The Story of My Life, originally published in Czechoslovakia in 1928, is the engaging and informative autobiography of Frank Vlchek, a Czech immigrant who became a successful businessman in Cleveland, Ohio, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The youngest of fourteen children, Vlchek was born to peasant parents in Budyn, southern Bohemia, in 1871. After attempting a career in blacksmithing in Bohemia, at the age of seventeen he decided to follow his two older sisters to Cleveland, home to America’s second-largest Czech community.
Vlchek worked a variety of unsatisfactory jobs during his first years in Cleveland. In 1895 he opened his own smithing operation, which after a long struggle was transformed into a successful corporation that specialized in the manufacture of toolkits for automobiles. His narrative relates tales of labor issues, competitors, mergers and acquisitions, and the successes and travails of his operation. Vlchek was often able to travel home to Czechoslovakia, and during those trips he noted the different cultural and political attitudes that had evolved between Czechs and their Czech American cousins.
Vlchek’s memoir provides a rare primary source about Czech immigrants. It also offers insight into a self-made man’s life philosophy, illustrates relations between ethnic groups in Cleveland during the 1880s, and demonstrates the assimilation of a late-nineteenth-century immigrant in America.
Readers interested in immigration history as well as the history of Cleveland will enjoy this fascinating autobiography.
The Kent State University Press is the publishing arm of Kent State University. Our imprint is controlled by an editorial board composed of Kent faculty scholars. As a member of the Association of American University Presses, the Press is included in the select group of more than 100 university-sponsored scholarly presses, whose outstanding programs make them an important segment of the academic and publishing communities.The Press began in 1965 under the direction of Howard Allen and published in the University faculty strengths in literary criticism. In 1972 Paul Rohmann became the Press’s second director and expanded the Press’s publishing program to include regional studies and ethnomusicology. In 1985 historian John Hubbell assumed the directorship and grew the staff and publishing program to include widely regarded lists in Civil War and Ohio history. Today, under director Will Underwood, the Press annually publishes two journals and 35 titles in history, literature, and regional studies that further knowledge of the humanities and preserve and promote a literate society.