Fulfilling a long held dream of Peter Vitazoslav Rovnianek,
on Sunday, February 15, 1890 the National Slavonic Society of the
United States (in 1913, amended to the National SLOVAK Society of the United States of America) was founded.
At a meeting held in the Walther's Hall in Allegheny township,
now the North Side of Pittsburgh, PA, delegates from five Slovak
societies attended: Stefan Oravec of Hazleton, PA; Anton S.
Ambrose of Plymouth, PA; Jan Miller of Cleveland, OH; Reverend
Ludvik Novomesky, a Lutheran pastor from Freeland, PA; and
Rovnianek who represented Pittsburgh.
Rovnianek, elected as the first
president, was determined that the NSS by-laws would assure
that the new society would be non-sectarian. "A
society where all Slovaks, of whatever religious faith, occupation,
gender or locale could gather together for their greater good."
An initial pool of $200.00 was collected by the delegates as
a death benefit fund.
On December 21, 1894 Judge Edwin H. Stowe decreed that the
NSS was incorporated. At the end of 1894 membership had
grown to 5,184 with death and sick benefits for 35 men and
1925 was the height of social membership growth with adult
membership at 42,454 and youth membership at 19,179. Only
545 of these were covered by insurance benefits.
The Stock Market crash in 1929,and the Great Depression had a
great effect on the Society. But the greatest problems were
internally. First, solvency was only at 84.75% with the goal
being 100%. At the 1930 Convention, an ill-advised plan was
adopted that assessed each member $55.00 to bring the solvency
to 100%. If any member failed to pay, it was deducted from their
benefit. Many members just quit. Second, those elected in 1930
began to make questionable mortgage investments that impacted on
the financial status of the Society.
On November 16, 1933, Peter V. Rovnianek died at home sitting
in his rocking chair. He was buried in the Bohemian National
Cemetery in Chicago. His death not only marked the end of an
era, but thrust the Society through the Depression and then on
to World War II.
In 1933, with the beginning of the New Deal through World War
II, membership in the Society continued to decline, litigation
increased, and salvaging property and monetary losses was the
all consuming task of the leadership. Adult membership was down
to 32,953 members and 14,461 children.
In 1938, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and many other
states revised their operations with the establishment of the
American Experience Table changed the interest rate from 4% to 3˝%.
In this year the Society was divided into 15 districts.
In 1939, Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and the emergence of
a separate Slovak state brought about division of Slovak
fraternals in America. While the Society initially supported
Slovak autonomy, as structured independence from all others, the
eventful take over by Nazi Germany caused the to Society to
condemn the Slovak Republic.
With the end of World War II, there began a change of
momentum with the Society to reverse the membership losses.
However, membership continued to drop and by the end of 1946
there were 32,656 adult members and 8,214 youth members.
The current "Mission Statement" of the Society was
adopted at the Youngstown, OH Convention in 1946. At the
conclusion of WW II, Slovakia was once again connected to Czech
Republic and became a satellite of the Soviet Union.
In 1950, the efforts of the leadership began to show signs of
bearing fruit. Over 6,000 new adult members joined the Society
while the youth membership continued to decline. Solvency stood
In 1955 the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner requested the
Society to go to "One Fund" accounting replacing the
myriad of Society funds on the books. Robert Bruce, our actuary,
replaced his father, Harley Bruce. The freezing and eventual
liquidation of the solvency liens occurred. The groundwork for
the establishment of a field force was laid.
At the 1966 Convention, Mary T.(Sopocy) Mravec made an appeal
to establish the Peter V. Rovnianek permanent scholarship fund.
$2,290.00 was collected by the delegates.
In 1970, the Society Home Office at Court Place, in downtown
Pittsburgh, was sold for $800,000 and the Society was given a
five year lease. In 1979, Home Office operations were moved to
the South Side of Pittsburgh. The Committee of Industrial
Organization (C.I.O.) and the United States Steel Local 1271
agreed to accept $102,000 for the building.
In 1979, the new Model Fraternal Code was adopted in
Pennsylvania that required those who wished to sell insurance to
be licensed. A "grandfather" clause exempted those
members who had received licenses to sell prior to January 29,
In 1983, insurance in force had risen in excess of $25
million, the investment ratio to 8.51% and new premium income
increase 85%-the highest in history. A total of 18,126
certificates were in force.
1986 saw the society hired a full-time marketing director;
the 1980 CSO plans of insurance were being adopted; a new Model
Fraternal Code in Pennsylvania was being pushed. Assets reached
$14 million and insurance in force over $26 million.
On February 17, 1990, the 100th Anniversary of the
founding of the Society took place at the Sheraton Hotel,
Station Square in Pittsburgh, PA where over 700 people attended.
At the close of 1990 the Society’s assets were at $32 million
and insurance in force grew to $40 million.
Two mergers were effected in 1997; The First Slovak Wreath of
the Free Eagle, domiciled in Stafford, Connecticut and The
Presbyterian Beneficial Union, domiciled in Burgettstown,
Pennsylvania joined the NSS.
In 1998, the Russian Orthodox Catholic Women’s Mutual Aid
Society also merged; they were domiciled in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. The three mergers brought the membership of the
Society to over 20,000 members.
In February 1999, the society moved its Home Office from the
South Side of Pittsburgh to the Southpointe Industrial/Business
Complex near Canonsburg, PA.
In 2003, the society purchased its own building and once more moved its Home Office to its current site at 351 Valley Brook Road in McMurray, PA.
And in 2008, the National Slovak Society Heritage Museum, located at the Home Office, was dedicated in memoy of long-time member Andrew Chengery who, at the 2002 33rd Quadrennial Convention, presented an idea to start an NSS museum.
~ Presidents That Served The
|Peter V. Rovnianek
|Anton S. Ambrose
|Jan Pankuch, Sr.
|Wendel S. Platek
|Paul C. Kazimer
|Jan H. Pankuch
|Thomas G. Gmiter
David G. Blazek