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A portion of the cover of the October 1915 issue of 'Vytis'

Lithuanian Life in the U.S.

By Paige Lupie ’26

In 2023, after creating digital versions of all of its newsletters from 1915 to 2006, the Knights of Lithuania organization transferred the entire collection – both physical and digital – to the University of Dayton Libraries for inclusion in eCommons, the University’s open-access institutional repository.

I worked on organizing the data of the newsletter, called Vytis, and was able to learn a lot of interesting things about it.

Vytis didn’t just deliver news; it also created community throughout the country. The organization is based in Chicago, but it has councils across the country, including one in Dayton. The councils are organized in districts that include New England, Mid-Central, New York-New Jersey, Illinois-Indiana, and California. Since 1915, it has sent out newsletters to its members throughout the whole country.

While going through different volumes, I noticed that the older ones were all written in Lithuanian. As the years went on, the issues would have sections in English and other sections in Lithuanian. Eventually the issues ended up being almost all in English.

In the newsletter issues, I read about the different events that members held at the district level that built their own communities within the big organization. One that stood out to me was that districts would have a lot of bowling leagues or tournaments. There was a bowling league in the Mid-Central District that was based in Dayton. It appears bowling was very popular in the Lithuanian community, and they even had a bowling tournament at one of the national conventions, which were held every year, sometimes in Chicago and other times hosted in other cities. The convention would include everyone from the supreme court of the Knights of Lithuania and anyone else who would like to attend. Volume 45, Issue 6 includes the schedule of the 46th National Convention. In addition to business meetings, the conventions had lots of other activities like golf, a river cruise, a fashion show, a dance, a talent show, Mass and luncheons.

 One of the segments that I read in Volume 50, Issue 3 was “Customs of St. George’s Day Old and New.” St. George is known as the dragon slayer and is the patron saint of domestic animals. In Lithuania, they would practice the customs of St. George on this day. The tradition of doing these customs was believed to protect and ensure the health of their domestic animals. St. George is celebrated on April 23 every year. I found the legend about St. George and the different things they would do on this day very interesting.

Historical value

Besides being an interesting way to view history from a particular cultural point of view, the collection depicts aspects of Catholic life in the United States that could someday have been lost to time.

“[The newsletters] are an important part of the U.S. Catholic Special Collection, representing the experiences of immigrant Catholics to the U.S. in the 20th century,” said Stephanie Shreffler, associate professor and religious collections librarian/archivist for the U.S. Catholic Special Collection. “Their records help demonstrate the stories of Lithuanian Americans as they sought to balance the competing desires of maintaining their roots to their homeland while also assimilating to American culture. The records also reveal the Knights' activity in anti-Communist initiatives, as Lithuania was controlled by the Soviet Union for most of the 20th century.”

Shreffler said the records can also invite comparison to other well-known Catholic fraternal organizations such as the Knights of Columbus.

Browse the collection

Explore the newsletters — or use the search box if you’re interested in a specific topic, like recipes for ausukės, a traditional Lithuanian delicacy (Volume 75, Issue 9) — at

The featured image is a portion of the cover of Vol. 1, No. 1 (October 1915) of 'Vytis,' the newsletter of the national Knights of Lithuania organization.

—Paige Lupie is a sophomore pre-med major at the University of Dayton and a student staff member in the University Libraries. They are from Chicago.

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