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(Click image to see Gnatowskis that signed document)
from the Polish Declarations Homepage


Perhaps there has never been a more extraordinary gift given by one nation to another than the 111 volumes presented to the United States by Poland on the 150th anniversary of American independence. These volumes consist of a declaration of admiration signed by an estimated 5,500,000 Polish citizens, representing more than one- sixth of the total population of Poland in 1926.

It may be difficult for Americans, who sometimes take democracy for granted, to understand the impetus behind this demonstration of admiration. For almost the entire history of the American Republic, Poland's political life had been dominated by foreign, autocratic powers, and Poles had looked to the United States as a model of political organization and to American democracy as a promise for their own future. It is, therefore, not surprising that Poland, only eight years after regaining independence from foreign rule, chose to mark the 150th anniversary of American independence.

The idea of having the Polish people participate in celebrating America's holiday was introduced in February 1926 by the American- Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Poland, established in 1921, and the Polish American Society, founded in 1919 by renowned Polish composer and statesman Ignacy Paderewski. These two organizations invited various government departments, the municipality of Warsaw, and other important Polish institutions and associations to appoint thirty delegates to a national Sesquicentennial Committee to determine an appropriate tribute.

The Committee decided to present the United States with a declaration expressing the esteem, gratitude, and friendship of the people of Poland. This remarkable document would include the signatures of the president of the republic, national and regional officials, religious authorities, members of social organizations, and faculty and students of the major universities, as well as millions of Polish schoolchildren.

The inspiration for the gift was the custom, popular among Polish schoolchildren, of presenting a classmate or teacher with an album (Ksiega Pamiatkowa) inscribed by each child with good wishes, drawings, a favorite poem or merely a signature in commemoration of some special occasion. As organized by Polish American leaders and executed in part by leading contemporary Polish artists, this Ksiega Pamiatkowa became a multi- volume compendium of signatures, original artwork, fine calligraphy, official seals, photographs, and decorative bindings.

Collecting signatures from one-sixth of the national population was a prodigious undertaking. Celebrations to mark the anniversary of American independence were held throughout Poland on July 4, 1926. Many signatures were collected at these events. Other people signed sheets that were distributed through various social, political, educational, and professional institutions with which they were affiliated. The whole process took eight months to complete.

The separate sheets were then collected and hand bound into volumes arranged as follows: signatures of national, municipal, societal, and religious officials (volume 1); regional officials (volume 2); the faculty and students at the major institutions of higher learning (volume 2); faculty and students at Jagiellonian University (volume 3); faculty and students at the Academy of Mining in Krakow (volume 4); the professors and assistants of the State Dental Institute in Warsaw (volume 5); members of all the Polish organizations in Austria (volume 6); teachers and pupils of secondary schools (volumes 7-13); and teachers and pupils of elementary schools (volumes 14-109). Also included is a separate portfolio of loose sheets received after the binding process was completed. The collection is accompanied by a Guide to the Address Presented by the Polish Nation to the United States of America 1776-1926. The guide was written by Konstanty Hejmowski, vicepresident of the American-Polish Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Poland.