Recovering a Polish and American Treasure.
A 4th of July Presentation by Zbigniew Kantorosinski,
Former Chief of the Germanic and Slavic Division, Library of Congress.
Friday, July 2nd @ 11 am
As America celebrates its 245th year of independence, let us remember another American birthday 95 years ago. It was the 150th , in 1926, the first "special year birthday" that the newly independent Poland could celebrate along with Americans. To mark the occasion, a congratulatory message signed by an estimated 5.5 million Poles on over 31,000 pages was presented to President Calvin Coolidge on October 14, 1926, as a testimonial of the gratitude and friendship of the Polish people for the United States.
The collection of bound volumes, officially called "Polish Declarations of Admiration and Friendship for the United States," contains not only signatures, but also drawings, fine art by contemporary Polish artists, decorative bindings, official seals, photographs of buildings, teachers and students as well as interesting calligraphy and dried flora. Because a presidential library system was not created until after Coolidge's administration, all the volumes were transferred that same year to the Library of Congress.
Zbigniew Kantorosinski was chief of the Germanic and Slavic Division at the Library of Congress up to his retirement in 2019. One of the highlights in his more than 30 year career at the Library, was the work he did to process and publicize this collection in the United States as well as in Poland. After the collection was transferred to the Library of Congress shortly after its presentation and exhibition at the White House in 1926, it was virtually forgotten for some 70 years. It was not until August 1996 that the collection resurfaced and has gained popularity not only with visitors to the Library of Congress, but with historians, genealogists, art lovers and anyone interested in Poland and Polish American relations as well. Zbigniew will discuss why and how the collection came about and its discovery during preparation for a visit to the Library by a First Lady of Poland and a Polish ambassador.
He will examine several of the volumes in the collection, highlighting certain pages, and conclude with a brief talk on how Kosciuszko TV viewers can access the collection online to either browse through the volumes or conduct a search for relatives who may have signed one of the bound sheets. Zbigniew believes that almost every family with Polish roots is represented by at least one signature in this extraordinary gift to America.