The Germans in America: Chronology
Several Germans were among the settlers at Jamestown.
Peter Minuit, a German, came to New Amsterdam to serve as the governor
of the Dutch colony, New Netherlands. Later he governed the Swedish colony
Thirteen families of German Mennonites seeking religious
freedom arrived in Pennsylvania; led by Franz Pastorius, they purchased
43,000 acres of land and founded Germantown, six miles north of Philadelphia.
The settling of the British colonies by small German-speaking religious
groups continued. The groups included Swiss Mennonites, Baptist Dunkers,
Schwenkfelders, Moravians, Amish,
and Waldensians; most German immigrants belonged to the main Lutheran and
Reformed churches. The central colonies received the greatest part of this
immigration, especially Pennsylvania.
As many as half of these immigrants came as redemptioners, that is, they
agreed to work in America for four to seven years in exchange for free
passage across the Atlantic. German settlers designed and built the Conestoga
wagon, which was used in the opening of the American Frontier.
Protestants were expelled from Salzburg,
Austria, in this year. They subsequently founded Ebenezer,
The first German-language newspaper, Philadelphische
Zeitung, was published in the United States. German publishing
flourished in Philadelphia and in smaller communities such as Ephrata,
John Peter Zenger, who came to America as an indentured servant from the
Palatinate region of Germany, founded a newspaper, The New-York Weekly
Journal; two years later he was acquitted in a landmark trial involving
freedom of the press.
Moravians founded Bethlehem
and Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
Christopher Saur, a German printer in Philadelphia, printed the first Bible
General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Prussian officer, became inspector
general of the Continental Army.
As many as 5,000 of the Hessian soldiers hired by Britain to fight in the
Revolutionary War remained in America after the end of hostilities.
John Jacob Astor
(1763-1848) left his village of Waldorf in Germany and arrived in the
United States in 1784 with $25 and seven flutes. He amassed a fortune from
real estate dealings and the fur trade, and at his death was by far the
richest man in the country, worth an estimated $20 million.
By this date as many as 100,000 Germans may have immigrated to America;
they and their descendants made up an estimated 8.6 percent of the population
of the United States; in Pennsylvania they accounted for 33 percent of
the population; in Maryland for 12 percent.
A Protestant group from Wuerttemberg, named Rappists after their leader
George Rapp, founded Harmony, Pennsylvania, a utopian community.
The Rappists purchased 30,000 acres of land in Indiana and founded a new
settlement, New Harmony. In 1825 they returned to Pennsylvania and founded
Economy, 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Other towns founded by religious
groups in this period included Zoar, Ohio, Amana, Iowa, and St. Nazianz,
The Germanic custom of having a specially decorated tree at Christmas time
was introduced to America by Pennsylvania Dutch in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Later in the century, the Pennsylvania Dutch version of St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas,
evolved into America's Santa
Claus, popularized by a German immigrant and influential political
Nast. The Easter bunny and Easter eggs were also brought to this country
by German immigrants.
Gottfried Duden published in Germany his idyllic account of the several
years he spent as a settler in Missouri; so popular that it appeared in
three editions, the book caused numerous Germans to leave for the New World.
Neumann (1811-60) arrived in the United States in 1836 from his native
Bohemia to work as a priest in the country's German-speaking Roman Catholic
communities. He founded the first American diocesan school system, and
in 1852 became Bishop of Philadelphia. In 1977 he was canonized as a saint
by Pope Paul VI.
The German Philadelphia Settlement Society was founded and purchased 12,000
acres of land in Gasconade County, Missouri; two years later the society's
town of Hermann was incorporated with 450 inhabitants.
Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels sailed to America with three ships and 150
families to settle in Texas; the following year, New Braunfels, Texas,
The Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church was founded by German immigrants
to combat what they saw as the liberalization of Lutheranism in America.
The failure of the revolutions of 1848 to establish democracy caused thousands
to leave Germany to settle in America; the most famous of these refugees
was Carl Schurz.
He later served as a Union general in the Civil War, a United States senator
from Missouri, and secretary of the interior under President Rutherford
Nearly one million Germans immigrated to America in this decade, one of
the peak periods of German immigration; in 1854 alone, 215,000 Germans
arrived in this country.
Margaretha Meyer Schurz, a German immigrant and wife of Carl Schurz, established
the first kindergarten in America at Watertown, Wisconsin.
(1839-1913) left the Rhineland and settled in St. Louis, Missouri.
Four years later, he married the daughter of a prosperous brewer. In addition
to children, this union resulted in the founding of what was soon to become
an industry giant with holdings across the country: the Anheuser-Busch
An estimated 1.3 million German-born immigrants resided in the United States;
200 German-language magazines and newspapers were published in this country;
in St. Louis alone, there were seven German-language newspapers.
The century-old privileges granted to German farmers settled in Russia
were revoked by the Tsarist government, causing thousands of the farmers
to emigrate. By 1920, there were well over 100,000 of these so-called Volga
and Black Sea Germans in the United States, with the greatest numbers in
the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Colorado. Black Sea Germans soon became known
for their skill as wheat farmers. In 1990 an estimated one million descendants
of these Russian Germans lived in America.
In this decade, the decade of heaviest German
immigration, nearly 1.5 million Germans left their country to settle
in the United States; about 250,000, the greatest number ever, arrived
An estimated 2.8 million German-born immigrants lived in the United States.
A majority of the German-born living in the United States were located
in the "German
triangle," whose three points were Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and St. Louis.
About 800 German-language journals were being printed in the United States,
the greatest number ever. A typical newspaper was the New York Staats
In this year, an estimated 2.3 million German-born immigrants lived in
the United States. With declining immigration and increasing assimilation,
the number of German-language publications fell to about 550.
Roughly 1.7 million German-born immigrants lived in the United States;
the number of German-language publications fell to about 230.
The coming to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany caused a significant immigration
of leading German scientists, writers, musicians, scholars, and other artists
and intellectuals to the United States to escape persecution. Among them
were such notables as Albert Einstein, Bruno Walter, Arnold Schoenberg,
Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Hans Bethe, Thomas Mann, Marlene
Dietrich, Kurt Weil, Billy Wilder, Hannah Arendt, and Hans Morgenthau.
By the end of World War II, there were some 130,000 of these German and
Austrian refugees living in America.
An estimated 1.2 million German-born immigrants lived in the United States.
The Displaced Persons Act made general provisions for the immigration of
displaced persons in Eastern Europe, including ethnic Germans, to the United
Between 1951 and 1960, 580,000 Germans immigrated to the United States.
Between 1961 and 1970, 210,000 Germans immigrated to the United States.
Between 1971 and 1980, 65,000 Germans immigrated to the United States.
The United States and Germany celebrated the German-American Tricentennial,
marking the 300th anniversary of German immigration to Pennsylvania.
German-American Day was established by Congressional resolution and presidential
According to the Bureau of the Census, 58 million Americans claimed to
be solely or partially of German descent. German Americans were highly
assimilated, and the use of German in the United States had declined dramatically.
Some German language newspapers continued to be published in the United
States, for example the California