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Register of the Papers of



5.5 ft.

MSS. 54


Marc K. Blackburn

Spring, 1988


The Henry Dende Papers document the activities of three individuals: Henry Dende, John Dende (Henry's father), and Colonel Louis A. Watres.  The Dende family has held a prominent place in the Polish-American community in Scranton, Pennsylvania for over seventy years.  Scranton and its environs represent the third largest Polish American community in the United States, and the Dendes have played important roles in serving the interests of the area's Polish-American inhabitants.  They published and edited the Polish-American Journal and its predecessor, Republika Gornik, and have been active in a wide variety of local and national Polish fraternal groups and community organizations, including the Polish Union of the United States of North America and the Polish-American Society of Lackawanna County.  Henry Dende has also been active in other Community activities and was a member of the Scranton school board from 1951 to 1969.  The Colonel Louis A. Watres papers were included in Dende's files.  Watres was a prominent politician from Scranton who later became the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.

The bulk of these papers are Henry Dende's and they embody two themes: first, his commitment to preserving Polish-American history and cultural traditions, and second, his success in maintaining a forum for Polish-Americans from across the nation to voice their concerns.  As a result of his activities, Dende has earned recognition and praise from many segments of the Polish American community for his commitment to keeping ethnic traditions alive.

Henry Dende was born on 21 October 1918 in Scranton, PA, to John and Mary Dende.  In 1936 Dende attended Alliance College, a predominantly Polish junior college in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.  While attending Alliance he became the editor of the school newspaper, Glos Studencki.  Upon graduating in 1938 with an associate degree, Dende received a grant from the Polish embassy to attend the University of Poland in Warsaw where he studied journalism.  Unfortunately, his visit was cut short, as the German army advanced toward Warsaw in September of 1939.  Dende continued his education at the University of Scranton, where in 1941 he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and publishing.

Dende served in the United States Army during War World II from 1942 to 1945.  In 1944, upon the death of his father, John, Henry Dende became the editor and publisher of Republica Gornik.  Four years later, in 1948, Dende reorganized the paper, renaming it the Polish-American Journal, and substituting English for the Polish language.  Dende's decision was based on a number of demographic trends which began to emerge in the mid 1940s: of the more than six million Americans who claimed Polish ancestry, only 900,000 were fluent in the Polish language.  By changing language formats, Dende was able to widen his circulation to a larger and more diverse audience, insuring the survival of his publication at a time when many ethnic newspapers were dying off.  In the 1960s Dende made another major change to maintain and expand circulation.  He began publishing Polish fraternal organization editions under the Polish-American Journal's masthead, often replacing the organizations' own newspapers.  By the early 1980s Dende published six regional and fraternal editions of the Journal.

The roots of the Polish-American Journal originate in the first decade of the twentieth century, when John Dende purchased two financially troubled Polish language publications, Republika [Republic] and Gornik Pennsylwanski [Miner of Pennsylvania].  After taking over from his father in 1944, Henry Dende continued as editor and publisher for forty years.  When he retired in 1983, the Polish-American Journal was sold to Panagraphics Incorporated of Buffalo, New York.  However, Dende has remained a contributing editor and the fraternal organization editor.

Beginning in the 1950s Dende became active in the Polish Union of the United States of North America, serving on the board of directors and later as president of the organization.  The Polish Union is an ethnic, fraternal benefit society, providing its members with life insurance at a relatively low cost.  Under Dende's leadership the organization has remained financially solvent at a time when many ethnic fraternal organizations are on the decline.

As a civic leader Dende has fulfilled many functions, primarily with the Scranton School Board, serving as a member and president of the board from 1951 to 1969.  His major achievement while with the school board was establishing a sound vocational-technical education program in the Scranton area.  Dende maintained that a vocational-technical school would not only provide career training for the young people of Scranton but would also create a pool of skilled workers which could be utilized as an incentive to attract industry to the Scranton area.  A vocational-technical school opened in Scranton in 1958, but Dende continued to lobby for a district wide vocational-technical curriculum.  After losing his bid for re-election to the school board in 1970, Dende became the chairman of the citizen's advisory board.  In recognition of Dende's steadfast efforts to establish a vocational-technical education program in Scranton, the new vocational-technical center was named in his honor in 1984.

Dende did not limit his services to the school board but was also involved in a number of other local and national organizations.  He was president of the Scranton Philharmonic Orchestra for four terms, from 1957 to 1961, and helped save the ailing organization from bankruptcy.  In politics, Dende Was active in the Democratic party both locally and nationally.  In 1952, 1956, 1960 and 1964 Dende was elected as an alternative delegate to the national Democratic party conventions.  He also served in the Nationalities Division of the Democratic party, where he worked to enhance the Polish American voice within the party.  Dende was also very active in anti-defamation activities during the 1970s, using his position as editor of the Polish-American Journal to speak out against the then popular Polish joke and on other issues which he saw as denigrating to the Polish people and culture.


John Dende was born in Russian Poland in the village of Serock on January 23, 1885.  He graduated from a teacher's college in Pultusk, Poland and served as an Officer in the Russian army before he immigrated to the United States in the first decade of the twentieth century.  After settling in Scranton, Dende owned and operated a small bakery from 1912 to 1918.  In addition to the bakery, he also bought two small Polish language newspapers, both of which were near financial ruin, and merged them into what became Republika Gornik.  John Dende was editor and publisher of this publication until his death in 1944.  As a Polish immigrant, Dende utilized the paper as a forum to discuss news and issues pertaining to the Polish community.  An example of Dende's commitment to Polish issues was provided during World War I, when he was actively involved in recruiting Poles for service in Europe.

John Dende was active in a number of national Polish fraternal organizations.  He was a president of District 5 of the Polish Falcons as well as president of District 12 of the Polish National Association.  At the local level, Dende was the founder of the American Political Federation of Lackawanna County, a lobbying organization for Polish American interests.  Another organization in which Dende played a key role was the Polish Catholic Parish Committee Association.  This group was founded in 1937 by Dende and a small group of other concerned Polish Americans as a means to voice their grievances over the direction of local church policy.  In the mid-1930s the Bishop co-adjutor of the Scranton Diocese, Rev. William J. Hafey, attempted to integrate the various Polish parishes into the mainstream church.  Among other actions, Hafey wanted to cancel the traditional midnight mass on Christmas eve, which unleashed a wave of criticism from the local Polish population.  The association leveled a number of charges at the diocese, including the non-recognition of priests trained at the Orchard Lake Seminary, Michigan, a predominantly Polish-American school, and the unbalanced financial relationship with the Scranton diocese (i.e. the church was extracting large sums of money from the various Polish churches but giving little in return).


The Watres Papers relate to a prominent Scranton citizen, Louis A. Watres.  Watres was born in Mount Vernon, Pennsylvania in 1851 and was descended from a family whose roots reached back to settlers from the Mayflower.  His father was an elder of the Presbyterian church and a magistrate in Scranton.  His mother was a housewife as well as an amateur poet.  Watres left school at an early age to work first in the coal mines in the town of Archbald, which is north of Scranton, and then for the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company.

Watres later returned to school and was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1878.  His interests soon turned to politics, and in 1882 he became the city solicitor of Scranton, followed by election to the state senate in 1882 and again in 1886.  The height of Watres' political career came in 1891 when he defeated his Democratic opponent for the post of lieutenant governor in the Democratic administration of Governor Robert E. Pattison (1891-1895).  Despite the defeat of the Republican candidate for governor, Watres built a reputation as a "harmonizer" within the Republican party, bringing Republicans back into the political fold.  Watres later became the chairman of the commonwealth's Republican Committee.

In Scranton, Watres was a prominent citizen.  His rank of colonel came from his membership in the 18th Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard.  Watres owned the two local papers, the Scranton Truth and the Scranton Republican, forerunners of the present day Tribune.  On the national scene Watres was very active in the Masons, and was the president of the George Washington Memorial Association, a branch of the Masons committed to building a monument to honor their most prestigious member.  Louis A. Watres died in 1937 at the age of eighty-seven.


The Henry Dende Papers were donated to the Balch Institute in two separate accessions in 1984 and 1986 by Henry Dende.  The papers were arranged and described by Marc K. Blackburn under the supervision of Balch archivist David Sutton, 1988.

Photographs were separated from the collection and are located in the Balch photo file under Photo Group 231.  Any library materials separated from this collection have been cataloged by the Balch library staff.

Accession #M84-13, M86-48.


The Henry Dende Papers, 1900-1985, contain 5.5 linear feet of documents.  The types of papers include newspaper and magazine clippings, correspondence, speeches, press releases, political campaign literature, and photographs.  The majority of the Dende collection is in English with the exception of some newspaper clippings and Series V, the John Dende Papers, which are almost all in Polish.  The John Dende and L. A. Watres papers were found within the files of Henry Dende.  They have been separated from the body of the collection and arranged as individual series to aid the researcher.

The papers have been arranged according to provenance.  The subject files and speeches have been arranged topically to make the wide variety of materials more accessible to the researcher. on the whole, correspondence is arranged chronologically by month and year.  Numerous photographs were found interleaved with the Dende's papers.  They have been separated and integrated into the Balch Institute's photo catalog and are listed as Photogroup 231.  Included in this collection was a large amount of deteriorating newsprint and a crumbling scrapbook, which have been photocopied onto acid free bond paper for preservation purposes.

The research value of Dende's papers is strong in a number of areas.  They document the concerns and interests of an influential member of a large ethnic group.  The collection illustrates the types of issues with which Dende was involved and the contemporary concerns of a diverse ethnic community on a local and national level.  The Dende Papers deal almost exclusively with Poles and have very little material on relations with other ethnic groups. However, the subject files do have some material on Polish-Jewish relations and the role which the Holocaust played in the lives of Poles and the nation of Poland.

Henry Dende' s papers do not provide a comprehensive regard of his life.  Rather, each series is akin to a photograph, providing brief glimpses into his various activities but leaving large gaps in the record.  The strength of the Dende Papers, when viewed as a unit, lies in revealing the attitudes, concerns and beliefs of a prominent Polish American.  The papers demonstrate Dende's commitment to illuminating a rich and ancient Polish culture to the general public as well as serving as a spokesman for concerns within the local and national Polish American community.

The individual units of the collection vary in depth and quality.  The subject files make up the largest series in the collection, but they are composed primarily of newspaper clippings and magazine articles which have a greater impressionistic than evidential value.  The most comprehensive parts of the collection cover Dende's activities as president of the Polish Union.  Included are the minutes of board meetings and reports of various committees from the 1970s and early 1980s.  While reports of various committees are included in the collection, the majority of the activities in which Dende was involved clan be traced through the meeting minutes and president's reports.  Some correspondence represents the day-to-day activities of the Union, including disbursements for insurance policies and requests for financial aid for projects such as a traveling Polish-American exhibit for the nation's bicentennial.

Although Dende was editor of the Polish-American Journal for over forty years, the collection contains material for only a brief span of time, rather than covering the day-to-day activities of the Journal.  The collection does provide a fair number of letters to the editor which reflect the contemporary concerns of the Journal's audience.  The records from his tenure with the Scranton school district are also scanty and incomplete but provide material of interest.  The majority of the Henry Dende Papers date from 1955 to 1985 with only sporadic coverage of the 1940s and the decades preceding the Second World War.


The Henry Dende Papers are arranged in six series: Personal and Professional Papers, Polish-American Journal, Polish Union of the United States of North America, Subject Files, John Dende Papers, and Colonel Louis A. Watres Papers.  Arrangement within each series varies according to record type and is described below.

SERIES I: PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL PAPERS, 1939-1980. 1.2 feet (2 boxes).  Arrangement: speeches are arranged alphabetically by topic.  Other files are grouped according to subject and relative importance.  This series contains speeches which Dende gave to various groups throughout his career as a public servant and publisher.  Also within the series is material relating to his activities in the Democratic party.  The majority is campaign literature, but there is some correspondence relating to the 1960 Kennedy campaign in the Scranton area and materials relating to advertising in ethnic publications for the Humphrey and Muskie campaign of 1968.

SERIES II: POLISH-AMERICAN JOURNAL, 1939-1980. 1.2 feet (2 boxes).  Arrangement: correspondence and press releases are filed chronologically.  This series contains correspondence from the readers of the Journal and correspondence from Dende answering letters to the editor and pertaining to business of the Journal.  A substantial portion of the letters to the editor relate to the image of Poles in the media.  Their concerns focus upon defamation of Poles in the popular situation comedy "All in the Family" and the image of the Polish people as anti-Semitic in the miniseries "The Holocaust'' broadcast in 1978.  Also included in the series is a short but informative history of the Polish press in America and the Polish-American Journal.

SERIES III: POLISH UNION OF THE UNITED STATES OF NORTH AMERICA, 1906-1983. 1.2 feet (2 boxes).  Arrangement: series is arranged by type of material and its importance.  Hence, minutes are first followed by committee reports and insurance rates.  The majority of these records are report's of various committees of the Polish Union which reported to the executive committee.  However, the individual committees are not well documented, and many of the folders contain only one or two monthly reports.  Also included in this series is a set of executive committee and board of directors meeting minutes from the 1970s.  Two minute books from earlier periods, 1906-1911 and 1950-1954, have been microfilmed.

SERIES IV: SUBJECT FILES, 1929-1983.  1.2. feet (4 boxes).   Arrangement: materials are arranged according to topics: Polish and American personalities, Polish-American history and culture, Poles in the United States, and Poles in Poland.  The types of records most prevalent in this series are newspaper clippings and magazine articles.  However, a few of the items stand out in importance and completeness of documentation.  In the 1970s, Polish millionaire Edward Piszek (founder of Mrs. Paul's Kitchens) financed a national advertising campaign to educate the American public about the contributions of Poles to western civilizations.  The project was known as "Project Pole."  Included with the collection are program materials and correspondence from Polish-Americans reporting their satisfaction with the program.  Other important material includes a series of essays and letters relating to Polish-Jewish relations during World War II as well as the post war era.

SERIES V: JOHN DENDE PAPERS, 1900-1946. 6 inches (1 box).   Arrangement: materials are arranged chronologically by subject.  The John Dende papers chart various organizations in which he was involved.  The most revealing files are the Polish Catholic Parish Committee Association of the Scranton Diocese.  Included in the files are not only incorporation documents, by laws and meeting announcements, but correspondence between the Bishop of Scranton and the association as they fought to codify Polish Roman Catholic traditions The majority of the series is in Polish.

SERIES VI: COLONEL LOUIS A. WATRES PAPERS, 1906-1932.  6 inches (1 box).  Arrangement: materials are arranged chronologically by topic.  Included with Henry Dende's papers is a small collection of materials from Watres.  Most of the collection's correspondence relates to Watres' efforts in supporting the Masons memorial to George Washington in Washington, D.C.  Included is a short note from Supreme Court Justice William H. Taft regarding Watres' contributions to the Masons.

The box list of the Register of the Papers of Henry Dende is fifteen pages long.