front cover of The Cypress and Other Writings of a German Pioneer in Texas
The Cypress and Other Writings of a German Pioneer in Texas
By Hermann Seele
University of Texas Press, 1979

When Hermann Seele anived in New Braunfels in 1845, the raw colony was plagued by poverty, disease, lack of food, and hostile Indians. This personal record of the Germans in Texas shows their evolution from struggling colonists to prosperous citizens.

From his viewpoint of a hardworking yet imaginative pioneer, Seele presents first a history of German immigration and settlement in Texas during the nineteenth century. Next, his autobiographical writings range from a "sentimental recollection" of his first Christmas Eve in Texas to his first day of teaching in New Braunfels, from accounts of the popular singing society to murder and justice along the Comal River. In addition, Seele's romantic novel, The Cypress, is a delightful though improbable tale of a traveling botanist, a chieftain's daughter, and a savage Indian cult.

Hermann Seele—farmer, lawyer, teacher, lay preacher, mayor, state representative, Civil War major, and editor—epitomizes the best of the German immigrants who established their communities as models of respectability and prosperity.


front cover of Degrees of Allegiance
Degrees of Allegiance
Harassment and Loyalty in Missouri’s German-American Community during World War I
Petra DeWitt
Ohio University Press, 2012

Historians have long argued that the Great War eradicated German culture from American soil. Degrees of Allegiance examines the experiences of German-Americans living in Missouri during the First World War, evaluating the personal relationships at the local level that shaped their lives and the way that they were affected by national war effort guidelines. Spared from widespread hate crimes, German-Americans in Missouri did not have the same bleak experiences as other German-Americans in the Midwest or across America. But they were still subject to regular charges of disloyalty, sometimes because of conflicts within the German-American community itself.

Degrees of Allegiance updates traditional thinking about the German-American experience during the Great War, taking into account not just the war years but also the history of German settlement and the war’s impact on German-American culture.


front cover of Fighting for a Free Missouri
Fighting for a Free Missouri
German Immigrants, African Americans, and the Issue of Slavery
Sydney J. Norton
University of Missouri Press, 2023
Missouri is well-known for its German American heritage, but the story of nineteenth-century German immigrant abolitionists is often neglected in discussions of the state’s history. This collection of ten original essays (with a foreword by renowned Missouri historian Gary Kremer), relates what unfolded when idealistic Germans, many of whom were highly educated and devoted to the ideals of freedom and democracy, left their homeland and settled in a pre–Civil War slave state. Fleeing political persecution during the 1830s and 1840s, immigrants such as Friedrich Münch, Eduard Mühl, Heinrich Boernstein, and Arnold Krekel arrived in the area now known as the Missouri German Heritage Corridor in hopes of finding a land more congenial to their democratic ideals. When they witnessed the state of enslaved Blacks, many of them became abolitionist activists and fervent supporters of Abraham Lincoln and the Union in the emerging Civil War. Editor Sydney Norton and the other contributing authors to Fighting for a Free Missouri explore the Germans’ abolitionist mission, their relationships with African Americans, and their activity in the radical wing of the Republican Party.


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From Knights to Pioneers
One German Family in Westphalia and Missouri
Anita M. Mallinckrodt
Southern Illinois University Press, 1994

Anita M. Mallinckrodt traces the 750-year history of the Mallinckrodt family from its earliest documented beginnings in thirteenth-century Westphalia (in the Dortmund area) through immigration to Missouri in 1831 and beyond.

In part 1, Mallinckrodt tells the story of some of her family’s leading personalities in order to explicate the history and society of medieval and early modern Germany: the life and times of knight Ludwig (c. 1241) and crusader Gerd (c. 1450–1504); the 1451 and 1492 adventures of the mercenary knight Hermann and his son Wilhelm; the 1594 feuding of the noble brothers Dietrich and Hermann, which led to a double murder; the liberal Dortmund publisher Arnold’s struggles in the early 1800s to establish freedom of the press and to free Westphalian farmers from serfdom; and the wealthy, aristocratic Sister Pauline (b. 1817), founder of the Sisters of Charity and recently beatified for her efforts on behalf of the poor and blind children of her day.

In parts 2 and 3, Mallinckrodt focuses on the first of her forebears to immigrate to the New World—Julius and Emil in 1831, followed by Conrad, Hermann, August, Helene, Sophie, and Luise in 1838—and their immediate families and descendants in Missouri. These early pioneers cleared the forests, built schools and churches, supported German-language periodicals, and founded social and cultural organizations that would benefit later waves of immigrants. In the 1860s, they participated in their adopted country’s Civil War and held strong views toward slavery and the Union. Mallinckrodt ends her family’s history with the deaths of the Dortmund pioneers in the 1890s.

But From Knights to Pioneers is much more than a single family’s history. The experiences Mallinckrodt relates reflect those of many German families who left their mark on centuries of history and of many midwestern families transplanted from the Old World. Especially interesting is the continuity between the old and new ways of life—entries on genealogical tables need not end with the comment "immigrated to the USA," for immigrants often wrote notable chapters of family history that deserve recognition in their old homelands. Similarly, knowledge of pre-immigration history is essential for those Americans whose traditions surely did not begin, as oral history often suggests, with the fact that "great-grandfather arrived in the Midwest from Germany in 1831." Thus the purpose of this book is to set a family’s immigration chapter against its European background, without passing judgment on the cultural influence of outstanding individuals in the United States or of German immigration per se.

Drawing on her extensive research in both Europe and the United States, Mallinckrodt presents an exceptionally detailed picture of the social and political contexts of each of her subjects. The richness of her exposition of both the Old World background and the lives of the immigrants to the New World offers important insights into aspects of European and American history.


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German Americans on the Middle Border
From Antislavery to Reconciliation, 1830–1877
Zachary Stuart Garrison
Southern Illinois University Press, 2020
Before the Civil War, Northern, Southern, and Western political cultures crashed together on the middle border, where the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers meet. German Americans who settled in the region took an antislavery stance, asserting a liberal nationalist philosophy rooted in their revolutionary experience in Europe that emphasized individual rights and freedoms. By contextualizing German Americans in their European past and exploring their ideological formation in failed nationalist revolutions, Zachary Stuart Garrison adds nuance and complexity to their story.

Liberal German immigrants, having escaped the European aristocracy who undermined their revolution and the formation of a free nation, viewed slaveholders as a specter of European feudalism. During the antebellum years, many liberal German Americans feared slavery would inhibit westward progress, and so they embraced the Free Soil and Free Labor movements and the new Republican Party. Most joined the Union ranks during the Civil War.
After the war, in a region largely opposed to black citizenship and Radical Republican rule, German Americans were seen as dangerous outsiders. Facing a conservative resurgence, liberal German Republicans employed the same line of reasoning they had once used to justify emancipation: A united nation required the end of both federal occupation in the South and special protections for African Americans. Having played a role in securing the Union, Germans largely abandoned the freedmen and freedwomen. They adopted reconciliation in order to secure their place in the reunified nation. Garrison’s unique transnational perspective to the sectional crisis, the Civil War, and the postwar era complicates our understanding of German Americans on the middle border.

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German Settlement in Missouri
New Land, Old Ways
Robyn Burnett & Ken Luebbering
University of Missouri Press, 1996

German immigrants came to America for two main reasons: to seek opportunities in the New World, and to avoid political and economic problems in Europe. In German Settlement in Missouri, Robyn Burnett and Ken Luebbering demonstrate the crucial role that the German immigrants and their descendants played in the settlement and development of Missouri's architectural, political, religious, economic, and social landscape. Relying heavily on unpublished memoirs, letters, diaries, and official records, the authors provide important new narratives and firsthand commentary from the immigrants themselves.

Between 1800 and 1919, more than 7 million people came to the United States from German-speaking lands. The German immigrants established towns as they moved up the Missouri River into the frontier, resuming their traditional ways as they settled. As a result, the culture of the frontier changed dramatically. The Germans farmed differently from their American neighbors. They started vineyards and wineries, published German-language newspapers, and entered Missouri politics.

The decades following the Civil War brought the golden age of German culture in the state. The populations of many small towns were entirely German, and traditions from the homeland thrived. German-language schools, publications, and church services were common. As the German businesses in St. Louis and other towns flourished, the immigrants and their descendants prospered. The loyalty of the Missouri Germans was tested in World War I, and the anti-immigrant sentiment during the war and the period of prohibition after it dealt serious blows to their culture. However, German traditions had already found their way into mainstream American life.

Informative and clearly written, German Settlement in Missouri will be of interest to all readers, especially those interested in ethnic history.


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Germans in Illinois
Miranda E. Wilkerson and Heather Richmond
Southern Illinois University Press, 2019
This engaging history of one of the largest ethnic groups in Illinois explores the influence and experiences of German immigrants and their descendants from their arrival in the middle of the nineteenth century to their heritage identity today. Coauthors Miranda E. Wilkerson and Heather Richmond examine the primary reasons that Germans came to Illinois and describe how they adapted to life and distinguished themselves through a variety of occupations and community roles.
The promise of cheap land and fertile soil in rural areas and emerging industries in cities attracted three major waves of German-speaking immigrants to Illinois in search of freedom and economic opportunities. Before long the state was dotted with German churches, schools, cultural institutions, and place names. German churches served not only as meeting places but also as a means of keeping language and culture alive. Names of Illinois cities and towns of German origin include New Baden, Darmstadt, Bismarck, and Hamburg. In Chicago, many streets, parks, and buildings bear German names, including Altgeld Street, Germania Place, Humboldt Park, and Goethe Elementary School. Some of the most lively and ubiquitous organizations, such as Sängerbunde, or singer societies, and the Turnverein, or Turner Society, also preserved a bit of the Fatherland.
Exploring the complex and ever-evolving German American identity in the growing diversity of Illinois’s linguistic and ethnic landscape, this book contextualizes their experiences and corrects widely held assumptions about assimilation and cultural identity. Federal census data, photographs, lively biographical sketches, and newly created maps bring the complex story of German immigration to life. The generously illustrated volume also features detailed notes, suggestions for further reading, and an annotated list of books, journal articles, and other sources of information.

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Germans in Michigan
Jeremy W. Kilar
Michigan State University Press, 2002

Germans are the largest ancestral group in Michigan, representing over 2.6 million descendants or 22% of the state’s population. Yet, unlike other immigrant groups, Germans have not retained their linguistic and cultural traditions as part of a distinct ethnic identity. The Bavarian villages of Frankenmuth and Gaylord stand as testaments to the once proud and vigorous German communities that dotted both rural and urban Michigan landscapes. Jeremy W. Kilar explores the social forces that transformed Germans from inward-looking immigrants to citizens in the cultural mainstream. Germans in Michigan is a story of assimilation and renewal and as such reveals the complexities of Americanization and immigration as social forces.


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Germans in Wisconsin
Richard H. Zeitlin
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2001

Between 1820 and 1910, nearly five and a half million German-speaking immigrants came to the United States in search of new homes, new opportunities, and freedom from European tyrannies. Most settled in the Midwest, and many came to Wisconsin, whose rich farmlands and rising cities attracted three major waves of immigrants. By 1900, German farmers, merchants, manufacturers, editors, and educators—to say nothing of German churches (both Catholic and Lutheran), cultural institutions, food, and folkways—had all set their mark upon Wisconsin. In the most recent census (1990), more than 53 percent of the state's residents considered themselves "German"—the highest of any state in the Union.

In this best-selling book, now with updated text and additional historical photographs, Richard H. Zeitlin describes the values and ideas the Germans brought with them from the Old Country; highlights their achievements on the farm, in the workplace, and in the academy over the course of 150 years; and explains why their impact has been so profound and pervasive.


front cover of The Great Disappearing Act
The Great Disappearing Act
Germans in New York City, 1880-1930
Christina A. Ziegler-McPherson
Rutgers University Press, 2022
Where did all the Germans go? How does a community of several hundred thousand people become invisible within a generation?

This study examines these questions in relation to the German immigrant community in New York City between 1880-1930, and seeks to understand how German-American New Yorkers assimilated into the larger American society in the early twentieth century.
By the turn of the twentieth century, New York City was one of the largest German-speaking cities in the world and was home to the largest German community in the United States. This community was socio-economically diverse and increasingly geographically dispersed, as upwardly mobile second and third generation German Americans began moving out of the Lower East Side, the location of America’s first Kleindeutschland (Little Germany), uptown to Yorkville and other neighborhoods. New York’s German American community was already in transition, geographically, socio-economically, and culturally, when the anti-German/One Hundred Percent Americanism of World War I erupted in 1917.

This book examines the structure of New York City’s German community in terms of its maturity, geographic dispersal from the Lower East Side to other neighborhoods, and its ultimate assimilation to the point of invisibility in the 1920s. It argues that when confronted with the anti-German feelings of World War I, German immigrants and German Americans hid their culture – especially their language and their institutions – behind closed doors and sought to make themselves invisible while still existing as a German community.
But becoming invisible did not mean being absorbed into an Anglo-American English-speaking culture and society. Instead, German Americans adopted visible behaviors of a new, more pluralistic American culture that they themselves had helped to create, although by no means dominated. Just as the meaning of “German” changed in this period, so did the meaning of “American” change as well, due to nearly 100 years of German immigration.

front cover of The higher jazz
The higher jazz
Edmund Wilson
University of Iowa Press, 1998

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Hold Dear, As Always
Jette, a German Immigrant Life in Letters
Adolf E. Schroeder and Carla Schulz-Geisberg
University of Missouri Press, 1988

Henriette Geisberg Bruns was twenty-three when she arrived in 1836 at the isolated Westphalia Settlement in central Missouri with her husband, baby son, two brothers, and a maid. Jette, as she was known to her family and friends, had not come to America by inclination, but from duty. Her husband Bernhard, a physician, had fallen victim to the emigration fever sweeping Germany in the 1830s and was convinced that he could provide a better life for his family in the American Free States where land was plentiful, the soil was fertile, and taxes were low. Born into a large, prosperous, closely knit family, Jette had set out for the New World reluctantly; but once in Missouri, she was determined not to give up and go back home, as a neighboring family did.

Although she maintained her resolve, this collection of letters written to her family in Germany shows that her life in America was often beset by deprivation, disease, and loneliness. Jette had been persuaded to emigrate for the sake of her children’s future; however, of the ten born in central Missouri, five died in childhood, three within three weeks in September and October 1841.Despite the family responsibilities and the hardships she faced in Missouri, Jette maintained a lively interest in American political and social life. For fifteen years in Westphalia and almost fifty in Jefferson City and St. Louis, she observed and offered astute—if sometimes acerbic—commentary on the historic as well as the daily events of nineteenth-century life. Left destitute by the death of her husband, who had served as mayor of Jefferson City during the Civil War, she opened a boarding-house in her home across from the state capitol to support her own children and those of her brother. There the German radicals in state government gathered to argue and debate.

This rare collection of personal family letters, combined with an autobiographical sketch Jette wrote after the Civil War, illuminates the experience of one immigrant woman in a land that was always foreign to her.


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Immigrants in the Valley
Irish, Germans, and Americans in the Upper Mississippi Country, 1830-1860
Mark Wyman
Southern Illinois University Press, 1984
Thousands of newcomers flocked into the Upper Mississippi country in the decades leading up to the Civil War. Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota received immigrants from most areas of Europe, as well as Americans from the Upper South, New England, and the Middle Atlantic states. They all carried with them religious beliefs, experiences, and expectations that differed widely, attitudes and opinions which often threw them into conflict with each other. Drawing extensively on family letters sent home to Europe, missionary reports, employment records, and other diverse materials from 1830 to 1860, Wyman shows the interplay between the major groups traveling the roads and waterways of the Upper Mississippi Valley during those crucial decades. The result is a lively, richly illustrated account that will help Americans everywhere better understand their diverse heritage and the environment in which their family trees took root. A new preface to this paperback edition helps to bring the scholarship up to date.

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Independent Immigrants
A Settlement of Hanoverian Germans in Western Missouri
Robert W. Frizzell
University of Missouri Press, 2007

Between 1838 and the early 1890s, German peasant farmers from the Kingdom of Hanover made their way to Lafayette County, Missouri, to form a new community centered on the town of Concordia. Their story has much to tell us about the American immigrant experience—and about how newcomers were caught up in the violence that swept through their adoptive home.

Robert Frizzell grew up near Concordia, and in this first book-length history of the German settlement, he chronicles its life and times during those formative years. Founded by Hanoverian Friedrich Dierking—known as “Dierking the Comforter” for the aid he gave his countrymen—the Concordia settlement blossomed from 72 households in 1850 to 375 over the course of twenty years. Frizzell traces that growth as he examines the success of early agricultural efforts, but he also tells how the community strayed from the cultural path set by its freethinker founder to become a center of religious conservatism.

Drawing on archival material from both sides of the Atlantic, Frizzell offers a compelling account for scholars and general readers alike, showing how Concordia differed from other German immigrant communities in America. He also explores the conditions in Hanover—particularly the village of Esperke, from which many of the settlers hailed—that caused people to leave, shedding new light on theological, political, and economic circumstances in both the Old World and the New.

When the Civil War came, the antislavery Hanoverians found themselves in the Missouri county with the greatest number of slaves, and the Germans supported the Union while most of their neighbors sympathized with Confederate guerrillas. Frizzell tells how the notorious “Bloody Bill” Anderson attacked the community three times, committing atrocities as gruesome as any recorded in the state—then how the community flourished after the war and even bought out the farmsteads of former slaveholders.

Frizzell’s account challenges many historians’ assumptions about German motives for immigration and includes portraits of families and individuals that show the high price in toil and blood required to meet the challenges of making a home in a new land. Independent Immigrants reveals the untold story of these newcomers as it reveals a little-known aspect of the Civil War in Missouri.


front cover of Invent Radium or I'll Pull Your Hair
Invent Radium or I'll Pull Your Hair
A Memoir
Doris Drucker
University of Chicago Press, 2004
"And don't forget, once you are married to a Rothschild you can become a famous woman," Doris Schmitz's mother told her. "Be another Madame Curie and invent radium! You'll be famous!" Doris reminded her that radium had already been discovered. "Don't argue," her mother said. "You're going to invent radium or I'll pull your hair. You're just being negative, like your father."

Rothschilds and radium were the horizons of Doris's childhood. Born in Germany in the early twentieth century, she came of age in an upper-middle-class family that struggled to maintain its bourgeois respectability between the two World Wars. Doris Drucker (she met her husband Peter—of management fame—in the 1930s) has penned a lively and charming memoir that brings to life the Germany of her childhood. Rather than focusing on the rise of Hitler, Drucker weaves history into her story of the day-to-day life of a relatively apolitical family. She chronicles here the crowds that gathered to see the Zeppelin, her attempts to negotiate her Prussian mother's plans for her (like marrying well and becoming a famous scientist), ski trips and hikes, the schools she attended, her father's struggles to support the family, and all the stuff and drama that make up a childhood. Drucker's energetic storytelling, eye for the telling detail, and sly humor draw the reader into her portrait of a way of life made forever poignant by its place in history so close to the brutalities of World War II.

From the boarding school that forbade girls to look at their own legs while they bathed to the unfortunate confusion that resulted from Doris's misinterpretation of "Warsaw has fallen" as "The Waschfrau [washerwoman] has fallen," the tales recounted in Invent Radium or I'll Pull Your Hair give dimension and depth to a milieu that has been flattened by the historical events around it.

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The Last Letter
A Father's Struggle, a Daughter's Quest, and the Long Shadow of the Holocaust
Karen Baum Gordon
University of Tennessee Press, 2021

Born a German Jew in 1915, Rudy Baum was eighty-six years old when he sealed the garage door of his Dallas home, turned on the car ignition, and tried to end his life. After confronting her father’s attempted suicide, Karen Baum Gordon, Rudy’s daughter, began a sincere effort to understand the sequence of events that led her father to that dreadful day in 2002. What she found were hidden scars of generational struggles reaching back to the camps and ghettos of the Third Reich.

In The Last Letter: A Father’s Struggle, a Daughter’s Quest, and the Long Shadow of the Holocaust, Gordon explores not only her father’s life story, but also the stories and events that shaped the lives of her grandparents—two Holocaust victims that Rudy tried in vain to save in the late 1930s and early years of World War II. This investigation of her family’s history is grounded in eighty-eight letters written mostly by Julie Baum, Rudy’s mother and Karen’s grandmother, to Rudy between November 1936 and October 1941. In five parts, Gordon examines pieces of these well-worn, handwritten letters and other archival documents in order to discover what her family experienced during the Nazi period and the psychological impact that reverberated from it in the generations that followed.

Part of the Legacies of War series, The Last Letter is a captivating family memoir that spans events from the 1930s and Hitler’s rise to power, through World War II and the Holocaust, to the present-day United States. In recreating the fatal journeys of her grandparents and tracing her father’s efforts to save them an ocean away in America, Gordon discovers the forgotten fragments of her family’s history and a vivid sense of her own Jewish identity. By inviting readers along on this journey, Gordon manages to honor victim and survivor alike and shows subsequent generations—now many years after the tragic events of World War II—what it means to remember.


front cover of Letters of  a German American Farmer
Letters of a German American Farmer
Juernjakob Swehn Travels to America
Johannes Gillhoff
University of Iowa Press, 2001

Early in the twentieth century, drawing upon the hundreds of letters written to his father by students who had emigrated to northeastern Iowa from Mecklenburg, in northeastern Germany, Johannes Gillhoff created the composite character of Juernjakob Swehn: the archetype of the upright, honest mensch who personified the German immigrant, on his way to a better life through ambition and hard work. Gillhoff's farmer-hero, planting and harvesting his Iowa acres, joking with his neighbors during the snowy winters, building a church with his own hands, proved so popular with the German public that a million copies of Jürnjakob Swehn der Amerikafahrer are in print. Now for the first time this wise and endearing book is available in English.

“First, let's talk about pigs,”Juernjakob Swehn writes from his farm in Iowa. “In America, pigs have a curly tail and talk in Low German so I can understand them.” Swehn builds a log house and makes a success of farming, marries a woman who's “a whole different nation that has its confidence from the inside,” raises a family, and becomes an elder in the Lutheran church. He recognizes his good fortune but acknowledges that memories of his village grow stronger every year, that “being homesick is the best thing that home can do for you …no power on earth holds on to you like your homeland.” It is this sense of home, both in Iowa and in Mecklenburg, that makes Juernjakob Swehn appeal to today's readers as much as he appealed to readers in 1916.


front cover of The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin
The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin
Voices of Early Settlers
Michael E. Stevens
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2018
From the mid-1830s through the 1850s, more than a half million people settled in Wisconsin. While traveling in ships and wagons, establishing homes, and forming new communities, these men, women, and children recorded their experiences in letters, diaries, and newspaper articles. In their own words, they revealed their fears, joys, frustrations, and hopes for life in this new place. 

The Making of Pioneer Wisconsin provides a unique and intimate glimpse into the lives of these early settlers, as they describe what it felt like to be a teenager in a wagon heading west or an isolated young wife living far from her friends and family. Woven together with context provided by historian Michael E. Stevens, these first-person accounts form a fascinating narrative that deepens our ability to understand and empathize with Wisconsin’s early pioneers. 

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Marlene Dietrich, Rita Hayworth, & My Mother
Rita Maria Magdaleno
University of Arizona Press, 2003
Her blood is both Aryan and Aztec and runs as deep as the waters between two worlds.

Rita Magdaleno was born near Dachau shortly after World War II to a German mother and a Mexican American GI. Her family moved to Arizona in 1947, and Rita was raised with her father's traditions—but she remains at heart a child of two cultures.

This poetic memoir, recalling Magdaleno's return to the land of her birth, is an intertwining of personal and public history, bridging continents and cultures in search of family secrets. Her poems recall a mother "Marlene Dietrich pretty, / her smoky voice / & those wide Aryan / eyes that promised / never to lie," a war bride who named her child after a Hollywood movie star even before casting eyes on America. They also offer a new, intimate view of the war—and of today's reunified Germany—and show that the consequences of events played out half a century ago continue to resonate with the children of that era.

Magdaleno navigates currents of emotion that would drown less capable poets. With patience, courage, and abiding love, she draws on memories of mother and motherland to show us that healing can come in many forms.


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A Missouri Railroad Pioneer
The Life of Louis Houck
Joel P. Rhodes
University of Missouri Press, 2013

Lawyer and journalist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Louis Houck is often called the “Father of Southeast Missouri” because he brought the railroad to the region and opened this backwater area to industrialization and modernization. Although Houck’s name is little known today outside Missouri, Joel Rhodes shows how his story has relevance for both the state and the nation.

Rhodes presents a more complete picture of Houck than has ever been available: reviewing his life from his German immigrant roots, considering his career from both social and political perspectives, and grounding the story in both state and national history. He especially tells how, from 1880 to the 1920s, this self-taught railroader constructed a network of five hundred miles of track through the wilderness of wetlands known as “Swampeast Missouri”—and how these “Houck Roads” provided a boost for population, agriculture, lumbering, and commerce that transformed Cape Girardeau and the surrounding area.

Rhodes discusses how Houck fits into the era of economic individualism—a time when men with little formal training shaped modern industry—and also gives voice to Houck’s critics and shows that he was not always an easy man to work with. In telling the story of his railroading enterprise, Rhodes chronicles Houck’s battle with the Jay Gould railroad empire and offers key insight into the development of America’s railway system, from the cutthroat practices of ruthless entrepreneurs to the often-comic ineptness of start-up rail lines.

More than simply a biography of a business entrepreneur, the book tells how Houck not only developed the region economically but also followed the lead of Andrew Carnegie by making art, culture, and formal education available to all social classes. Houck also served for thirty-six years as president of the Board of Regents of Southeast Missouri State Teacher’s College, and as a self-taught historian he wrote the first comprehensive accounts of Missouri’s territorial period.

A Missouri Railroad Pioneer chronicles a multifaceted career that transformed a region. Solidly researched, this lively narrative also offers an entertaining read for anyone interested in Missouri history.


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Nassau Plantation
The Evolution of a Texas-German Slave Plantation
James C. Kearney
University of North Texas Press, 2010

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The Nature of Truth
Sergio Troncoso
Northwestern University Press, 2003
This convention-challenging suspense novel represents the next wave of Latino literature, eschewing the stereotypical story of poverty in the barrios or discrimination to explore the differences--and links--between righteousness and evil in the search for moral truth.

Helmut Sanchez is a young researcher in the employ of the renowned scholar Werner Hopfgartner. By chance Sanchez discovers a letter written in the 1950s by Hopfgartner mocking feelings of guilt over the Holocaust. Appalled, he digs into the scholar's life, determined to find the truth and finally uncovering the evidence of Hopfgartner's sordid past. Sure of his conclusions, Helmut decides that only one shocking act is morally correct. When he does, the consequences are immense, and the toll taken on his mind and conscience is amplified when one of his friends is wrongly accused of the crime-and is wrongly left to pay for it.

Intelligent and literate, The Nature of Truth breaks new ground in Latino literature, focusing on how a contemporary man of unique heritage--a Mexican-German who has come to America by way of Germany--navigates a complex moral universe and how his journey reflects the tension between justice and righteousness in American life.

Further information about the author can be found at his web site: <A HREF=""></A>

front cover of No Such Country
No Such Country
Essays toward Home
Elmar Lueth
University of Iowa Press, 2002
 Matthew Mark Trumbull was a Londoner who immigrated at the age of twenty. Within ten years of his arrival in America, he had become a lawyer in Butler County, Iowa; two years later a member of the state legislature; and two years after that a captain in the Union Army. By the end of the Civil War, he was a brevet brigadier general, and in his later years he was an author and lecturer. Kenneth Lyftogt’s biography details the amazing life of this remarkable man, also shedding light on the histories of the Third Iowa Volunteer Infantry and the Ninth Iowa Volunteer Cavalry.

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Off Paradise
Hart Wegner
University of Nevada Press, 2001
Martin, the central character of Hart Wegner's powerful short-story cycle, is a middle-aged German emigre who has found a home, of sorts, in the isolated and often surreal setting of contemporary Las Vegas. Exiled at the end of World War II with his parents from their beloved Silesia, the family struggles to come to terms with the turmoil of history and memory while they cope with the challenges of assimilation in an alien setting.

In stories that range from the Nevada desert to the lost world of prewar Silesia, Wegner explores, through the perspectives of Martin, his aging parents, and their small circle of fellow emigres, the intricate tapestry of the exile experience--childhood recollections of the vast and fertile plains of East Germany and the shelter of comfortable and loving homes, memories of the horrors of war, the guilt and terror and despair of displacement, the frustrations of finding one's way in a new and alien culture, the precious ties of family and longtime friendship. And most of all, loss--the loss of home; of an identity formed by an ancient language, the details of a shared culture, and a common sense of past and of future; of loved ones; and finally, and most tragically, of memory itself.

Wegner's characters are vividly and bravely human, bitter, tender, despairing, and full of hope. And ever-seeking a new home, a new place in which to belong after their long sojourn in the wilderness. The inner world of the exile has never been examined with such sympathy, such clarity, or such eloquence. 

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The Old German Baptist Brethren
Faith, Farming, and Change in the Virginia Blue Ridge
Charles D. Thompson Jr.
University of Illinois Press, 2006
Since arriving nearly 250 years ago in Franklin County, Virginia, German Baptists have maintained their faith and farms by relying on their tightly knit community for spiritual and economic support. Today, with their land and livelihoods threatened by the encroachment of neighboring communities, the construction of a new highway, and competition from corporate megafarms, the German Baptists find themselves forced to adjust.
Charles D. Thompson Jr.'s The Old German Baptist Brethren combines oral history with ethnography and archival research--as well as his own family ties to the Franklin County community--to tell the story of the Brethren's faith on the cusp of impending change. The book traces the transformation of their operations from frontier subsistence farms to cash-based enterprises, connecting this with the wider confluence of agriculture and faith in colonial America. Using extensive interviews, Thompson looks behind the scenes at how individuals interpret their own futures in farming, their hope for their faith, and how the failure of religiously motivated agriculture figures in the larger story of the American farmer.

front cover of Places in the World a Person Could Walk
Places in the World a Person Could Walk
Family, Stories, Home, and Place in the Texas Hill Country
By David Syring
University of Texas Press, 2000

Spring-fed creeks. Old stone houses. Cedar brakes and bleached limestone. The Hill Country holds powerful sway over the imagination of Texans. So many of us dream of having our own little place in the limestone hills. The Hill Country feels just like home, even if you've never lived there.

This beautifully written book explores what the Hill Country has meant as a homeplace to the author, his family, and longtime residents of the area, as well as to newcomers. David Syring listens to the stories that his aunts, uncles, and cousins tell about life in the Hill Country and grapples with their meaning for his own search for a place to belong. He also collects short stories focused around Honey Creek Church to consider how places become containers for memory. And he draws upon several years of living in Fredericksburg to talk about the problems and opportunities created by heritage tourism and the development of the town as a "home" for German Americans. These interconnected stories illuminate what it means to belong to a place and why the Texas Hill Country has become the spiritual, if not actual, home of many people.


front cover of Signs, Cures, and Witchery
Signs, Cures, and Witchery
German Appalachian Folklore
Gerald C. Milnes
University of Tennessee Press, 2007

The persecution of Old World German Protestants and Anabaptists in the seventeenth century-following debilitating wars, the Reformation, and the Inquisition-brought about significant immigration to America. Many of the immigrants, and their progeny, settled in the Appalachian frontier. Here they established a particularly old set of religious beliefs and traditions based on a strong sense of folk spirituality. They practiced astrology, numerology, and other aspects of esoteric thinking and left a legacy that may still be found in Appalachian folklore today.

Based in part on the author's extensive collection of oral histories from the remote highlands of West Virginia, Signs, Cures, and Witchery: German Appalachian Folklore
describes these various occult practices, symbols, and beliefs; how they evolved within New World religious contexts; how they arrived on the Appalachian frontier; and the prospects of those beliefs continuing in the contemporary world.

By concentrating on these inheritances, Gerald C. Milnes draws a larger picture of the German influence on Appalachia. Much has been written about the Anglo-Celtic, Scots-Irish, and English folkways of the Appalachian people, but few studies have addressed their German cultural attributes and sensibilities. Signs, Cures, and Witchery sheds startling light on folk influences from Germany, making it a volume of tremendous value to Appalachian scholars, folklorists, and readers with an interest in Appalachian folklife and German American studies.


front cover of The Spirit of 1848
The Spirit of 1848
German Immigrants, Labor Conflict, and the Coming of the Civil War
Bruce Levine
University of Illinois Press, 1992
Immigrants and their children became the chief component of the U.S. working class during the nineteenth century. Bruce Levine examines the early years of this social transformation, focusing on German-born craft workers and the key roles they played in the economic and political life of the wage-earning population of antebellum America. Interweaving themes often treated separately---immigration, industrialization, class formation, and the political polarization over slavery---Levine sheds new light on the development of the working class, the nature and appeals of partisan politics, and the conflicts that led to sectional war.
The Spirit of 1848 offers much new information and insight concerning craftwork, the nature of the antebellum labor movement (including the great New York City tailors' strike of 1850), the meaning of nativism, the significance of the push for land reform, the diverse character of the free-soil movement, and the popular appeals of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

front cover of The Two Lives of Sally Miller
The Two Lives of Sally Miller
A Case of Mistaken Racial Identity in Antebellum New Orleans
Wilson, Carol
Rutgers University Press, 2007

In 1843, the Louisiana Supreme Court heard the case of a slave named Sally Miller, who claimed to have been born a free white person in Germany. Sally, a very light-skinned slave girl working in a New Orleans caf, might not have known she had a case were it not for a woman who recognized her as Salom Muller, with whom she had emigrated from Germany over twenty years earlier. Sally decided to sue for her freedom, and was ultimately freed, despite strong evidence contrary to her claim.

In The Two Lives of Sally Miller, Carol Wilson explores this fascinating legal case and its reflection on broader questions about race, society, and law in the antebellum South. Why did a court system known for its extreme bias against African Americans help to free a woman who was believed by many to be a black slave? Wilson explains that while the notion of white enslavement was shocking, it was easier for society to acknowledge that possibility than the alternative-an African slave who deceived whites and triumphed over the system.


front cover of The Whiskey Merchant’s Diary
The Whiskey Merchant’s Diary
An Urban Life in the Emerging Midwest
Joseph J. Mersman
Ohio University Press, 2007

Joseph J. Mersman was a liquor merchant, a German American immigrant who aspired—successfully—to become a self-made man. Hundreds of the residents of Mersman’s hometown in Germany immigrated to Cincinnati in the 1830s, joining many thousands of other German immigrants. In 1847, at the age of twenty-three, Mersman began recording his activities in a bound volume, small enough to fit into his coat pocket. His diary, filled with work and play, eating and drinking, flirting and dancing, provides a unique picture of everyday life, first in Cincinnati and then in St. Louis, the new urban centers of the emerging Midwest.

Outside of Gold Rush diaries and emigration journals, few narrative records of the antebellum period have been published. Illustrated with photographs, maps, and period advertisements, the diary reveals how a young man worked to establish himself during an era that was rich in opportunity.

As a whiskey rectifier, Mersman bought distilled spirits, redistilled or reprocessed them to remove contaminants or increase the alcohol content, and added various flavorings before selling his product to liquor retailers. In his diary, he describes scrambling for capital, marketing his wares, and arranging transportation by steamboat, omnibus, and train. Although the business that he sought to master was eliminated by the passage of the Pure Food Law of 1906, Mersman, like most rectifiers, was a reputable wholesaler. Merchants like him played an important role in distributing liquor in nineteenth-century America.

Mersman confronted serious disease, both as a sufferer from syphilis and as a witness to two devastating cholera epidemics. Unlike other residents of St. Louis, who fled the relative safety of the countryside, he remained in the city and saw the impact of the epidemics on the community.

Linda A. Fisher’s extensive, insightful, and highly readable annotations add a wealth of background information to Mersman’s story. Her professional training and career as a physician give her a particularly valuable perspective on the public health aspects of Mersman’s life and times.


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