People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. German Americans Part 2

About the German Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous German-Americans and more.


Their Story in America: England's policy of populating colonies with foreign settlers dates back at least three centuries, and among the earliest groups to be lured by promises of rich land, abundant game, a never ending supply of natural resources, and political, social, and religious freedom were the long-suffering Germans, for whom persecution, economic depression, and uncertainty had become a way of life.

Initially, a great many German immigrants took to the land. Having arrived, for the most part, in family units, they were ideally suited for farming, and they frequently had enough money from the sale of their possessions in Germany to buy farms from Americans anxious to travel further west. These immigrants banded together tightly, and there were several attempts to establish full-fledged German settlements in America. Each of these attempts was rebuffed, and as time went on, German immigrants were less and less likely to settle or remain on farms or reside in rural areas.

When German immigration peaked in the last quarter of the 19th century, an even greater percentage of those arriving settled in America's central cities. Many of these took unskilled jobs, but a relatively high number were able to practice the crafts they had learned in the old country (tailoring, baking, cabinetmaking, bookbinding, and making furniture, stoves, and musical instruments). Such skills, coupled with the traditional German industriousness and thrift, produced a standard of living appreciably higher than that of other minorities, and Germans even had a significant impact in several trade unions in the 1870s and 1880s.

For the most part, German Americans escaped the persecution suffered by other ethnic minorities in the 19th century. Radical refugees from Germany's political upheavals came under fire for their advocacy of abolition in the 1850s, and many Americans had a difficult time understanding--or tolerating--such German customs as Sunday beer-drinking and partying, but success had long been a language Americans were conditioned to understand, and the Germans were nothing if not successful.

Indeed, at the outbreak of W. W. I, German Americans were the most successful of all non-English-speaking immigrants (and quite a bit more successful than the English-speaking Irish Americans) which is why the unremitting hostility and persecution they suffered during the war came as such a shock. In retrospect, however, it is easy to see why such a situation developed. After all, German Americans had always been extremely clannish, they maintained close ties with the old country, and many actively pressed for the U.S. to remain neutral. When these factors were joined by the unprecedented barrage of propaganda spewed forth by the government, a great many Americans became deeply suspicious of anything German, and there were very few voices calling for reason or moderation.

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