Poles in Chicago are made up of both immigrant Poles and Americans of Polish heritage living in Chicago, Illinois. They are a part of worldwide Polonia, the proper term for the Polish Diaspora outside of Poland.
Poles in Chicago have contributed to the economic, social and cultural well-being of Chicago from its very beginning. Poles have been a part of the history of Chicago since 1837, when Captain Joseph Napieralski, along with other veterans of the November Uprising first set foot there.
As of the 2000 U.S. census, Poles in Chicago are the largest European American ethnic group in the city, making up 7.3% of the total population. However, according to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, German Americans and Irish Americans each had slightly surpassed Polish Americans as the largest European American ethnic groups in Chicago. German Americans made up 7.3% of the population, and numbered at 199,789; Irish Americans also made up 7.3% of the population, and numbered at 199,294. Polish Americans now made up 6.7% of Chicago’s population, and numbered at 182,064. However, Polish Americans are, by far, the largest European American ethnic group in the Chicago metropolitan area, with as many as 1.5 million claiming Polish ancestry. In addition, Polish Americans in Chicago have a recent history of family members who came from Poland as many are first or second generation Poles as compared to many other ethnics who are third or fourth generation.
Polish is the third largest speaking language in Chicago behind English and Spanish.
A number of Poles contributed to the history of the city together with Captain Napieralski, a veteran of Cross Mountain[clarification needed] during the November Uprising. Along with him came other early Polish settlers such as Major Louis Chlopicki, the nephew of General Józef Chłopicki who had been the leader of the same insurrection. Not to mention certain A. Panakaske (Panakaski) who resided in the second ward in the 1830s as well as J. Zoliski who lived in the sixth ward with records of both men having cast their ballots for William B. Ogden in the 1837 mayoral race in Chicago.
According to Dominic Pacyga, most of the Poles who first came to Chicago settled in five distinct parts of the city. The first of those Polish Patches, as they were colloquially referred to, was located on the Near Northwest Side. Centering on the Polish Triangle at the intersection of Milwaukee and Ashland avenues with Division street it later became known as Polish Downtown. The second large settlement, developed in Pilsen on the west side near 18th street and Ashland avenue. Poles established two separate enclaves in the Stock Yard district, one in Bridgeport, the other in the Back of the Yards near 47th street and Ashland avenue. Another Polish neighborhood developed in the area around the massive Illinois Steel works in South Chicago in the area colloquially referred to as “the Bush”.
Polish communities in Chicago were often founded and organized around parishes mostly by peasant immigrants who named their neighbourhoods after them, like Bronislawowo, named after St. Bronislava.* Sometimes the neighbourhoods are contiguous so its difficult to say precisely where one ends and one begins, as in the case of ‘Stanislawowo’ by the church of St. Stanislaus Kostka and ‘Trojcowo’ by Holy Trinity Polish Mission in the former area of Polish Downtown.