May 26th, 2019
One of the legends about the early Latvian presence in the United States is that among the first to die in the American Civil War was a man named Mārtiņš Buciņš. Perhaps he fought for the Union Army, or maybe he served with the Confederate Army, or possibly he was a civilian who had become a casualty of the conflict. But he was Latvian and that’s what mattered.
March 28th, 2019
Over the years, I have had the opportunity to collect details, and in some cases even samples, of most of the various periodicals published by early 20th century Latvian immigrants and their descendants in the United States. But two publications, both produced in Chicago before World War I, remain largely a mystery.
December 19th, 2018
The brutality of the 1905 Revolution and the subsequent punitive expeditions in the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire saw frequent coverage in European and American newspapers, even after the worst of the repressions were over.
November 22nd, 2018
A little-known writer who immigrated to the United States more than a century ago helped build a collection of Latvian books in the Chicago Public Library, but failed in his efforts to bring bibliographic and orthographic reform to his homeland.
October 23rd, 2018
On the first Saturday of November 1897, a group of Latvians gathered in an apartment on Natoma Street in downtown San Francisco. Their goal was to elect five members to the board of the newly formed Lettonian Society “Latonia” of San Francisco — the first Latvian organization on the west coast of the United States.
June 16th, 2018
“If any one wants an experienced skipper for sailing craft and a crew of seven able bodied seamen to sail any old sea on the face of the map they can get such a company right now at this port, for Capt. T. Krastin and his crew are without ship or employment.” So began a January 19, 1906, story in The Sun, a daily newspaper in New York City. It told of the “strange shipwreck yarn” of the captain and crew of the Kauss, a three-masted wooden schooner typical of the kind built during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Baltic Sea region.
April 29th, 2018
The image shows a dapper man with a mustache, a cigarette in his left hand, posing in a photographer’s studio. Although the monochrome photograph does not reveal it, he was short — just 5 feet, 4 inches (about 162 cm) — with brown hair and blue eyes. His name, if we are to believe what was published in newspapers following his two daring attempts to escape American authorities, was Max Selling and he was a Latvian anarchist.
March 29th, 2018
In October 1897, an immigrant in Cleveland published the first edition of an address book for Latvians living in the United States and Canada. A second edition appeared in early 1898.
March 4th, 2018
A poker game in a western Illinois river town turned deadly one weekend in October 1923, claiming the lives of two men, one of whom was a Latvian immigrant described in a local newspaper as a “gallant soldier.” His story, still in pieces, is a reminder that among the many Latvians who settled in America in the early 20th century are those who vanished from their ethnic roots and community.
September 20th, 2017
The story of Latvian counterfeiters Albert Leon, Fred Marneek, and Rudolph Swanson, outlined in an earlier post, keeps getting more interesting. Among the twists is one that could be filed under “No Honor Among Thieves.” Recently obtained documents from the National Archives have provided some details on proceedings in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, where the three men were indicted in late 1911 by a federal grand jury. They were accused of counterfeiting $10 bills.