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German Americans ( ) are Americansmarker of German descent. They form the largest self-reported ancestry group in the United States, outnumbering the Irish and English. They account for 50 million people, or 17% of the U.S. population. Californiamarker and Texasmarker have the largest populations of German origin, although upper Midwestern states, including North Dakotamarker and Wisconsinmarker, have the highest proportion of German-American population.

None of the German states had overseas colonies, so not until the 1680s did the first significant groups of German immigrants arrive in the British colonies, settling primarily in New Yorkmarker and Pennsylvaniamarker. Immigration continued in very large numbers during the nineteenth century, with some eight million arrivals from Germany. They were pulled by the attractions of land and religion 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 simply for the chance to start fresh in the New World.

German Americans have been influential in almost every field, from science to architecture, industry, sports, and entertainment. Some, like Brooklyn Bridgemarker engineer John A. Roebling or architect Walter Gropius, left behind visible landmarks. Others, like Albert Einstein and Wernher von Braun, set intellectual landmarks. Still others, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jack Nicklaus, and Leonardo DiCaprio became prominent athletes and actors.

German-American celebrations are held throughout the country, one of the most well-known being the German-American Steuben Parademarker in New York Citymarker, held every third Saturday in September. There are also major annual events in Chicagomarker, Cincinnatimarker, Milwaukeemarker, St. Louismarker and other cities. Like many other immigrants that came to the United Statesmarker overwhelming number of people of German or partial German descent have essentially become Americanized.


Colonial Era

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 became the United States was Germantown, Pennsylvaniamarker, founded near Philadelphiamarker on October 6, 1683.

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 Pennsylvaniamarker and upstate New York 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 Londonmarker. The Queen 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, or Palatine fever. 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 Fallsmarker. One hundred homesteads were allocated in the Burnetsfield Patent. By 1750, the Germans occupied a strip some 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".

The most famous of the early German Palatine immigrants was editor John Peter Zenger, who in colonial New York City led the fight 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 and real estate investments in New York City.


Two waves of German colonists in 1714 and 1717 founded a large colony in Virginiamarker called Germanna, located near modern-day Culpeper, Virginiamarker. Large German settlements were also formed in North Carolinamarker, especially west of what is now Winston-Salemmarker. There were also many German settlers around the Dutch (Deutsch) Fork area of South Carolinamarker.A thriving population of Germans lived upriver from New Orleansmarker, Louisianamarker. They were attracted to the area through pamphlets such as J. Hanno Deiler's "Louisiana: A Home for German Settlers."

New England

Between 1742 and 1753, roughly 1,000 Germans settled in Broad Bay, Massachusetts (now Waldoboro, Mainemarker). Many of the colonists fled to Bostonmarker, Nova Scotiamarker, and North Carolinamarker after their houses were burned and their neighbors killed or carried into captivity by Native Americans. The Germans who remained found it difficult to survive on farming and eventually turned to the shipping and fishing industries..


The tide of German immigration to Pennsylvaniamarker swelled between 1725 and 1775, with many 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 that 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 Deutsch). There were few German Catholics in Pennsylvania before the 1810s.

The Studebaker brothers, forefathers of the wagon and automobile makers, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1736 from the famous blade town of Solingenmarker. 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.

When the American Revolutionary War broke out, Britain made arrangements with German princes to hire some 30,000 "Hessian" soldiers to fight against the American army. The largest group came from the country of Hessemarker, and the soldiers are often referred to as Hessians. Many became prisoners on American farms, some of whom permanently settled in America.

From names in the 1790 U.S. census, historians estimate that Germans constituted nearly 9% of the white population in the United States.

19th century

German population density in the United States, 1872.
Heavy German immigration to the United States occurred between 1848 and World War I, during which time nearly six million Germans emigrated 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.


The cities of Milwaukeemarker, Cincinnatimarker, St. Louismarker, Chicagomarker, New Yorkmarker, and Baltimoremarker were favored destinations of German immigrants. By 1900, the populations of the cities of Clevelandmarker, Milwaukeemarker, Hobokenmarker, and Cincinnatimarker were all more than 40% German American. Dubuquemarker and Davenportmarker, Iowamarker had even larger proportions, as did Omaha, Nebraska, where the proportion of German Americans was 57% in 1910. In many other Northern cities, such as Fort Wayne, Indianamarker, German Americans were at least 30% of the population. Many concentrations acquired distinctive names suggesting their heritage, such as the "Over the Rhine" district in Cincinnati and "German Villagemarker" in Columbus, Ohio.

A favorite destination was Milwaukeemarker, known as "the German Athens." Radical 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 Blatzmarker.

While 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.

Few Germans went to the Deep South, apart from some in New Orleans.


Texas attracted many Germans who entered through Galveston, both those who came to farm and later immigrants who more rapidly took industrial jobs in cities such as Houston. As in Milwaukee, Germans in Houston built the brewing industry. By the 1920s, the first generation of college-educated German Americans were 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.

The Germans who settled Texas were diverse in many ways.
They included peasant farmers and intellectuals; Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and atheists; Prussians, Saxons, Hessians, and Alsatians; 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 Texas reflected 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 atheist 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.

Russian ("Volga") Germans

The German Russians or "Volga Germans" were the most traditional of all German-speaking arrivals. They were Germans who had lived for generations along the Volga River in Russia; about 100,000 immigrated by 1900 and settled in relatively poor lands in the Dakotas, Kansas and Nebraska--the south-central part of North Dakota was known as the German-Russian triangle. They were Lutherans, Mennonites or Catholics but no educated Germans-speaking pastors, teachers, professional men, or tradesmen had joined the peasants who migrated to America. The older generation was still speaking German (they never spoke Russian) in the 1940s, while the next generation was bilingual. Negatively influenced by their miseries and isolation in Russia, they saw themselves a downtrodden class cheated by townspeople, businessmen and railroads; they raised large families with harsh discipline; they wanted their children to be farmers so took them out of school around age 14; they treated their womenfolk as inferior, and were slow to diversify their farms. Many farmers specialized in sugar beets--still a major crop in the upper Great Plains. In World War I (1917-18) their patriotism was ambiguous; distrusted by their neighbors they rejected prohibition and Americanization efforts and supported radical far-left political movements such as the NPL ("Non-Partisan League").

Civil War

Sentiment among German Americans was largely anti-slavery, especially among Forty-Eighters. Hundreds of thousands of German Americans volunteered to fight for the Union in the 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."

Although only one in four Germans fought in all-German regiments, they created the public image of the German soldier. Pennsylvania fielded five German regiments; New York eleven, and Ohio six.


Relatively few German Americans held office, but the men voted once they became citizens. In general, the Protestants and Jews leaned toward the Republican party and the Catholics were strongly Democratic. If prohibition was on the ballot, the Germans voted solidly against it. They strongly distrusted moralistic crusaders, whom they called "Puritans." This included the temperance reformers and many Populists. The German community strongly opposed Free Silver, and voted heavily against crusader 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.

World War I anti-German sentiment

During World War I, German Americans were sometimes accused of being too sympathetic to the German Empiremarker. 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, Harvardmarker psychology professor Hugo Münsterberg dropped his efforts to mediate between America and Germany and threw his efforts behind the German cause.
World War I war bond posters depicted caricatures of Germans.

About 1% of the 480,000 enemy aliens of German birth were imprisoned in 1917-18. The allegations included spying for Germany, or indorsing 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, Illinoismarker, German-born Robert Prager was dragged from jail as a suspected spy and lynched. A Minnesotamarker minister was tarred and feathered when he was overheard praying in German with a dying woman.

In Chicago Frederick Stock temporarily stepped down as conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra until he finalized his naturalization papers. Orchestras replaced music by German composer Wagner with French composer Berlioz. In Cincinnatimarker, the public library of Cincinnati was asked to withdraw all German books from its shelves. German-named streets were renamed. For example, in Indianapolismarker, Germania Avenue was renamed Pershing Avenue — for a World War I general of German descent. In Iowamarker, in the 1918 Babel Proclamation, the governor prohibited all foreign languages in schools and public places. Nebraskamarker banned instruction in any language except English, but the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker ruled the ban illegal in 1923 (Meyer v. Nebraska). The response of German 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.

World War II

Between 1931 and 1940, 114,000 Germans moved to the United States, many of whom—including Nobel prize winner Albert Einstein—were Jewish Germans or anti-Nazis fleeing government oppression. About 25,000 people became paying members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund during the years before the war. Germans 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 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 immigrants between 1940 and 1948. Most were not American citizens. Some of these were United States citizens; some were the parents of active military men. Civil rights violations occurred. Five hundred were arrested without warrant. Others were held without charge for months or interrogated without benefit of legal counsel. Convictions were not eligible for appeal. An unknown number of "voluntary internees" joined their spouses and parents in the camps and were not permitted to leave.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not hesitate to name Americans of German ancestry to top war jobs, including General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and General Carl Andrew Spaatz. He appointed Republican Wendell Willkie as a personal representative. German 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 country.

Post-war years

In the aftermath of World War II, millions of ethnic Germans were expelled from nations in eastern Europe, including the Soviet Unionmarker, Polandmarker, Czechoslovakiamarker, Romaniamarker, Hungarymarker 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, later Yugoslavia (now Serbiamarker), immigrated to the U.S. after the war.

After 1970 anti-German sentiment aroused by 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. Germany has been a preferred destination for immigrants rather than a source of migrating peoples.

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.

Of the four major U.S. 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 Mainemarker and Rhode Islandmarker.


The Germans worked hard to maintain and cultivate their language, especially through newspapers and classes in elementary and high schools. There German Americans in many cities, such as Milwaukeemarker, 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 1918.


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 orchestras.

A small city such as Wheeling, West Virginiamarker, 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 sentiments during World War I and changing social values dealt them a death blow.

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 Germans formed 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. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the preponderance of German music on American symphony stages went hand in hand with the Kaiser's agenda for Germany's global expansion. After Germany's unification in 1871, German cultural diplomacy aimed increasingly to convince Anglo-American elites of the superiority of German culture to win political allies in the United States. 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, filling audiences with awe for the superiority not just of German art but of Germany in general - precisely the respect for German greatness and emotionalism that William II wanted to convey.


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-Germans were 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.


By the late 19th century Germania published over 800 regular publications. The most prestigious daily newspapers such as the New Yorker Staats Zeitung and the Illinois Staats-Zeitung in Chicago promoted middle-class values and encouraged German ethnic loyalty among their readership.


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 population.


German immigrants who arrived before the nineteenth century tended to be members of the Evangelical Church in Germany. They created the Reformed denomination (especially in New York and Pennsylvania), and the Evangelical denomination (strongest in the Midwest), which are 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.

Before 1800, communities of Amish, Mennonites, Moravians and Hutterites had formed and are still in existence today. Some still speak dialects of German, including Pennsylvania German, informally known as Pennsylvania Dutch (from Deutsch). The Amish, who were originally from southern Germany and Switzerlandmarker, arrived in Pennsylvania during the early 18th century. 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.

1850 census map shows Lutheran population.
Nearly all were German since few Scandinavians had arrived yet.

The Hutterites are another example of a group of German Americans who continue a lifestyle similar to that of their ancestors. Like the Amish, they fled persecution for their religious beliefs and came to the United States in 1870. Today Hutterites mostly reside in Montanamarker, the Dakotasmarker, and Minnesotamarker, and the western provinces of Canadamarker. Hutterites continue to speak German. Most are able to speak Standard German in addition to their dialect.

Immigrants from Germany in the mid- to late-1800s 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 Church–Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Other Lutherans formed a complex checkerboard of synods, most of which merged with Scandinavian-based synods in 1988, forming the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Some 19th century immigrants, especially the "48ers", 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 2.0 million Eastern European Jews arrived from the 1880s to 1924, bringing more traditional religious practices.


See German language North America

After two or three generations, German Americans adopted 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 WWI 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 today. In 1860-1917 German was widely spoken in German neighborhoods; see German in the United States. There is a false myth, 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 discouraged during World War I and fell out of daily use in many places.

There were fierce battles in Wisconsin and 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 Wisconsinmarker 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 that 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 dropped.


"Assimilation" in this context means the steady loss of distinctive characteristics (especially language), as the Germans melted into a common American nationality. In 1910 German Americans had created their own distinctive, vibrant, prosperous German-language communities, called "Germania". The transition to an English language world was abrupt, forced by the World War. After 1917 the German language was seldom heard in public; most newspapers and magazines closed; churches and parochial schools switched to English. Youth increasingly attended high schools, where they mingled, in English, and dated other ethnics. 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 happened. 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 overlapped, after World War I abandoned the last major German characteristics and redefined themselves as old stock or as "Nordic" Americans, stressing their colonial roots in Pennsylvania and 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.

German American influence

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 & Sonsmarker piano manufacturing firm was founded by immigrant Henry E. Steinway in 1853. German settlers brought the Christmas tree custom 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 Peenemündemarker, were brought to the U.S. They contributed decisively to the development of U.S. military rockets, as well as rockets for the NASAmarker space program.

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", originating from Frankfurt am Mainmarker and Viennamarker, respectively), hamburgers, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and strudel are common dishes. German bakers introduced the pretzel. Germans have almost totally dominated the beer industry since 1850.

Milwaukeemarker was once the home to four of the world's largest German breweries (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 Anheuser-Buschmarker in St. Louismarker in 1860.

One of the areas in which the influence of German cuisine is strongest is the small town Midwest. German-American celebrations, such as Oktoberfestmarker, German-American Day and Von Steuben Day are held regularly throughout the country. One of the largest is the German-American Steuben Parademarker in New York City, held every third Saturday in September. There are also major annual events in Chicago's Lincoln Squaremarker neighborhood, a traditional a center of the city's German population, in Cincinnatimarker, where its annual Octoberfest Zinzinnati is the largest Oktoberfestmarker outside of Germany and in Milwaukee, which celebrates its German heritage with an annual German Fest.

Skat, the most popular card game in Germanymarker, is also played in areas of the United States with large German American populations, such as Wisconsinmarker and Texasmarker.

German-American presidents

There have been two presidents whose fathers were of German descent: Dwight Eisenhower (original family name Eisenhauer and maternal side is also German/Swiss) and Herbert Hoover (original family name Huber). Presidents with maternal German ancestry include Richard Milhous Nixon (Nixon's maternal ancestors were Germans who anglicized Melhausen to Milhous).

German-American communities

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 Cincinnatimarker, Clevelandmarker, Columbusmarker, Indianapolismarker, Milwaukeemarker, Minneapolis – Saint Paulmarker, Pittsburghmarker, and St. Louismarker.

U.S. communities with high percentages of people of German ancestry

The 10 U.S. communities with the highest percentage of residents claiming German ancestry are:

  1. Monterey Township, Putnam County, Ohiomarker 83.6%%
  2. Granville Township, Mercer County, Ohiomarker 79.6%%
  3. St. Henry, Ohiomarker 78.5%
  4. Germantown Township, Clinton County, Illinoismarker 77.6%
  5. Jackson Township, Dubois County, Indianamarker 77.3%
  6. Washington Township, Mercer County, Ohiomarker 77.2%
  7. Saint Rose Township, Clinton County, Illinoismarker 77.1%
  8. Butler Township, Mercer County, Ohiomarker 76.4%
  9. Marion Township, Mercer County, Ohiomarker 76.3%
  10. Jennings Township, Putnam County, Ohiomarker and Germantown, Illinoismarker 75.6%

U.S. communities with the most residents born in Germany

The 10 U.S. communities with the highest proportion of residents born in Germany are:

  1. Lely Resort, Floridamarker 6.8%
  2. Pemberton Heights, New Jerseymarker 5.0%
  3. Kempner, Texasmarker 4.8%
  4. Cedar Glen Lakes, New Jerseymarker 4.5%
  5. Alamogordo, New Mexicomarker 4.3%
  6. Sunshine Acres, Floridamarker 4.2%
  7. Leisureville, Floridamarker 4.2%
  8. Wakefield, Kansasmarker 4.1%
  9. Quantico, Virginiamarker 4.0%
  10. Crestwood Village, New Jerseymarker 3.8%

See also


  1. . The 2000 census gives 15.2% or 42.8 million. The 1990 census had 23.3% or 57.9 million.
  2. ; ; ;
  3. Gottlieb Mittleberger on Indentured Servitude, Faulkner University
  4. Loyalists (Royalists, Tories) in South Carolina
  5. Patrick Foster, Studebaker: The Complete History (2008)
  6. David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing (2004); Edward J. Lowell, The Hessians and the Other German Auxiliaries (1965)
  7. Census data from Bureau of the Census, Thirteenth census of the United States taken in the year 1910 (1913)
  8. Trudy Knauss Paradis, et al. German Milwaukee (2006)
  9. Richard Sisson, ed. The American Midwest (2007), p. 208; Gross (1996); Johnson (1951).
  10. A 10K Walk Through German-Texas Heritage in Austin, Texas. The University of Texas at Austin. 3/6. Retrieved on November 15, 2009.
  11. Elwyn B. Robinson, History of North Dakota (1966) pp. 285-87, 557; Gordon L. Iseminger, "Are We Germans, or Russians, or Americans? The McIntosh County German-Russians During World War I," North Dakota History 1992 59(2): 2-16,
  12. Christian B. Keller, "Flying Dutchmen and Drunken Irishmen: The Myths and Realities of Ethnic Civil War Soldiers," Journal of Military History, Vol/ 73, No. 1, January 2009, pp. 117-145; for primary sources see Walter D. Kamphoefner and Wolfgang Helbich, eds., Germans in the Civil War: The Letters They Wrote Home (2006).
  13. The number of Confederate soldiers born in Germany is not known. Faust, page 523. Quoting from an 1869 ethnicity study by B. A. Gould; online]].
  14. Richard Jensen, The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888-1896 (1971)
  15. Hugo Münsterberg's obituary.
  16. The War Department: Keeper of Our Nation's Enemy Aliens During World War I by Mitchel Yockelson. Presented to the Society for Military History Annual Meeting, April 1998.
  17. Cincinnati's Century of Change
  18. Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923).
  19. A German-American Chronology, adapted from: The German Americans: An Ethnic Experience by LaVern J. Rippley and Eberhard Reichmann.
  20. German American Bund, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.
  21. Statement of Senator Russell D. Feingold
  22. H.R. 3198 [109th]: Wartime Treatment Study Act
  23. Honolulu Star-Bulletin Hawaii News
  24. The Greis Story: Interned with Sons in the Military
  25. Real People: The Human Cost of Wartime Civil Liberties Violations
  26. German Internment Camps in World War II
  27. The lost voices of Crystal City
  28. German American Internees in the United States during WWII by Karen E. Ebel
  29. US World War II Treatment of German Americans
  30. Tischauser, (1990); Tolzmann, (1995)
  31. Survey Shows Americans Continue to Have Positive View of Germany
  32. Immigration… German: Shadows of War
  33. Chronology : The Germans in America (European Reading Room, Library of Congress)
  34. Ancestry: 2000; Census 2000 Brief,, Census 2000, Angela Brittingham and G. Patricia de la Cruz, June 2004
  35. "Deutsch-Athen Revisited…"
  36. Noel Iverson, Germania, U.S.A. (1966).
  37. Andrew Yox, "The German-American Community as a Nationality, 1880-1940," Yearbook of German-American Studies 2001 36: 181-193; Kazal (2004)
  38. Lucile E. Hackett, "Johann Conrad Beissel: Early German-American Mystic and Musician," Studies in Puritan American Spirituality 1995 5: 95-121
  39. Philip V. Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel, eds. Land without Nightingales: Music in the Making of German-America. (U. of Wisconsin Press, 2002)
  40. Edward C. Wolf, "Wheeling's German Singing Societies," West Virginia History 1980-1981 42(1-2): 1-56
  41. Erna Ottl Gwinn, "The Liederkranz in Louisville, 1848-1877," Filson Club History Quarterly 1975 49(3): 276-290,
  42. Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht, "Trumpeting down the Walls of Jericho: The Politics of Art, Music and Emotion in German-American Relations, 1870-1920," Journal of Social History 2003 36(3): 585-613,
  43. Annette R. Hofmann, "Transformation and Americanization: The American Turners and Their New Identity," International Journal of the History of Sport 2002 19(1): 91-118
  44. Peter Conolly-Smith, "Transforming an Ethnic Readership Through "Word and Image": William Randolph Hearst's Deutsches Journal and New York's German-Language Press, 1895–1918," Volume 19, Number 1, 2009 in Project MUSE; Peter Conolly-Smith, Translating America: An Ethnic Press Visualizes Popular American Culture, 1895–1918 (2004); Carl Wittke, The German-Language Press in America (1957).
  45. Annette R. Hofmann, "Between Ethnic Separation and Assimilation: German Immigrants and Their Athletic Endeavours in Their New American Home Country," International Journal of the History of Sport 2008 25(8): 993-1009,
  46. Edward S. Shapiro, "Jews," in Elliott Barkan, ed. A Nation of Peoples (1999) 330-36.
  47. Harold Schiffman, "Language loyalty in the German-American Church: The Case of an Over-confident Minority" (1987)
  48. see U.S. State Department, "German Language in the U.S"
  49. Robert J. Ulrich, The Bennett Law of Eighteen Eighty-Nine: Education and Politics in Wisconsin (1981).
  50. Edward R. Kantowicz, Corporation Sole: Cardinal Mundelein and Chicago Catholicism (1983)
  51. Russell A. Kazal, "Revisiting Assimilation: The Rise, Fall, and Reappraisal of a Concept." American Historical Review 100 (1995): 437-71. in JSTOR
  52. Russell A. Kazal, Becoming Old Stock: The Paradox of German-American Identity (2004).
  53. Amy Mittelman, Brewing Battles: A History of American Beer (2007)
  54. Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati Retrieved 9/10/2009
  55. Stephen E. Ambose Nixon chapter 1 (1987)
  56. U.S. Census Bureau. American FactFinder


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  • Schiffman, Harold. "Language loyalty in the German-American Church: The Case of an Over-confident Minority" (1987)
  • Schirp, Francis. "Germans in the United States." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Appleton, 1909
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