Research

July 26th, 2019

Brother who inspired radical Latvian writer died in Minneapolis

Among the luminaries to emerge in Latvia during the early 20th century revolutionary period was Ernests Eferts-Klusais (1889-1927), a writer and teacher regarded as a talented and dedicated Marxist. However, this story is not about him, but about an older brother, Jānis, who became one of the first Latvian immigrants to die in Minnesota.

May 26th, 2019

Evidence dispels story that Latvian among first to die in Civil War

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

Two small Latvian periodicals remain mostly a mystery

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

Latvian émigré’s tale of torture heard around the world

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

Immigrant catalogued Latvian books, proposed new orthography

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

Enlightenment among goals of early Latvian society in California

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

Latvian schooner becomes focus of ‘strange shipwreck yarn’

“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

A failed ‘leap to liberty’ just part of Latvian’s criminal career

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

Address book from 1898 helps map Latvians in North America

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.

December 18th, 2017

What to do when Google Maps only goes so far

The work that I and three other George Mason University students have been doing as virtual interns with the Smithsonian Institute this semester, at its heart, is a matter of pinning down the locations of cultural repositories in the Caribbean Sea.