The Czechs in America 1633-1977

By Vera Laska

This wonderful book is a timeline of world events and a collection of documents related to Czechs, including the creed of the Freethinkers and others. Significant passages:

On page vii, “Czechs started arriving in larger numbers after the 1848 revolution.” ….. “The awakening nationalism in the mother country was mirrored in the Czech communities in the United States.”

Page 7, “Until the 1840s few Czechs were inclined to immigrate, as there was no scarcity of employment. But blighting droughts and failing potato crops during the 1840s stimulated more individuals to consider the move to America, as it is indicated by entries in the town registers in Bohemia.”

Page 11, in 1852, “The first settlers started arriving in Iowa by ox team from Wisconsin, settling on the banks of the Iowa River in Johnson County.”

Page 17, “The number of Czechs in the United States by the end of the 1850s was nearing 10,000. Most were laborers, skilled tradesmen and artisans, with a handful of professionals and intellectuals among them. The farmers came from the middle class of farmers, as the rich did not care to leave their lands, and the poor could not finance the voyage. First it seemed that St. Louis would become the largest Czech center in America, conveniently accessible by water. But when Chicago was connected with the east by rail after 1853, it was easier and cheaper to reach. Thus Chicago took over the lead to become the second largest Czech city after Prague.”

Page 19, in 1862, “The Homestead Act was passed, making 160 acres available for a small fee to all who would work the land for five years. This law further encouraged Czechs to settle on the rich farmlands of the Midwest.”

Page 23, in 1870 there were over 40,000 Czechs in the U.S., most in WI, then IL, then IA. In 1880 85,361 Czechs in the U.S. By 1890, 118,106. In 1900 157,000 Czechs in the U.S., one third in agriculture in the Midwest.

In 1871 the Chicago Fire started on October 8.

Quoting Tomas Capek in Nase Amerika, Iowa received 6765 Czech immigrants in 1870 and 10,554 in 1880 — 100,000+- in that 11 year period by my estimate.

Page 80, a poem written by Bartos Bittner:

With empty hands you came to wilderness uncharted–
Lo, gaze upon it now. O pioneers brave-hearted.
From Father of Waters west to Rocky Mountains’ base,
Prosperity’s sweet streams those prairies grace.
You triumphed over hardships, weary and heart-breaking,
None censures you today for joyful pride you are taking,
In your fair handiwork, which far and wide you view,
Instead, success we wish — success to you.

Page 106 has detail on Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius), father of modern education and represented by statues and namesakes all over the Czech Republic.

Page 108-110 contains the history of Czechs in Chicago.

Page 117 describes the Czechoslovak declaration of independence from Austria-Hungary, written in America and executed on October 18, 1918.