The stories of Greek immigrants in the United States are indeed as amazing as some of the great photos from library and museum collections around the country.
Numerous photographs show early 1900s Greek-owned businesses in large cities throughout the nation, while others show some of the dire conditions faced by young men — most teenagers — who came to work in shoe shine parlors.
Another telling photo from 1930s-era Pittsburgh shows a lunch counter with African-American patrons, three decades prior to integration would even begin taking place in other parts of the U.S.
Here are 14 of our favorite early Greek immigrant photos you might not have seen before.
Greek Bootblacks in Indianapolis. This photo from August 1908 shows young Greek boys, thousands of whom arrived in the U.S. illegally to become “bootblacks” or shoe shiners in major cities. (Photo / U.S. Library of Congress)
A group of Utah’s Greek immigrants from Crete are seen with handguns and liquor. (Photo / Utah State Historical Society)
Nick Maropoulakis owned a shoe repair shop in Youngstown, Ohio with his brother George. The brothers were from Hania, Crete. Photo from the early 1920s.
A Greek-owned diner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District circa 1930s. The owners are pictured serving African-American patrons more than three decades before the Civil Rights Movement would take place.
George Chaconas at his grocery store in Washington D.C. in 1915. In the far background is the Washington Monument. The store was in the area now swallowed up by the government office buildings of Federal Triangle. (Photo / Harris & Ewing via Shorpy)
Greek coffee houses on Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1940. (Photo / Andreas Feininger)
Steelworkers in a Greek restaurant in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. January 1941. (Photo / Jack Delano)
Greek boys in front of a coffee shop in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. July 1938. (Photo / Arthur Rothstein)
Greeks celebrating in downtown Detroit, Michigan, dancing in the streets during the city’s Greek Town Freedom Festival. July 7, 1966.
Proprietor of a Greek coffee shop in Aliquippa, PA July 1938. (Photo / Arthur Rothstein)
In 1940, Nick chose to black out the word “Italian” on the sign in front of his Greek restaurant in Paris, Kentucky. Mussolini’s Fascist regime had just invaded Greece.
Greeks participating in the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania Centennial Celebration in September 1927. (Photo / Emanuel Simantiras, courtesy of Jim Gregorakis)
Greek immigrants at Kostas Vergados’ cafe on Market Street in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1921. On the wall are portraits of Eleftherios Venizelos and King Constantine I.
The Beehive Confectionary, which used to be at 200 25th St in Ogden, Utah. The shop was owned by Greek immigrant John Cosmos. (Photo / Weber State University Stewart Library Special Collections)
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