Register of the Papers of
Nicholas Vagionis was one of the leading figures in the Greek community of New York City. He served as president of the American-Greek Democratic Association, Inc., the Federation of American-Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, Inc., the Cretans' Association Omonoia, Inc., and the Pan-Cretan Association of America, and was a member of many other Greek organizations. He is credited with organizing the first of the annual Greek Independence Day parades in New York City, celebrating the anniversary of Greek independence in 1821.
Vagionis was born in Canea, on the island of Crete, in 1902. He emigrated to the United States in 1921 and soon entered the civil service in the U.S. Treasury Department. It was through his activities in the Greek community that Vagionis was best known. In 1931 he helped to establish the American Greek Democratic Association, Inc., in order to give Greek-Americans a greater voice in politics. He was general secretary of the organization at its creation and became president in 1932; he served as executive secretary in 1933 and became president again in 1934. In 1933 Vagionis became executive secretary of the Cretans' Association Omonoia, Inc., the local Cretan organization in New York City. He served as president of the organization seven times between 1936 and 1952. As a leading figure in Omonoia, Vagionis was also active in the Pan-Cretan Association of America. He frequently served as New York delegate to the Pan-Cretan national convention and was an officer of the organization at various times.
In 1947 Vagionis was elected president of the Federation of American-Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, Inc., and held that position until 1952. During the late 1940's, he was also a member of the board of directors and executive committee of the Greek division of the Red Cross and in 1948 was made a director of the Greek War Relief Association. In 1966 he was appointed to the national board of directors of the United Greek Orthodox Charities. Though Vagionis appears to have been less active in organizational affairs after the mid-1950's, he remained one of the most prominent members of New York City's Greek community.
Besides organizing the first Greek Independence Day parade and serving on the parade committee for many years, Vagionis was also involved in the planning of a number of other functions and events, such as the Golden Anniversary of the City of New York in 1943 and the 1940 Worlds Fair. He was also involved in fund-raising for various institutions and organizations.
Vagionis wrote many articles on Greek and Greek-American topics. Most appeared in the commemorative booklets for organizational functions (e.g., the programs from the Pan-Cretan national conventions and the annual dances of the Cretans' Association Omonoia, Inc.). Some of the articles, however, were written for the Greek press in New York City, primarily the Atlantis and the National Herald. Vagionis received many awards and honors related to his work in the Greek community. In addition to certificates and honorary memberships from various Greek organizations, he was awarded the Golden Cross of the Order of the Phoenix by King Paul in recognition of his services to Greece.
Nicholas Vagionis was married to Helen Zoras and had a daughter, Anastasia, and two sons, Constantine and George. He lived in Fort Lee, New Jersey, from 1954 until his death in 1973. Before that he had lived for many years in the Washington Heights section of New York City. At the time of his retirement from the Treasury Department, he was a collector for the Internal Revenue Service and had received the Department's Albert Gallatin Award in 1961 for long and devoted service.
The Nicholas Vagionis papers were received by the Balch Institute as a gift from Mrs.Nicholas Vagionis on October 24, 1975.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Nicholas Vagionis papers cover the years 1923-1973 and primarily document Vagionis' activities in the Greek community of New York City. The most extensive coverage is on activities of the various organizations to which he belonged and on the operation of the annual Greek Independence Day celebration in New York City. The collection also documents Vagionis' interest in keeping Greek traditions alive, maintaining interest in and contact with the homeland, and, to a lesser extent, his attempts to organize the Greek community of New York City behind the Democratic Party. Included in the collection are correspondence, speeches, articles, scrapbooks, news clippings, photographs, and programs. (Nearly one-half of the collection is composed of printed material.) Much of the material is in Greek and is divided into six series: general papers, organizational activities, Greek Independence Day, miscellaneous, news clippings, and photographs.
The GENERAL PAPERS contain a section of files marked "activities" which relates to Vagionis' involvement in the planning of various events and his fund-raising activities; general correspondence, mostly letters or requests for aid from individuals and organizations; political correspondence relating primarily to campaigns, including letters of request or thanks for support; professional material from Vagionis' job with the Treasury Department; memorabilia; and various awards and certificates. Also contained here are speeches and articles by Vagionis. Most are undated but are probably from the period of the mid-1930's to 1968. The speeches were primarily delivered at various affairs and functions, most notably the annual Greek Independence Day celebration. The articles mentioned above cover a variety of subjects, but most pertain to Cretan history, to prominent individuals (including Harry S. Truman, Eleutherios Venizelos, and Sophocles Venizelos), and to Greek-American organizations. There are other speeches and articles found throughout the collection, filed by subject.
The ORGANIZATIONAL ACTIVITIES section contains material on the many associations of which Vagionis was a member. The most extensive files are those on the American-Greek Democratic Association, the Cretans' Association Omonoia, the Federation of American Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, and the Pan-Cretan Association of America. Located here is material on the establishment of these organizations, as well as on their activities over a considerable period of time. There are also files containing correspondence and printed material from various other organizations to which Vagionis belonged but in which he was not so prominently involved.
The GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY section is the most extensive, containing material pertaining to the annual celebration in New York City of the anniversary of Greek independence. Coverage for some years is more complete than for others, but all the files contain related material such as programs, correspondence, invitations and passes, and press releases. Some files also contain information on other Independence Day functions, such as banquets and doxologies. There is only a small amount of fragmentary material on the celebration of Greek Independence Day between 1939 and 1947. The years 1948 through 1972 are well-represented.
The MISCELLANEOUS section is divided into two groups. The first consists of files on subjects of interest to the Greek community in New York. Most significant are those on the royal family of Greece, including the visits to New York City of George II in 1942 and Paul and Frederika in 1953; an undated reply to an attack on the Greek community of New York City; a file on Greek communists, and a file on Cyprus and Cypriots, 1948-1951, and 1955. The second group concerns the many Greek and Greek-American organizations with which Vagionis had only a casual relation. The files hold routine material that appears to have been distributed as standard procedure, such as reports on activities, requests for aid, and invitations to functions. However, they also contain the minutes of the first national congress of the American Panhellenic Federation in 1942, the charter of the Greek-American Progressive Association, and the constitution of the Philadelphia Federation of Greek-American Societies.
Much of the NEWS CLIPPINGS AND SCRAPBOOKS section contains clippings removed from other locations in the collection. They are arranged according to the heading of the folder from which they were removed. There are also other news clippings which have been arranged either by subject or chronologically and five scrapbooks covering the years 1932-1940. The scrapbooks pertain to the activities of Vagionis or the organizations to which he belonged. All of this material is contained on two rolls of microfilm.
The PHOTOGRAPHS* section contains over 100 photographs taken mainly at events and functions such as dinners, dances, and the Greek Independence Day parade. Several are group pictures of officers and members of the various organizations to which Vagionis belonged. Most of the photographs include Vagionis. A small number of photos taken from other files in the collection, and some personal photographs of Vagionis' family and relatives, have been filed here by subject.
* The photographs have been separated from the manuscript group. See the SEPARATION RECORD for PHOTO GROUP 69 and the Visual Catalog.
The box list of the Register of the Papers of Nicholas Vagionis is ten pages