Der Rise und Fall of German Publications in the USA (und some odder schtuff too).

According to the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University, the first German-language publication appeared in the USA in 1732. This number fluctuated at levels under 10 until 1797, when the Pennsylvania Dutch population began to increase, peaking at 626 German-language newspapers available in 1894. Other than Pennsylvania, the largest German populations were centered around New York, Chicago and Milwaukee.

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I was born and raised in New York, and spent 9 years living in the heart of Yorkville, Manhattan’s German enclave in the 50’s.

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I often remember my mother speaking of Kleine Konditorei, although I have no memory of  ever going there, but there was a Turnverein (gym club) right across the street from our apartment where I went for some gymnastics classes.

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The Manhatten Turn Verein building on the corner of 85th and Lexington.

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I’m not certain if this is the New York location, but the interior looked a lot like this – I remember the rings hanging from the ceiling everywhere.

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Street view showing my apartment building on the right (my bedroom window is just to the left of the word “Hot”) and the former location of the Turn Verein on the left.

A video recounting the history of the Turn Verein in the United States

There were also several German shops that I recall, including a deliciously stinky cheese shop. Sadly, rising rents and changing immigration laws tolled the death knell for Germantown, and little is left besides the Schaller and Weber grocery and the Heidelberg restaurant.

Aside from a small, anomalous tick upward in 1945 (not surprising, given world events), the number of German publications declined steadily; in 2011, only 42 publications remained, and surprisingly do not even show up on the 2011 map in the Pennsylvania region.

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An animated version of the data created by Dan Chang, Krissy Clark, Yuankai Ge, Geoff McGhee, Yinfeng Qin and Jason Wang shows the rise and fall over time.

Der alte Wolf hat gesprochen.

5 responses to “Der Rise und Fall of German Publications in the USA (und some odder schtuff too).

  1. Hallo Alter Wolf,
    Thanks for sharing these very interesting facts and sentiments: I enjoyed reading this post. Those pictures of the Tunrverein reminded me of the 1920s in Germany, the era of “Turnvater Jahn”, but also of some of my gymnastics lessons at the “Gymnasium” – as our high schools in Germany are called – in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
    Down here in southern Texas some people, especially in Fredericksburg [where the Main Street is still also called Hauptstrasse], still speak German. There’s also a Skat-club there. And the University of Texas [http://www.tgdp.org/] tries to preserve the Texas German Dialect. Unfortunately, though, there are no German publications, to the best of my knowledge. But still, we very much like to visit Fredericksburg and the surrounding area, and, if all our plans materialize, we intend to move there.
    Liebe Grüße aus dem südlichen Texas, und mach’s gut,
    Pit

  2. A bunch of Mennonites settled in the Shenandoah Valley, as you doubtless know, Chris. There are a lot of German-type last names here, but I don’t think anybody publishes anything in German now. I have heard Mennonites speaking some form of German to their children in public, probably to keep dirty family laundry private.

    This all reminds me of my childhood—I spent second through fifth, ninth, and tenth grades in Deutschland and was very happy there.

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