Register of the Records of the
GWIAZDA AND POLISH STAR PUBLISHING COMPANY
Marc K. Blackburn
Stephan Nowaczyk, the founder and first publisher of Gwiazda, was born in Poznan, Poland in 1869 and immigrated to the United States with his family in the 1870s. They settled in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia, a predominantly Polish neighborhood located on the eastern side of the city. Like his father, Nowaczyk was trained as a printer. In 1902 he purchased some second-hand printing equipment from his employer and acquired a mailing list from Patryota, a Polish newspaper in Philadelphia, and began publishing Gwiazda (meaning "Star" in Polish).
In 1898 Nowaczyk married Frances (Franciszka) Kapcia (b. 1879 in Poland, d. 1959 in Philadelphia), and they had three children, Gertrude (b. 1909), Irene (1910-1959), and Eleanora Nowaczyk Fairlamb (1913-1979). Upon Nowaczyk's death in 1923, his wife became publisher of the newspaper and remained in that position until 1935. While a family member had remained the publisher, during the newspaper's duration, an editor and advertising manager were hired to take care of the day-to-day business of running the paper. With the pressure of operating the business mounting, daughter Gertrude became the newspaper's publisher in 1935 and held this position until the newspaper was dissolved in 1985.
Gwiazda was published weekly at 3020 Richmond Street, Philadelphia while simultaneously serving as the Nowaczyk's home until they moved to the suburb of Wyncote in the 1930s. At its inception, Gwiazda was the official publication of the Polish Beneficial Association, but upon the death of Stephan Nowaczyk and the assumption of his wife as publisher, Gwiazda became the official organ for the Union of Polish Women in America.
At its inception, the newspaper was printed entirely in Polish, but over its 83 year history, an English language section was introduced and gradually expanded to fill half the newspaper. The publishing policy of the Nowaczyks was organized around serving Philadelphia's Polish American community, reporting on stories, events, and activities of local interest.
Circulation of Gwiazda was limited to the Philadelphia area, with some subscribers located in southern New Jersey and northern Delaware. From the 1930s to Gwiazda's final issue in 1985, the newspaper's circulation ranged from 6,000 to 7,500 subscribers. The advertising manager boasted that nearly the entire Polish American community in Philadelphia read Gwiazda as it was passed from household to household. Advertising was limited primarily to local Polish American businesses, financial institutions, and public utilities. Occasionally the newspaper would advertise as part of a national ad campaign for various products such as cigarettes and liquor. Every two to four years local and national political candidates would run ads in Gwiazda attempting to muster the support of Philadelphia's Polish American community.
A print shop, located at the Richmond Street address, was founded soon after Gwiazda had begun publishing. Seeing that revenues from subscriptions and advertising alone was not going to be substantial, as was common practice, the Nowaczyks utilized their printing equipment and began a profitable printing operation. Their clientele consisted of Polish American merchants, community organizations, and parishes. In 1930 the print shop and Gwiazda were incorporated and stock issued under the name Polish Star Publishing Company. The employees and equipment of the print shop and newspaper were interchangeable.
The newspaper and print shop continued to flourish, even during the adverse times of the Great Depression. Despite difficulties in securing advertisers, the level of circulation remained fairly stable. Similarly, the Second World War did not interrupt the publication of Gwiazda. Most of the employees in the production office received draft deferments because of their Polish language skills.
The editor of Gwiazda was a Mr. Pstrokonski who remained with the paper for only a short time, leaving in 1904. Leon Alexander was the second editor and remained with the Nowaczyks for thirty years, from 1904 to 1935. When Mr. Alexander died in 1935, Dr. Charles Wachtl, a former editor of the Polish Daily News in Chicago was hired. In addition to his responsibilities at the office, Dr. Wachtl was an interpreter for the Philadelphia Municipal Court system. Upon his death in 1945, Francis Grzeskowiak (later changed to Gregory) became Gwiazda's fourth editor. Grzeskowiak remained in that position until 1959 when he became president of the Third Federal Savings Bank in Philadelphia. In 1959 Stefan Sokolowski became the fifth editor of Gwiazda until his death in 1976. Various individuals served as editor between 1976 and 1985.
Advertising accounts were handled by Edmund Fable from 1920 to 1935. Upon his death in 1935, Harold Roberts assumed the manager's position and remained with the newspaper for 43 years. When Roberts died in 1978, Gertrude Nowaczyk assumed his duties.
In 1985 Gertrude Nowaczyk was seventy-six years old and in ill health. Having no heirs and not wishing to sell the newspaper and print shop, she decided to terminate operations. The print shop's assets and equipment were sold, and the corporation was dissolved.
The Gwiazda and Polish Star Publishing Company Records were donated to the Balch Institute in 1988 by Gertrude Nowaczyk. They were processed by Marc K. Blackburn with assistance from the Balch archivist Carla Zimmerman, Spring 1989.
Photographs found in the collection were separated to Photo Group 206. Printed materials have been transferred to the library and artifacts to the museum.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Gwiazda and Polish Star Publishing Company records, 1922-1986, contain 10.5 linear feet of records. The types of records include correspondence, financial ledgers, tax returns, newspaper clippings, press releases, job orders, insertion instructions, and samples of material printed by the publishing company's print shop. The majority of the collection is in English, with the exception of some correspondence in Polish located in the editorial and advertising files. Also, some of the press releases and newspaper clippings are in Polish.
The records have been arranged according to their company affiliation: Series 1. Gwiazda, Series II. The Polish Star Publishing Company, Series III. Financial Records, Series IV. Corporate Records, and Series V. Personal Papers. The parent organization of both the print shop and the newspaper Gwiazda was the Polish Star Publishing Company.
While Gwiazda was not the only Polish American newspaper published in the Philadelphia area, these records document the day-to-day operations of a media outlet for an ethnic community. Furthermore, the Polish Star Publishing Company was not only a family owned and operated business, it was managed by women from 1923 on.
In Series I, the correspondence relating to the editor's day-to-day business is scanty, although it does provide an overview of the types of activities in which the editors were involved. These include billing problems and the newspaper's involvement in Polish American issues. The largest amount of correspondence pertains to the advertising activities of Gwiazda. The correspondence of Harold Roberts, the advertising manager from 1935-1979, deals primarily with selling advertising space in Gwiazda. Correspondence with prospective clients reflect his tactics. Roberts would high light the marketing potential of Philadelphia's Polish American community by emphasizing needs particular to their ethnic group. For example, he mentioned to a brewer that Polish Americans enjoyed Beer with their Thanksgiving turkey (box 4/folder 1). The clients' correspondence covers a variety of other issues, namely billing problems, placement of advertising copy, and corrections in the copy.
The administrative records of the print shop in Series II are not as complete as the records of the previous series. The correspondence deals with what clients wished to have printed, requesting materials, and billing problems. Job ledgers and correspondence reveal that the print shop catered to a predominantly Polish clientele which remained the basis for their profits through the shop's existence. Also included in this series are samples of printing produced by the print shop. The samples show the various Polish customers for whom they did work, such as the Union of Polish Women in America, a Polish American Bowling League, and the Polish Intercollegiate Club.
The financial records in Series III are nearly complete for the years 1923-1985, revealing a fairly clear picture of the financial successes of the Polish Star Publishing Company. The ledgers include disbursements and revenue for both corporate entities--the newspaper and print shop. Included with the ledgers are a scattered set of tax returns for the local, state, and federal governments from the 1930s to the 1980s.
The corporate records in Series IV contain the documents filed in Delaware in 1931 when the Polish Star Publishing Company was founded. The Series contains the minutes of the board of directors which stopped meeting in the 1950s when the Nowaczyks became the sole stock holders.
Series V deals with various activities of the Nowaczyks. While these are not company records, this series offers only a glimpse of the Nowaczyks activities. The obituaries of Frances and Irene provide some biographical information. Other items include various organizations which the Nowaczyks were involved in.
Despite the richness of the correspondence in both Series I and II, there are a number of gaps in the record. The records do not cover the early years of Gwiazda, from 1902 to 1923. The majority of the correspondence falls between 1930 and 1965 with sporadic coverage continuing to the 1980s. While the records detail the day-to-day operations of Gwiazda and the Polish Star Publishing Company, they do not readily reveal the newspaper's editorial policy, language policy, or the policies of the individual editors. Finally, as company records, they offer only impressionistic evidence on the attitudes of the Polish American community which the business served.
Photographs were separated into the Balch Institute's photo collection and are accessible in the visual catalog under Photo Group 206. A large amount of printed material was separated to the library and artifacts were transferred to the museum. Deteriorating newsprint and correspondence has been photocopied onto acid free bond for preservation purposes.
For more information on Polish American newspapers and ethnic publishing the Balch Institute has the following manuscript collections: MSS 54 Henry Dende Papers (Henry Dende was the editor of the Polish American Journal, published in Scranton, Pennsylvania), MSS 43 Atlantis Records (a Greek American newspaper that was published in New York City), MSS 58 Charles Belohlavek Papers, and MSS 12 James Stemons Papers. Unprocessed collections include the Jewish Daily Forward Records, Irish Edition Records, and the Jan Dendur Papers.
The Balch Institute has the following years of the newspaper Gwiazda on microfilm: 1902, 1912 to 1919, and 1970 to 1985. These are available through the reference desk in the library.
Gwiazda and Polish Star Publishing Company Records, 1923-1985 are divided into three series: Series I. Gwiazda, Series II. Polish Star Publishing Company, Series III. Financial Records, Series IV. Corporate Records, and Series V. Personal Papers. Arrangement within each series varies according to the record types.
SERIES I: GWIAZDA, 1923-1985. 4 linear ft. (11 boxes). Arrangement: Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Advertising clients correspondence is arranged alphabetically. Remaining records are filed chronologically.
This series includes the correspondence and records of the editors and advertising managers for Gwiazda. The editorial files are composed primarily of incoming and outgoing correspondence from clients. Also, in this series are press releases from news agencies in Poland and public service organizations.
The largest collection in this series are the advertising files. This series has the incoming and outgoing correspondence of Harold Roberts, the advertising manager of Gwiazda from 1935 to 1979 and client correspondence from the 1920s to 1985. The clients' correspondence is alphabetized according to the company name or individual. This series also contains the advertising insertion instructions sent to Gwiazda. These provided the newspaper with detailed instructions on when and where to place advertising copy. In some cases advertising copy has remained with the insertion instructions.
SERIES II: POLISH STAR PUBLISHING COMPANY, 1930-1984. 4 linear ft. (12 boxes). Arrangement: Where possible, records are arranged chronologically. Job orders are filed by their control number.
This series contains the records of the print shop which operated out of the same offices in which Gwiazda was published. The correspondence in this series is balanced between incoming and outgoing letters detailing the type of work desired, costs, materials, typesetting, etc. Also included in this series are the applications for deferment from the draft in World War II by various employees of the Polish Star Publishing Company.
While the financial responsibilities of the print shop are included in the ledgers located in the following series, this series includes a record of all jobs printed from 1930 to 1985. Supplementing these ledgers are individual job orders from 1974 to 1975. The most voluminous part of this series are the various samples of printing prepared by the print shop, demonstrating the number of services available to prospective clients. The print shop was capable of reproducing manuscripts, invitations, letterhead, envelopes, business cards, and forms. They have been organized by the type of sample or by the organization for which it was printed.
SERIES III: FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1935-1985. 2 linear ft. (9 boxes). Arrangement: Tax returns and corporate books are filed chronologically.
Financial records include materials from the print shop and newspaper, though they only cover the business from the mid 1930s to 1985. Financial ledgers or tax records from the early years were not recovered. This series also includes the corporate books. These are the general ledger, accounts receivable, disbursements, and petty cash books. Tax records from the local, state, and federal governments are sporadic but cover most of Gwiazda's tax bills.
SERIES IV: CORPORATE RECORDS, 1930-1985. 2.5 in. (1/2 box). Arrangement: Chronologically by type.
This series contains all of the documents required by the state of Delaware to set up a corporation, The Polish Star Publishing Company. The board of directors minutes and official correspondence are included as well as the stock ledger and certificates. The documents which were required to dissolve the corporation are in this series as well.
SERIES V: PERSONAL PAPERS, 1923-1959. 2.5 in. (1/2 box). Arrangement: Chronologically by organization.
All of the papers not directly relating to the operations of the newspaper or print shop have been placed in this series. Included are obituaries for Frances and Irene Nowaczyk, and papers relating to various organizations in which the family was active. The organizations are either Polish American Savings and Loans, political organizations, or beneficial societies.
The box list of the Register of the Records of the Gwiazda and Polish Star
Publishing Company is thirteen pages long.