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.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States