GERMAN CULTURE AND THE INFLUENCE
IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES 1600-1800
Doyle R. Harper
Professor Phillip P. Wisely
as partial fulfillment for AE 675
March 13, 1978
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. INTRODUCTION . . . . . . .. . 1
2. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND . . . . . .. 2
The Protestant Reformation . . . . .. 4
The Thirty Years' War ... . . . . 7
German City and Rural Life . . . 8
American Colonization . . . . . . 15
3. GERMAN CULTURE. . .. . . . .... 18
Religion . . . . . . . . 18
Education . . 18
Literature . . . . . . . . . 19
Literature .. ............. 19
Art and Architecture . . . . . 20
Music .. . . . . 21
4. GERMAN INFLUENCE IN AMERICA . . . . . 22
5. COMMENTS AND CONCLUSION . . . . 26
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . 27
America has been called "the great melting pot," and
rightly so for more than any other country on Earth, she has
accepted peoples of all classes and nationalities. Although
mass immigration occurred during the nineteenth century,
America had many nationalities within her boundaries before
the Revolution of 1776.
One group that had an enormous influence upon the Re-
volution and upon all American culture was the Germans, It
is the purpose of this paper to investigate the culture of
this central European nationality between 1600 and 1800,
and to identify its influences on colonial American and
A brief review of German history is surely more difficult
to begin than almost any other subject since, in this case,
there is not a clearly defined subject. Medieval Italy has
been called a mere geogra-hical expression, Germany has not
even been that.
Since the crowning of Charlemagne in 800 A.D. there has
been some degree of Ge:. kingdom. However, the kings
were prevented from ruliP effectively, because within Ger-
many they were plaqued by subordinate units strong enough to
challenge even feudal conceptions of monarchy. The kings
became involved in a complicated relationship with the church
to obtain help in counteracting the influence of the sub-
ordinate princely units. In an attempt to be linked
through Charlemagne with the Roman Empire of antiquity, the
German kinps assumed the title of "Roman Emperors" and were
customarily crowned by the popes--whence the name "Holy
Roman Empire of the German Nation".
In exchange for their recognition by the papcy and
suroort by the high officials of the church in Germany, the
kings supported the Vatican with military aid.
The Holy Roman Empire, despite the rest of its name,
was not exclusively German; it included the Burgundian
inheritance (the Carolingian "middle kingdom") and parts of
Italy and the Netherlands, which were not German in any ethnic
sense. The extensive and desperate nature of the territories
tended to involve Germany in many foriegn quarrels which
only ignited her internal problems.
The feudal princes were by no means eliminated as a
political power by the emperors' alliance with the papacy.
The princes of the church that were to help contain the
temporal princes, themselves became more independent from
both the Emneror and the church, thus further restricting the
emperors control over the territories. In an attempt to
rectify the situation, the popes lost more to the increasing-
ly powerful nrinces. A group of more powerful German princes
arbitarily constituted themselves into an electoral college
to elect the German ruler. But, for another century the
papacy claimed the right to veto imperial elections. In
1356, the Hapsburg emperor Charles IV escaped this situation
by means of his famous Golden Bull, in which he acknowledged
and regulated the electoral procedures.
At the same time that "national" feudalism was
established in England and royal power was consolidated in
France, Germany increased feudalization by introducing a
feudal hierarchy in which the head was elected. In Germany
as well as elsewhere, cities began to flourish. City life
and institutions, so different than feudal agrarian life,
were thus born into an environment which placed power and
prestige in the hands of the feudal princes. From the begin-
ning German cities were condemned to being isolated islands
in an agrarian and feudal sea.
German history between the thirteenth and nineteenth
centuries is largely the history of individual German
principalities, of their relationships with the Empire and
with foreign powers, and of intermittent and always frustrat-
ed attempts to achieve a more substantial and permanent unity.
Germany was a state dominated by Estates.
The Protestant Reformation
No place in Europe, other than in Germany, could the
setting have been better suited for religious reformation.
The German populace was willing to accept new ideas toward
reli-ion as a result of their familiarity of disunity and
their disgust with the Catholic Church and its high officials.
The condition of the Catholic Church, against which the
Reformation movement generally was a protest, needs to be
made clear. The beginning, a clerical disintegration, is
visible in the early fourteenth century. The priesthood
played fast and free with the rites of the Church. New
saints were created by the dozen. Clergy showed open dis-
belief in the doctrines they professed and contempt was
displayed for the ceremonies they performed. It was common
for priests to have a flourishing trade as money lenders,
landlords of ale houses, gambling dens, and even brothel-
keepers. In some convents promiscuous intercourse between
the sexes was openly practiced, the offspring being raised
as nuns or monks. In addition, the German people were feel-
ing the added burden of investitures and Papal dues and
taxes. Excessive exploitation by Pope Leo X for the purpose
of completing the cathedral of Saint Peter's at Home caused
special offences. These activities and burdens directly led.
to the dramatic incidents with which the Lutheran Reforma-
Martin Luther, an ex-monk and university lecturer, nail-
ed his theses onto the door of the Schloss-Kirche in Wittenburg
on October 31, 1517. This act has been recognized as the
official opening of the Reformation. It is not important
here to discuss the acts and effects of Luther and the
Beformation--history tells that story. It is interesting,
however, to mention that Luther had a more than modern,
liberal view of marriage. He felt that marriage was purely
for the purpose of sexual satisfaction. He also felt
nothing was wrong with polygamy, and he wrote that celibacy
Probably Luther's most important work was that of trans-
lating the Bible into a German language. This opened the use
of the Bible to every German that had a mastery of reading
his own language. All discussions of the day were on the
divine writings of the Bible. Merchant, prince, and peasant
now had access to the divine word for their own interpreta-
tion. The development of the printing press also helped
the spread of religious thought and activities. The introduction
of literature in the German language and the press making
new writings more readily available probably also contributed
to more unrest and reformation in Germany--a new national
feeling was felt among the peoples.
The peasant revolts of 1525 reveal the unrest that was
present during these times, During this year the peasants
of southern and western German provinces revolted against
the powerful nobles. The movement was supported by strong
religious, political, and economical demands of the peasants
being justified by Biblical quotations. The revolt spread
quickly and before it could be put down much destruction
prevailed. Before the year's end hundreds of castles and
monasteries were destroyed, almost as many villages and towns
were levelled to the ground, and thousands had been brutally
killed. Even today ruins of this period may be seen across
Arising out of the remains of the 1525 peasant revolt
came a new religious movement known as the Anabaptist
Movement. This group of believers began in Switzerland
and quickly spread it ideas into Germany, up the Rhine, and
into the Netherlands. The early groups soon developed into
a united radical and strict group much hated by both Catholics
and Lutheran Protestants. In 1534-1535 this opposition and
mistrust came to a head and the Anabaptists were destroyed
at Monster in the "reign of saints." Its members were kill-
ed and its leaders were tortured and executed as an example
Later a more moderate section formed under the
leadership of Menno Simon. This group, under the name of
Mennonite, settled down into a mere religious sect. Their
importance to Colonial America cannot be overlooked. However,
their history and direct influence is illustrated in another
student's research report, so it will not be discussed here.
The Thirty Years War
The disunity of the sixteenth century never really
improved. Forever, the disputes and wars of that century
were nothing in comparison to the devastation that occurred
in the first half of the seventeenth century under the name
of the Thirty Year's war,
Both religion and politics were involved. The Catholics
were on the offensive with their Counter Reformation, seek-
ing not only to contain but to reverse the Protestant tide.
This movement was most effective in the Hapsburg territories
where the resulting tension and hostility finally exploded
into a war with the Irotestant revolt against the
Hapsburgs in 1618. Soon the religious war spread throughout
Germany and then beyond its borders. As time went on the
political interests of the European powers overshadowed the
religious issue. Religious differences soon were forgotten
however, and Catholic France supported the Frotestant king
of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus. Germany became a passive
battlefield on which the European powers fought their contest
for political supremacy.
With the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which attempted to
restore the status quo of 1624, Germany still had a strong
religious division. However, religious differences soon
subsided to some extent and interest turned to more economical
and social matters. The confusion, dislocation, and sheer
misery accumulated by 1648 exceeded anything within the
knowledge of people at that time. The population of Germany
was reduced by one-third during the war. Internal migrations
produced severe shortages of manpower in many localities.
Entire villages were deserted and vanished from the face of
the earth. All land was heavily in debt.
The town dwellers, although protected by city walls,
were badly hit indirectly--trade, capital, industry, and
mining were all seriously dislocated; standards of production,
as well asstandards of living, fell steeply. Perhaps
most seriously hurt was urban morale. With all effort be-
ing given to bare survival, idealism and cultural values were
left to second place. A generation had grown up that had
never known peace. It tended to be wild, rough, unscrupulous,
and drunk. In cultural terms this development was disastrous
in the towns as they were the bearers of cultural tradition.
It was under these conditions that the first groups
of Germans left Germany and settled in America. The memory
of this awful war erd its destruction greatly encouraged
and influenced the migrations of the Germans to peaceful
America. Survival in the American wilderness could be no
harder than survival in war-torn Germany.
German City and Rural Life
Germany, during this period of study, was a complex
mixture of estates owned by county gentlemen and of cities
of various types. To understand the private lives of the
people one must understand their respective environment,
There were basically two types of cities. The first
and oldest was the free city. It was formed along and at
the "cross-roads" of early trade routes. These cities were
usually free from the control of a land holder or Junker
and attempted to have their own representative present at
sessions of the Reichstadt.
The second type of city was oftentimes smaller and
owed its existence to a noble landholder. Although the
allegiance of the citizens varied, the private life of the
people was very similar.
The character of a sixteenth century town may be
drawn from portions of a narrative:
As evening approaches, our traveller strolls
forth into the streets and narrow lanes of the town,
lined with overhanging gables that almost meet
overhead and shut out the light of the afternoon
sun, so that twilight seems already to have fallen.
Observing that the burghers, with their wives and
children, the work of the day being done, are all
wending toward the western gate, he goes along
with the stream till, passing underneath the
heavy portcullis and through the outer rampart,
he finds himself in the plain outside, across which
a rugged bridle-path leads to a large quadrangular
meadow, rough and more or less worn, where a
considerable crowd has already assembled. This is
the Allerwiese, or public pleasure-ground of the
town. Here there are not only high festivities on
Sunday and holidays, but every fine evening in
summer numbers of citizens gather together to
watch the apprentices exercising their strength in
athletic feats, and competing with one another in
various sports, such as running, wrestling,
...As the shadows deepen and darkness falls upon
the rlain, our visitor joins the groups which are
now fast leaving the meadow, and repasses the great
embrasure just as the rushli-hts begin to twinkle
in the windows and a swinging oil-lamp to cast a
dim light here and there in the streets...At last,
however, the visitor reaches his inn by the aid of
a friendly guildsman and his torch; and retiring
to his chamber, with its straw-covered floor,
rough oaken bedstead, hard mattress, and coverings
not much better than horse-cloths, he falls asleep
as the bell of the minster tolls out ten o'clock
over the now dark and silent city.(Bax, 1915, pp.
Houses of the time varied much in size--in Frankfort,
for instance, there were houses with four and houses with
sixteen or more rooms. They were, however, roughly of the
same type as early medieval houses with steep pitched roofs
perpendicular to the street. The poorer people did not
live in smaller houses but in sublet portions of larger
houses. "Even in a small town like Durlach (1716) only
about a quarter of the total number of houses had one story
and were meant for a single family. Most had two or three
stories with perhaps a shop or workshop and one small flat
(consisting of a kitchen, livingroom, and perhaps a bedroom)
on the ground floor, and two similar flats on each of the
other floors" (Buford, 1965, p. 209). A flat of the kind
described above was the general unit. If a family needed
more space, it had to take two flats. There were often six
to ten or more persons living in a similar three room flat.
The most common house had three stories. The ground
floor was built around a large hall, entered from the street
by a wide door, led to a courtyard behind with outbuildings
around it. The merchant and craftsmen had their shops on
this ground level with storage in the cellar or outbuildings.
The second story contained the reception rooms and several
bedrooms around an unper hall, where the great chests stood
with the family linen. The top story contained the remain-
ing bedrooms. There were, however, innumerable modifications
as every house was built for a different owner.
Stone houses were by no means common even to the rich.
The usual tyDe was the Fackwerk, or half-timbered, house
with a thatched or shingled roof.
The typical middle-class home indicated a general
desire for comfort. The decorations and furnishings ranged
from primitive to almost luxury. The panelled walls of
earlier times had been replaced by loose hangings hung on
hooks. These were usually of woven material or leather
and were liked because they didn't harbor rats as did the
Furniture was solid and plain. In the ordinary home it
was, for the most part, made from pine and painted green or
nut-brown. There was little beyond cupboards or chests for
linen and clothes; a table, perhaps of oak; chairs and a box
bench; and a wooden bedstead. Better homes might have a
chest of drawers made from walnut.
Respecting the food of the early German, it is stated
that he ate his full in flesh of every kind--fish, bread,
fruit, and drinking wine often to excess. He had three
hearty meals a day with at least four courses each. Crabb
Robinson (as stated by Bruford, 1965) gives an Englishman's
impression of German cooking in 1800. He was particularly
struck with the excellence of German soups, but deplored the
absence of puddings. He.quotes as a typical meal at
his inn in Frankfort, he was given soup, boiled meat, a
dish of vegetables with an entremets, and lastly, roast beef
and dessert, the whole washed down with a pint of Rhine wine.
The everyday life and thought of the country dwellers
were like one might expect, given the fundamental conditions
of their life. There were great differences from family to
family and from region to region. Those in the north and
east of Germany were much worse off than those of the south
The following description by Prothero (Social Englsnd,
as stated by Bruford, 1965) of English rural life of this
period could be applied almost in every detail to German
The inhabitants had little need of communica-
tion with their immediate neighbors, still less with
the outside world. The fields and livestock provided
the necessary food and clothing. Whatever wood
might be required for buildings, fences, or fuel
was provided on the waste. Each village had its
mill, generally the property of the lord of the
manor. Almost every house had its own oven and brew-
ing kettle. Women spun wool into coarse cloth; men
tanned their own leather...The rough tools required
for cultivation of the soil and the crude household
utensils needed for the comfort of daily life were
made at home. In the long winter evenings farmers,
their sons, and their servants carved the wooden
spoons, platters, and the beechen bowls; fitted
and rivetted the bottoms into the horn mugs or closed,
in coarse fashion, the holes in the leather jugs...
Traveling carpenters, smiths, and tinkers visited
farmhouses and more remote villages at rare inter-
vals to perform those parts of the work which needed
this professional skill...Spinning wheels, distaffs,
and needles were never idle. Coarse, homemade
cloth and linen supplied all wants. The very names
spinster, webster, shepster, litster, brewster, and
baxtter show that women spun, wove, cut-out and
dyed cloth as well as brewed and baked in the
The peasants' clothes followed utilitarian demands
rather t'an fashion. Styles of dress did change over great
periods of time, but very slowly because the peasants used
their clothes until they were worn out.
The peasant was strongly attached to tradition, but
he was no more incapable than any other man of modifying
what he borrowed to serve his own needs and of having
good ideas of his own. Although the peasant was held to be
coarse, stupid, dishonest, and a drunk, the counrty-man
was, in his own way, a completely civilized person who was
superior to the townsman in many areas. Because he was so
seldom called upon to adapt himself to new situations, the
the average citizen was intensely conservative. There was
something almost sacred for him in the established order of
things, both in his trade and quite trivial matters of every-
day life. Life was governed by petty rules and convention
to an extent which today seems incredible.
The traveler often was amazed to see the hard work of
the German peasant. The Englishman, Howitt, minimized the
hardness of the peasants' lot however, because these peasants,
for the most part, owned the property which they cultivated,
whereas in England the peasant usually was a laborer for a
Howitt also noted (as stated by Bruford, 1965) that,
"the hoarding of linen and of stockings is a passion with
most German ladies. Spinning wheels abound, and are to be
seen in the houses of many people of great pretensions: in
still more of the burgher class, and in every house of the
common people. Ladies of rank and fortune are still plenti-
ful, who spend their mornings in the kitchen up to their
elbows in flour." Bread, preserves, soap, and candles were
made in the home.
A trait of all Germans was their love of the soil.
This was evident wherever there were Germans, in their
tender loving care of gardening and the flower pot--in large
cities the flower box--which always accompanied a German
house. The German peasant clung tenaciously to his soil.
For him soil was not capital, but a refuge amid the uncertain-
ties of life. The peasant class was therefore the most stable
class in Germany (Diesel, 1931).
At the time that other European powers were develop-
ing colonies in America, Germany was concerned with internal
problems and conflicts. Germany did however, give much
thought to colonization. In 1662, Germany offered to buy
New Amsterdam from the Dutch, but before a settlement could
be made the English captured the colony and gained control.
Germany's continental expansion eastward provided ample
new sources for rye, fish, and beer. So, in 1842, when an
offer was made by Mexico to sell its territory in the
American Southwest, the Prussian rulers turned down the
opportunity to create a vast German Colony in that area
The lack of a German colony in America did not seem
to discouraPe the Germans from immigrating. In 1683, the
first group settled at Germantown, Pennsylvania under the
leadership of Francis Daniel Pastorious. This was a Pietist
group that obtained a plot of land from William Penn. The
Germans found Pennsylvania especially suited to their liking
because the Quakers offered them religious tolerances not
found elsewhere, and the land was well suited to their agrarian
background. The Germans felt at home among the Quakers
because both groups were pacifists and the Quaker colony
During the next twenty years many hundreds of other
sectarians came from the Rhineland: German Quakers, Men-
nonites, and many German Baptist Brethren sometimes called
These groups settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and
later spread to the south and west.
Most of these people come with substantial money or
financial backing to set-up as independent farmers or to
establish their own particular trades. Pastorious (as stated
by Wright, 1957) wrote a year after his arrival, "My com-
pany consisted of many sorts of people, there was a doctor
of medicine with his wife and eight children, a French
captain, a low Dutch cakebaker, an apothecary, a glassblower,
a mason, a smith, a wheelwright, a cabinetmaker, a cooper, a
hatmaker, a cobbler, a tailor, a gardener, farmers, seamstresses,
etc. in all about eighty person besides the crew." Most all
of the groups were just as diverse as the first and except
for the German Lutherans, which came later, all were finan-
Not all Germans immigrated through Philadelphia. Many
Germans and German Swiss landed at Charleston, South Carolina
and settled in the back country of that colony. A few tried
to settle in Maine, but New England colonies proved unfavor-
able compared to other, more hospitable regions.
Another group of United Brethren, or Moravians, tried
to settle Georgia, but fled to Pennsylvania when a war with
the Spanish of Florida seemed eminent. This group of Germans
re-settled at Bethlaham and Nazareth, Pennsylvania and
became noted for their schools, their music, and their re-
lationships with the Indians.
German industry, thrift, and capacity for hard work
made the German settlements prosperous within one generation,
and their sense of family solidarity made for economic
stability. German communities could be identified by the
large barns, sleek cattle, and stout workhorses. Flour mills
and saw mills dotted their territory. In their great covered
wagons, they hauled flour, meat, fruit, and vegetables to
town markets considered too distant to be used by other
farmers. So productive were the German farms that it is said,
Pennsylvania alone could have fed the rest of the colonies
The Germans were well known for their crafts and work-
manship. Their influence in many fields is still present
today. However, this influence is illustrated in another
student's research report, so it will not be discussed here.
GERMAN CULTURE 1600-1800
The Germans are religious by nature. The best
illustration of this is the Reformation, which is undoubt-
ly Germany's best contribution to civilization. The effects
that the Reformation had on Germany have been discussed in
a previous chapter. With the Reformation all citizens be-
came aware of their true religious feelings. This started
a movement that acted like a sieve to sift everyone into
groups with similar beliefs. Once these groups organized
and became established, their individual beliefs caused dis-
agreements among the different neighboring groups. As a
result, those groups that took the brunt of these disputes
emmirrated to more peaceful and hospitable areas, America
was fortunate that many of these groups finally made their
way to her golden shores.
The free common school is a German institution. Martin
Luther gave popular education its first start in his church
schools, out of which grew the present plan and system of
In the larger cities of Germany there were both church
schools and some private schools. The private schools were
usually limited to the wealthy who could afford to have their
son taught Latin, mathematics and worldly knowledge. Some
cities also were seats for colleges or universities, The
Reformation brought with it new ideas and procedures to be
used in the universities. The time was right and many of
these ideas were adapted permanately.
Rural areas also had common schools. Here boys and
girls attended school oftentimes in a single room of a
peasant house. The schoolmaster was poorly paid and usually
had another job. His pay was so low that quite often he
slept in the room in which he taught. These rural schools
taught the three R's--reading, writing and 'rithmatic.
They were not as elaborate as the city schools but they did
provide a good basic education where the student could study
until they reached their early teens.
This period of concentrated study contains four great
periods of German literature. They are the Period of the
Thirty-Years War (1600-1748), the Classical Period (1748-1832),
the Romantic Feriod (1797-1830), and the Period of Realism
Of the first period only four men echeived distinction,
Three were hymn writiers--von Spee, Gerhardt, and Fleming.
The4ourth, Hans Christoffel Grimmelshausen, wrote a great
panorama of the life during the Thirty Years' War.
Goethe and Schiller were the headliners of the Classical
Period. They were mutal friends, although unlike in person-
alities, they complimented one another. Goethe is well
noted for his light and lively historical stories. His work
shows his admiration for Homer, Shakesneare, and Rousseau.
Schiller wrote many dramas, but is best known for his drama
"Rcmanticism is a particular German movement born of the
German-dreamer" (Handschin, 1937). It plays more on feelings
than on reason. The romanticist did not follow his ideas
through to the logical conclusion. It was a reaction against
Rationalism and Classicism. Works from this period include:
Schlegel's "Lucinde," Tieck's "Puss and Boots," and Hoffmann's
"The Golden Teapot."
Realism was a result of natural sciences and industrializa-
tion coming to Germany causing the country to come out of her
dream world. Life in reactionary Germany had become very
hard, the people became pessimists; writers chose hard, bitter
plots. Titles like "Woe to Him that Lives", "Between Heaven and
Earth", and "How I Came by a Wife" reveal the mood of this period.
Art and Architecture
Germany between 1600 and 1800 was in a cultural
slump. It did, however, borrow from the rest of Europe in
its art and architecture. The styles that evolved during this
time were the Renaissance style from Italy (1500-1600); the
Baroque again from Italy (1600-1750); the Rococo, a continua-
tion of Baroque (1750-1790); and Classicism, draw from
Greek and Roman ideas (1790-1830). Of these styles, probably
only Rococo reached its peak in Germany. The Germans liked
the light and airy style. Many excellent examples still
remain in Germany today--Einsiedeln Abbey Church, Rohr
Abbey Church, and Vlerzehnheiligen Pilgrimage Church.
Music is the German art. The lurer, Europe's oldest
musical instrument, was a German invention. It is very
likely that European music originated with the Germans
(Handschin, 1937). Bach, Handel, vonGluck, Haydn, Mozart,
Beethoven, Maria vonWeber, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann,
Wagner, Offenbach, Bruckner, and Brahams were all Germans.
Germany's music and its influence on America is illustrated
in another student's research report, so it will not be
GERMAN INFLUENCE IN AMERICA
Although we have seen that the Germans had no colony
of their own, they did settle within the Englich colonies.
At the outbreak of the Revolution, Pennsylvania alone had
a population of 100,000 Germans and there were many thousands
more in Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas. Even though
a small percentage of the total Population, the German
settlers left a lasting mark on America.
Today, two hundred years later, one may still see
much of this influence and its results. The Germans now
have spread from coast to coast, taking with them their
characteristics and culture. In most areas they have
mixed to become a integral part of the American citzenry,
however, there are still many small rockets of Germans that
stay closely tied to their old cultural ways.
From their original location in Pennsylvania the Germans
moved westward in search of fertile farm land. Across
Pnnsylvania they moved into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois,
and later on into Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. Even today
many of these midwestern states have large local populations
of German defendants. Each area offers a glimpse of old
Germany, German ways, and German influence on American culture.
Perhar~ the easiest way to become aware of his influence
is to visit those areas that have been directly influenced by
the Germans. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a wonderful
nlace to visit for a week where one may experience the
atmosphere and attitude of an "old German," American
community. The visitor may be surprised that this area has
changed very little in the last three centuries. The area
was settled by Yeronites, German Baptist Brethren and other
smaller religious sects. Today these people still mominate,
the area, many living on the same farms that their forefathers
first settled circa. 1700. As one travels the area they
become aware of the simrrlicity of the people. The homes
are very much like those of old Germany, except that stone
has been substituted for the fachwerk because of the over
abundance of limestone in the fields and upon the mountain
sides. The farmsteads are nest and well cared for. Large
barns with their artistic hex signs provide shelter for the-
many cattle and also provide storage for hay, other grain, and
As one drives along the narrow winding road he may
notice that the more conservative groups drive horse drawn
wagons, are dressed in broad brimmed hats or bonnets and
wear the black and white "plain clothes" much like the dress
of medieval Eurone. Possibly the most amazing finding of the
traveler is that many of thepe large farms are still culti-
vated by horse drawn equipment. IMany of the farmhouses are
without electricity or gas Ps the religious beliefs frown upon
worldly goods and luxury.
In the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania it is interesting?
to visit the farmer's market where the farmers sell their
produce and handicrafts. Here one may find anything imaginable
in the line of farm products. Also there are numerous
objects of fine craftmanship--simple furniture, household
fixtures and utensils, leather crafts, and textiles abound.
One may also visit the horse barns where the weekly sale
is held. Here one may view the sturdy work horses and watch
the men care for them and ready them to be sold,
A view of Lancaster County, however, can hardly be
called tyrical when looking for German influence in America.
As the Germans travelled westward their religion become more
liberal and their groups mixed more with other nationalities.
Reli-ion, even today, remains the unifying factor in German
communities. All across the Vidwest there are groups of
Menonites and German Baptist Brethren (now known as "Church of
the Brethren" or simply "The Brethren"). In these communities
the family is still a strong institution where ties remain
strong. Community pride is very high and each person is
willing to heln his neighbor when the need arises. In their
communities the Germans are oftentimes the leading craftsmen.
They take a great rride in their work and are well known for
Fuch of Germany's influence in America has been lost or
set aside without much thought as to its orgin. Our education
system of the "free" or "common school", and its three level
structure was introduced by German settlers in Ohio. Even
our university system draws on many German concepts adapted
after the Reformation. German craftsmen developed the
Lancas'er rifle which greatly influenced the outcome of the
American Revolution and the Conestoga wagon made our vast
western territories accessible for settlement.
Most everyone has experienced the joy of partaking of
a hearty German real. Their breads and rich desserts have
become well known in many parts of the country. However,
it is seldom realized that the Germans were the first to
introduce the vast variety of vegetable dishes in the daily
meals. A tradition that almost all American homes today
German art, architecture and Music has been quite
inflIencial in the United States. Although most of the German
immigrants were of the peasant class and lacked much
knowled-e of the high art forms of the day, thay did bring
with them their folk art, architecture and music, German folk
architecture may be traced across America from Pensylvania
westward in the homes and churches of German settlers.
It is very evident that the great German musicians
have greatly influenced American music to the point that
America is now the leadirg country in musical development
and rrogress. There was, however, another level of musical
influence that came to American from Germany. That was the
folk music of the German peasantry--today known as the polka.
This popular style of music and dance is well known and liked
across the northern Midwest and most of the country.
COI-FETTS AND CONCLUSIONS
It seems almost impossible to completely identify
all of the German influences on American culture. Over the
years there has been such a mixing of cultures in America
that few strictly German influence remain, However, this
is not to say that the German influence no longer exists or
that that influence was not great. The cultural background
that early Germans brought with them when they immigrated
has truely effected and touched, in some way, every American.
The specific influences mentioned in this research are
only a small portion of the total impact of German colonization
in America, These examples were used because they allow the
reader to appreciate the more visable contribution of the
Germans. With this background.it is hoped that the reader
will bepin to be able to identify less pronounced cultural
influences not only of the Germans but of all nationalities.
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McBride, Nast, and Comrany, 1915.
Bruford, W.H. Germany in the Eighteenth Century: The Social
Background of the Literary Revival. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1935.
Germany and the Germans. New York: Macmillian,
Glassie, H. Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the
Eastern United States. Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1968.
Gowans, A. Images of American Living. New York: Harper and
Handschin, C.H. Introduction to German Civilization.
New York: Prentice-Hall, Incorporated, 1937.
Hansen, T.L. "Germany Colonization Before 1860," Smith
College Studies in History, volume IX, July, 1924.
Henderson, E.F. A Short History of Germany, Volume I.
New York: The MacMillan Company, 1917.
Simon, W.H. Germany:
A Concise History of Western Architecture.
Harcourt, Brace, and World Incorporated, 1969.
A Brief History. New York: Random
Wright, L.B. The Cultural Life of the American Colonies.
1607-1763. New York: Harper and Row, 1957.
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