Beyond History Blog

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Emigration from Germany: Arrival in a new world – entering and arriving are two very different things

11. May 2020, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Hamburg, History, Knowledge, Personalities

The immigration station on Ellis Island, New York, picture taken around 1896, source: unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ellis_Island_First_Bldg_Burnt_15-June-1897.jpg).

Departing from the German emigration ports Hamburg and Bremen resp. Bremerhaven, the majority of emigrants had in mind to reach North America. A significantly smaller number departed to Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Chile and various other countries.

Emigration from Germany: Arrival in a new world – entering and arriving are two very different things

International Workers’ Day and the role of a German immigrant

01. May 2020, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, Knowledge, Personalities

Photograph of August Spies from 1886. He is called a murderer on it.Source: unknown photographer, Public domain [PD-US-expired] via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:August-Spies-1886.jpg).

Every year on 01, May International Workers’ Day (or Labor Day) is celebrated in many countries in different ways. However, where does this tradition come from, why was a German-American in Chicago, Illinois (by the way a sister city of Hamburg) at least partly responsible for the introduction of this day and if this is so: Why does the US of all countries celebrate Labor Day on another day?

International Workers’ Day and the role of a German immigrant

Emigration from Germany: Going on a journey - costs, means of transport, and conditions of travel

24. April 2020, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, German-American, General, Germany, Hamburg, History, Knowledge

The passenger deck of the emigration ship “Samuel Hop“ on the journey via Rotterdam and Le Havre to the US in 1849, drawing by Leo von Elliot in “Leipziger Illustrierte Zeitung” from 10 November 1849, page 292, source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-041316 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_137-041316,_Auswandererschiff_%22Samuel_Hop%22.jpg).

Going on a journey can become adventurous! When talking about ship passengers of the third class and passengers in the times when a doctor was not necessarily on board, this can be taken literally. The conditions of travel were far from comfortable and safe. But let’s take one thing at a time; no one has gone on board yet.

Emigration from Germany: Going on a journey - costs, means of transport, and conditions of travel

Emigration from Germany: Ranging the fields – reasons for emigration and formal requirements to meet before leaving the country

11. April 2020, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge

Mount Tambora’s eruption in 1815 resulted in massive famines in the subsequent years forcing large numbers of the suffering German population to emigrate. Source: Jialiang Gao (peace-on-earth.org) / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Caldera_Mt_Tambora_Sumbawa_Indonesia.jpg).

Globalization is one of these words that have been on everyone’s lips for the past years. Currently the worldwide spread of the Corona virus illuminates once again the global interlacing between countries due to trade and tourism, or any other kind of traffic and its consequences. 

That the whole world is linked and that events on the other side of the globe can have effects on other parts of the world is, however, nothing new.

Emigration from Germany: Ranging the fields – reasons for emigration and formal requirements to meet before leaving the country

Friedrich Hecker, „Forty-Eighter“

02. September 2018, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, General, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, History, Knowledge, Personalities

Colonel Friedrich Hecker, unknown author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Colonel_Friedrich_Hecker.png).

Friedrich Hecker was one of the faces of the German revolutions of 1848-1849. Like many of his companions he emigrated after the failing of the revolution or single uprisings. On 20 September 1848, he boarded a ship to New York in Le Havre and became a farmer in Illinois. Later, He fought in the American Civil War.

Friedrich Hecker, „Forty-Eighter“

An international hotel chain and many headlines

25. December 2017, Andrea Bentschneider - Birthdays, German-American, History, Knowledge, Personalities

Picture by Harry Pot [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Conrad_Hilton.jpg).

He was born in San Antonio on 25 December 1887 as a son of a local businessman, but he became rich and famous as an hotelier. His father Augustus Halvorsen came from Norway and immigrated to the US in 1870. Here he adopted the now famous surname of the family. He married Mary Genevive Laufersweiler who was of German descent. Her father Conrad Laufersweiler was from the Hunsrück, her mother Caroline Wasem was also born in Germany.

An international hotel chain and many headlines

A small step for [a] man – From Germany to the moon

25. August 2017, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, General, German-American, Historical Events, Knowledge, Personalities

Neil Armstrong working on the moon near lunar module Eagle, 20 July 1969. Picture by NASA / Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:As11-40-5886,_uncropped.jpg)

The first man on the moon, a German? No, of course not. But Neil Alden Armstrong had indeed German ancestors.

He was born on 5 August 1930 in Ohio and died in the same state on 25 August 2012 when he was 82 years old. Inbetween Neil Armstron made history with one step on 20 July 1969 (American time).  It is not surprising that Armstrong, sometimes compared to Columbus, descended from immigrants as most Americans do. His ancestors had the courage to take steps on unfamiliar ground. To start all over in a new country was certainly not an easy thing to do. Especially as keeping in touch with the people that stayed behind wasn’t as simple as today.

A small step for [a] man – From Germany to the moon

Hamburg’s sister city Chicago

31. July 2017, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, General, German-American, Hamburg, History, Knowledge

Chicago Skyline at sunrise (2009), Photo by Daniel Schwen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chicago_sunrise_1.jpg)

Since July 1994, to be precise since 20 July 1994, Chicago is Hamburg’s twin city. After the first initiative was made in 1957, the idea was readopted in the 1990s.

There are good reasons for being sister cities. Both are characterized by their waterside location (at Lake Michigan and the Elbe), despite at the same time being located at the inland. They are both economical as well as cultural centers and there are furthermore historical parallels and connections. Just to mention it briefly, both cities were affected by great fires (Hamburg in 1842, Chicago in 1871) that changed their appearances permanently. But most of all, both cities played an important role in the migration from Germany to America in the 19th century: Hamburg as an emigration harbor, Chicago as a place of refuge for immigrants.

Hamburg’s sister city Chicago

John D. Rockefeller – a man with many facets

23. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - General, German-American, Germany, Knowledge, Personalities, Emigration

John D. Rockefeller, around 1875; picture [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John-D-Rockefeller-sen.jpg)

On 23 May 1937, John Davison Rockefeller Sr. died in Ormond Beach (Florida) at the age of 97. The businessman with German roots was the first billionaire of the world (in US-Dollars). If you consider not only inflation, but also his share of America’s economic strength, he was, according to Forbes, even the richest man in history. Until today, he is remembered for his ruthless business practices as well as his philanthropy.

John D. Rockefeller – a man with many facets

Germans and their beer – Part 3

02. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, General, German-American, History, Knowledge, Personalities

American and Czech Budweiser, Photo: Dorisall at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABud_and_Budvar.jpg)

Without question Anheuser-Busch is one of the best known breweries worldwide. Today the American company is part of the international corporation Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInBev), just like the German beer brands Beck’s, Franziskaner, Hasseröder, Diebels or Löwenbräu. The brewery originated in the 1850s in St. Louis (Missouri). It was acquired by Eberhard Anheuser and a partner in 1860. Anheuser died 20 years later, on 2 May 1880 in St. Louis.

Germans and their beer – Part 3

Germans and their beer – Part 2

28. April 2017, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, General, German-American, History, Knowledge, Personalities, Professions

Frederick Pabst, Picture by S.L. Stein (The Pabst Mansion) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frederick_Pabst_by_SL_Stein.jpg)

No more than Germans invented beer they were the first to brew it in the USA. Breweries are documented from the 17th century at the latest. Until the middle of the 19th century they mostly produced British-style ale. This changed with enhanced immigration from Germany and the associated higher demand for lighter lager. This was met by German brewers from about mid-century. Until the end of the 19th century lager had become the predominant beer in the USA. And especially German-American brewers like Busch, Pabst or Schlitz had made themselves known.

Germans and their beer – Part 2

Kurt Vonnegut and Germany

11. April 2017, Heike Leiacker - Emigration, German-American, Germany, Historical Events, Literature, Personalities, WWII

United States Army portrait of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., by United States Army [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AKurt-Vonnegut-US-Army-portrait.jpg)

On 11 April 2007, author Kurt Vonnegut died in New York. Born on 11 November 1922 as the youngest of three siblings in Indianapolis, Vonnegut was a fourth-generation German-American. Both of his parents, his father Kurt Vonnegut Sr. and his mother Edith Lieber, descended from German emigrants, that arrived in America in the 19th century.

Kurt Vonnegut and Germany

To build the best piano possible

15. February 2017, Heike Leiacker - Birthdays, Emigration, German-American, Hamburg, Personalities, General

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg/Henry E. Steinway https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASteinway_factory_Schanzenstrasse_Hamburg_Germany.jpg

On 15 February 1797, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg was born in Wolfshagen/Harz in Northern Germany. Can you guess? Later known as Henry E. Steinway, the founder of one of the leading piano manufacturers of the world, Steinway and Sons, was a German emigrant.

To build the best piano possible

The Low-German Dollar

13. June 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - General, German-American, Knowledge

Not only 50 Million Americans have German ancestors – the Dollar has German roots as well!

This is due to the fact that mining in Germany made a lot of progress in the 15th century and that through the “discovery” of the new world more and more silver made its way to Europe. When gold became rare and more expensive, silver was the choice for coinage. Gold had a higher worth than silver though and as the silver gulden was to be of the same value as the golden one, it had to be nine times as heavy as the gold gulden. A silver gulden weighed 30 grams and was called “Guldiner”, a word close to “Gulden”.

The Low-German Dollar

The Christmas pickle – a German Christmas tradition largely unknown in Germany

27. December 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - General, German-American, Old Customs, Traditions

A German and not-so-German Christmas tradition at the same time. 

A few years ago we received a “Happy New Year” card from a client, she told us she had spent Christmas and New Years Eve with her children and her grandchildren. They were delighted by the German Christmas Tree and this year it was Peter who was the first to discover the pickle. Pardon me? A pickle in the Christmas tree?

At first we thought this was a typo as even during living for 10 years in New York, I never came across a pickle in a Christmas tree. So we went back to that client and asked her about this. She instantly and told us that even her grandparents had followed this German tradition of having a Christmas pickle in the Christmas tree.

The Christmas pickle – a German Christmas tradition largely unknown in Germany

Clark Gable’s German Roots

16. November 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Birthdays, Celebrities, General, German-American

On 16 November 1960, Clark Gable, one of the most iconic and successful Hollywood actors, passed away. Born in 1901, he had made movie history with classics such as “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Gone with the Wind”. He was said to be a box-office guarantee and was honoured with an Academy Award for his role in “It happened one night” in 1934. He played alongside Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly, just to name a few, and became a movie legend.

Clark Gable’s German Roots

From Warburg to the Moon – a special family history

27. October 2015, Andrea Bentschneider - Emigration, Family, General, German-American, Personalities

When an American, John Brinkmann, contacted us a while back, we had the opportunity to look at a very exceptional family history. You see, John Brinkmann Sr., his father, was director of photography at NASA and as such was responsible for bringing us all of the spectacular pictures from the Gemini and Apollo space programs, in particular the first photos from the surface of the moon in 1969 - photos that went around the globe then and still do (and you are probably visualizing them while you are reading this). John recalled to us how his father shared these photos with the family around the morning breakfast table, before they had been revealed to the press. The collectively shared memory of history that manifests itself in these images stands in contrast to each individual life and its often unclear ancestral past. Now, with his father advancing in years, John wanted to help reconnect his father with his forefathers roots in Germany.

From Warburg to the Moon – a special family history