'All our own kind here': The creation of a Slovak-American community in Philadelphia, 1890-1945

Robert Michael Zecker, University of Pennsylvania


Around 1910, immigrant communities were often characterized as contained in largely homogeneous ghettoes. For Slovaks in Philadelphia, though, community was not geographically but institutionally bounded. A translocal community of churches, fraternals and sporting fields served as ethnic magnets that enabled Slovaks living miles apart to be both elastic and selective when forming community, ignoring ethnically different neighbors while embracing Slovaks from miles, even states apart. Translocal attachments freed immigrants from ghettoes from their first moments in America, and a new paradigm for thinking of immigrant communities—translocal and institutional, not geographically bound—is proposed. In this institutional network an ethnic identity was not just practiced but created. Fraternals and their newspapers served to bind villagers from disparate parts of Upper Hungary into a common ethnic nation of which they were only dimly aware before sailing for America. Regional ascriptions and frictions were ameliorated in translocal institutional networks. Churches and fraternals served, too, as creators of a bi-national identity, for signifiers of Americanness also occurred in a Slovak milieu. American symbols, though, were often adapted by immigrants to suit their own needs, purposes often at variance from native America's. Creative appropriation of both Slavic and American culture to meet immigrants' new needs also served to free them from ghettoes as they negotiated a bi-national identity.

Subject Area

American studies|American history|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Zecker, Robert Michael, "'All our own kind here': The creation of a Slovak-American community in Philadelphia, 1890-1945" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9913543.