LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 22, No.1 - Spring 1976
Editors of this issue: J.A. Račkauskas
Copyright © 1976 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
THE AMERICAN LITHUANIAN PRESS
J. P. BALYS
The Library of Congress
A considerable number of Lithuanian immigrants reached the shores of the New World around 1868, and in 1898 there were about 50,000 Lithuanians in the United -States.1 According to official statistics, 252,594 Lithuanians immigrated from 1899 to 1914, although often they were listed as Russians or Poles. Between 1915 and 1954, an additional 43,089 arrived. While about one fifth of the earlier immigrants returned to their native country, especially between 1919 -1939, many were absorbed into American society and only faintly remember their ethnic origin.
As a result, it is not unusual to find quite a number of family names of clearly Lithuanian origin in the telephone directories of larger American cities. Today, about 750,000 U.S. inhabitants are of Lithuanian descent. According to the 1960 Census, despite all its faults and the vagaries of computerization, 402,846 persons declared themselves to be of Lithuanian origin.2 The children of ethnically mixed marriages usually declare themselves as Americans, and about one third of the marriages are mixed. Before World War I, twice as many Lithuanian males as females came to the United States. Now the number of Lithuanians born in the United States surpasses the number of immigrants, or foreign-born Lithuanians.
The first Lithuanian immigrants were young and enterprising men, but of limited education, mostly farmers. A few found work in the farms around New York, many toiled in the building of railroads and later concentrated in the anthracite coal-mining regions of Pennsylvania: Shamokine, Shenandoah, Mahanoy City, Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Scranton, up to Forest City. The industries of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Baltimore also attracted many workers. Later, the Lithuanian immigrants moved to New England (Waterbury, Hartford, Worcester, Brockton, Boston), and to the Midwest (Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago). Finally, the latest waves reached California and Florida (chiefly retired persons). A number of Lithuanians still live around New York, especially in Brooklyn and Woodhaven. From 1914 to 1939 there were more Lithuanians in Chicago than in Lithuania's capital Vilnius, resulting in a dozen Lithuanian parishes, three daily newspapers, and a Lithuanian opera company. Most Lithuanian publishers are based in Chicago (the first Lithuanian book in Chicago was published in 1880). Between 1892 and 1974, about 90 Lithuanian newspapers and magazines were founded in Chicago.
The first Lithuanian immigrants were of modest education, but full of energy and striving for success, including self-education. Many attended Valparaiso University in Indiana. Others were avid readers, despite the long working hours (six days a week, 10 to 12 hours daily). Between 1875 and 1910 some 1,350 books and pamphlets in Lithuanian were printed in the United States. Some were small booklets, others were several hundred pages long.3 Literary value, indeed, was not very high: they were mostly translations of stories, hymnals and song books (both were in great demand), popularized science, historical works, and novels. However, among the translations we find "Hamlet" by Shakespeare, and "Die Jungfrau von Orlean" and "Wilhelm Tell" by Schiller. A nine-volume set of collected works by the famous Lithuanian man of letters, Vincas Kudirka, was published in 1909.
This shows that a considerable number of Lithuanian immigrants, mostly workers, preferred to spend their leisure time and money reading books instead of gadding about in saloons, drinking and playing cards (some did exactly that, of course). It was not long before the first Lithuanian newspaper also appeared.
The first Lithuanian newspaper in America, named simply Lietuwiszka gazieta, was published in New York in 1879 by Mykolas Tvarauskas, a teacher before his departure from Lithuania. He also published the first Lithuanian book in the United States, a modest English -Lithuanian dictionary of 165 pages, printed in his small printing shop in Shamokine, Pa., in 1875, but almost the entire edition perished in a fire. The newspaper lasted but a half year and was discontinued for lack of subscribers.
Another short-lived weekly was Unija (Union), published from Oct. 26, 1884, to April 25, 1885, in New York by M. Tvarauskas and Jonas Šliūpas (1861-1944). The latter was a very active personality, the first educated layman among the Lithuanian immigrants (he later attended medical school and became a physician). He wanted to give the paper a political character: nationalistic and socialistic. This brought him in conflict with Tvarauskas and the paper was discontinued. Then Šliūpas started to publish his own newspaper: Lietuwiszkasis balsas (Lithuanian Voice) of which 96 issues appeared between July 2, 1885, and February 1889 in New York and Shenandoah, Pa. It was published irregularly: weekly, biweekly, three times a month.
Šliūpas was able to organize a good number of important Lithuanian authors from the homeland, where the Russians suppressed all Lithuanian publications from 1864 to 1904. Šliūpas' paper was political, a champion of Lithuanian national rights and a militant opponent of Russian oppression; it was smuggled into Lithuania. However, the American-Lithuanian readers were not yet ready for a political paper that printed long articles with few entertaining features or news of local American interest. In addition, Šliūpas came into controversy with the Catholic clergy because of his atheistic views. And so, since it was a newspaper sponsored by one man, it could not exist for long.
Other less controversial newspapers survived longer. Two of them should be mentioned in some detail. Vienybė lietuvninkų (Lithuanian Unity) was founded in 1886 by J. Pauksztys in Plymouth, Pa., and in 1907 it was transferred to Brooklyn, N. Y., where it is still published as a weekly (lately as semi-monthly). At first, it was tolerant of religion and indifferent about nationality. Since 1890, it has taken an active part in Lithuanian -Polish dispute, proclaiming that Lithuanians are not Poles, although both are Catholics. Publishers and editors changed, and so did editorial policy from religious to socialist, later nationalist (1940 -1961, edited by J. Tysliava), and finally to liberal and collaborative with Sovietized Lithuania.
Another newspaper for the least educated Lithuanian readers was Saulė (Sun), in Mahanoy City, Pa., (1888-1959). A weekly (later semi-weekly), founded by D. T. Bačkauskas and continued by his son, in 1908 it had 8,000 subscribers. One of the long-lived Lithuanian newspapers, it was a typical miner's paper with its rather outdated orthography and vernacular language. The same publisher translated (mostly from Polish) and printed more than 200 books of easy readings, sentimental stories, fables and legends, etc. It was a commercial enterprise and successful to some extent.
After Lithuanian immigrants became more educated, the quality of the Lithuanian press improved. Lietuva (Lithuania) may be considered a pioneer among these, published in Chicago from Dec. 6, 1892, to May 8, 1920, first as a weekly, later as a daily. The paper was developed by the able Lithuanian businessman A. Olšauskis, who was owner and publisher from 1893 to 1917. He hired good editors, such as J. Adomaitis, and from 1912 B. K. Balutis (later diplomat of independent Lithuania who died in London in 1967), and others. After June 1917, another notable Lithuanian businessman, public figure, traveler and journalist, Joseph J. Bachunas, became owner. The paper took a middle-of-the-road line, did not offend religious groups, and did not propagate socialist theories. Through all this time, the paper followed a liberal nationalistic line, giving priority to Lithuanian affairs at home and abroad. In this way the paper acquired quite a considerable number of followers (circulation reached 6,000), and ceased publication only because its last owner decided to go into a more profitable resort business. In Olšauskis' time the newspaper also published books on popular science, etc.
Of similar character was Amerikos lietuvis (American Lithuanian), a weekly published in Worcester, Mass., from 1907 to 1955, also one of the long-lived Lithuanian newspapers.
The following is a list of Lithuanian-language newspapers currently published in the United States.4
1. Darbininkas (Worker), estab. 1915, weekly (formerly semi-weekly). Brooklyn, N.Y. Publisher: Franciscan Fathers. Circulation: 14,000. Catholic-oriented paper provides general news and information on Lithuanian activities everywhere.
2. Dirva (The Field), estab. 1916, weekly (formerly semi-weekly). Cleveland, Ohio. Publisher: American Lithuanian Press Association "Viltis." Circulation: 3,450. The Lithuanian national newspaper.
3. Draugas (The Friend), estab. 1909 daily. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian Catholic Press Society. Circulation: 21,000. Uses subtitle: "The Lithuanian world-wide daily." Discusses international politics and specific Lithuanian problems in particular. Has a weekly supplement of science, arts, and literature.
4. Garsas (Sound), estab. 1917, bi-monthly. Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Publisher: Lithuanian R. C. Alliance of America. Circulation: 11,490. Contains chiefly news about fraternal activities of the Alliance.
5. Keleivis (The Traveler), estab. 1905, weekly. So. Boston, Mass. Publisher: Keleivis Publishing Co. Circulation: 2,700. General news of interest to Lithuanians; follows socialist trend.
6. Laisvė (Liberty), estab. 1911, weekly. Ozone Park, N. Y. Publisher: The Lithuanian Cooperative Publishing Society, Inc. Circulation: unknown. Gives general news from the communist point of view.
7. Laisvoji Lietuva (Free Lithuania), estab. 1946, biweekly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian Regeneration Association. Circulation: 1,800. Nationalistic and anti-communist richly illustrated paper.
8. Naujienos (News), estab. 1914, daily. Chicago, I11. Publisher: The Lithuanian News Publishing Co., Inc. Circulation: 22,600. Uses the slogan: "All Lithuanian newspaper for freedom of the nation." Follows the old social-democratic political line, anti-communist.
9. Sandara (The League), estab. 1914, weekly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian National League of America. Circulation: unknown. General news, local events.
10. Tėvynė (Fatherland), estab. 1908, semi-monthly. New York. Organ of the Lithuanian Alliance of America. Circulation: 5,000. Fraternal paper for members of the Alliance.
11. Vienybė (Unity), estab. 1886, semi-monthly. Brooklyn, N. Y. Publisher: Valerie Tysliava and Co. Circulation: 2,000. Claims to be "the oldest Lithuanian newspaper in the world." Liberal, with strong tendencies of collaboration with Sovietized Lithuania's authorities.
12. Vilnis (The Wave), estab. 1920, three issues weekly (formerly daily), Chicago, I11. Publisher: The Workers Publishing Association, Inc. Circulation: 2,500. A communist-oriented paper.
The list may by incomplete. It is not easy to keep track of local newspapers. For instance, a few years ago Floridos lietuviai (Lithuanians of Florida) was published in So. Gulfport, Fla. We do not have information whether it is still being published. Two weeklies are published in Canada: Tėviškės žiburiai (The Lights of Homeland, Toronto, 1949- ), and Nepriklausoma Lietuva (Independent Lithuania, Montreal, 1941- ). Both have a number of readers in the United States as well. Lithuanian communist sympathizers in Canada publish their Liaudies balsas (People's Voice, Toronto, 1932- , bi-weekly).
The list of defunct Lithuanian newspapers in the United States is long. Frank Lavinskas lists some 170 titles of Lithuanian newspapers and journals, published between 1879 and 1955.5 In the last half century, the newspapers took on a distinct ideological character. A Lithuanian paper is not a commercial enterprise, because it really does not pay to publish a Lithuanian newspaper or magazine. Subscription prices are low, and the issues are meager 8 to 12 pages. Most newspapers are in the red, with the possible exception of 2 or 3 newspapers and some religious magazines. Most of the newspapers have their own printing shops, and make money from commercial job orders and also book publishing provides a source of revenue. The Lithuanian émigré press which is friendly to the communists is obviously supported in some way by Soviet-occupied Lithuania.
Journals and Magazines
The Lithuanian emigration before 1914 was chiefly for economic reasons: farmers had big families and there was not enough land and work at home. Industry was very little developed; there were no monies or natural resources except forests. Only a few emigrants left the country for political reasonsbecause of activities against the Russian rule, especially in 1905, or to avoid conscription into the Russian army. After World War II, the majority of some 33,000 immigrants were strictly political émigrés. Among them were many intellectuals: professors, writers, artists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergy, and other professionals. Many of these immigrants were experienced journalists, and it is they who were responsible for journals and magazines.
Nearly 100 Lithuanian books are published yearly in the United States. There are two Lithuanian book clubs that also publish books: Lietuviškos knygos klubas (Lithuanian Book Club) in Chicago, and "Nida" in London, England. Every year several one-thousand dollar awards are made for the best novels, scientific works, or works of art. Sponsors are private persons and organizations like the Lithuanian Foundation, which has a capital of more than one million dollars.
A list of American Lithuanian journals and magazines still extant follows:
1. Aidai (Echoes), estab. 1950, monthly. Brooklyn, N.Y. Publisher: Franciscan Fathers. Circulation: 1,700. Cultural magazine.
2. Akiračiai (Horizons), estab, 1968, monthly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Viewpoint Press, Inc. Circulation: 1,350. Claims to be "Open word monthly," non-aligned but liberal and generally radical.
3. Ateitis (The Future), estab. 1950, monthly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian Roman Catholic Federation Ateitis, Inc. Circulation: 1,500. Magazine for high school and college students, religious and national orientation.
4. Eglutė (The Little Fir), estab. 1950, monthly. Putnam, Conn. Publisher: Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Circulation: 1,500. Children's magazine.
5. ELTA Information Service, estab. 1949, irregular. New York. Publisher: Supreme Committee for Liberation of Lithuania. Political review of current events regarding the political status of Lithuania. Also published in Lithuanian and irregularly in other Western European languages.
6. Filatelistų žurnalas "Lietuva" (The Journal of the Philatelic Society "Lithuania"), estab. 1946, quarterly. Chicago, I11. Circulation: unknown. Title and periodicity varies.
7. Į Laisvę (Toward Freedom), estab. 1953, 3 issues a year. Los Angeles, Calif. Publisher: The Friends of the Lithuanian Front. Circulation: unknown. Political journal of the Christian democratic orientation.
8. Karys (Warrior), estab. 1950, monthly. Brooklyn, N. Y. Publisher: Association of Lithuanian Veterans. Circulation: 1,300. Magazine for the veterans of Lithuanian descent. Features articles and studies on Lithuanian history and military affairs.
9. Laiškai lietuviams (Letters to Lithuanians), estab. 1950, monthly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian Jesuit Fathers. Circulation: 4,000. Journal of religious and national culture.
10. Laivas (The Ship), estab. 1921, semi-monthly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Marian Fathers. Circulation: 5,000. Religious Catholic magazine.
11. Lietuvių dienos (Lithuanian Days), estab. 1950, monthly. Los Angeles, Calif. Publisher: Anthony F. Skirius. Circulation: 5,000. Contemporary materials, richly illustrated, in Lithuanian and English (commercial publication).
12. Lietuvių tautos praeitis (Lithuanian Historical Review), estab. 1959, irregular. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian Historical Society. Circulation: 1000. Formerly (1959-1970) Tautos praeitis. Historical journal.
13. Lietuvos žurnalistas (The Lithuanian Journalist), estab. 1969, irregular. Publisher: Association of Lithuanian journalists. Circulation: unknown. Formerly (1969-1971) Pranešėjas (Messenger).
14. Lietuviai Amerikos vakaruose (Lithuanians in Western America), estab. 1964, monthly (formerly bi-weekly). Los Angeles, Calif. Publisher: A. F. Skirius. Circulation: unknown. News on political and social events.
15. Lituanistikos darbai (Lithuanian Studies), estab. 1966, irregular. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Institute of Lithuanian Studies, Inc. Circulation: 1,000. Contains scholarly essays in Lithuanian and English.
16. Lituanus, estab. 1954, quarterly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lituanus Foundation, Inc. Circulation: 4,200, A scholarly journal on Baltic problems. In English.
17. Lux Christi, estab. 1951, quarterly. Putnam, Conn. Publisher: Lithuanian R. C. Priests' League of America. Journal of Lithuanian Catholic clergy.
18. The Marian, estab. 1948, monthly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Marian Fathers. Circulation: 11,000. Religious and cultural magazine for English-speaking Lithuanians.
19. Medicina (Medicine), estab. 1963, three issues a year. Chicago, I11. Publisher: World Lithuanian Medical Association. Circulation: unknown.
20. Metmenys (Outline), estab. 1958, semi-annual. Chicago, I11, Publisher: Metmenys, Inc. Circulation: 900. Journal of liberal intellectuals "for creativity and analysis."
21. Moterų dirva (Women's Field), estab. 1914, monthly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: American Lithuanian Roman Catholic Women's Alliance. Circulation: 2,100. Published items of interest to women, in English and Lithuanian.
21a. Moteris (Woman), estab. 1955, bi-monthly. Toronto, Ont. Publisher. Canadian Lithuanian Catholic Women's Association. Circulation: unknown.
22. Museum Review, estab. 1967, irregular. Chicago, I11. Sponsor: Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture. In English. Circulation : unknown.
23. Mūsų metai (Our Year), estab. 1963/64, annual. Chicago, I11. Sponsor: Parents Association of the Lithuanian High School in Chicago. Circulation: unknown.
24. Mūsų sparnai (Our Wings), estab. 1951, quarterly. Chicago, I11. Sponsor: Lithuanian Ev. Reformed Church (in Exile). Circulation: 2,000. Lithuanian Protestant religious journal.
25. Mūsų Vytis (Our Knight), estab. 1951, quarterly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian Collegiate Scout Movement, a division of Lithuanian Scout Association, Inc. Circulation: 490. Magazine for young adults and youth leaders.
26. Mūsų žinios (Our News), estab. 1972, bi-weekly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian Jesuit Fathers. Circulation: unknown. Illustrated bulletin about activities of the Lithuanian Youth Center in Chicago, etc.
27. Muzikos žinios (Music News), estab. 1935, quarterly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian Organist Alliance of America. Circulation: 550.
28. Naujoji viltis (The New Hope), estab. 1969, semi-annual. Chicago, I11. Publishers: Faternity "Neo-Lithuania" and National Lithuanian Society of America, Inc. Circulation: 1,000. Lithuanian journal of politics and culture, conservative and national.
29. Pasaulio lietuvis (The World Lithuanian), estab. 1963, irregular. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian World Community, Inc. Circulation: unknown. Informative bulletin about activities of Lithuanian emigres in the Western free world.
30. Pasaulio lietuvių jaunimas (World Lithuanian Youth), estab. 1973, bi-monthly (irregular). Chicago, I11. Publisher: Lithuanian World Youth Association Communications Center. Circulation: 4,000. Magazine for the young emigre generation.
Pranešėjas. See Lietuvos žurnalistas.
31. Sėja (The Sowing), estab. 1953, quarterly. Melrose Park, 111. Publisher: Publishing Foundation "Varpas." circulation: unknown. National democratic magazine.
32. Skautų aidas (Scouts' Echo), estab. 1950, monthly. Chicago, I11. Organ of the Lithuanian Scout Association, Inc. Circulation : unknown.
33. Šv. Pranciškaus varpelis (The Bell of St. Francis), estab. 1942, monthly. Kennebunkport, Me. Publisher: Franciscan Fathers. Circulation: 3,050. Religious magazine of the Lithuanian Order of St. Francis.
34. Šviesa (The Light), estab. 1934, quarterly. Ozone Park, N. J. Publisher: Literary Society of American-Lithuanian Workers. Circulation: unknown. Magazine of American-Lithuanian communists.
35. Švietimo gairės (Guides of Education), estab. 1968, semiannual. Chicago, I11. Publisher: Council of Education of the American Lithuanian Community, Inc. Circulation: unknown. Teachers' magazine.
Tautos praeitis. See Lietuvių tautos praeitis.
36. Technikos žodis (Engineering Word), estab. 1951, quarterly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: American Lithuanian Engineers and Architects Association, Inc. Circulation: unknown. Technical journal.
37. Tėvynės sargas (Guardian of the Fatherland), established 1950, annual. Euclid, Ohio. Publisher: Lithuanian Christian Democratic Union. Circulation: 685. Journal of politics and social sciences.
38. Tiesa (Truth), estab. 1930, monthly. Ozone Park, N. J. Publisher: Association of Lithuanian Workers. Circulation: 3,000. Communist-oriented fraternal monthly free for members. In Lithuanian and English.
39. Užsienio lietuvių spaudos metraštis (Lithuanian Publications Abroad), estab. 1967, annual. Chicago, I11. Sponsor: American Lithuanian Cultural Foundation. Circulation: unknown. Bibliographical survey of Lithuanian publications in the Free World. (Title varies.)
40. Varpas (The Bell), estab. 1953, annual. Melrose Park, 111. Sponsor: Alummni Association "Varpas", circulation: 1,000. Stands for individual and national freedom, for independence of Lithuania, Lithuanian culture and liberal ideology.
41. Viltis Hope, estab. 1942, bi-monthly. Denver, Colorado. Founder, editor and publisher: V. F. Beliajus. Circulation: 2,500. Illustrated magazine in English devoted to folk customs and arts, especially folk dances.
42. Vytis (The Knight), estab. 1915, bi-monthly. Chicago, I11. Publisher: The Knights of Lithuania. Circulation: 1,600. In Lithuanian and English for Lithuanians born in America.
The Lithuanian periodicals usually follow a certain ideological line (religious, socialist, nationalist, etc.) and are supported by donations of adherents of that ideology, or by organizations with the same aims. Editors and contributors are paid very modestly or not at all. The press concerns itself chiefly with Lithuanian affairs.
Internal American politics plays a modest role. The newspapers pay little attention to American domestic issues. Very little was written, for example, about "Watergate." Few worried about it, and most were annoyed by this highly publicized and inflated affair. Politicians of both parties are judged on their merits, or on how much they support the Lithuanian cause. On the other hand, very much attention is given to American foreign policy, which often is very critically evaluated, because of its instability, lack of principles, and appeasement to communism and the Soviet Union. It is considered self-destructive. Since Lithuania was occupied and incorporated by force into the Soviet Union in 1940, most of the Lithuanian émigré press is anti-Soviet. Pro-communist papers have very limited circulation (if circulation is "unknown", it is small). The circulation figures in some cases may be incorrect because of constant changes: compilation was done from available sources.
Why do the Lithuanian émigrés publish so many newspapers and journals? The reasons for the abundance of Lithuanian periodicals are mostly ideological, not economic. Lithuanians are often disappointed with the American commercial press, its bulky advertisement sections, the biased reporting, and illusory treatment of foreign affairs. It can be said that most Lithuanians are conservative and aghast at the boundless freedoms, leniency of courts with criminals, the liberal welfare policy of handouts for indolent, and obstruction of education by judicial decrees and striking teachers. The cultural and professional journals often publish studies and essays of high quality. It appears that the ethnic Lithuanian press will flourish for some time to come.
1 For more information about American Lithuanians see Lietuvių Enciklopedija (Lithuanian Encyclopedia), So. Boston, 1957, vol. 10, pp. 36-71.
2 The Census of 1970 showed only 330,977 Lithuanians (see U. S. Bureau of the Census, Detailed Characteristics, series PC (1) -D, table 192). The figures for all the "foreign stock" seem to be too low, because data were based on a 15-percent sample. This method is unreliable, since it is a fact that in some regions a certain ethnic group is quite numerous, and in others sparse.
3 V. Biržiška, "The American - Lithuanian publications, 1875 to 1910." In: Journal of Central European Affairs, 18:396-408, 1959. J. Prunskis, "Amerikiniai lietuvių laikraščiai." In: Kovos metai dėl savosios spaudos (Chicago, 1957), pp. 297-314.
4 Ayer directory of publications: newspapers, magazines. Philadelphia, Pa., 1975. L. R. Wyner, Encyclopedic directory of Ethnic newspapers and periodicals in the United States. Littleton, Colo., 1972. Lithuanian press: pp. 142-150. Both directories are incomplete and did not avoid some errors.
5 F. Lavinskas, Amerikos lietuvių laikraščiai, 1879-1955. (The Lithuanian press in the U.S.A. from 1879 to 1955: newspapers, magazines). Long Island City, N.Y., 1956. See also: D-D. J. Tautvilas, The Lithuanian press in America. Washington, D.C., 1961 (Thesis at Catholic University of America; typescript available in the Library of Congress).