History German Immigration Prior to 1877 and Their Influences on Life in the USA Term Paper

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German immigration to the United States prior to 1877. Specifically, it will discuss to what extent and how did they influence life in the U.S.A. German immigrants to the United States influenced thought and culture in a variety of ways, but they have nearly always managed to hold on to their own culture while adapting to their surroundings.

While America has always been a melting pot of different cultures blending to form a whole, Germans have always managed to blend into society while nevertheless retaining their own special culture and society. The Germans are one of the few races to hang on to their culture so powerfully, while still successfully merging with U.S. culture. One of the most important ways they held on to their culture was by continuing to speak German, especially in the homes, and raising their children to also speak the native language. They also tended to marry within their own culture. Even throughout the 19th century, third or forth generation German young people were continuing to marry Germans, rather than non-Germans (Spencer 149). They also tended to settle together, forming communities and towns populated mostly with Germans, often all from the same German town or area. This kept the culture from dispersing in large metropolitan areas, and helped keep the people together and their lifestyle much the same as it had been in Germany. The Germans were emphatic about creating better lives for themselves while maintaining their cultural identity, and they took strong steps to make sure this was so, even refusing to marry outside their culture.

The churches in German communities also played an important role in maintaining their culture. First, pastors in the churches usually spoke German, and the services were conducted in German. While German churches in the United States began more and more to train their own pastors, they still continued to speak German in the church, thereby cementing the Germans together in their community, and creating lasting bonds between the people and their faith that had its roots in the German Lutheran and Reformed churches. They broke ties with the German churches by training their own pastors in America, but they never broke ties with their language and religious beliefs.

Many issues caused Germans to migrate from their homelands. There were crop failures, poverty, hunger, suffering, and government regulations in Germany that pushed many people out of the country. For many early immigrants (in the 18th century), they came because of religious persecution. They could not worship as they wished at home, and so came to a new country where they could hopefully prosper financially while worshipping however they chose. The German immigrants saw the opportunity for a better life in the United States, and came in record numbers. In fact, "German-Americans represent the largest group of immigrants arriving in the United States in all but three of the years between 1854 and 1894" (Hoyt). Many Germans who came to America wrote home and told of the riches waiting here, and the government even paid some poor immigrants to leave the country because the government could not afford to support them any longer. In the 1840s and 1850s, Germans migrated because of war and revolution in the Fatherland. Revolution failed in Germany, and many people left, rather than live under the iron hand of dictatorship rather than democracy. Since most Germans were not dissatisfied with their homeland, but with the life available to them there, they came to the United States in record numbers.

Before the Revolutionary War and even beyond, Germans played an essential role in American politics. In the 1700s, many German people settled in Pennsylvania, populating what is known as the "Pennsylvania Dutch" country. (They were not Dutch at all, but misunderstood by Americans when they spoke.) Politicians quickly realized how important the "Dutch vote" was in Pennsylvania, and courted the Germans when they ran for election. In fact, by 1776, they held the largest voting…

Sources Used in Document:


Editors. "Germans in America: Chronology." Library of Congress. 1 May 2001. 10 March 2003. http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/european/imde/germchro.html

Hoyt, Dolores J. "19th Century German Immigration in Historical Context." Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. 8 Oct. 1998. 10 March 2003. http://www-lib.iupui.edu/kade/nameword/context.html

Spencer, Aaron Fogleman. Hopeful Journeys: German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.

Wittke, Carl. Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1952.

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