THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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By Frank Passic, Albion, Michigan.
When Lithuania came under Russian control in 1795, the Russians did all they could to “Russify” the Lithuanians, but they were continually met with stiff opposition. During the last half of the 19th Century, oppression increased as parochial schools were closed and Lithuanian printed matter was forbidden. Repressive measures were forced upon the people by the Czar, adding to the misery of the Lithuanian nation which already suffered from famine and mass unemployment.
As a result, thousands of Lithuanians fled their homeland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries prior to World War I. Emigration to America eventually totaled 635,000 individuals, approximately 20 percent of the population of Lithuania! Lithuanians arrived at Ellis Island impoverished, penniless, and unable to speak the English language but full of hope – the hope of freedom, a new life and unlimited opportunity.
Helping the Lithuanian immigrant was the Brooklyn Chapter of the Lithuanian Alliance of America, which gave aid to those at Ellis Island. The Brooklyn Lithuanian-American Citizens Club held a special conference in May of 1911 to plan a strategy for helping those who were scheduled for deportation back to Lithuania. The No. 4 issue of Tevyne (1896) stated, “At present, masses of Lithuanian emigrants are arriving in New York. Every ship from Hamburg brings tens and hundreds of Lithuanians. Many are sent back and the Alliance’s Brooklyn Chapter is working its hardest for the good of those poor peoples…”
In general, the immigrants stayed in New York only briefly, then moved westward to Pennsylvania, where they found employment building railroads and working the coal mines. Numerous Lithuanian organizations, newspapers, and societies were organized in Pennsylvania. These served as the prelude to those that were to be established later in Chicago as Lithuanian immigrants moved westward. Many Chicago societies were actually branches of those that were first established in Pennsylvania.
The first group of Lithuanians came to Chicago in 1870, when eighteen men arrived with a railroad crew. Because of its central location with industry and development, Chicago became the goal of the thousands of impoverished Lithuanian immigrants seeking a new life. Groups of Lithuanians came in 1880 and 1885, with the first colony being established on the North side of the city. After that, the influx of Lithuanians to Chicago grew at an enormous rate. It is estimated that between 1880 and 1914 more than 47,000 Lithuanians settled in the city, congregating in the Bridgeport and Town of Lake districts. By 1923, the Lithuanian population had grown to over 90,000, confirming the fact that Chicago contained the largest Lithuanian population of any city in the world, even more than Kaunas, Lithuania.
According to one story, the Bridgeport section, where many Lithuanians settled, was supposedly named after a Lithuanian immigrant from Tilsit (East Prussia/ Lithuanian Minor) named Ansas Portas. Portas owned land on the south side of the Chicago River at a bridge crossing, and people referred to the area as the “bridge to Portas,” which was later changed to Bridgeport. The Bridgeport section served as the nucleus of the Lithuanian community from the early years of immigration to Chicago through the era of World War I.
Due to the difficulty they had in obtaining jobs, Lithuanian immigrants began to settle around the stockyards where work was available in the slaughterhouses and steel mills. By World War I, approximately 25 percent of the ethnic work force in the industries was Lithuanian, and it is estimated that a total of 100,000 Lithuanians worked in the stockyards in Chicago during their existence. The grim and horrible conditions Lithuanian workers faced there were the theme of the classic novel, The Jungle (1906) by Upton Sinclair.
The Lithuanian contribution to the city of Chicago is significant in several ways. First, it provided the city with an added labor base upon which the city’s industries grew and prospered. Second it accelerated the building of ethnic neighborhoods, adding to the distinctive variety found in the city’s cultural life. Third, it spurred the formation of new businesses and more affluence.
The Union Stockyards were at one time a significant employer of Chicago's Lithuanian community. Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle, revolves around the life of a Lithuanian immigrant working the Stockyards named Jurgis Rudkus.
The Lithuanian immigrants to Chicago frequently made their habitats close to the Catholic churches, which gave them a certain moral and material support. The first waves of Lithuanian immigrants associated with already established Polish parishes. However, as the Lithuanian national consciousness became stronger and friction with the Poles increased, a large number of conflicts and disputes arose between and Lithuanians who were members of the same parish. The main area of conflict centered around the question of whether Lithuanian or Polish would be the language of sermons and confessions.
These disputes became severe and even violent. The press of the day frequently reported these incidents in public newspapers. For example, in 1877 in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the Lithuanian church members barricaded themselves in the church and would not allow the Polish pastor to enter. In Freeland, Pennsylvania in 1894, a fight ensued between Lithuanian and Polish parishioners, in which the participants exchanged revolver shots, several persons were wounded, and the police had to intervene. As many of these Lithuanian immigrants moved west to Chicago, they were determined to establish their own parishes, independent of Polish influence.
Despite many handicaps, early Lithuanian immigrants did establish their own native-language parishes, newspapers, societies, businesses, taverns, and organizations, all of which contributed to the emergence of the ethnic Lithuanian in American society. Many of these early societies, which have long since disappeared, issued small token “chips” which were good for a purchase at the particular establishment. These tokens are a lasting memento of the early history of the Lithuanian immigrant to the city of Chicago. They are a reminder of the bond of national identity that caused people to band together in fraternal organizations as they adjusted to their new life in America.
The collection of Lithuanian American society tokens presented here was originally assembled by the late Dr. Alexander M. Rackus (1893-1965), himself an immigrant who came to Chicago. A member of the American Numismatic Association, Rackus served as historical/numismatic curator of the Vytautas the Great Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania, 1936-1940. A listing of his Chicago lodge tokens appeared in the November, 1948 issue (No. 4) of the American-Lithuanian Philatelic Specialist, which Dr. Rackus published in Chicago after the War. However, the collection mysteriously disappeared over the years and was feared lost. In September of 1979 it was discovered in a small box behind some shelves in a closet, in the archives of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture (which had purchased Dr. Rackus’ collection just prior to his death) at its original location at 4012 Archer Avenue in Chicago. In the same box were also early Lithuanian society tokens from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Brooklyn, New York. Since that discovery, the collection has been cataloged, photographed and placed on permanent exhibit at the Museum at its present location at 6500 S. Pulaski Rd. in Chicago.
As the reader will discover, these small tokens display various inconsistencies, spelling errors, and poor grammar. Many of the spelling variances are due to the heavy Polish influence under which the Lithuanians tried to establish their own separate identity. Though the Lithuanian written language was being purged of Polish influence, that influence still shows up on many of these tokens. For example, the Lithuanian letter “s” which is “sh” in English, comes out as a Polish “sz” on the text of some of the tokens. The word “Lietuvos,” meaning “Lithuanian,” comes out as a Polish influenced “Lietuwiszku,” or with other variances. In addition, in the Lithuanian language there is no letter “w,” but the letter “v” is used. Yet the letter “w” shows up on numerous tokens. These are just a few of the many interesting “problems” which occur on these tokens.
The following is a catalog of Lithuanian society tokens of Chicago with historical notes on the societies that issued them.
1. Society of Saint George the Knight
Obverse inscription: DR-TE SZV. IURGIO R. ir K. CHICAGO, ILL. With dotted line border.
Full meaning: Draugiste Szvento Jorgio Riderio ir Kankinio
Translation: Society of Saint George the Knight and Martyr.
Reverse: A large cipher 5 in the center, encircled by 16 five pointed stars.
In 1881 several Lithuanian families settled in the area around Noble Street and attended the nearby Polish churches. Wishing to establish their own independent Lithuanian language society, the Society of St. George the Knight was founded in 1884 as the first Lithuanian organization in Chicago. However, several of its members moved elsewhere, and the group disbanded. In March of 1891 the society was revived, and in 1892 the first Lithuanian Roman Catholic church in Chicago was built at the corner of Auburn (now Lituanica) Avenue, at 33rd Street. The first parish priest was Father Valentinas Cizauskas, who raised funds for the structure. The wooden church was erected in 1892 under the direction of Father Jurgis Kolesinkis.
2. Society of Saint Stephen
double oval, 15 x 19mm. Beaded border.
Obverse inscription DRAUGISTE SZVENTO STEPONO.
Translation: Society for Saint Stephen.
Reverse: GOOD FOR 5¢ IN TRADE, encircled by a beaded border.
The St. Stephen Lithuanian Society was organized in December 16, 1905.
3. Society of St. Michael The Archangel No. 2
26mm. Dotted border.
Obverse inscription: DR. SV-TOM-LO ARKANIOLO NO. 2.
Full meaning: Draugiste Szvento Mykolo Arkaniolo No. 2.
Translation: Society for Saint Michael the Archangel No. 2.
4. Society of All Saints
octagonal. 25 x 27mm. Dotted border on obverse.
Obverse inscription: DR-TES VISU SZVENTU KOWOS 17d 1906
Full meaning: Draugistes Visu Szventu Kowos 17 diena 1906.
Translation: Society of All Saints, March 17th day, 1906.
Reverse: A large cipher 5, surrounded by a beaded border.
The All Saints parish was founded in the Roseland section of Chicago in 1906.
5. Knights of the Lithuanian King Mindaugas
25mm. Beaded border both sides.
Obverse inscription: K. L. K. MINDAUGIO PRIE PARAP SZW. JURGIO K.
Full meaning: Kareiviai Lietuvos Karaliaus Mindaugio Prie Parapijos Szwento Jurgio Kareiwio
Translation: Knights of the Lithuanian King Mindaugas at Saint George the Knight Parish.
This society, one of several growing out of the St. George’s parish, is thought to have issued this token around 1906.
6. Society of Saint Prince Casimir
26mm. Dotted both sides.
Obverse inscription: DR. TE. SV. K. KAZIMERIA 5¢
Full meaning: Draugiste Svento Karalacio Kazimiero 5¢
Translation: Society of Saint Prince Casimir
Reverse: The reverse is blank, except for the dotted border.
On October 24, 1886, twelve Lithuanians met at 668 Noble Street, and founded the second Lithuanian society, St. Casimir’s. The society was formed for the purpose of saying confessions to the priests in the native Lithuanian language. With the money raised by the Saint Casimir Society, priests from other cities were paid to provide the Chicago Lithuanians with Easter services in their native language. One of these was Father Valentinas Cizauskas, who later became the pastor of the St. George’s parish.
7. St. Casimir Society
25mm. Dotted border both sides.
Obverse inscription: ST. KAZIMIERA DRUGGISTE UZDETA UZDETA 1921 M CHICAGO, ILL.
Full meaning: Svento Kazimiero Draugiste Uzdeta 1912 year, Chicago, Ill.
Translation: St. Casimir Society established in the year of 1912, Chicago, Illinois.
Reverse: A very large cipher 5 in the center.
This society was organized in the West Side of Chicago on March 4, 1912, and its main purpose was mutual assistance and importing books published by the St. Casimir Society in Kaunas, Lithuania.
Notice the misspelling of the word Draugiste as “Druggiste.” Was the die maker thinking of the English word druggist?
8. Society of the Grove of Lithuania
25mm. Dotted border obverse, beaded border reverse.
Obverse inscription: DRAUGISTE LETUVOS GOJAUS
Translation: Society of the Grove of Lithuania
Reverse: A large cipher 5
Undated. This organization had its origin in Pennsylvania, with a branch in Chicago.
9. National Guard of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas
crenated, 25 x 30mm. 8 petals. Dotted border obverse, beaded border reverse.
Obverse inscription: L.G.D.L.K. ALGIRDA CHICAGO ILL.
Full meaning: Lieb Gvardija Dijiojo Lietuvos Kunigaikscio Algirdo, Chicago, Ill.
Translation: National Guard of Grand Duke of Lithuania, Algirdas, Chicago, Illinois.
Reverse: GOOD FOR ONE 5 (cent) DRINK
This organization was named after Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas It was semi-militaristic in nature, very patriotic, and very anti-Russian.
10. Saint Domininks Society
crenated, 25 x 30mm. 8 petals. Beaded border both sides.
Obverse inscription: ST. DOMININKS SOCIETY CHICAGO.
Reverse: GOOD FOR 5 (cent) DRINK.
The St. Dominink’s Society was organized on November 24, 1910, in the Bridgeport section of Chicago. The majority of the members were from the Samogitian area of Lithuania, from the city of Raseiniai.
11. Society of St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr
crenated, 26 x 30mm. 8 petals. Beaded border obverse, dotted border reverse.
Obverse inscription: DR-TE. SZ. SLANISLOWA V. IRK. CHICAGO, ILL.
Full meaning: Draugiste Szwenta Stanislowa Vyskupa ir Kankinia. Chicago, Ill.
Translation: Society of Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr.
Reverse: GOOD FOR 5¢ IN TRADE.
This was one of the strongest fraternal lodges in the Bridgeport section and was organized on July 6, 1903. The inscription is in the Samogitian dialect.
Note the misspelling of the word “Stanislowa” on the tokens. It starts out as Sl instead of St.
12. United Lithuanian Societies
24mm. Dotted border both sides.
Obverse inscription: SUSIWIENIJIMAS LIETUWISKU DRAUGISZCZIU CHICAGO, ILL.
Translation: United Lithuanian Societies, Chicago, Illinois.
Reverse: GOOD FOR 5¢ IN TRADE.
The U.L.S., the Chicago branch of the Lithuanian Alliance of America, was established in 1900. In 1906 the Alliance’s national conference was held in Chicago. An offshoot of this group was the Lithuanian Roman Catholic Alliance of America, which established a Chicago branch at St. Michael’s church in 1907.
13. Society of the Lithuanian King Mindaugas
25mm. Dotted border both sides.
Obverse inscription: DR-ST. L.K. MINDAVGIA CHICAGO, ILL.
Full meaning: Draugiste Lietuvos Karaliaus Mindaugio, Chicago, Ill.
Translation: Society for the Lithuanian King Mindaugas, Chicago, Illinois.
Reverse: GOOD FOR 5¢ IN TRADE AT THE BAR.
This organization was founded on March 18, 1909, and should not be confused with the St. George’s parish Mindaugas organization that issued token No. 5.
14. The Providence of God Society
21mm. Dotted border obverse, plain border reverse.
Obverse inscription: PROVIDENCE OF GOD SOCIETY, with an all seeing Eye of God in the center.
Reverse: GOOD FOR 5¢ DRINK.
The Providence of God Society was organized in 1900. Located at 717 W. 18th St. and Union Avenue, a combined church and school was erected in 1901, and 1905 the parish rectory was opened under the direction of Father Edward Steponavicius. One of the parish’s most formidable priests in the early years was Father Michael Krusas (Kruszas) (1875-1950). Under Krusas’ direction, the church building was erected in 1914. It still stands today, just west of the Dan Ryan Expressway, where it can be seen from the highway. Krusas later became the pastor of St. George’s church, and was one of the highly respected church leaders in Chicago. In 1979 the Providence of God parish had the high honor of being visited by Pope John Paul II during a tour of America. In a personal sidelight, it was at the original church-school building (pictured above on the left) that this writer’s maternal grandparents, Nikodemas and Teodora (Barvydaite) Kulikauskas were married on January 8, 1914 by Fr. Krusas. Nikodemas was born near Varniai, Lithuania and came to America in 1911, while Teodora was from near Luoke, Lithuania and arrived in Chicago in 1913.
15. and 16. Grand Duke Gediminas Society
octagonal. 27 x 29mm. Grooved dotted border both sides.
Obverse inscription: DR. D.K. GEDEMINO
Full meaning: Draugiste Didzijo Kunigailkscio Gendemino
Translation: Grand Duke Gediminas Society.
Reverse: No. 15: 10¢, surrounded by twelve stars. No 16: 50¢ surrounded by twelve stars. Note: other tokens were issued in denominations of 5¢, 25¢, 75¢ and $1.00.
The Grand Duke Gediminas Society was organized in the Bridgeport section of the city in 1891. It was named Grand Duke Gediminas (1275-1341), a famous Lithuanian Grand Duke who founded the capital city of Vilnius in the year 1323.
17. Society of Brothers and Sisters of Lithuania in America
octagonal, 27 x 30mm. Dotted border obverse, beaded border reverse.
Obverse inscription: DR. LIETUVOS BROLUI IR. SESSERU AMERICA 12 D RUG 1911
Full meaning: Draugiste Lietubos Broliu ir. Seseru Amerikoje 12 Diena Rugsejo 1911.
Translation: Society of Brothers and Sisters of Lithuania in America, 12th day of September, 1911
Reverse: GOOD FOR A 5 CENT DRINK
18. 19. and 20. Saint Martins Theatrical Society
Obverse description: All three tokens bear the same inscription, ST. MARTIN’S SOCIETY.
No. 18 bears a beaded circular border, and the inscription is diamond shaped in relation to the planchet. In the center is a five pointed star with two diamonds on the sides, and 3 dots on top.
No. 19 bears a corded border, and the inscription is horizontal in relationship to the planchet. There are only 2 dots above the center ornamentation. No. 20 is very similar to No. 18, but several differences do occur. The position of the lettering is different: note the letter “I” in “society” is shifted to the left under the star. The border is crenated instead of being beaded.
The die used for No. 20 is about 2mm smaller than No. 18. Reverse description: GOOD FOR 5¢ IN TRADE.
St. Martin’s Society was officially known as Draugiste Treatraliszka Po Preigloba Szwanto Martino, which translates “Theatrical Society Under Protection of St. Martin.” The chief purpose of this organization was to provide Lithuanian entertainment in the form of acting and plays. Organized on January 22, 1899, in the Bridgeport section, this organization had a large library consisting of many thousands of Lithuanian books. It finally merged with another Lithuanian organization in 1928, after 29 years of fine cultural existence.
21. Lithuanian Theatrical Society of St. Martin
25mm. Obverse bears a fine line border, the reverse has a dotted border.
Obverse inscription: LIET. TEAT. DR-TE SZ. MARTINO CHICAGO, ILL. A pair of clasped hands is depicted in the center.
Full meaning: Lietuviszka Teatraliszka Draugiste Szvento Martino, Chicago, Illinois.
Translation: Lithuanian Theatrical Society of Saint Martin, Chicago, Illinois.
Reverse: In the center, AMATORIUS, meaning, Amateur.
These tokens were given to the stage actors and workers who used them towards the purchase of refreshments.
22. Saint Roch’s Mutual Benefit Society
double oval, 24 x 28mm. Both sides bear a dotted border.
Obverse inscription: DRAUGISTIE ROKO SZWENTA 1903.
Translation: St. Roch Society, 1903
Reverse: GOOD FOR 5¢ IN TRADE.
The Saint Roch Mutual Benefit Society was organized in the Town of Lake district of Chicago on January 3, 1903. Most of the members were from the Samogitian (Zemaitija) region of Lithuania. St. Roch’s was named after Saint Roch, a Frenchman who cared for persons in plague-stricken Italy in the 14th century. The St. Roch fraternity was established in Lithuania in 1705 with the headquarters established in Varniai, Lithuania, in 1743. Its purpose was to nurse the sick and collect donations for the poor. The St. Roch’s society in Varniai was forcibly closed by the Russian Czar in 1886. The Samogitian Lithuanians who came to the U.S. in the spirit of their original society, re-established it in Chicago.
23. Our Lady of Vilnius of the Dawn Gate
octagonal 25 x 27mm. The obverse has dotted border; the reverse a beaded
Obverse inscription: DRSTE AUSZROS VARTU S.M.P. 2 DA BERZ. 1906 CHICAGO, ILL.
Full meaning: Draugiste Auszros Vartu Szvencziausios Marijos Panos 2 Diena Berzelio 1906, Chicago, Illinois.
Translation: Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Dawn Gate, 2nd Day of June, 1906, Chicago, Illinois.
Reverse: GOOD FOR 5¢ AT THE BAR.
The Our Lady of Vilnius church was founded on the West Side of Chicago after several years of preliminary meetings with the Catholic hierarchy to determine the need for a parish and school. In January of 1906 Archbishop Quigley authorized Rev. Casimir Ambrozaitis to establish the Lithuanian parish. In August of 1906 the parish purchased land at 2327 W. 23rd Place, between Western and Oakley Aves. On October 5, the ground was broken for a school, with the cornerstone being laid on November 11. In 1907 the church building was dedicated. The church was named after the famous Dawn Gate Shrine located in Vilnius, Lithuania.
24. 25. and 26. Lovers of the Fatherland Lithuanian Society
Brass, 25mm. No. 25: Aluminum octagonal, 24 x 27mm. No. 26: Brass escalloped,
25 x 30mm. 8 petals. No. 24: 5¢; No. 25: 10¢; No. 26: 25¢.
Obverse: The inscription on all three tokens reads, T.M.L. DR-TES CHICAGO, ILL.
Full meaning: Tevynes Myletoju Lietuviu Draugistes Chicago Illinois.
Translation: Lovers of the Fatherland Lithuanian Society, Chicago Illinois.
Reverse: In the center of all three the denomination numeral (5, 10, 25) is within a radiant star. Established in Pennsylvania in 1896, this group was originally founded by Jonas Sliupas (1861-1944), a well known figure among Lithuanian-Americans. The Chicago branch was founded a year later on April 28, 1897. In this 1948 listing, Dr. Rackus states that members of this group “fought the church.”
27. Lithuanian National Society
octagonal, 25 x 27mm. Both sides bear a dotted border.
Obverse inscription: LIETUVISZKA TAUT. DRAU-TE 5¢ VIENYBE.
Full meaning: Lietuviszka Tautiszka Draugiste Vienybe.
Translation: Lithuanian National Society. 5¢. Unity.
Reverse: The inscription appears in the English language, with the exception of the word VIENYBE being printed in Lithuanian at the bottom.
28. Butvill Tavern
24mm. Both sides bear a dotted border.
Obverse inscription: BUTVILL TAVERN 3327 ARCHER AVE.
Reverse: GOOD FOR 10 ¢ IN TRADE.
This token was issued in 1938 by the tavern of Mr. Butvilas, and is a reflected of the population shift of the Lithuanians in Chicago towards other sections of the city.
29. Women’s Society of the Dawn Gate
crenated, 25 x 30mm. 8 petals. The obverse has a dotted border; the reverse,
Obverse inscription: M.D.S.P.M.A.V.
Full meaning: Moteru Draugiste Szvento Panos Parijos Auszros Vartuose.
Translation: Women’s Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Dawn Gate.
This token was issued by the same parish that issued token No. 23. The parish in Chicago was one of five in the U.S. named after this Lithuanian shrine.
This listing of Lithuanian lodges in Chicago is not exhaustive. Other tokens were issued by such organizations as: “The Lithuanian Sons and Daughters Hall” on South Halsted, the “Lithuanian American Republican League,” and others. These tokens frequently appear as “mavericks” in coin dealers’ token boxes, and it takes a dedicated collector to know how to find them.
There were three other items that were minted by early 20th century immigrants which although not tokens, should be mentioned here. The first is the medal issued as part of a ribbon in 1907 by the Women’s Society of the Dawn Gate (same group as token 29).
Bronze with loop, 31mm.
Obverse inscription: STEBUKLINGA S. P. VILNIUS AUSTROS VARTUSE.
Translation: Miraculous Blessed Virgin of Vilnius of the Dawn Gate.
Reverse inscription: LIETUVOS GLOBIEJI MELSTIS UZ MUMIS MOTERU DRAUGYST UZDIETA LAPK. LL. 1907. WESTSIDE, CHICAGO, ILL.
Translation: Patroness of Lithuania, Pray for Us. Women’s Society, Begun November 1907.
This society ceased to function in 1936.
The Lithuanian Congress held in Chicago, June 8-11, 1919, approved the gift of a cast bell from Lithuanian Americans to their fatherland. The 1200 pound bell, modeled after the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, was paid for by donations from Lithuanian Americans and was shipped to Kaunas on January 12, 1922. It was rung for the first time on February 16, 1922, Lithuania’s Independence Day. Those who contributed $5 or more to the construction of the bell were eligible to acquire the Lithuanian Liberty Bell’s Honor Badge, a bronze medal with ribbon and pin-back bronze bar. The striped ribbon is yellow, green and red, the three colors of the Lithuanian flag and the bell depicts the Vytis national emblem of Lithuania.
Bronze, with bar and ribbon, 4mm.
Bar inscription: LAISVE LIETUVAI
Translation: Freedom for Lithuania
Bell inscription: O, SKAMBINK PER AMZIUS VAIKAMS LIETUVOS KAO LAISVES NEVERTAS KAS NEGINA JOS
Translation: Ring through the ages for the children of Lithuania, that worthy of freedom is he who fails to defend it.
The year 1930 marked the 500th anniversary of the death of Lithuania’s greatest patriarch, Vytautas the Great. In Lithuania in 1930, a year-long celebration was held, commemorating the anniversary of Vytautas’ death.
The Lithuanians in Chicago issued a special medal/badge to commemorate the event. Struck in both bronze and aluminum, each bore a cloth ribbon-pin bearing the colors of the Lithuanian national flag: yellow, green, and red.
Bronze or aluminum, 30mm.
Obverse inscription: VYTAUTAS DIDYSIS LIETUVOS KUNIGAIKSTIS with a bust of Vytautas in the center.
Translation: Vytautas the Great, Lithuanian Grand Duke.
Reverse inscription: 500th ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF VYTAUTAS. 1430-1930. CHICAGO, ILL. In 1979 a hoard of these medals surfaced at the Balzekas Museum in Chicago, and the majority of them were subsequently sold to collectors. The bronze version of this medal is much scarcer than the aluminum.
Special thanks to the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago for providing information for this article.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Union Stockyards were at one time a significant employer of Chicago's Lithuanian community. Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle, revolves around the life of a Lithuanian immigrant working the Stockyards named Jurgis Rudkus.
Lithuanians in Chicago and the nearby metropolitan area are a prominent group within the "Windy City" whose presence goes back over a hundred years. Today Chicago possesses the largest Lithuanian community outside Lithuania, who have dubbed the city as Little Lithuania, and many Lithuanian-Americans refer to it as the second capital of Lithuania. Lithuanian-Americans from Chicago have had a significant impact on politics in both the United States and Lithuania.
Lithuanians have been documented as arriving in the US since 1918, when Lithuania re-established its independence from Imperial Russia. Although this is the first official record, Lithuanians began arriving at least two decades earlier; however, they were listed as Russian citizens. This is compounded by the fact that, prior to Lithuanian independence, most if not all official documents were written in Russian,Polish or German. Thousands of Lithuanians have since moved to Chicago, providing a good source of labor for the growing city. The Lithuanian community in Chicago was most famously immortalized byUpton Sinclair in his 1906 novel about the treatment of workers in the Chicago stock yards, The Jungle, whose story revolves around telling the life of a Lithuanian immigrant named Jurgis Rudkus.
The first and most prominent Lithuanian enclave in Chicago was called "Lithuanian Downtown" which was located along Halsted street in Bridgeport and founded by Lithuanians who settled nearby their Old World neighbors, the Poles, who were located in a Polish Patch in the vicinity of St. Mary of Perpetual Help. It was here that the Lithuanian church of Saint George was founded as the first Lithuanian parish in the Midwest, foreshadowing the prominence that Bridgeport would play as one of the key centers of Lithuanian activity throughout the United States. A large number of the early buildings of this district were built by the first prominent Lithuanian community leader, Antanas Olšauskas (pronounced Ole-shau-skus), circa 1910. Centered on Thirty-third and Halsted, Bridgeport was Chicago's leading Lithuanian neighborhood from the 1890s through the 1950s. Although the numbers of Lithuanians in the area began to fall off in the 1950s, one of Lithuanian Chicago's longtime institutions, Healthy Food Restaurant, still remains on Halsted near Thirty-second street.
Although Lithuanians initially settled in areas adjacent to the ethnic group most familiar from their European homeland, the Poles, a pattern consistent with most other immigrant groups in Chicago, the Lithuanian community today is found all over theChicago metropolitan area. There have been a number of Chicago neighborhoods in which Lithuanian immigrants have clustered during the 20th century, including Bridgeport, Brighton Park, Marquette Park, and the Back of the Yards. The adjacent near-western suburb of Cicero had an enclave of Lithuanians in the 20th century, especially around St. Anthony's Parish. The most recent wave of immigrants has settled in the Chicago suburbs of Lemont, Darien and Woodridge. There is a small enclave of Lithuanians around the Beverly Shores area in northwest Indiana at the southern coast of Lake Michigan.
Valdas Adamkus was an active member of the Lithuanian community in Chicago for decades before becoming President of Lithuania.
Today "Little Lithuania" is the center of Lithuanian culture in North America. It houses the only museum about Lithuanians in the Western Hemisphere, the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, which provides a wealth of information about Lithuania and Lithuanian culture. Little Lithuania has a number of Lithuanian restaurants, bookstores, and other shops. The former president of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus1998-2003 and 2004–2009, is a former resident of the Chicago area as well. Chicago is home to the Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania, and the city's large Lithuanian-American community maintains close ties to what is affectionately called the Motherland. Chicago's Lithuanian heritage is visible in the cityscape through its Lithuanian-named streets such as Lituanica Avenue and Lithuanian Plaza Court as well as an Art Deco monument in Marquette Park commemorating pilots Stasys Girėnas and Steponas Darius who died in the crash of the Lituanica in 1933.
A number of the most architecturally significant churches of the Archdiocese of Chicago were built as national parishes by Lithuanian immigrants such as Holy Cross, Providence of God, and Nativity B.V.M., which is dedicated to our Our Lady of Šiluva or the now demolished St. George's in Bridgeport. Opulently decorated with a proclivity towards Renaissance and Baroque ornamentation, Lithuanian churches were designed in the spirit of the architecture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth's heyday. Like Chicago's Polish Cathedral's, these churches were statements meant to recall an era when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania spanned from the Baltic to the Black Sea, having been built at a time when Lithuania was under Russian occupation and incorporating Lithuanian imagery in its decor such as the Vytis to invoke pride in Lithuanian culture.
There are many Lithuanian schools built near and in Chicago. Chicago Lithuanian Youth Center (Čikagos Lituanistinė Mokykla), a private school for Lithuanian immigrant children was founded in 1992. Other Lithuanian schools include Maironis in Lemont, Gediminas in Waukegan and Rasa in Naperville. There are also many Lithuanian newspapers circulating around Chicago, like Draugas (Friend), Čikagos Aidas(Echo Chicago), Langas (Window), Amerikos Lietuvis (Lithuanian American), and Vakarai (The West).
Years ago, the Lithuanian Song festival (Dainų Šventė) and Dance Festival (Šokių Šventė) have been held at the now-demolished International Amphitheatre, originally near the Stockyards on the south side of Chicago. More recently, the Song Festival has been held at the UIC Pavilion a couple of times and the Dance Festival held in the suburb of Rosemont, not far from Chicago O'Hare Airport.
The Lithuanian Opera Company of Chicago was founded by Lithuanian emigrants in 1956, and presents operas in Lithuanian. Lithuanian operas were sometimes held at Maria High School in Chicago, a school that has been associated with Lithuanians, and such operas are now sometimes held at Morton East High School in Cicero.
Draugas building in Chicago, IL
§ Lithuanian World Center (Pasaulio Lietuvių Centras, 14911 127th St.) in Lemont, Illinois - a complex for Lithuanian culture including a sizeable Roman Catholic chapel, Matulaitis Mission, and classrooms for a Lithuanian school on Saturdays, as well as various other facilities.
§ Lithuanian Youth Center (Lietuvių Jaunimo Centras, 5620 S. Claremont Ave.) in Chicago's Marquette Park neighborhood on the Chicago south side. At this location, there is a Jesuit Residence for Catholic Fathers and Brothers, the Youth Center, a Roman Catholic chapel, the Čiurlonis Gallery (Čiurlionio Galerija), and the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center, Inc. [Lituanistikos tyrimo ir studijų centras (LTSC)]. For a photo, see here.
§ Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in Chicago (Lietuvos Respublikos generalinis konsulatas Čikagoje at 211 E. Ontario St., Suite 1500) on the very near north side of Chicago.
§ Ateitis Foundation Center (Ateitininkų Namai, 1380 Castlewood Drive) in Lemont, Illinois - a facility for the Lithuanian youth organization whose members are Ateitininkai. For photos of the center building, seehere and here.
§ Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture (Balzeko lietuvių kultūros muziejus) on Chicago's south side.
§ Draugas Publishing House (Draugo Redakcija) not far from the Midway Airport area on the Chicago west side - facility where the publication of the century-old Lithuanian language daily newspaper Draugastakes place.
§ St. Casimir Lithuanian Cemetery (Švento Kazimero Kapinės at 4401 W. 111th Street) is a Lithuanian cemetery of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago on the edge of the southwest side of Chicago where many deceased Lithuanians are buried.
4. ^ "About the Lithuanian Opera Company, Inc. in Chicago". Lithuanian Opera Co.. Retrieved 2006-09-14.
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