German Immigration to Baltimore

Today,  Baltimore  is one of the largest seaports on  the  American East Coast. As the first man to sail into Chesapeake Bay in June 1608, Captain John Smith was confronted with almost virgin country, which he carefully  documented in accurate maps. It took half a century  before the first colonists settled in the area that now comprises the city of Baltimore.  In addition to the predominant English, the  major  groups among  the  first settlers in Maryland consisted of  Puritans  fleeing Virginia, Swedes from Delaware and New Jersey, and Germans from  Pennsylvania  or the old country. Maryland was eventually granted  to  the second  Lord Baltimore, Cecilius Calvert, by King Charles I  in 1662. The  settlement of 25 houses was named after the Lord and in 1729  was declared a "town".

The township grew rapidly and had almost 6000 inhabitants in  1775. By the time it was elevated to the status of a "city" in 1796,  Baltimore  was home to 20,000 residents of various ethnic stocks.  It  soon became  the  center  for Maryland's tobacco trade,  which  was  firmly controlled  by  Britain.  The harbor also served  as  an  intermediate commercial center for crude sugar, molasses, coffee, and citrus fruits from the West Indies before they were forwarded to European markets.

The  early  population  of Baltimore was mainly  English,  but  the number of Irish, Swedes, Frenchmen from Canada, and especially Germans quickly increased.  Andreas Steiger, a butcher, was the  first  known German  colonist. The brothers Leonard and Daniel Barnetz set  up  the city's first brewery in 1748. Even before an English Protestant church was  established, there was a German one dating back to 1755.  It  not only   provided   German  church services for the  members   of   the congregation,  but in 1769 also established a German  language  school for them.

After  the Revolutionary War, Baltimore's tobacco trade  was  taken over by new settled merchants, mainly Dutchmen and Germans. To  avoid having  their ships make an unprofitable return crossing with  nothing but  ballast aboard, they took on immigrants as "freight": people  who hoped to improve their lot in this new democratic, yet sparsely populated  state  on  the other side of the Atlantic,  unfettered  by  the vestiges of feudalism which still prevailed in much of Europe.

After  the War of 1812, a noticeable wave of immigration to  Baltimore commenced, bringing Germans from Hesse, from the Palatinate, from Bavaria  and from Bohemia. They all brought their own  religions  with them,  their  own schools and social institutions plus  German  clubs, banks, insurance companies, and newspapers. In 1850 there were already 20,000 German-born Baltimoreans; by 1890 this number had doubled.

As  in  other  American cities,  German  immigration  to  Baltimore declined  at the turn of the century and after the two World Wars  the Germans  in  Baltimore did not regain sufficient strength to  leave  a distinct mark on the city.

German Immigration to Baltimore presented by


Philadelphia Chapter