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Cultural Life


Cultural life. New York City and Pennsylvania's mining towns gave rise to the earliest cultural endeavors. The first Lithuanian newspaper in the United States, Gazieta Lietuviszka, was founded in New York in 1879 by Mykolas Tvarauskas; it had 132 sub scribers but was discontinued in 1882 after 16 issues. Tvarauskas made a second attempt in 1884-85 with the weekly Unija (Union), which he published in Lithuanian and Polish, hoping to appeal to a larger readership; this venture lasted six months. The weekly Wienibe Lietuwniku (Lithua-
nian Unity) began publication in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, in 1886; it is still extant in Brooklyn, New York, as Vienybė (Unity), although it has
undergone periodic changes in editorial policy under diverse publishers
and editors. Jonas Sliupas, who had collaborated with Tvarauskas previously, in 1885-89 brought out Lietuviszkasis Balsas (The Lithuanian Voice), published in Brooklyn and then in Shenandoah. During 1892-99 twelve newspapers came into being, of which not one has survived. A number of newspapers of the early 20th century, representing four main streams of thought, have endured to the present day: the socialist Keleivis (The Traveler, since 1905) and Naujienos (The News, 1914), the Catholic Draugas (The Friend, 1909) and Darbininkas (The Worker, 1915), the liberal Sandara (Concord, 1918), and the nationalist Dirva (The Field, 1916). (See Periodicals). Translations into Lithuanian as well as original work, published by individuals or newspapers, began to appear in 1880. Vienybė published Simonas Daukantas' Lietuvos istorija (The History of Lithuania, 1893-97); Garsas (The Sound) produced Bishop Motiejus Valančius Žemaičių viskupystė (The Diocese of Samogitia, 1897); in the issues of
Dirvažinynas were printed in 1898-1900 works of folklore and history. The Association of Lithuanian Patriots had published a score of popular and scholarly books by 1900. Altogether, about 200 publications in Lithuanian appeared during 1885-1900, some of them in printings of 2,000-4,000 copies.
Lithuanian periodicals and books published in the United States performed an invaluable service for the homeland itself, where from 1864 to 1904 the printed word was forbidden by the Russian authorities and had to be smuggled in as contraband from abroad. A collection of Lithuanian books printed abroad during that time was exhibited at the Paris World's Fair (1900), which included a Lithuanian ethnographic section.
Apart from the field of letters, there was lively activity in the performing arts as choirs, singing and music societies, and dramatic circles were organized. Almost every parish had a choir, whose performances were not restricted to church services, but extended to non-religious functions as well. Of the choral groups the first was the Milda men's chorus of Brooklyn (1894). Composer Mikas Petrauskas was a leading proponent of choral groups and choral singing. With the
choruses Birutė in Chicago (1907) and Gabija in Boston (1924), both of which he had founded, he staged a number of operettas of his own composition. The Pirmyn chorus organized in Chicago (1909) produced over 40 operettas and several operas. The first song festivals were held in Chicago and New York in 1916, and later other communities followed this example. Amateur dramatic groups were frequently established in conjunction with the choruses. The Lithuanian Theatrical Society was founded in Chicago in 1892; its most successful production was a play depicting the Battle of Tannenberg (1410), which had a four-year run in Chicago and other Lithuanian communities. During
1892 1914 at least 15 dramatic and musical groups were active (see Theater).
Text from the ENCYCLOPEDIA LITUANICA I-VI.  Boston, 1970-1978