The  largest  wave  of immigration from Germany came  in  the  19th century.  As word of the young, growing nation reached  Germany,  more and  more Germans decided to seek their fortunes in this land  of  new promise  and opportunity. The wave of immigration swelled  even  more around  the  middle of the century,  fired  by  restrictive  social conditions  and  suppression  of liberal  thought  at  home.  In  the aftermath  of  two  unsuccessful revolutions in 1830  and  1848,  many Germans  sought political haven in the United States. Among them  were many  intellectuals, men and women of education and culture, who  were to contribute to all aspects of life in their newly chosen homeland.

One of the most prominent of these was Carl Schurz. Arrested during the 1848 Revolution, he managed to escape and eventually fled to  the United States. As inspired orator and respected writer, Schurz  became a  fervent supporter of Abraham Lincoln. The President  appointed  him Ambassador  to Spain,  and later commander  of  the  German-American regiments in the Union Army. After the war, he was elected U.S. Senator from  Missouri. As Secretary of the Interior, under President  Hayes, Schurz  championed  civil  rights for the American  Indians, a merit system  for  the civil service and a national park system.  His  wife, Margarethe,  established in 1855 the first kindergarten in the  United States, in Watertown, Wisconsin.

It is estimated that 200,000 Germans fought in the Civil War. There were German regiments in both the Union Army and the Confederate Army. Count Zeppelin,  the German inventor of the dirigible,  served  as  a Union  cavalry officer and engineer in this war. He made  the  first lighter-than-air experiments  and  his first  ascent  in  a  military balloon  in  the  United States.  A  German-American  woman,  Barbara Frietchie,  of Frederick, Maryland, risked her life in defense of  her country's flag and became a symbol of patriotism for all women.

In the  Spanish-American War, the key naval  officers  were  Majors Lauchheimer  and  Waller,  Captains Meyers and  Marix  and  Lieutenant Schwalbe. Four  Rear Admirals  were Winfield  Schley,  Louis  Kempff, August Kautz and Norman von Heldreich Farghar. The most  distinguished feat of the War was accomplished by Rear Admiral Schley who on July 3, 1898 commanded the destruction of the Spanish fleet at Santiago, Cuba. Between  1830  and  1930, six million Germans came  to  the  United States,  more  than  any other national group.  Many  came  with  some resources  and were consequently not forced to settle in  the  Eastern seaport  cities.  Attracted by cheap public lands, and later  by  free homesteads, they moved West by helping to farm the Mississippi  Valley and to settle the West.

Much  sought after because of their skills, German artisans  became an important factor in U.S. economic expansion. They turned  millions of  acres of wilderness into productive lands, founded  and  developed enterprises in the fields of lumbering, food processing,  steel making, brewing, electrical appliances, piano-making, railroading,  printing, and also promoted the concept of state endowed universities  patterned after those in Germany.

German Immigration in the 19th Century


Philadelphia Chapter