Atlantis (newspaper)

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The history of the Greek-language newspaper Atlantis is closely related to the careers of the Vlasto family in the United States. Like many other Greek-Americans, the Vlasto family retained close ties to Greece. The newspaper throughout its history was beaded by a Greek-born and Greek-educated member of the family.

Historical background

In 1894, the Vlasto brothers, Solon and Demetrius, founded Atlantis. Solon served as publisher until his death in 1927. Demetrius, the treasurer and secretary, succeeded him, and their nephew Solon G. Vlasto became publisher after Demetrius' death. All capital stock in Atlantis and its subsidiaries, despite initial outside investment, also was in family hands by 1921.

Atlantis was widely recognized as a family paper, and Solon J. Vlasto's high regard for the Greek monarchy was well known. Atlantis remained a royalist paper through the vicissitudes of war, plebiscite, and coup, until King Constantine II's differences with the regime of the colonels during the mid-1960s. Vlasto's advocacy of a strong Greek-American community in the United States which would be more than another expatriate Greek colony was as controversial in the years before World War I as his royalist views.

His brother and nephew seem to have shared his outlook. Demetrius J. Vlasto was actively involved in Atlantis, in war relief campaigns, and in church affairs. Solon G. Vlasto, son of George Vlasto, came to the United States and joined Atlantis as a copy boy in 1918 or 1919, while still in his teens. In 1944 he became publisher and managing editor. In the early 1960s, he also served briefly as editor. He too was active in war relief work and the church. Several Vlasto family members of the third generation, Solon's son James S., and Barbara, Demetrius S., and Andrew Vlasto, worked for Atlantis as well. James was managing editor and spokesman for the family when the newspaper closed.

The publication

Atlantis was published in New York City. It began as a weekly newspaper, but became a daily in 1904. A Sunday edition began circa 1910, and a magazine, the Monthly Illustrated Atlantis, appeared at about the same time. The magazine was published into the 1930s [1932?], then reappeared circa 1953. Atlantis also operated a Greek-language book department, which issued a calendar, published several titles, and distributed many others.

The Atlantis Corporation, formed in 1904, underwent reorganization twice. In 1911, Atlantis Publishing Company was organized to purchase the Monthly Illustrated Atlantis. In 1921, the subsidiary Atlantis Greek Book Company was created.

The editor-in-chief of Atlantis traditionally was hired from outside the family. Socrates A. Xanthaky, editor from 1897, left in 1907 to help found the rival Panhellinios. Adamantios Th. Polyzoides was editor from 1907 to 1933; Vladimir Constantinides, from 1933 to 1960. Solon G. Vlasto filled the post for several years. Panayiotis Gazouleas became editor in 1963 and held the position until Atlantis ceased publication in 1973.

Atlantis' nationwide distribution helped it become an influential voice in the Greek-American community. It carried social and organizational notices, fiction, classified advertising, and advice columns. It also published news of Greek-American affairs, of trade and diplomatic relations between the two nations, and of Greek internal politics.

Atlantis moved into national prominence about the time that the conflict between Greek liberal leader Eleftherios Venizelos and the Greek monarchy with its strong German ties reached its height. This decade before the First World War also was during the peak of Greek migration to the United States. Many immigrants regarded their stay in the United States as temporary and remained strong partisans in Greek politics. The pages of Atlantis and its rivals reflected that partisanship so vigorously that the Vlastos became embroiled in libel actions based on Atlantis articles. Some suits resulted from their criticism of consular and diplomatic representatives of the Venizelos government. Others reflected editorial battles between Atlantis and its rivals Panhellinios, 1908-1913, and the National Herald (Ethnikos Kyrix, 1915- ).

Atlantis faced particularly stiff challenges after King Constantine I's abdication in 1917. Many Greek-American liberals regarded "Constantinism" as German propaganda, and attacked Atlantis' reporting on Greek internal affairs as damaging to the Allied war effort. These attacks brought the newspaper's mailing permit under close government scrutiny. The Vlastos fought hard to meet U.S. Post Office regulations for foreign-language press mailings, and to modify them.

Atlantis during the 1920s is most noted for continuing themes which the more dramatic events of the war decade had overshadowed. The Vlastos' record of leadership and business experience had made Atlantis an effective channel for voluntary relief aid to Greece during the 1912 Balkan war and the First World War; it performed this service again during the 1919-1922 Asia Minor War.

Atlantis also was a strong voice in favor of American citizenship. Naturalization became more popular after the First World War. Participation in the war effort had accelerated the Americanization process. Many Greek-Americans also recognized that restrictive immigration legislation soon would make relation to an American citizen virtually the only qualification by which Greeks could immigrate to the United States. Atlantis distributed handbooks and encouraged its readers to begin naturalization. Growing citizen participation in the American political system also led the Greek-American press to increase its coverage, and endorse parties; Atlantis supported the Republican Party.

Another domestic issue during the 1920s was the ecclesiastical administration of Greek Orthodox churches in the United States. Historian Theodore Saloutos describes Atlantis as "conciliatory" in these disputes.

Atlantis' positions on Greek affairs remained consistent and controversial through the 1920s and 1930s. Most notably, in 1937 the editor joined the Greek consul-general and the Orthodox Church to welcome a visiting spokesman for the Metaxas dictatorship as the representative of Greece's legitimate government. Mussolini's invasion of Greece in 1940 sent the government into exile. The Greek-American political debate was set aside in favor of massive war relief activity conducted through the Greek War Relief Association (GWRA). Atlantis solicited and forwarded contributions to GWRA.

==Post WWII years]] The war years and the postwar period, dominated by the second, American-born generation, seem to be ones in which Ahepa and other fraternal organizations, rather than the press, led the Greek-American community. Greek-Americans argued the legitimacy of the British-supported royalist government, and the merits of the left and the Greek Communist Party positions, throughout the 1940s. Atlantis continued to support the royalists.

The circulation of Greek-language papers increased during the 1950s. The war effort had renewed Hellenic pride. The Greek Orthodox Churches became more active in their communities. There was an influx of refugee immigrants and a movement to liberalize American immigration laws. Greek internal affairs, including the defeat of the Greek Communists in 1949, the United States' role in Cyprus, and the ascendancy of the Greek military regime, 1967-1974 also continued to be of interest to the Greek-American community and Greek-language press.

The daily Atlantis was published until 1973. In 1972 the dismissal of three Newspaper Guild members provoked a strike that suspended publication. For eight weeks, publication resumed in New Jersey, but picketing halted it again. In October 1973, unable to reach agreement with one of its five unions, and pressured for back rent, the Vlasto family decided to cease publishing.

The Internal Revenue Service seized Atlantis' property for delinquent taxes and auctioned it on October 26, 1973. An unknown bidder purchased back issues, presses, and other equipment. James S. Vlasto, speaking for the family, stated that the landlord's impatience and the union's intransigence had closed the paper. "I really don't think there was reason for it to die. The market was there and it could have survived" (New York Times, October 27, 1973).

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