Main content

John Popovich papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

John Popovich (Ioan Popovici) (1890-1973) was born in Brăila (Romania) and shortly after his birth, his family moved to Transylvania (part of Austria-Hungary at the time). Popovich grew up in Şoimuşul Român (Olahsolymos), county of Târnava Mică. Popovich travelled to the U.S. in 1907, following on the footsteps of his father (Ioan Popovici, peasant) and older sister (Maria), who had left to the U.S. in the Fall of 1906. Between 1910 and 1913, his sister Radiţa and brother Toader (Todor) also joined the family in America. Popovich had another sister (Fruzina) and another brother (George) who had fought during World War I; they do not seem to have travelled across the ocean. Whereas his father, Radiţa and Toader returned, Ioan and Maria remained in the U.S. Maria married Teodor Roman, originally from Lepinde (Romania) and had nine children; she was living in Universal, PA in 1937. On June 17, 1916 Popovich married Elena Ninu Hedu in Universal, PA. Hedu was originally from Sibiu (Austria-Hungary at the time; present day Romania) and was living in Canton, Ohio.

On March 18, 1923, Popovich was ordained as a priest and served in the St. John Baptist parish in Erie, PA; he officiated the mass for the first time on June 3, 1923. During his trip to Romania in the summer of 1927, his church in Erie was vandalized and all valuable items were stolen. After his return to Erie he managed to raise sufficient money and reopened the church on October 9, 1927. In 1929 he moved to the Descent of the Holy Ghost parish in Philadelphia, where he served for almost 40 years. He rose through the ranks of the Orthodox Church: in 1939, the Bishop Policarp of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America appointed him the administrator of the Philadelphia Deanery, and on July 7, 1959 the bishop Valerian confered to him the rank of archpriest. Popovich served many terms as a member of the Episcopate Council. He retired in 1968 from his position in Philadelphia but continued to administrate, temporarily, the Holy Cross parish in Washington D.C. Popovich was an active contributor to the local Romanian community in Philadelphia; he organized a Romanian language school, folk dance and choir activities and, in order to appeal to the newer generation, introduced mass in English at his church. During the Second World War he worked for the U.S. Army recruitment services (member of local board #6, Philadelphia) and for the Red Cross. He also helped many Romanians to come as refugees to Philadelphia and was allowed to practice before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the U.S. as the representative of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America.

Popovich maintained his connection with Romania, travelling at least three times back to his homeland, in 1925, 1927 and 1938. During his 1925 trip, Popovich was welcomed as part of the Romanian Orthodox clergy and served during the mass in the Sibiu Cathedral (June 23, 1925), officiated the mass in the Şoimuş church (five times), in Dârloş (one time) and in Cricău (one time). Moreover, together with his sister Maria, Popovich contributed with monetary donations to the Orthodox church in Şoimuş, helping to purchase a big bell (to replace the one that the government used during World War I to make cannons), a Last Supper icon for the main altar and monuments in the cemetery to commemorate the Popovich (Popovici) family.

Popovich’s wife died in 1952, while visiting her brother in Canton, Ohio. She was survived by two sisters, Anna Sandru in Canton and Elizabeth Moldovan in Romania. Popovich died on February 28, 1973 and was buried at the Hillside Cemetery, Roslyn PA.

The John Popovich papers chronicle some key moments in the life of John Popovich (Ioan Popovici) after his emigration to the United States. The collection contains letters from Popovich’s personal and work correspondence, photographs from celebrations and important events from the life of his congregation and his personal life (such as Easter celebrations or a photograph from his wedding), personal official documents (passports), xerox copies of pages from Popovich’s diary and newspaper clippings documenting important life events, such as Popovich’s wife’s obituary and Popovich’s obituary. The papers span from 1914 to 1973 and are housed in seven folders in one box.

Popovich became an important figure of the Romanian Orthodox Church in America and the papers reflect his involvement with the church. The Correspondence folder (Folder 1) includes 1929 letters regarding Popovich’s election as the parish priest of the Romanian Church “Descent of Holy Ghost” from Philadelphia, an invitation to attend Romanian celebrations in New York in 1937, a 1937 postcard from the first ruling Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (Policarp), a 1944 V-Mail from his nephew Bobby (J.P.Manton) who fought in World War II, letters and receipts regarding the publication of the Romanian calendar “Solia” in 1951, a letter from the International Institute of Philadelphia offering condolences with the occasion of his wife’s death in 1952, a 1953 letter from the bishop Valerian D. Trifa confirming Popovich’s good work as a parish priest and finally Popovich’s notification of retirement from May 1968.

Popovich’s Diary (Folder 2) includes a series of xerox copies of pages with entries from 1914 to 1927. Many pages are missing and the entries are not organized in chronological order, suggesting a later transcription of older material. Most of the entries document the life of Popovich’s family and offer details about the emigration of his father and siblings to the United States, the subsequent return of all of his relatives, except his sister, to Transylvania, and Popovich’s trips to his home village om 1925 and 1927. Popovich includes details about his father’s death in 1926 and provides information about his and his sister’s financial contributions to the Orthodox church in their home village (Şoimuş) in Romania. Other entries from this diary include miscellaneous topics, such as Popovich’s meditations on topics like modernism, materialism, the destruction of World War I, an explanation of the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1924 and even a poem Popovich wrote after a heartbreak.

The Family Records folder (Folder 3) contains a selection of personal documents and newspaper clippings discussing key moments in Popovich’s life. Individual documents include an invitation to his wedding in 1916, passports from 1927 and 1937, a money order from 1933, Popovich’s appointment as member of local board #6 assisting with recruitment in 1940, a certificate from 1945 confirming the burning of a mortgage for the Romanian Orthodox Church St. Dumitru and a 1948 government certificate attesting Popovich’s right to practice before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This folder also contains a series of document related to a celebration from June 6, 1971, organized at the Holy Cross Orthodox Parish in Washington D.C. in honor of Popovich’s activity and 80th birthday; Folder 4 contains a series of photographs which might be from this event. The folder also contains newspaper clippings including photographs of Popovich, an obituary and details about the service for his wife’s funeral and two obituaries written for Popovich.

Folders 4 and 5 contain loose photographs and original pages from a scrapbook (Folder 6 contains photocopied pages of the scrapbook). The material spans the time range 1916 to 1972 and only some photographs include specific dates and details about the image. Many of them show John Popovich in his role as priest together with his congregation at the cemetery, during Easter celebrations, with school girls or other Church officials. A different group of photographs show events from Popovich’s life such as his marriage, portraits at various ages or groups of family members in US or Romania. Moreover, the photos reveal Popovich’s instrumental role in organizing and representing the Romanian community in Philadelphia at events such as Independence Day celebrations, meeting the last Romanian king Michael or giving a speech as a member of the local draft board #6 in Philadelphia with the occasion of Induction Day, February 1941. The photographs give additional helpful details about Popovich’s family and can be combined with his entries in the diary and the correspondence.

The Miscellaneous folder (Folder 7) includes a notice of the funerary services for British King George V, the printed lyrics of a Christmas carol, a list of signatures from the Romanian delegates that participated to the national festival of the U.S. Scouts in Washington D.C. (in 1937) and various writings of Popovich.

Bobango, Gerald J. The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America: The First Half Century, 1929-1979. Jackson, Mich: Romanian-American Heritage Center, 1979.

Gift of Helene Popovich, 1974.

Accession numbers M74-71, M74-119.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Madalina Veres.
Finding Aid Date
; 2017.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Correspondence, 1929-1968.
Box 1 Folder 1
Personal diary, 1914-1927.
Box 1 Folder 2
Family records, 1916-1973.
Box 1 Folder 3
Photographs, 1916-1972, undated.
Box 1 Folder 4
Scrapbook Pages (original), circa 1910-1946.
Box 1 Folder 5
Scrapbook Pages (photocopy), circa 1910-1946.
Box 1 Folder 6
Miscellaneous, 1933-1937, undated.
Box 1 Folder 7
Two Colored Costume Plates from Alexandrina Enachescu-Cantemir, Portul popular romanesc (Craiova: Scrisul Romanesc)., 1939.
Oversize Flat file 1

Print, Suggest