Polish inventors, scientists, artists and business people have been responsible for many great inventions and ideas. For example, Marie Curie, Nicolas Copernicus, and Frédéric Chopin were all Polish and contributed significantly to the World’s understanding of sciences and arts. It’s easy to see why Polish people are some of the proudest and most hardworking people around.
But Polish-American’s have also already made their mark on the World. In under 300 years, there have already been countless inventions, businesses, and ideas created by Polish-Americans. We’ve gone ahead and compiled a quick list of some of the most “known” inventions and businesses created by Polish-Americans.
Reuben and Rose Mattus met each other in New York in the 1930’s. Both of their parents emigrated to the USA in the early 1920’s from Poland. Reuben began working for his uncle’s Italian lemon-ice business in the Bronx at the age of 10. He would later use this experience, together with his newly married wife book keeping skills, to create Häagen-Dazs. Instead of using artificial ingredients their competitors were using, the couple focused on using only natural ingredients. The rest is history.
2) The Doors
While Jim Morrison will always be synonymous with The Doors, the band owes its existence largely to the keyboardist. The keyboardist and co-founder (seen left of Jim Morrison above) is none other than Polish-American, Ray Manzarek. His signature keyboarding style was so integral for the way the band sounded, it’s hard to imagine The Doors musically without Ray. But his contributions go beyond his musical ability, he was also the driving factor behind creating the band. Born in Chicago in 1939, he met Morrison (a film student) while studying at UCLA. After graduation they met by chance in Venice beach and co-formed The Doors on the spot after Ray heard Morrison sing a few songs. Manzarek then went out and recruited the last two members of the band after meeting them at a meditation lecture.
3) Walkie Talkies
Henryk Magnuski, a engineer at Motorola, was the principal engineer on the team that created the first walkie-talkie. He is credited with three patents for the first walkie-talkie known as the Motorola’s SCR-300. He was born in Warsaw in 1909. In 1939, his company sent him to New York to study American radio transmitters. Shortly after, Germany invaded Poland, and his return home became impossible.
4) The Smashing Pumpkins
The Smashing Pumpkins is an alternative rock band from Chicago. The group originally consisted of members Billy Corgan, James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlin. The original bassist for the band, D’arcy Wretzky, is an Polish-American that was born in Michigan before moving to Chicago to attend more concerts. It was there (at a concert no less) that she met Billy Corgan and was invited to be one of the first members of the band. Not only was one of the original band members a Polish-American, the band got their first gig from a Polish bar in Chicago called Chicago 21 in 1988.
In 1912, after reading a new science article about how people eating brown rice were less vulnerable to beri-beri, Kazimierz Funk decided to isolate the compound in brown rice that helped sufferers of beri-beri. This would become the world’s first vitamin (which he called vitamine), but now known as Vitamin B3. He would later also postulate the existence of various other vitamins, including; B1, B2, C, and D.
6) Lunar Roving Vehicle
The “Moon Rover” transported astronauts and equipment for the last three Apollo missions in the early 70’s. Mieczysław G. Bekker came up with the idea, design, and construction of this important pioneering piece of equipment. Born near Hrubieszow, Poland he worked the Polish Army. During the invasion of Poland his unit retreated to Romania and he then made his way to France, Canada, before finally settling down in the United States.
7) The Matrix Trilogy
The directors of The Matrix, The Wachowskis, are Polish-Americans born in Chicago. Their father was a Polish businessman. Their films have become international sensations and cult favorites. These include; The Matrix, V for Vendetta, and Cloud Atlas.
8) Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs
In 1916, with only $300, Nathan Handwerker and his wife created what would later become an American staple…Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog. At 22, Nathan immigrated to the United States from Krakow, Poland. After only 4 years in the USA, he and his wife, started selling hot dogs at Coney Island for 5 cents a piece (his competitors were selling them for 10 cents a dog). Nowadays, Nathan’s hot dogs are still sold in tens of thousands of places. They are known around the world because of their annual Hot Dog Eating Contest where competitors try to eat as many hot dogs in an allotted amount of time as they can.
9) Pirates of the Caribbean
Gore Verbinski was born in Tennessee in 1964. His father was of Polish descent. He’s most known for directing the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He was also one of the few supporters of Johnny Depp in his role as Captain Jack Sparrow. Movie executives wanted the role to be more traditional, while Depp wanted to portray Pirates as sort of rock stars, which he believed was more historically accurate.
10) The Goo Goo Dolls
The lead vocalist, primary songwriter, and frontman of the band “The Goo Goo Dolls” is Polish-American, John Rzeznik. All of his grandparents were Polish and he grew up in a strict Catholic upbringing in Buffalo, New York. His last name actually translates to “butcher” in Polish. John and his song “Iris” have been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards. He was also the recipient of an award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
11) Sound in Film / Radar
Joseph Tykociński-Tykociner was a pioneer when it comes to using sound-in-film. He was the first to demonstrate the it was possible to record a soundtrack directly on a film strip. He demonstrated his invention by filming his wife saying “I will ring,” and then ringing a bell. Unfortunately, his patents were subjected to a ownership dispute and consequently his work never made it commercially. After inventing the sound-on-film technique, he began researching antenna designs which eventually became the precursor to radar. Joseph was born in Włocławek, Poland in 1877 before immigrating to the USA in 1895. It was there that he might famed inventor Nikola Tesla and became an expert in shortwave radio.
12) The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Although Hillel Slovak (pictured on the far right above) was the founding guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, his career in the band and life were tragically cut short because of addiction. His death left members of the band in extreme grief and only Kiedis and Flea were able to continue with the band. They said the would continue in hopes of continuing what Slovak “helped build”. Slovak was born in Israel to a mother of Polish descent and left for the US at the age of 5.
13) Warner Brothers
Probably the most surprising on this list, the Warner Brothers were actually Polish-Americans. Born near Warsaw, Poland they first emigrated to Baltimore, then Canada, before finally settling in Youngstown, Ohio. The father of the brothers changed their name from Wonskolaser to Warner while waiting for his family to arrive in the USA. The company and the brothers are considered major contributors the the US movie industry.
Kevlar was invented in 1964 by Polish-American chemist Stephanie Kwolek. Stephanie was born to two Polish parents in Pennsylvania in 1923. She began researching alternative materials to use on bike tires since a gasoline shortage was anticipated in 1964. The result was a new polymer that was 5 times stronger than steel (ounce for ounce). It has saved thousands of lives since it was invented and a study by law enforcement officials credits Kevlar for saving the lives of over 2,700 police officers. Stephanie’s work with Kevlar is also credited for creating huge interest in a new field called, Polymer chemistry.
15) Van Halen
From the group’s creation in 1974 to 1996, the bassist for the band was Michael Anthony (far right above). Born as Michael Anthony Sobolewski, he joined the band in 1974 after meeting Eddie Van Halen at Pasadena City College. After Michael joined the band, the group changed its name from Mammoth to Van Halen. He’s best known for his live solos, stage antics, backup vocals, and impressive collection of bass guitars.
As you can tell from the amazing people above, Polish-Americans are capable of shaping the United States on the grandest scales. By working together, Polish-American can truly accomplish anything. Join PAL-PAC today and let’s help Polish-Americans make a real change in politics!