What’s the news in Hamtramck?
For more than 100 years that question was answered in the pages of the local newspapers that residents turned to. From 1934 until just a few weeks ago, that meant The Citizen.
The Citizen was recognized as the voice of Hamtramck, but it was not the first or only paper that operated in Hamtramck. In fact, it isn’t clear what was the first newspaper in Hamtramck or how many there were.
We do know that the Hamtramck News was established in 1902 and was in existence in 1922 when Hamtramck became a city. The editor of the Hamtramck News was Milton Carmichael, and the paper featured comics and a radio column. But little is known about it beyond that.
Likewise, the Hamtramck American was first published in 1916 and also existed for some years. But the history and fate of these publications is murky. Not a single copy has turned up anywhere in the city, although there are tantalizing references to them is early village council meetings, where placement of notices were authorized in the papers.
The Hamtramck Record, with offices at 2753 Yemans, operated between 1922 and 1927. The Citizen’s Weekly was owned by Frank Barc and was published in the 1920s and early 1930s.
The newspaper scene matured greatly in the 1930s. In 1933 The New Deal first began publication. This was a major paper that was devoted to local coverage of all items big and small. It morphed into The Plain Dealer in September, 1938, maintaining the same staff as The New Deal and operating out of the same offices at 8937 Jos. Campau. It continued publishing until 1952.
The Citizen traced its roots to Sept. 7, 1934 when Zygmund and Anthony Lewandowski put out the first issue of The Citizen. From the start it specialized on what today is known as “community journalism,” an intense chronicling of local issues.
And little seems to have changed since then. A typical story from Jan. 25, 1935, carried this headline: “Pfft, Pfft, Pfft, the Council’s At it Again.”
The accompanying story related how “Thursday’s council meeting proved to be a very heated session…”
The Lewandowskis sold the paper to Joseph Kargol in 1938, and he molded it into the paper that would be known as the voice of the city.
But it wasn’t a lone voice. Even while The Citizen dominated the local news landscape, it rarely stood alone. Over the years numerous newspapers came and went. Many were published for specific political causes. Starting in the 1930s, publications like The Hamtramckan and The Hamtramck Booster were briefly published to aid particular politicians. The Hamtramckan, for example, sported this less than impartial headline on March 1, 1952: “Citizens Aroused – Will Vote for Albert J. Zak.”
Nothing new there. In 1938, the Hamtramck News (apparently not related to the earlier paper of that name) sported the headline: “Citizens Demand Tenerowicz’s Removal from City Hall.” That was Rudolph Tenerowicz, controversial mayor at the time, who was a target of the Hamtramck News’ wrath.
It may be a stretch to call The Hamtramckan and The Hamtramck Booster newspapers, although they certainly looked like typical papers. And they did serve the purpose of communicating with the general public. The political paper concept remains popular. As late as Oct. 1, 2003, Hamtramck Digest existed solely to promote candidates running for the city council and school board.
City News was published during 1956, mainly in protest to the editorial policies of The Citizen.
“I know that pertinent news information has been suppressed in the past,” publisher Stanley Zurowski wrote. “Had it not been, there would certainly be no need, nor indeed, common desire, for another newspaper in Hamtramck.”
City News lasted about a year.
Zurawski had many political connections and served as Urban Renewal director in the early 1970s.
There were others.
Perhaps the most specialized paper was the Dodge Main News, published by Dodge Local 3. It covered news of the factory as well as national labor issues.
The City News was published in the early 1970s, followed by the Hamtramck Times later in the decade. Central Times was published in the 1980s. More recently we have seen Main Street, a tabloid “in Favor of Hamtramck and its Metro Area.”
Ethnic newspapers also have long been popular in Hamtramck. Almost nothing is known of the Tygondik Obywatelski, (Citizens Weekly) except that its offices were at Holbrook and Lumpkin in 1924 and Jerzy B. Kosowski was editor. The Echo was an African-American paper with offices at 10021 Jos. Campau. Founded in 1938, it was still in existence in the early 1940s.
But the Poles dominated the city, and almost all of the newspapers that weren’t totally in Polish carried Polish sections.
This has continued and even expanded in recent times. The Tygondik Polski (Polish Weekly) and Czas Polski (Polish Times) are based in Hamtramck as well as Bangla Amar, a Bangladeshi paper.
Today, newspapers everywhere are being battered by the economy and the challenges of the Internet, but the newspapers in Hamtramck have shown a remarkable resiliency.
And now the Hamtramck Review will add to that legacy.
(Greg Kowalski is chairman of the Hamtramck Historical Commission.)