American English dialects,
Pennsylvania Dutch English)
American German dialects, Standard German, Bavarian German,
Swabian German, Colognian German, Alsatian German, Bernese German,
Pennsylvania German, Plautdietsch,
51% Protestant, significantly Lutheran, Reformed and
also multiple other branches
26% Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
other German diaspora
Americans (German: Deutschamerikaner) are
Americans who have
full or partial German ancestry. With an estimated size of
approximately 44 million in 2016, German
Americans are the largest of
the ancestry groups reported by the
US Census Bureau
US Census Bureau in its American
Community Survey. The group accounts for about one third of the
total ethnic German population in the world.
None of the German states had American colonies. In the 1670s, the
first significant groups of German immigrants arrived in the British
colonies, settling primarily in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia.
Immigration continued in very large numbers during the 19th century,
with eight million arrivals from Germany. Between 1820 and 1870 over
seven and a half million German immigrants came to the United
States—more than doubling the entire population of the country. By
2010, their population grew to 49.8 million immigrants, reflecting a
jump of 6 million people since 2000.
There is a "German belt" that extends all the way across the United
States, from eastern
Pennsylvania to the
Oregon coast. Pennsylvania
has the largest population of German-
Americans in the U.S. and is home
to one of the group's original settlements, Germantown (Philadelphia),
founded in 1683 and the birthplace of the American antislavery
movement in 1688, as well as the revolutionary Battle of Germantown.
The state of
Pennsylvania has 3.5 million people of German ancestry.
They were pulled by the attractions of land and religious freedom, and
pushed out of Europe by shortages of land and religious or political
oppression. Many arrived seeking religious or political freedom,
others for economic opportunities greater than those in Europe, and
others for the chance to start fresh in the New World. The arrivals
before 1850 were mostly farmers who sought out the most productive
land, where their intensive farming techniques would pay off. After
1840, many came to cities, where "Germania"—German-speaking
Americans established the first kindergartens in the United
States, introduced the
Christmas tree tradition, and
introduced popular foods such as hot dogs and hamburgers to
The great majority of people with some German ancestry have become
Americanized and hardly can be distinguished; fewer than 5% speak
German. German-American societies abound, as do celebrations that are
held throughout the country to celebrate German heritage of which the
German-American Steuben Parade
German-American Steuben Parade in
New York City
New York City is one of the most
well-known and is held every third Saturday in September. Traditional
Oktoberfest celebrations and the
German-American Day are popular
festivities. There are major annual events in cities with German
heritage including Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, San
Antonio, and St. Louis.
1.1 Colonial era
1.1.4 New England
1.2 American Revolution
1.3 19th century
1.3.2 Northeastern cities
1.3.3 Cities of the Midwest
1.3.4 Deep South
Germans from Russia
1.3.7 Civil War
1.4 World Wars
World War I
World War I anti-German sentiment
1.4.3 World War II
1.5 Contemporary period
2.1 German-American communities
2.1.1 Communities with high percentages of people of German ancestry
2.1.2 Large communities with high percentages of people of German
2.1.3 Communities with the most residents born in Germany
5 German American influence
7 Notable people
7.1 German-American presidents
8 See also
10 Further reading
10.2 Primary sources
10.3 In German
11 External links
11.1 German-American history and culture
11.2 German-American organizations
11.3 Local German-American history and culture
Germans included many quite distinct subgroups with differing
religious and cultural values. Lutherans and Catholics typically
opposed Yankee moralizing programs such as the prohibition of beer,
and favored paternalistic families with the husband deciding the
family position on public affairs. They generally opposed
women's suffrage but this was used as argument in favor of suffrage
Americans became pariahs during World War I. On the
other hand, there were Protestant groups that emerged from European
pietism such as the German Methodist and United Brethren; they more
closely resembled the Yankee Methodists in their moralism.
The first English settlers arrived at Jamestown,
Virginia in 1607, and
were accompanied by the first German American, Dr. Johannes Fleischer.
He was followed in 1608 by five glassmakers and three carpenters or
house builders. The first permanent German settlement in what
United States was Germantown, Pennsylvania, founded near
Philadelphia on October 6, 1683.
John Jacob Astor, in an oil painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1794, was the
first of the
Astor family dynasty and the first millionaire in the
United States, making his fortune in the fur trade and New York City
Large numbers of
Germans migrated from the 1680s to 1760s, with
Pennsylvania the favored destination. They migrated to America for a
variety of reasons. Push factors involved worsening opportunities
for farm ownership in central Europe, persecution of some religious
groups, and military conscription; pull factors were better economic
conditions, especially the opportunity to own land, and religious
freedom. Often immigrants paid for their passage by selling their
labor for a period of years as indentured servants.
Large sections of Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, and the Shenandoah
Virginia attracted Germans. Most were Lutheran or German
Reformed; many belonged to small religious sects such as the Moravians
and Mennonites. German Catholics did not arrive in number until after
the War of 1812.
In 1709, Protestant
Germans from the Pfalz or Palatine region of
Germany escaped conditions of hardship, traveling first to Rotterdam
and then to London. Anne, Queen of Great Britain, helped them get to
her colonies in America. The trip was long and difficult to survive
because of the poor quality of food and water aboard ships and the
infectious disease typhus. Many immigrants, particularly children,
died before reaching America in June 1710.
The Palatine immigration of about 2100 people who survived was the
largest single immigration to America in the colonial period. Most
were first settled along the
Hudson River in work camps, to pay off
their passage. By 1711, seven villages had been established in New
York on the Robert Livingston manor. In 1723
Germans became the first
Europeans allowed to buy land in the
Mohawk Valley west of Little
Falls. One hundred homesteads were allocated in the Burnetsfield
Patent. By 1750, the
Germans occupied a strip some 12 miles
(19 km) long along both sides of the Mohawk River. The soil was
excellent; some 500 houses were built, mostly of stone, and the region
prospered in spite of Indian raids. Herkimer was the best-known of the
German settlements in a region long known as the "German Flats".
They kept to themselves, married their own, spoke German, attended
Lutheran churches, and retained their own customs and foods. They
emphasized farm ownership. Some mastered English to become conversant
with local legal and business opportunities. They tolerated slavery
(although few were rich enough to own a slave).
The most famous of the early German Palatine immigrants was editor
John Peter Zenger, who led the fight in colonial
New York City
New York City for
freedom of the press in America. A later immigrant, John Jacob Astor,
who came from Baden after the Revolutionary War, became the richest
man in America from his fur trading empire and real estate investments
in New York.
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John Law organized the first colonization of
Louisiana with German
immigrants. Of the over 5,000
Germans initially immigrating primarily
Alsace Region as few as 500 made up the first wave of
immigrants to leave
France en route to the Americas. Less than 150 of
those first indentured German farmers made it to
Louisiana and settled
along what became known as the German Coast. With tenacity,
determination and the leadership of D'arensburg these
trees, cleared land, and cultivated the soil with simple hand tools as
draft animals were not available. The German coast settlers supplied
the budding City of
New Orleans with corn, rice, eggs. and meat for
many years following.
Mississippi Company settled thousands of German pioneers in French
Louisiana during 1721. It encouraged Germans, particularly
the Alsatian region who had recently fallen under French rule, and the
Swiss to immigrate.
Alsace was sold to
France within the greater
context of the
Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War (1618–1648).
Jesuit Charlevoix traveled New
Canada and Louisiana) in
the early 1700s. His letter said "these 9,000 Germans, who were raised
in the Palatinate (
Alsace part of France) were in Arkansas. The
Arkansas en masse. They went to
New Orleans and demanded
passage to Europe. The
Mississippi Company gave the
Germans rich lands
on the right bank of the
Mississippi River about 25 miles (40 km)
above New Orleans. The area is now known as 'the German Coast'."
A thriving population of
Germans lived upriver from New Orleans,
Louisiana, known as the German Coast. They were attracted to the area
through pamphlets such as J. Hanno Deiler's "Louisiana: A Home for
Carl Schurz was the first German born US Senator (Missouri, 1868) and
later US Secretary of the Interior
Two waves of German colonists in 1714 and 1717 founded a large colony
Virginia called Germanna, located near modern-day Culpeper,
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood, taking
advantage of the headright system, had bought land in present-day
Spotsylvania and encouraged German immigration by advertising in
Germany for miners to move to
Virginia and establish a mining industry
in the colony. The name "Germanna", selected by Governor Alexander
Spotswood, reflected both the German immigrants who sailed across the
Virginia and the British Queen, Anne, who was in power at
the time of the first settlement at Germanna.
In North Carolina, German Moravians living around Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania purchased nearly 100,000 acres (400 km2) from Lord
Granville (one of the British Lords Proprietor) in the Piedmont of
North Carolina in 1753. They established German settlements on that
tract, especially in the area around what is now Winston-Salem.
They also founded the transitional settlement of Bethabara, North
Carolina, translated as House of Passage, the first planned Moravian
community in North Carolina, in 1759. Soon after, the German Moravians
founded the town of Salem in 1766 (now a historical section in the
center of Winston-Salem) and
Salem College (an early female college)
In the Georgia Colony,
Germans mainly from the
Swabia region settled
in Savannah, St. Simon's Island and
Fort Frederica in the 1730s and
1740s. They were actively recruited by
James Oglethorpe and quickly
distinguished themselves through improved farming, advanced tabby
(cement)-construction, and leading joint Lutheran-Anglican-Reformed
religious services for the colonists.
German immigrants also settled in other areas of the American South,
including around the Dutch (Deutsch) Fork area of South Carolina,
and Texas, especially in the Austin area.
Between 1742 and 1753, roughly 1,000
Germans settled in Broad Bay,
Massachusetts (now Waldoboro, Maine). Many of the colonists fled to
Boston, Maine, Nova Scotia, and
North Carolina after their houses were
burned and their neighbors killed or carried into captivity by Native
Germans who remained found it difficult to survive on
farming, and eventually turned to the shipping and fishing
The tide of German immigration to
Pennsylvania swelled between 1725
and 1775, with immigrants arriving as redemptioners or indentured
servants. By 1775,
Germans constituted about one-third of the
population of the state. German farmers were renowned for their highly
productive animal husbandry and agricultural practices. Politically,
they were generally inactive until 1740, when they joined a Quaker-led
coalition that took control of the legislature, which later supported
the American Revolution. Despite this, many of the German settlers
were loyalists during the Revolution, possibly because they feared
their royal land grants would be taken away by a new republican
government, or because of loyalty to a British German monarchy who had
provided the opportunity to live in a liberal society. The
Germans, comprising Lutherans, Reformed, Mennonites, Amish, and other
sects, developed a rich religious life with a strong musical culture.
Collectively, they came to be known as the
Pennsylvania Dutch (from
Etymologically, the word Dutch originates from the Old High German
word "diutisc" (from "diot" "people"), referring to the Germanic
"language of the people" as opposed to Latin, the language of the
learned (see also theodiscus). Only later did the word come to refer
to the people who spoke the language. Other Germanic language variants
for "deutsch/deitsch/dutch" are: Dutch "Duits" and "Diets", Yiddish
"daytsh", Danish/Norwegian "tysk", or Swedish "tyska." The Japanese
"doitzu" also derives from the aforementioned "Dutch" variations.
There were few German Catholics in
Pennsylvania before the 1810s.
Studebaker brothers, forefathers of the wagon and automobile
makers, arrived in
Pennsylvania in 1736 from the famous blade town of
Solingen. With their skills, they made wagons that carried the
frontiersmen westward; their cannons provided the
Union Army with
artillery in the American Civil War, and their automobile company
became one of the largest in America, although never eclipsing the
"Big Three", and was a factor in the war effort and in the industrial
foundations of the Army.
From names in the 1790 U.S. census, historians estimate Germans
constituted nearly 9% of the white population in the United
Germans in the American Revolution
The King of Great Britain, whose King George III was also the Elector
of Hanover in Germany, hired 18,000 Hessians (career soldiers from
small German states) to support British forces. Many were captured;
they remained as prisoners during the war but some stayed and became
U.S. citizens. German
Americans served on both sides of the
American Revolution. The religious minorities were neutral. The
Lutherans were split. In New York, many were neutral or supported the
Loyalist cause. In
Pennsylvania most were on the patriot side. The
Muhlenberg family, led by Rev.
Henry Muhlenberg was especially
influential on the Patriot side. His son Peter Muhlenberg, a
Lutheran clergyman in
Virginia became a major general and later a
Fries's Rebellion was an anti-tax movement among
Pennsylvania in 1799-1800.
German population density in the United States, 1872
German Immigration to
United States (1820–2004)
Total : 7,237,594
The largest flow of German immigration to America occurred between
1820 and World War I, during which time nearly six million Germans
immigrated to the United States. From 1840 to 1880, they were the
largest group of immigrants. Following the Revolutions of 1848 in the
German states, a wave of political refugees fled to America, who
became known as Forty-Eighters. They included professionals,
journalists, and politicians. Prominent
Forty-Eighters included Carl
Schurz and Henry Villard.
"From the Old to the New World" shows German emigrants boarding a
steamer in Hamburg, to New York. Harper's Weekly, (New York) November
"Latin farmer" or
Latin Settlement is the designation of several
settlements founded by some of the
Dreissiger and other refugees from
Europe after rebellions like the
Frankfurter Wachensturm beginning in
the 1830s—predominantly in
Texas and Missouri, but also in other US
states—in which German intellectuals (freethinkers, German:
Freidenker, and Latinists) met together to devote themselves to the
German literature, philosophy, science, classical music, and the Latin
language. A prominent representative of this generation of immigrants
Gustav Koerner who lived most of the time in Belleville, Illinois
until his death.
Main article: History of the Jews in the United States
German Jews came in the colonial era. The largest numbers
arrived after 1820, especially in the mid-19th century. They
spread across the North and South (and California, where Levi Strauss
arrived in 1853. They formed small German-Jewish communities in cities
and towns. They typically were local and regional merchants selling
clothing; others were livestock dealers, agricultural commodity
traders, bankers, and operators of local businesses. Henry Lehman, who
Lehman Brothers in Alabama, was a particularly prominent
example of such a German-Jewish immigrant. They formed Reform
synagogues and sponsored numerous local and national philanthropic
organizations, such as B'nai B'rith. This German-speaking group is
quite distinct from the Yiddish-speaking East-European Jews who
arrived in much larger numbers starting in the late 19th century and
concentrated in New York.
Germans in Syracuse, New York and History of the
Germans in Baltimore
The port cities of New York, and Baltimore had large populations. As
did Hoboken, New Jersey.
Cities of the Midwest
Germans in Chicago;
Germans in Omaha, Nebraska;
and History of the
Germans in Louisville
Cities along the Great Lakes, the
Ohio River, and the
Missouri Rivers attracted a large German element. The Midwestern
cities of Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis,
Chicago were favored
destinations of German immigrants. Also, the
Northern Kentucky and
Louisville area along the
Ohio River was a favored destination. By
1900, the populations of the cities of Cleveland, Milwaukee, and
Cincinnati were all more than 40% German American. Dubuque and
Davenport, Iowa had even larger proportions, as did Omaha, Nebraska,
where the proportion of German
Americans was 57% in 1910. In many
other cities of the Midwest, such as Fort Wayne, Indiana, German
Americans were at least 30% of the population. By 1850 there
were 5,000 Germans, mostly Schwabians living in, and around, Ann
Many concentrations acquired distinctive names suggesting their
heritage, such as the "Over-the-Rhine" district in
"German Village" in Columbus, Ohio.
A favorite destination was Milwaukee, known as "the German Athens".
Germans trained in politics in the old country dominated the
city's Socialists. Skilled workers dominated many crafts, while
entrepreneurs created the brewing industry; the most famous brands
included Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, and Blatz.
Whereas half of German immigrants settled in cities, the other half
established farms in the Midwest. From
Ohio to the Plains states, a
heavy presence persists in rural areas into the 21st century.
Germans in Alabama
Few German immigrants settled in the Deep South, apart from New
Orleans, the German Coast, and Texas.
Main article: German Texan
Wahrenberger House in Austin served as a German-American
Texas attracted many
Germans who entered through Galveston and
Indianola, both those who came to farm, and later immigrants who more
rapidly took industrial jobs in cities such as Houston. As in
Germans in Houston built the brewing industry. By the
1920s, the first generation of college-educated German
moving into the chemical and oil industries.
Texas had about 20,000 German
Americans in the 1850s. They did not
form a uniform bloc, but were highly diverse and drew from geographic
areas and all sectors of European society, except that very few
aristocrats or upper middle class businessmen arrived. In this regard,
Texas Germania was a microcosm of the Germania nationwide.
Germans who settled
Texas were diverse in many ways. They included
peasant farmers and intellectuals; Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and
atheists; Prussians, Saxons, and Hessians; abolitionists and slave
owners; farmers and townsfolk; frugal, honest folk and ax murderers.
They differed in dialect, customs, and physical features. A majority
had been farmers in Germany, and most arrived seeking economic
opportunities. A few dissident intellectuals fleeing the 1848
revolutions sought political freedom, but few, save perhaps the Wends,
went for religious freedom. The German settlements in
their diversity. Even in the confined area of the Hill Country, each
valley offered a different kind of German. The Llano valley had stern,
teetotaling German Methodists, who renounced dancing and fraternal
organizations; the Pedernales valley had fun-loving, hardworking
Lutherans and Catholics who enjoyed drinking and dancing; and the
Guadalupe valley had freethinking
Germans descended from intellectual
political refugees. The scattered German ethnic islands were also
diverse. These small enclaves included Lindsay in Cooke County,
largely Westphalian Catholic; Waka in Ochiltree County, Midwestern
Mennonite; Hurnville in Clay County, Russian German Baptist; and
Lockett in Wilbarger County, Wendish Lutheran.
Germans from Russia
See also: Volga
Germans and Russian Mennonite
Temporary quarters for Volga
Germans in central Kansas, 1875
Germans from Russia were the most traditional of German-speaking
arrivals. They were
Germans who had lived for
generations throughout the Russian Empire, but especially along the
Volga River in Russia and near the Crimea. Their ancestors had come
from all over the German-speaking world, invited by Catherine the
Great in 1762 and 1763 to settle and introduce more advanced German
agriculture methods to rural Russia. They had been promised by the
manifesto of their settlement the ability to practice their respective
Christian denominations, retain their culture and language, and retain
immunity from conscription for them and their descendants. As time
passed, the Russian monarchy gradually eroded the ethnic German
population's relative autonomy. Conscription eventually was
reinstated; this was especially harmful to the Mennonites, who
practice pacifism. Throughout the 19th century, pressure increased
from the Russian government to culturally assimilate. Many Germans
from Russia found it necessary to emigrate to avoid conscription and
preserve their culture. About 100,000 immigrated by 1900, settling
primarily in the Dakotas,
Kansas and Nebraska. The southern central
North Dakota was known as "the German-Russian triangle". A
smaller number moved farther west, finding employment as ranchers and
Negatively influenced by the violation of their rights and cultural
persecution by the Tsar, the
Germans from Russia who settled in the
Midwest saw themselves a downtrodden ethnic group separate
Russian Americans and having an entirely different experience
from the German
Americans who had emigrated from German lands; they
settled in tight-knit communities that retained their German language
and culture. They raised large families, built German-style churches,
buried their dead in distinctive cemeteries using cast iron grave
markers, and created choir groups that sang German church hymns. Many
farmers specialized in sugar beets—still a major crop in the upper
Great Plains. During World War I, their identity was challenged by
anti-German sentiment. By the end of World War II, the German
language, which had always been used with English for public and
official matters, was in serious decline. Today, German is preserved
mainly through singing groups and recipes, with the
Russia in the northern Great Plains states speaking predominantly
English. German remains the second most spoken language in North and
South Dakota, and
Germans from Russia often use loanwords, such as
Kuchen for cake. Despite the loss of their language, the ethnic group
remains distinct, and has left a lasting impression on the American
Main article: German
Americans in the American Civil War
Sentiment among German
Americans was largely anti-slavery, especially
among Forty-Eighters. Notable Forty-Eighter
Hermann Raster wrote
passionately against slavery and was very pro-Lincoln. Raster
published anti-slavery pamphlets and was the editor of the most
German language newspaper in America at the time. He
helped secure the votes of German-
Americans across the United States
for Abraham Lincoln. When Raster died the
Chicago Tribune published an
article regarding his service as a correspondent for America to the
German states saying, "His writings during and after the Civil War did
more to create understanding and appreciation of the American
Germany and to float U.S. bonds in Europe than the
combined efforts of all the U.S. ministers and consuls." Hundreds
of thousands of German
Americans volunteered to fight for the Union in
American Civil War
American Civil War (1861–1865). The
Germans were the largest
immigrant group to participate in the Civil War; over 176,000 U.S.
soldiers were born in Germany. A popular Union commander among
Germans, Major General
Franz Sigel was the highest-ranking German
officer in the Union Army, with many German immigrants claiming to
enlist to "fight mit Sigel".
The German vote in 1900 was in doubt; they opposed the "repudiation"
policy of Bryan (right poster), but also disliked the overseas
expansion McKinley had delivered (left poster)
Although only one in four
Germans fought in all-German regiments, they
created the public image of the German soldier.
five German regiments, New York eleven, and
Western railroads, with large land grants available to attract
farmers, set up agencies in Hamburg and other German cities, promising
cheap transportation, and sales of farmland on easy terms. For
example, the Santa Fe railroad hired its own commissioner for
immigration, and sold over 300,000 acres (1,200 km2) to
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the German
Americans showed a
high interest in becoming farmers, and keeping their children and
grandchildren on the land. While they needed profits to stay in
operation, they used profits as a tool "to maintain continuity of the
family." They used risk averse strategies, and carefully planned
their inheritances to keep the land in the family. Their communities
showed smaller average farm size, greater equality, less absentee
ownership and greater geographic persistence. As one farmer explained,
"To protect your family has turned out to be the same thing as
protecting your land."
Germany was a large country with many diverse subregions which
contributed immigrants. Dubuque was the base of the Ostfriesische
Nachrichten ("East Fresian News") from 1881 to 1971. It connected the
20,000 immigrants from East Friesland (Ostfriesland), Germany, to each
other across the Midwest, and to their old homeland. In
Friesland was often a topic of ridicule regarding backward rustics,
but editor Leupke Hündling shrewdly combined stories of proud
memories of Ostfriesland. The editor enlisted a network of local
correspondents. By mixing local American and local German news,
letters, poetry, fiction, and dialogue, the German-language newspaper
allowed immigrants to honor their origins and celebrate their new life
as highly prosperous farmers with much larger farms than were possible
back in impoverished Ostfriesland. During the world wars, when
Germania came under heavy attack, the paper stressed its humanitarian
role, mobilizing readers to help the people of East Friesland with
relief funds. Younger generations could usually speak German but not
read it, so the subscription based dwindled away as the target
audience Americanized itself.
Relatively few German
Americans held office, but the men voted once
they became citizens. In general during the Third party System
(1850s–1890s), the Protestants and Jews leaned toward the Republican
party and the Catholics were strongly Democratic. When prohibition was
on the ballot, the
Germans voted solidly against it. They strongly
distrusted moralistic crusaders, whom they called "Puritans",
including the temperance reformers and many Populists. The German
community strongly opposed Free Silver, and voted heavily against
William Jennings Bryan
William Jennings Bryan in 1896. In 1900, however, many German
Democrats returned to their party and voted for Bryan, perhaps because
of President William McKinley's foreign policy.
At the local level, historians have explored the changing voting
behavior of the German-American community and one of its major
strongholds, St. Louis, Missouri. The German
Americans had voted 80
percent for Lincoln in 1860, and strongly supported the war effort.
They were a bastion of the Republican Party in
St. Louis and nearby
immigrant strongholds in
Missouri and southern Illinois. The German
Americans were angered by a proposed
Missouri state constitution that
discriminated against Catholics and freethinkers. The requirement of a
special loyalty oath for priests and ministers was troublesome.
Despite their strong opposition the constitution was ratified in 1865.
Racial tensions with the blacks began to emerge, especially in terms
of competition for unskilled labor jobs. Germania was nervous about
black suffrage in 1868, fearing that blacks would support puritanical
laws Especially regarding the prohibition of beer gardens on Sundays.
The tensions split off a large German element in 1872, led by Carl
Schurz. They supported the Liberal Republican party led by Benjamin
Gratz Brown for governor in 1870 and
Horace Greeley for president in
Germans in late 19th century cities were communists; Germans
played a significant role in the labor union movement. A few
were anarchists. Eight of the forty-two anarchist defendants in
Haymarket Affair of 1886 in
Chicago were German.
Hugo Münsterberg, Harvard professor of psychology
Hugo Münsterberg (1863–1916), a German psychologist, moved to
Harvard in the 1890s and became a leader in the new profession. He was
president of the American Psychological Association in 1898, and the
American Philosophical Association in 1908, and played a major role in
many other American and international organizations.
Arthur Preuss (1871–1934) was a leading journalist, and theologian.
A layman in St Louis. His Fortnightly Review (in English) was a major
conservative voice read closely by church leaders and intellectuals
from 1894 until 1934. He was intensely loyal to the Vatican. Preuss
upheld the German Catholic community, denounced the "Americanism"
heresy, promoted the Catholic University of America, and anguished
over the anti-German America hysteria during World War I. He provided
lengthy commentary regarding the National Catholic Welfare Conference,
the anti-Catholic factor in the presidential campaign of 1928, the
hardships of the Great Depression, and the liberalism of the New
World War I
World War I anti-German sentiment
American entry into World War I
American entry into World War I and Internment of German
World War I
World War I (1917–18), German
Americans were often accused of
being too sympathetic to Imperial Germany. Former president Theodore
Roosevelt denounced "hyphenated Americanism", insisting that dual
loyalties were impossible in wartime. A small minority came out for
Germany, or ridiculed the British (as did H. L. Mencken). Similarly,
Harvard psychology professor
Hugo Münsterberg dropped his efforts to
mediate between America and Germany, and threw his efforts behind the
The Justice Department prepared a list of all German aliens, counting
approximately 480,000 of them, more than 4,000 of whom were imprisoned
in 1917–18. The allegations included spying for Germany, or
endorsing the German war effort. Thousands were forced to buy war
bonds to show their loyalty. The Red Cross barred individuals with
German last names from joining in fear of sabotage. One person was
killed by a mob; in Collinsville, Illinois, German-born Robert Prager
was dragged from jail as a suspected spy and lynched. A Minnesota
minister was tarred and feathered when he was overheard praying in
German with a dying woman.
Frederick Stock temporarily stepped down as conductor of
Chicago Symphony Orchestra until he finalized his naturalization
papers. Orchestras replaced music by German composer Wagner with
French composer Berlioz. In Cincinnati, the public library was asked
to withdraw all German books from its shelves. German-named
streets were renamed. The town, Berlin, Michigan, was changed to
Marne, Michigan (honoring those who fought in the Battle of Marne). In
Iowa, in the 1918 Babel Proclamation, the governor prohibited all
foreign languages in schools and public places.
instruction in any language except English, but the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled the ban illegal in 1923 (Meyer v. Nebraska). The response of
Americans to these tactics was often to "Americanize" names
(e.g., Schmidt to Smith, Müller to Miller) and limit the use of the
German language in public places, especially churches.
American wartime propaganda depicted the bloodthirsty German "Hun"
soldier as an enemy of civilization, with his eyes on America from
across the Atlantic
German-American farmer John Meints of
Minnesota was tarred and
feathered in August 1918 for allegedly not supporting war bond drives.
World War II
Marlene Dietrich signing a soldier's cast (Belgium, 1944).
Between 1931 and 1940, 114,000
Germans moved to the United States,
many of whom—including Nobel prize winner
Albert Einstein and author
Erich Maria Remarque—were Jewish
Germans or anti-Nazis fleeing
government oppression. About 25,000 people became paying members
of the pro-Nazi
German American Bund
German American Bund during the years before the
war. German aliens were the subject of suspicion and
discrimination during the war, although prejudice and sheer numbers
meant they suffered as a group generally less than Japanese Americans.
The Alien Registration Act of 1940 required 300,000 German-born
resident aliens who had German citizenship to register with the
Federal government and restricted their travel and property ownership
rights. Under the still active Alien Enemy Act of 1798, the
United States government interned nearly 11,000 German citizens
between 1940 and 1948. Civil rights violations occurred. An
unknown number of "voluntary internees" joined their spouses and
parents in the camps and were not permitted to leave.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt sought out
Americans of German
ancestry for top war jobs, including General Dwight D. Eisenhower,
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and
USAAF General Carl Andrew Spaatz. He
Wendell Willkie (who ironically ran against
Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election) as a personal
Americans who had fluent
German language skills
were an important asset to wartime intelligence, and they served as
translators and as spies for the United States. The war evoked
strong pro-American patriotic sentiments among German Americans, few
of whom by then had contacts with distant relatives in the old
Number of German Americans
Parking meter checker stands by his police vehicle which is imprinted
with the German word for police (Polizei). It is part of the town's
highlighting its German ethnic origins. New Ulm, Minnesota, July 1974.
In the aftermath of World War II, millions of ethnic
forcibly expelled from their homes within the redrawn borders of
Central and Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, Poland,
Hungary and Yugoslavia. Most resettled in
Germany, but others came as refugees to the
United States in the late
1940s, and established cultural centers in their new homes. Some
Danube Swabians, for instance, ethnic
Germans who had maintained
language and customs after settlement along the
Danube in Hungary,
Yugoslavia (now Serbia), immigrated to the U.S. after the war.
After 1970, anti-German sentiment aroused by
World War II
World War II faded
away. Today, German
Americans who immigrated after World War II
share the same characteristics as any other Western European immigrant
group in the U.S. They are mostly professionals and academics who have
come for professional reasons. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union
Germany has become a preferred destination for
immigrants rather than a source of migrating peoples.
US Ancestries by County,
Germany in light blue, as of 2000[update]
In the 1990 U.S. Census, 58 million
Americans claimed to be solely or
partially of German descent. According to the 2005 American
Community Survey, 50 million
Americans have German ancestry. German
Americans represent 17% of the total U.S. population and 26% of the
non-Hispanic white population.
The Economist magazine in 2015 interviewed Petra Schürmann, the
director of the German-American Heritage Museum in Washington for a
major article on German-Americans. She notes that all over the United
States celebrations such as German fests and Oktoberfests have been
Distribution of German
Americans according to the 2000 Census
States with the highest proportions of German
Americans tend to be
those of the upper Midwest, including Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska,
Wisconsin, and the Dakotas; all at over one-third.
Of the four major US regions, German was the most-reported ancestry in
the Midwest, second in the West, and third in both the Northeast and
the South. German was the top reported ancestry in 23 states, and it
was one of the top five reported ancestries in every state except
Maine and Rhode Island.
At the 2000 census, this was the breakdown of German
state, including the District of Columbia:
German American Population
District of Columbia
[not in citation given]
Today, most German
Americans have assimilated to the point that they
no longer have readily identifiable ethnic communities, though there
are still many metropolitan areas where German is the most reported
ethnicity, such as Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Cleveland, Columbus,
Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis – Saint Paul, Pittsburgh, and
Communities with high percentages of people of German ancestry
The 25 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of residents
claiming German ancestry are:
Ohio and Germantown,
Illinois (village) 75.6%
Ohio and Kalida,
Illinois (village) 72.4%
Illinois (township) and Cottonwood,
Town of Marshfield, Fond du Lac County,
Town of Brothertown,
Town of Herman, Dodge County,
Large communities with high percentages of people of German
U.S. communities with the highest percentage of residents claiming
German ancestry are:
Dubuque, Iowa 43%
North Dakota 31%
Communities with the most residents born in Germany
The 25 U.S. communities with the most residents born in Germany
New Jersey 5.0%
Cedar Glen Lakes,
New Jersey 4.5%
New Mexico 4.3%
Florida and Leisureville,
New Jersey 3.8%
Shandaken, New York
Shandaken, New York 3.5%
Burnt Store Marina,
Florida and Boles Acres,
New Mexico 3.2%
Allenhurst, Georgia, Security-Widefield, Colorado, Grandview Plaza,
Kansas, and Fairbanks Ranch,
Millers Falls, Massachusetts, Marco Island, Florida, Daytona Beach
Shores, Florida, Radcliff, Kentucky, Beverly Hills, Florida, Davilla,
Texas, Annandale, New Jersey, and Holiday Heights,
New Jersey 2.8%
Fort Riley North, Kansas, Copperas Cove, Texas, and Cedar Glen West,
New Jersey 2.7%
Pelican Bay, Florida, Masaryktown, Florida, Highland Beach, Florida,
Milford, Kansas, and Langdon,
New Hampshire 2.6%
Forest Home, New York, Southwest Bell, Texas, Vineyards, Florida,
South Palm Beach, Florida, and Basye-Bryce Mountain,
Sausalito, California, Bovina, New York, Fanwood, New Jersey,
Rye Brook, New York
Rye Brook, New York and Desoto Lakes,
Ogden, Kansas, Blue Berry Hill, Texas, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida,
Sherman, Connecticut, Leisuretowne, New Jersey, Killeen, Texas, White
House Station, New Jersey, Junction City, Kansas, Ocean Ridge,
Florida, Viola, New York, Waynesville,
Missouri and Mill Neck, New
Level Plains, Alabama, Kingsbury, Nevada, Tega Cay, South Carolina,
Margaretville, New York, White Sands, New Mexico, Stamford, New York,
Point Lookout, New York, and Terra Mar,
Rifton, Manasota Key, Florida, Del Mar, California, Yuba Foothills,
California, Daleville, Alabama. Tesuque, New Mexico, Plainsboro
Center, New Jersey, Silver Ridge,
New Jersey and Palm Beach, Florida
Oriental, North Carolina, Holiday City-Berkeley, New Jersey, North
Sea, New York, Ponce Inlet, Florida, Woodlawn-Dotsonville, Tennessee,
West Hurley, New York, Littlerock, California, Felton, California,
Laguna Woods, California, Leisure Village, New Jersey, Readsboro,
Vermont, Nolanville, Texas, and Groveland-Big Oak Flat, California
Rotonda, Florida, Grayson, California, Shokan, New York, The Meadows,
Florida, Southeast Comanche, Oklahoma, Lincolndale, New York, Fort
Polk South, Louisiana, and Townsend,
Pine Ridge, Florida, Boca Pointe, Florida, Rodney Village, Delaware,
Palenville, New York, and Topsfield,
Germans worked hard to maintain and cultivate their language,
especially through newspapers and classes in elementary and high
Americans in many cities, such as Milwaukee, brought
their strong support of education, establishing German-language
schools and teacher training seminaries (Töchter-Institut) to prepare
students and teachers in
German language training. By the late 19th
century, the Germania Publishing Company was established in Milwaukee,
a publisher of books, magazines, and newspapers in German.
"Germania" was the common term for German American neighborhoods and
their organizations. Deutschtum was the term for transplanted
German nationalism, both culturally and politically. Between 1875 and
1915, the German American population in the
United States doubled, and
many of its members insisted on maintaining their culture. German was
used in local schools and churches, while numerous Vereine,
associations dedicated to literature, humor, gymnastics, and singing,
sprang up in German American communities. German
Americans tended to
support the German government's actions, and, even after the United
States entered World War I, they often voted for antidraft and antiwar
candidates. 'Deutschtum' in the
United States disintegrated after
Beginning in 1741, the German-speaking
Moravian Church Settlements of
Bethlehem, Nazareth and Lititz, Pennsylvania, and Wachovia in North
Carolina had highly developed musical cultures. Choral music, Brass
and String Music and Congregational singing were highly cultivated.
Moravian Church produced many composers and musicians. Haydn's
Creation had its American debut in Bethlehem in the early 19th
The spiritual beliefs of Johann Conrad Beissel (1690–1768) and the
Ephrata Cloister—such as the asceticism and mysticism of this
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, group - are reflected in Beissel's
treatises on music and hymns, which have been considered the beginning
of America's musical heritage.
In most major cities,
Germans took the lead in creating a musical
culture, with popular bands, singing societies, operas and symphonic
A small city, Wheeling, West
Virginia could boast of 11 singing
societies—Maennerchor, Harmonie, Liedertafel, Beethoven, Concordia,
Liederkranz, Germania, Teutonia, Harmonie-Maennerchor, Arion, and
Mozart. The first began in 1855; the last folded in 1961. An important
aspect of Wheeling social life, these societies reflected various
social classes and enjoyed great popularity until anti-German
World War I
World War I and changing social values dealt them a
The Liederkranz, a German-American music society, played an important
role in the integration of the German community into the life of
Louisville, Kentucky. Started in 1848, the organization was
strengthened by the arrival of German liberals after the failure of
the revolution of that year. By the mid-1850s the
one-third of Louisville's population and faced nativist hostility
organized in the Know-Nothing movement. Violent demonstrations forced
the chorus to suppress publicity of its performances that included
works by composer Richard Wagner. The Liederkranz suspended operations
during the Civil War, but afterward grew rapidly, and was able to
build a large auditorium by 1873. An audience of 8,000 that attended a
performance in 1877 demonstrated that the
Germans were an accepted
part of Louisville life.
The Imperial government in Berlin promoted German culture in the U.S.,
especially music. A steady influx of German-born conductors, including
Arthur Nikisch and Karl Muck, spurred the reception of German music in
the United States, while German musicians seized on Victorian
Americans' growing concern with 'emotion'. The performance of pieces
such as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony established German serious music as
the superior language of feeling. .
Turner societies in the
United States were first organized during the
mid-19th century so German American immigrants could visit with one
another and become involved in social and sports activities. The
National Turnerbund, the head organization of the Turnvereine, started
drilling members as in militia units in 1854. Nearly half of all
Turners fought in the Civil War, mostly on the Union side, and a
special group served as bodyguards for President Lincoln.
By the 1890s,
Turners numbered nearly 65,000. At the turn of the 21st
century, however, with the ethnic identity of
European Americans in
flux and Americanization a key element of immigrant life, there were
few Turner groups, athletic events were limited, and non-
members. A survey of surviving groups and members reflects these
radical changes in the role of Turner societies and their
marginalization in 21st-century American society, as younger German
Americans tended not to belong, even in strongholds of German heritage
in the Midwest.
Main article: German American journalism
German newspapers in North America, 1922
As for any immigrant population, the development of a foreign-language
press helped immigrants more easily learn about their new home,
maintain connections to their native land, and unite immigrant
communities. By the late 19th century, Germania published over
800 regular publications. The most prestigious daily newspapers, such
as the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, the
Anzeiger des Westens
Anzeiger des Westens in St.
Louis, and the
Illinois Staats-Zeitung in Chicago, promoted
middle-class values and encouraged German ethnic loyalty among their
Germans were proud of their language, supported
many German-language public and private schools, and conducted their
church services in German. They published at least two-thirds of
all foreign language newspapers in the U.S. The papers were owned and
operated in the U.S., with no control from Germany. As Wittke
emphasizes, press. it was "essentially an American press published in
a foreign tongue." The papers reported on major political and
diplomatic events involving Germany, with pride but from the viewpoint
of its American readers. For example, during the latter half
of the 19th century, at least 176 different German-language
publications began operations in the city of
Cincinnati alone. Many of
these publications folded within a year, while a select few, such as
Cincinnati Freie Presse, lasted nearly a century. Other
cities experienced similar turnover among immigrant publications,
especially from opinion press, which published little news and focused
instead on editorial commentary.
By the end of the 19th century, there were over 800 German-language
publications in the United States. German immigration was on the
decline, however, and with subsequent generations integrating into
English-speaking society, the
German language press began to
struggle. The periodicals that managed to survive in immigrant
communities faced an additional challenge with anti-German sentiment
during World War I and with the Espionage and Sedition Acts,
which authorized censorship of foreign language newspapers.
Prohibition also had a destabilizing impact on the German immigrant
communities upon which the German-language publications relied.
By 1920, there were only 278
German language publications remaining in
the country. After 1945, only a few publications have been
started. One example is
Hiwwe wie Driwwe (Kutztown, PA), the nation's
Pennsylvania German newspaper, which was established in 1997.
Germans brought organized gymnastics to America, and were strong
supporters of sports programs. They used sport both to promote ethnic
identity and pride and to facilitate integration into American
society. Beginning in the mid-19th century, the Turner movement
offered exercise and sports programs, while also providing a social
haven for the thousands of new German immigrants arriving in the
United States each year. Another highly successful German sports
organization was the Buffalo
Germans basketball team, winners of 762
games (against only 85 losses) in the early years of the 20th century.
These examples, and others, reflect the evolving place of sport in the
assimilation and socialization of much of the German-American
This 1850 census map shows the Lutheran population. Nearly all were
German, since few Scandinavians had arrived yet.
German immigrants who arrived before the 19th century tended to have
been members of the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Germany, and
created the Lutheran Synods of Pennsylvania,
North Carolina and New
York. The largest Lutheran denominations in the U.S. today—the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church–Missouri
Synod, and the
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod—are all
descended from churches started by German immigrants among others.
Germans founded the Reformed Church in the United States
(especially in New York and Pennsylvania), and the Evangelical Synod
of North America (strongest in the Midwest), which is now part of the
United Church of Christ. Many immigrants joined different churches
from those that existed in Germany. Protestants often joined the
Methodist church. In the 1740s, Count Nicolas von Zinzendorf tried
to unite all the German-speaking Christians—(Lutheran, Reformed, and
Separatists)—into one "Church of God in the Spirit". The Moravian
Church in America is one of the results of this effort, as are the
many "Union" churches in rural Pennsylvania.
Before 1800, communities of Amish, Mennonites, Schwarzenau Brethren
and Moravians had formed and are still in existence today. The Old
Amish and a majority of the Old Order Mennonites still speak
dialects of German, including
Pennsylvania German, informally known as
Pennsylvania Dutch. The Amish, who were originally from southern
Germany and Switzerland, arrived in
Pennsylvania during the early 18th
Amish immigration to the
United States reached its peak
between the years 1727 and 1770. Religious freedom was perhaps the
most pressing cause for
Amish immigration to Pennsylvania, which
became known as a haven for persecuted religious groups.
The Hutterites are another example of a group of German
continue a lifestyle similar to that of their ancestors. Like the
Amish, they fled persecution for their religious beliefs, and came to
United States between 1874 and 1879. Today, Hutterites mostly
reside in Montana, the Dakotas, and Minnesota, and the western
provinces of Canada. Hutterites continue to speak
Most are able to understand
Standard German in addition to their
dialect. The German speaking "Russian" Mennonites migrated during
the same time as the Hutterites, but assimilated relatively quickly in
the United States, whereas groups of "Russian" Mennonites in Canada
Germany in the mid-to-late-19th century brought many
different religions with them. The most numerous were Lutheran or
Catholic, although the Lutherans were themselves split among different
groups. The more conservative Lutherans comprised the Lutheran
Missouri Synod and the
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
Other Lutherans formed various synods, most of which merged with
Scandinavian-based synods in 1988, forming the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America. Catholic
Germans started immigrating in large
numbers in the mid to latter 19th century, spurred in particular by
Some 19th-century immigrants, especially the "Forty-Eighters", were
secular, rejecting formal religion. About 250,000
German Jews had
arrived by the 1870s, and they sponsored reform synagogues in many
small cities across the country. About 2 million Central and Eastern
European Jews arrived from the 1880s to 1924, bringing more
traditional religious practices.
German speakers in the US
^a Foreign-born population only
After two or three generations, most German
mainstream American customs — some of which they heavily influenced
— and switched their language to English. As one scholar concludes,
"The overwhelming evidence ... indicates that the German-American
school was a bilingual one much (perhaps a whole generation or more)
earlier than 1917, and that the majority of the pupils may have been
English-dominant bilinguals from the early 1880s on." By 1914,
the older members attended German-language church services, while
younger ones attended English services (in Lutheran, Evangelical and
Catholic churches). In German parochial schools, the children spoke
English among themselves, though some of their classes were in German.
In 1917–18, after the US entry into
World War I
World War I on the side of the
British, nearly all
German language instruction ended, as did most
German-language church services.
About 1.5 million
Americans speak German at home, according to the
2000 census. From 1860–1917, German was widely spoken in German
neighborhoods; see German in the United States. There is a false
belief, called the Muhlenberg legend, that German was almost the
official language of the U.S. There was never any such proposal. The
U.S. has no official language, but use of German was strongly
World War I
World War I and fell out of daily use in many
There were fierce battles in
Illinois around 1890
regarding proposals to stop the use of German as the primary language
in public and parochial schools. The
Bennett Law was a highly
controversial state law passed in
Wisconsin in 1889 that required the
use of English to teach major subjects in all public and private
elementary and high schools. It affected the state's many
German-language private schools (and some Norwegian schools), and was
bitterly resented by German American communities. The German Catholics
and Lutherans each operated large networks of parochial schools in the
state. Because the language used in the classroom was German, the law
meant the teachers would have to be replaced with bilingual teachers,
and in most cases shut down. The
Germans formed a coalition between
Catholics and Lutherans, under the leadership of the Democratic Party,
and the language issue produced a landslide for the Democrats, as
Republicans dropped the issue until World War I. By 1917, almost all
schools taught in English, but courses in German were common in areas
with large German populations. These courses were permanently
"Assimilation" in this context means the steady loss of distinctive
characteristics (especially language), as the
Germans melted into a
common American nationality. By 1910 German
Americans had created
their own distinctive, vibrant, prosperous German-language
communities, called "Germania". According to historian Walter
Kamphoefner, a "number of big cities introduced German into their
public school programs". Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and
other cities "had what we now call two-way immersion programs: school
taught half in German, half in English". This was a tradition
which continued "all the way down to World War I." According to
Kamphoefner, German "was in a similar position as the Spanish language
is in the 20th and 21st century"; it "was by far the most widespread
foreign language, and whoever was the largest group was at a definite
advantage in getting its language into the public sphere."
Kamphoefner has come across evidence that as late as 1917, a German
version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was still being sung in public
schools in Indianapolis.
The transition to the
English language was abrupt, forced by the
federal government during World War One. After 1917 the German
language was seldom heard in public; most newspapers and magazines
closed; churches and parochial schools switched to English. Film
Roger Ebert wrote how "I could hear the pain in my
German-American father's voice as he recalled being yanked out of
Lutheran school during
World War I
World War I and forbidden by his immigrant
parents ever to speak German again". Youth increasingly attended
high schools, where they mingled, in English, and dated (and later
married) people of other ethnicities. The Catholic high schools were
deliberately structured to commingle ethnic groups so as to promote
intermarriage. German-speaking taverns, beer gardens and saloons
were all shut down by prohibition; those that reopened in 1933 spoke
English. By the 1940s Germania had largely vanished outside remote
areas and the
Germans were thoroughly assimilated.
Historians have tried to explain what became of the German Americans
and their descendents. Kazal (2004) looks at
Germans in Philadelphia,
focusing on four ethnic subcultures: middle-class Vereinsdeutsche,
working-class socialists, Lutherans, and Catholics. Each group
followed a somewhat distinctive path toward assimilation. Lutherans,
and the better situated Vereinsdeutsche with whom they often
World War I
World War I abandoned the last major German
characteristics and redefined themselves as old stock or as "Nordic"
Americans, stressing their colonial roots in
distancing themselves from more recent immigrants. On the other hand,
working-class and Catholic Germans, groups that heavily overlapped,
lived and worked with Irish and other European ethnics; they also gave
up German characteristics but came to identify themselves as white
ethnics, distancing themselves above all from
African American recent
arrivals in nearby neighborhoods. Well before World War I, women in
particular were becoming more and more involved in a mass consumer
culture that lured them out of their German-language neighborhood
shops and into
English language downtown department stores. The 1920s
and 1930s brought
English language popular culture via movies and
radio that drowned out the few surviving
German language venues.
Despite this assimilation, it is worth noting that a distinct German
American ethnicity survived well into the mid-20th century in some
places. Writing about the town of Hustisford, Wisconsin, Jennifer
Ludden discusses Mel Grulke, who was born in 1941, with German his
first language at home; "Grulke's great-grandparents immigrated to the
U.S. in the late 1880s, yet three generations later, his farmer
parents still spoke German at home, attended
German language church
services and chatted in German with shopkeepers when they brought
their farm eggs into town to sell". Bethany Lutheran Church in
Hustisford offered German-language services into the 1970s. Homer
Rudolf, a man from
North Dakota of German Russian descent, stated in
2004 that his maternal grandmother, who died in 1980 at the age of 90,
"did not learn English". As recently as 1990, one quarter of
North Dakota's households included a German speaker.
To this day, relatively unassimilated people of German-speaking
heritage can be found in the
United States among different Anabaptist
groups - the Old Order
Amish and most Old Order Mennonites speak
Pennsylvania Dutch (or
Bernese German or Alsatian by a minority of
Amish) along with
High German to various degrees (though they are
generally fluent in English). All Hutterites speak Hutterite
German and many "Russian" Mennonites speak Plautdietsch, a German
dialect coming originally from the area around Danzig. The three Amish
dialects as well as
Hutterite German are still learned by all children
of the group, whereas Plautdietsch-speakers tend much more to
German American influence
German language in the United States
Late-19th-century German-American buildings in Manhattan
Freie Bibliothek und Lesehalle (Free Library and Reading Hall) and
Deutsches Dispensary (German Dispensary), both by William Schickel
(1883–1884) on Second Avenue at St Mark's Place in the East Village
Deutsch-Amerikanische Schützen Gesellschaft (German-American Shooting
Society) by William C. Frohne (1885) on St. Mark's Place in the East
Scheffel Hall by Weber and Drosser (1894) on Third Avenue between 17th
and 18th Streets, near Gramercy Park
Germans have contributed to a vast number of areas in American culture
and technology. Baron von Steuben, a former Prussian officer, led the
reorganization of the
U.S. Army during the War for Independence and
helped make the victory against British troops possible. The Steinway
& Sons piano manufacturing firm was founded by immigrant Henry E.
Steinway in 1853. German settlers brought the
Christmas tree custom
and other German Christmas traditions to the United States. The
Studebakers built large numbers of wagons used during the Western
migration; Studebaker, like the
Duesenberg brothers, later became an
important early automobile manufacturer. Carl Schurz, a refugee from
the unsuccessful first German democratic revolution of 1848 became an
influential politician first in the Republican then in the Democratic
party, and served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
After World War II, Wernher von Braun, and most of the leading
engineers from the former German V-2 rocket base at Peenemünde, were
brought to the U.S. They contributed decisively to the development of
U.S. military rockets, as well as rockets for the
NASA space program
and the initiation of the
Apollo program to land on the Moon.
Similarly, fellow German aviation technologist Siegfried Knemeyer, the
former top aviation technologist within Reichsmarschall Hermann
Reich Air Ministry
Reich Air Ministry during World War II, was brought to the
United States through a similar path to von Braun, and served as a
civilian employee of the
USAF for over twenty years.
The influence of
German cuisine is seen in the cuisine of the United
States throughout the country, especially regarding pastries, meats
and sausages, and above all, beer. Frankfurters (or "wieners",
Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt am Main and Vienna, respectively),
hamburgers, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and strudel are common dishes.
German bakers introduced the pretzel, which is popular across the
Germans introduced America to lager, the most-produced
beer style in the United States, and have been the dominant ethnic
group in the beer industry since 1850.
The oldest extant brewery in the
United States is D. G. Yuengling
& Son of Pottsville,
Pennsylvania (approximately 80 miles
northwest of Philadelphia), founded in 1829 by an immigrant from
Aldingen in what is today Baden-Württemberg; the brewery's flagship
product remains a 19th-century German-style amber lager. By the
late 19th century, Milwaukee, with a large population of German
origin, was once the home to four of the world's largest breweries
owned by ethnic
Germans (Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst, and Miller) and was
the number one beer producing city in the world for many years. Almost
half of all current beer sales in the
United States can be attributed
to German immigrants, Capt. A. Pabst, Eberhard Anheuser, and Adolphus
Busch, who founded
St. Louis in 1860. Later
German immigrants figured prominently in the rebirth of craft brews
following Prohibition, culminating in the microbrew movement that
swept the U.S. beginning in the late 1980s.
German and German-American celebrations, such as Oktoberfest, Rhenish
German-American Day and
Von Steuben Day
Von Steuben Day are held regularly
throughout the country. One of the largest is the German-American
Steuben Parade in New York City, held every third Saturday in
September. There are also major annual events in Chicago's Lincoln
Square neighborhood, a traditional a center of the city's German
population, in Cincinnati, where its annual Oktoberfest
Zinzinnati is the largest
Oktoberfest outside of Germany and
in Milwaukee, which celebrates its German heritage with an annual
German Fest. Many of the immigrants from
Germany and other
German-speaking countries came to
Pennsylvania to what was then
"Allegheny City" (now part of the North Side of the City of
Pittsburgh). So many German speakers arrived, the area became known as
"Deutschtown" and has been revived as such. Within
Deutschtown and since 1854, The Teutonia Männerchor has been
promoting and furthering German cultural traditions.
Skat, the most popular card game in Germany, is also played in areas
United States with large German American populations, such as
Wisconsin and Texas.
The following German international schools are in operation in the
United States, serving German citizens, Americans, and other U.S.
German International School Boston
German School New York
German American School of Portland
German International School of Silicon Valley
German School Washington, D.C.
For a more comprehensive list, see List of German Americans.
Americans have been influential in almost every field in
American society, including science, architecture, business, sports,
entertainment, theology, politics, and the military. Many of these
individuals were of German Jewish descent or anti-Nazis who fleed Nazi
German American general/flag military officers Baron von Steuben,
George Armstrong Custer, John Pershing, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chester
Carl Andrew Spaatz
Carl Andrew Spaatz and
Norman Schwarzkopf commanded the
United States Army in the American Revolutionary War, American Civil
War, Indian Wars, World War I, World War II, and the Persian Gulf War,
Americans were famous American politicians, including Carl
Schurz, Friedrich Hecker, Frederick Muhlenberg, Henry Morgenthau, Sr.,
Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Dwight D. Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, Henry
John Boehner and Donald Trump.
Americans have played a prominent role in American
industry and business, including
Henry J. Heinz
Henry J. Heinz (H. J. Heinz Company),
Frank Seiberling (Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company), Walt Disney
John D. Rockefeller
John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil),
William Boeing (The
Boeing Company) and (United Airlines),
Walter Chrysler (Chrysler
Corporation), Frederick and August
Studebaker brothers (
Studebaker Automobile Corporation),
George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric Corporation), Levi Strauss
Levi Strauss & Co.),
Charles Guth (PepsiCo Inc.), Bill Gates
Elon Musk (SolarCity), (SpaceX) and (Tesla
James L. Kraft
James L. Kraft (Kraft Foods Inc.), Henry E. Steinway
(Steinway & Sons),
Charles Pfizer (Pfizer, Inc.), John Jacob Astor
(Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts),
Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels
Guggenheim family (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation),
Marcus Goldman and
Samuel Sachs (The Goldman
Sachs Group, Inc.),
Lehman Brothers (
Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.),
Carl Laemmle (Universal Studios),
Marcus Loew (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Harry Cohn (Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.), Herman
International Business Machines Corporation
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)), Steve
Jobs (Apple Inc.),
Michael Dell (Dell Inc.),
Eric Schmidt (Google
Inc.) and (Alphabet Inc.),
Peter Thiel (
PayPal Inc.), Adolph Simon
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger (The New York Times), Charles
Bergstresser (The Wall Street Journal),
Al Neuharth (USA Today),
Eugene Meyer (The Washington Post) etc.
Americans were pioneers and dominated beer brewing for much of
American history, beginning with breweries founded in the 19th century
by German immigrants
August Schell (
August Schell Brewing Company),
Christian Moerlein (
Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.), Eberhard Anheuser
Adolphus Busch (
Anheuser-Busch InBev), Adolph
Coors (Molson Coors Brewing Company),
Frederick Miller (Miller Brewing
Frederick Pabst (Pabst Brewing Company), Bernhard Stroh
(Stroh Brewery Company) and
Joseph Schlitz (
Joseph Schlitz Brewing
Some, such as
Brooklyn Bridge engineer
John A. Roebling
John A. Roebling and architects
Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, left behind visible
Others, including Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Wernher von
Braun, John Peter Zenger, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph
Weizenbaum set intellectual landmarks while
Neil Armstrong was the
first human to land on the moon.
Still others, such as Bruce Willis, George Eyser, Babe Ruth, Lou
Gehrig, Jack Nicklaus, Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff (Doris Day), Grace
Kelly, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Weissmuller, Ernst
Lubitsch, Walter Damrosch, Henry John Deutschendorf (John Denver),
John Kay, Heidi Klum, Meryl Streep, Marlon Brando, Kim Basinger,
Sandra Bullock, David Hasselhoff, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kirsten Dunst,
and Kevin George Knipfing (Kevin James) became prominent athletes,
actors, film directors or artists.
There have been three presidents whose fathers were of German descent:
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower (original family name Eisenhauer and maternal
side is also German/Swiss),
Herbert Hoover (original family name
Donald Trump (whose paternal grandparents were Bavarian
immigrants). Presidents with maternal German ancestry include Richard
Milhous Nixon (Nixon's maternal ancestors were
Germans who anglicized
Melhausen to Milhous) and Barack Obama, whose maternal family's
ancestry includes German immigrants from the South German town of
Besigheim and from
Bischwiller in the
Alsace region that is
nowadays part of France; both families came to America around
United States portal
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Further information: German
Americans in the Civil War § Further
Adams, Willi Paul. The German-Americans: An Ethnic Experience (1993).
Bank, Michaela. Women of Two Countries: German-American Women, Women's
Rights and Nativism, 1848–1890 (Berghahn, 2012).
Baron, Frank, "Abraham Lincoln and the German Immigrants:
Forty-Eighters," Yearbook of German-American Studies, 4 (Supplemental
Issue 2012), 1–254.
Barry, Colman J. The
Catholic Church and German Americans. (1953).
Bronner, Simon J. and Joshua R. Brown, eds.
Pennsylvania Germans: An
Interpretive Encyclopedia (: Johns Hopkins UP, 2017), xviii, 554 pp.
Brancaforte, Charlotte L., ed. The German
Forty-Eighters in the United
Bungert, Heike, Cora Lee Kluge, & Robert C. Ostergren (eds.).
Wisconsin German Land and Life. Madison, Wis.: Max Kade Institute,
University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006.
Coburn, Carol K. Life at Four Corners: Religion, Gender, and Education
in a German-Lutheran Community, 1868–1945. (1992).
Conzen, Kathleen Neils. "Germans" in Stephan Thernstrom (ed.). Harvard
Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. (1980). pp. 405–425.
Conzen, Kathleen Neils.
Germans in Minnesota. (2003).
Conzen, Kathleen Neils. Immigrant Milwaukee, 1836–1860:
Accommodation and Community in a Frontier City. (1976).
DeWitt, Petra. Degrees of Allegiance: Harassment and Loyalty in
Missouri's German-American Community during
World War I
World War I (Ohio
University Press, 2012).
Dobbert, Guido A. "German-
Americans between New and Old Fatherland,
American Quarterly 19 (1967): 663–680.
Efford, Alison Clark. German Immigrants: Race and Citizenship in the
Civil War Era. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Ellis, M. and P. Panayi. "German Minorities in World War I: A
Comparative Study of Britain and the USA", Ethnic and Racial Studies
17 (April 1994): 238–259.
John Jacob Astor
John Jacob Astor and the First Great American
Fortune. (2013); Astor (1763-1848) came to the US in 1783
Ernst, Robert. Immigrant Life in New York City, 1825-1863 (1949),
detailed coverage of
Germans and Irish.
Faust, Albert Bernhardt. The German Element in the
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Hungarian Slovak Romanies7
1 Poles came to the
United States legally as Austrians, Germans,
Prussians or Russians throughout the 19th century, because from
1772–1795 till 1918, all Polish lands had been partitioned between
Prussia (a protoplast of Germany) and Russia until
Poland regained its sovereignty in the wake of World War I.
2 Russia is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern
Asia. The vast majority of its population (80%) lives in European
Russia, therefore Russia as a whole is included as a European country
Yugoslav Americans are the American people from the former
Turkey is a transcontinental country in the Middle East and
Southeast Europe. Has a small part of its territory (3%) in Southeast
Europe called Turkish Thrace.
Azerbaijan and Georgia are transcontinental countries. They have a
small part of their territories in the European part of the Caucasus.
Kazakhstan is technically a bicontinental country, having a small
portion in European hands.
7 Disputed; Roma have recognized origins and historic ties to Asia
(specifically to Northern India), but they experienced at least some
distinctive identity development while in diaspora among Europeans.
Demographics of the United States
Unemployment by state
African diaspora in the Americas
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Asian Hispanic and Latino Americans
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Pacific Islands Americans
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New Zealand Americans
Puerto Ricans (Stateside)
Hispanic and Latino Americans
People of the
United States / Americans
Maps of American ancestries
Race and ethnicity in the Census
Race and ethnicity in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Banat (including Walser)
Italy (South Tyrol)
Central and Eastern
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Partitions of Poland
Flight and expulsion of