Like most ethnic groups, immigrating Poles were attracted to Detroit by the prospect of work—first in the building of railroads and the paving of streets, and next, in the city's rapidly expanding manufacturing industries. Many Poles followed relatives and friends who had been taking advantage of Detroit’s prosperous economy, while others arrived as manufacturing jobs in the East began to disappear.

Many Poles emigrated to Detroit because of the bedrock of Catholic schools and churches which had been established here. By 1914, Poles made up near 24% of the population of Detroit, mostly concentrated on the city’s east side.

As Detroit grew as an industrial center, most of the Poles who arrived were rural, unskilled in trade, and began their lives in the New World working at the lowest level of employment. Thus the Pole became the true backbone of Detroit industry. Polish women gravitated toward domestic service and in farm work, later to the cigar factories, the match factories, to hotels and restaurants, and to tailoring establishments.

While loyal and devoted to the land of their adoption, the Poles of Detroit, as elsewhere, clung tenaciously to the long and revered Catholic cultural heritage which they had brought with them. Their Polish American organizations, press, churches, and other institutions, served as the bulwarks of the old culture, as well as aids to their adjustment by easy steps to the American way of life.


  • The nucleus of Detroit's first Polish settlement was formed by a number of Poles who arrived in the city during the middle of the 1850s. As former residents of the Pomeranian and Poona sections of the partitioned Poland, then under Prussian rule, the newly arrived Poles settled in and around the city's German-speaking community.

  • Michigan's Polish population is 3rd behind New York and Illinois with over 850,000, while Polish-Americans make up 8.6% of Michigan's total population.

  • Orchard Lake is home to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame, which includes greats such as Stan Musial and Mike Krzyzewski.

  • During Prohibition, Hamtramck’s mayor was convicted of operating brothels and sent to prison. When he got out, happy voters celebrated his arrival at the train station and promptly re-elected him.

  • Paczki Day is a Polish Holiday and was essentially unknown to the Detroit area until the 80’s when the media first started covering it.

  • 1998’s film Polish Wedding, centering on a big Polish family in Hamtramck and filmed here, was widely criticized by Detroit’s Polish community for being unrealistic, poorly researched, and filled with cultural stereotypes.

  • ‘Polonia’ is the Latin name for Poland. In modern Polish, however, the word ‘Polonia’ usually refers to the Polish diaspora – people of Polish origin who live outside Polish borders. There are roughly 15–20 million people of Polish ancestry living outside Poland.

  • Former Detroit Tiger Luis Polonia is from the Dominican Republic.

Michigan Division

Mary Ellen Tyszka
Helena Zmurkiewicz
Stella & Casimir Rozycki
Msgr. Stanley E. Milewski
Irena L. Lisiecki
Gena Falkowska
Carolyn Meleski - Friends of Polish Art
Carol J Surma - Friends of Polish Art
Pat Bargowski

Edward P. Czapor

Suzanne Sloat & Ray Okonski Foundation
St. Hyacinth Parish
Edward P. Czapor
Troy Professional Pharmacy
Henrietta Nowakowski
Law offices of Raczkowski & Assoc. PLC
Annette Raczkowski