German Influence in America
By the mid-18th century, a steady stream of German immigrants came to America and they took a central place in everyday American life. German immigrants were accounting for more than 30% of the entire population of the new American colonies, only outnumbered by the English. In practically every colony, German was a widely spoken language.
In the 19th century, the flow of German immigrants was booming, after wars in both America and Europe had slowed down the stream of new immigrants for a couple of decades, a period that started in the mid-1770’s, but around the mid-1830’s the German immigration flow had increased again dramatically.
By the time they were established in the new country and in their new home, the German settlers started to wrote to their friends and families in Europe and told them about all opportunities that were available in America.
Because the Germans had become such a predominant immigrant group during the 19th century, it is no surprise that they had such a strong influence over all sorts of development in America and determined the culture in their new home land considerably.
There are quite a few German contributions to American life that are easy to indicate: for example bear brewing facilities across the U.S., sauerkraut, or the tuba. Yet German influences on life in America run much deeper, they have influenced many of the traditions, the institutions, and also many daily habits that Quite a few Americans today consider to be American.
To give you an example, the American education system was heavily influenced by German traditions and would be unrecognizable if it hadn’t been for the ideas championed by these immigrants from Germany. German influence and culture have long cultivated a decisive commitment to quality education, and the German immigrants brought dedication and knowledge with them into the U.S. In 1855, it was in Wisconsin that German immigrants established the nation’s first kindergarten, a system that was based upon kindergartens in Germany.
The German immigrants brought vocational and physical education into the education system, and they also were responsible for including the gymnasium-type of education into American public schools. What’s perhaps even more important is that the German immigrants were strong strongly advocating universal education, something that was not common at all in the America of those days.
It could even be defended that the Germans immigrants “invented” the weekend in America. Before the German immigrants arrived, a lot of American colony communities used the Sabbath (Saturday) for resting and family entertainment. The German immigrants, however, were having a long-standing tradition of Sunday celebration and recreation.
When the German immigrants had arrived, they started to set up new, large scaled resting and recreational facilities in many American towns, such as playgrounds, sports clubs, picnic grounds, concert halls, bandstands, and bowling alleys, facilities that were all perfect for weekend getaways with the family. All of us who are visiting or using one of today’s beloved civic orchestras, theme parks, urban parks, or swimming pools, owe some gratitude to the German immigrants and their love for recreation.
Quite a few of the traditions that we consider to be fundamentally American (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Christmas Tree) were introduced, or at least made hugely popular, by Germans who came to America during the 19th century. We owe some thanks to the German immigrants for many of our traditions and moments of happiness together with our families.
For over a century, tens of thousands of German immigrants settled in America’s agricultural and farming areas where they were of great help to set up America’s agriculture. Just like earlier generations of these immigrants had done before them, they settled just outside the European settlements, where land was still affordable.
Many German farmers moved out west, but in the eastern and Midwest portions of the U.S., the urban German population was increasing at record speed as well. All through the 19th century, countless highly skilled German laborers immigrated to American cities and they brought with them all sorts of specialized skills from the homeland. he German immigrants became respected workers in various craft trades, especially in beer brewing, carpentry, baking, and the needle-related trades.
Many of the new German immigrants found employment in factories that were established by the German American entrepreneurs like Lomb and Bausch (the founders of the first American optical company), Steinway, Knabe & Schnabel (piano production), Heinz (food industry), or Weyerhaeuser (lumber industry).