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.
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.
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.
The Manhatten Turn Verein building on the corner of 85th and Lexington.
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.
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.
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.
Edit: As a result of a discussion at a historical New York Facebook page, I gathered up some links that are relevant to the history of the German community in NYC:
(I still have a book of matches from the Kleine Konditorei).
This website is gone, but it was captured by the Wayback machine – it’s a lovely addition to the history of the area:
A video of memories of 86th street, some modern and some vintage. (Some of the pictures are kind of fuzzy, but it’s a nice look back.)
Der alte Wolf hat gesprochen.