Welcome to The
Coming to America Room
Located on the second floor Gallery
Since 1608, when a small number of Polish artisans arrived in Jamestown, Poles have played a big part in shaping America. During the American Revolution, General Casimir Pulaski became known as the “Father of the American Cavalry” and the military fortifications built by General Thaddeus Kosciuszko helped the Patriots defeat the British at the Battle of Saratoga (1777). But Polonia, the Polish-American community in the United States, really only emerged during the era of mass migration when 2.5 million Poles immigrated between 1850 and 1920. Many of them settled in western Massachusetts, especially after 1880 when cities like Chicopee developed vibrant Polish communities attracted by the prospect of finding work in the local industrial mills. As you explore this website, you will learn about their stories as well as those who arrived because of the upheaval caused by World War II. Central to those stories are the items they brought with them, which provide windows into both their experiences and their values, and Polish history and culture in general. As you browse the room click on various items to learn more about those objects, their owners’ stories, and the Polish immigration experience. Alternatively, you can click on the boxes below to explore those themes based on time periods.
Credit: The “Coming to America Online Exhibit” was created in the spring 2023 semester by the following Elms College students: Stephanie Afonso, Nathaniel Caraballo, Marie Diemand, Natanya Furgal, Buffy Gudrian, Xamilka Lugo, Emer Maguire, Sherica Rowe, Caitlynn Tippett, Ruth Tucker, and Larry Weeks.