The Legacy of Utopia
A special day has been set for descendants of families that were part of the Giessen Emigration Society on Saturday, December 13, 2014 at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. The Missouri History Museum will open the exhibition from Germany Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America on November 22, 2014, which tells the story of one of the largest and most organized German emigration societies in Missouri’s history. But like the Giessen Society itself, the Utopia exhibit is the story of so much more. On December 13th there will be a free private event by Missouri History Museum for the descendants (see registration below) of the Giessen Emigration Society which will include programs for the public in the afternoon as well.
- 10 a.m. The day will begin at the Missouri History Museum’s Research and Library Center at 225 S. Skinker Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri, with a private tour by the Director Chris Gordon. This tour is free but we ask that you RSVP so that we may know of how many to expect.
- 11:00 a.m. There will be time allowed for a lunch on your own. There are many delightful restaurants in the area, including Bixby’s in the Missouri History Museum where reservations (free) are required.
- 12:30 p.m. There will be a special tour just of the Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America exhibit. This exhibit opens on Saturday, November 22, 2014 in the Missouri History Museum. Created in Germany by the Traveling Summer Republic Utopia first opened in Giessen Germany and then traveled like the society to Bremen. In August of 2014 the exhibit traveled – like the society – to the U.S. where it is currently on display at the German American Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C. Again reservations (free) are necessary.
- 2:00 p.m. Legacy of the Giessen Emigration Society – Dorris Keeven-Franke, historian, author and member of the Traveling Summer Republic will share stories of what became of many of the members of the Giessen Emigration Society. This program is free and open to the public.
The immigration discussion is an ongoing story relative to today. By examining the history of this large group of German emigrants that came to the United States in 1834, we are able to open new discussions, and hopefully find new insights into current events. While the decision to immigrate is so personal and individual, visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to share in the story of nearly 500 individuals that made the decision to create a new homeland for themselves in America. Ultimately they made a profound impact on Missouri and St. Louis’ 250 years of history. Everyone is invited to share their vision of Utopia.
The Giessen Emigration Society was founded by two fellow revolutionary students at the University of Giessen in Germany in 1833, Paul Follenius and Friedrich Muench. They issued a call to their fellow countrymen in 1833, and had thousands respond. In 1834, Follenius and a ship of over 250 left Bremen bound for New Orleans. The passengers were devastated by disease on the voyage, and on the steamboats headed for St. Louis. After a horrific delay of weeks on a deserted island near Bremerhaven, nearly 250 more, led by Muench arrived in Baltimore. These were immigrants of all ages, from all over Germany, not just farmers, but teachers, physicians and preachers. They also had several religious affiliations – Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelical and Free-Thinkers.
What these emigrants endured in their struggles is a sample of the thousands that came. Over 30,000 Germans emigrated to Missouri between 1834 and 1837 alone. This is their story, and the thousands more, told by Traveling Summer Republic in both German and English, by both American and German historians, film makers, writers, and artists. While local history for both Germany and the U.S., it truly is an international partnership.
If you have an ancestor that was part of the original 500 emigrants, we would like to hear from you. Please use the contact form below if you would like more information or to register for the special event on December 13, 2014. Visit the page Giessen Emigration Society for a list of the members of the Society. Those in bold have been located. We will not share private information. Suggested reading for this event is Utopia-Revisiting a German State in America: the book available from Amazon.com