeologies of the Greek American Experience," so I couldn't have left Ann Arbor before some exploration. The day after my talk and a few hours before my departing flight, I took a walk down S. Main Street in search of the legendary moonshine church garage.

Ann Arbor is the home of an important Greek immigrant community. Along with Italians, Russians and Poles, Greeks made up 13% of the population in the 1920s. The city commemorates its Greek architectural heritage with plaques that on early Greek restaurants around Court House Square. A plaque at 126 S Main (left), for example, celebrates the Sugar Bowl confectionary and restaurant that survives only in photographs. The first Greeks of Ann Arbor were served by clergy traveling from Detroit until 1927, when a priest arrived from the old country. Father Nicholas Agathangelos was a 1922 Asia Minor refugee from the village of Adaval (now Aktas). After a short stay in Greece, where he received some ecclesiastical education, he joined his sons in Ann Arbor. In 1927, the first Orthodox mass was celebrated in a garage owned by his son. By 1935, the Greeks of Ann Arbor had raised enough funs to build the church of Saint Nicholas at 414 N Main Street. In 1998, the church moved to 3109 Scio Church Road and the old Saint Nicholas was torn down (illustrated below from 1945 church bulletin). The new Saint Nicholas continues to function today as the epicenter of the Greek community (see history here). 
The details of the 1927 garage church seem to have disappeared until Will Stroebel made a passing reference in his essay "The Hyphenated Hyphen: Turkish-in-the-Greek-Script American Literature," Ergon: Greek American Arts and Letters (Dec. 18, 2018). Will is a star of Greek American Studies. He received his PhD from Michigan in Comparative Literature in 2017. His thesis, "Fluid Books, Fluid Borders: Modern Greek and Turkish Book Networks in a Shifting Sea," has won two awards, the 2019 best dissertation prize from the American Comparative Literature Association and the 2019 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award. Will's work is about the transnational and linguistic complexities between Greece and Turkey. In the Ergon essay, Stroebel explores Agathangelos's story as a Turkish-speaking Greek serving the religious needs of a diaspora population whose language he did not speak. In addition to being Ann Arbor's first clergyman, Agathangelos left behind an amazing corpus of literary and artistic works that Will has brought to light.

Will (happened to have lived in that neighborhood in his early grad school years) gave me the precise address of Ann Arbor's garage church and some encouragement to poke around. He also sent me the reference to the police report on the garage's alcohol violation by Agathangelos's son, Constantine Pappas (short for Papadopoulos):

"Arrests on liquor and traffic charges continued to be reported at police headquarters during Sunday and Monday following the unusual number of such cases on the county court docket Friday and Saturday. Dave Ragen, 221 West Washington street, and Constantine Pappas, 312 Pauline Boulevard, are being held on charges of violation of the prohibition laws. Police raided Pappas' home and discovered two bottles of liquor, they reported. A subsequent raid on his store at 119 East Ann street resulted in the confiscation of several gallons of liquor, 50 gallons of mash, and a still, police said. Ragen had, a pint of liquor on his person at the time of his arrest, according to the officers." The Michigan Daily 41:26 (Oct. 28, 1930), p. 3.

With the details of the report, I was able to locate the site. The garage measures about 15 x 20 ft. It sits in the back of a shotgun house constructed in 1895. Both house and garage have gone through renovations, but the bones of both buildings remain intact. The current owners were incredibly hospitable in giving me a tour of the house and garage (which currently serves as home for their nice cat). The original house (ca. 18 x 40 ft) was a two story home with two adjacent rooms per floor. Access to the second floor would have been from a staircase in the back, which was removed in the 1940s when a new kitchen was added. We can date the kitchen from the intact cabinetry manufactured by the Modern Steel Equipment Co. in Geneva, Ill. (see 1938 catalog here). The house was enlarged in 1990s, but retained the original rooms, including the beautiful molding and hardware. 

The garage is made out of wood on a concrete foundation with all its wooden structure intact. The siding is contemporary and matches the house renovation, but the interior space is exactly as would have been experienced by Agathangelos and his congregation in 1927. In many ways, the Ann Arbor church garage is comparable to a rural Greek chapel. It is basilical in plan and the small window in the middle of its north facade (above) would have framed the moveable altar. With so much of the interior spaces intact, I hope to draw an interior reconstruction at a future post.

We can gather from the The Michigan Daily crime report that Constantine Pappas distilled the alcohol in his store at 119 E Ann Street (where a still was found). The store was part of the Hoban Block built in 1871 and survives today and houses a furniture store. 

This little exploration of the architectural realities of early 
Greek Ann Arbor provide important clues on the early phases of immigration before the establishment of permanent social centers. The double arrest between the downtown shop and the extra-urban garage show the urban dynamics of the early American city. Walking south on Main Street to the Pappas garage, one feels the industrial heritage of Ann Arbor. After the vibrant commercial downtown, one passes the perennial warehouse-condominiums of the 2010s, factories converted into the Yard luxury student apartments or the 618 S Main.

This south end of town still retains the evidence of thriving mill industry that made Ann Arbor thrive in the early 20th century. The surrounding housing, worker cottages, would have served the mill industry. An old rail line cuts S Main St diagonally and gives clues of the city's connectivity to Detroit and Toledo. Unfortunately, the 1924 Sanborn Fire Insurance map does not cover the block under consideration (below). If it did, we would have had an almost contemporary plan of our garage-church. 

Blog Archive

Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States