Category Archives: Missouri


“Remember, remember always, that all of us… are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”  – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1938

A collection of contemporary and archival photography, and is particularly relevant as it celebrates the irrefutable role of immigrants in the development of St. Louis and Missouri and simultaneously illuminates the human side of immigration in Missouri today. In the early 19th century, color-transparent-55x60Missouri began welcoming waves of immigrants from Germany and Ireland, and by the turn of the century, Italian, Polish, Greek, and Eastern European Jewish communities had settled in the state. By 1900, St. Louis, Missouri was the fourth-largest city in America and home to one of the most predominantly foreign-born populations in the country. THE MISSOURI IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE: FACES AND PLACES exhibit from the Missouri Immigrant and Refugee Advocates was curated by Danny Gonzales and features photos by Juan Montana, Amela Sinanagic, Oscar Pedroza and Rita Chu. This project was created in support of the MHC_logo_stacked_dkblue-brn-300x146German Heritage Corridor of Missouri and in partnership with the Missouri Germans Consortium and the Missouri Humanities Council.


German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA®, Washington, D.C. will host Missouri Immigrant Experience: Faces and Places June 1 through gahf_logoAugust 5 at the German-American Heritage Museum of the USA™ located at 719 Sixth Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, June 1 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM featuring Joan Suarez and Dorris Keeven-Franke as guest speakers introducing the exhibit. Executive Director Erika Harms and GAHF Board Member Megan Lott will represent the German-American Heritage Foundation at the opening reception. The museum is open from 11 AM to 5 PM Tuesday through Friday and Saturday from 12 PM to 5 PM. It is closed on Sunday and Monday. Museum admission prices are $7 for adults, $5 for students, and free for GAHF members and children under 12. More info at

About the German-American Heritage Museum of the USA™: The mission of the German-American Heritage Museum is to collect, record, preserve and exhibit the rich cultural legacy of Americans of German-speaking ancestry and make their contributions to American history available to audiences of all ages. The museum also seeks to highlight the political, cultural and economic relations between Germany and the United States. The museum opened in 2010 in the heart of the old European-American section of Washington.




Descendants revisit Utopia in Germany and Missouri

In the past few weeks, descendants of members of the Giessen Emigration Society, have been revisiting their family history on both sides of the pond!  While the exhibit Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America  has been on tour in Bremen, Germany at St. Stephanis Kulturkirche, several families from the United States have visited and admired calling it “Excellent!”

Sound studio
Sound studio

At the beginning of June, Paul and Sharon (Cookie) Stahlschmidt,  descendants of Anton Stahlschmidt’s son Engelbert, who was one year old when he arrived on the ship the Olbers in New Orleans, visited the exhibit in Bremen. Later they, Agnes Stahlschmidt and her sister Nancy Tsupros, who are descendants of Agnes Freymuth, another member of the Society; unnamed-1visited with Peter Roloff, while he was working on audio portions of his new documentary to be released in November. The film, also called Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America will be part of the St. Louis International Film Festival, and will be shown at the Missouri History Museum at 3 pm on November 23, 2014.

Kulturkirche-8855On the Fourth of July, Joan Koechig, her husband Martin from St. Charles, Missouri,  visited the Utopia exhibit for an All-American Kulturkirche-8843Barbeque, before the exhibit closed its run in Bremen. Now the exhibit is packed and ready for its transatlantic voyage to Baltimore, the same voyage members of the Society made to the U.S. in 1834. It will open in September in Washington, D.C. at the German American Heritage Foundation Museum there.unnamed-3

In November, it will open at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. It was at the Missouri History Museum’s Library and Research Center, that on July 15th, Janet and Wim Blees from Hawaii, visited with writer and historical consultant Dorris Keeven-Franke and Missouri History Library and Research Center intern Jaime Staengel and discussed the Blees’ recent donation. They were there to see the collection of their ancestor,  the Giessen Society’s founder Friedrich Muench. The collection in the archives contains many rare and important items relating to the Giessen Society, including Muench’s account book with notations about the members; and the portraits of he and his wife Louise Fritz, prior to their departure for America, which have recently been restored.

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The Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America exhibit shares the story of a large group of politically motived German emigrants in 1834, from all occupations, religions, cities and villages; and brings to life what it meant to be an emigrant bound for Missouri in the early 19th Century. It’s thought provoking images and words bring relevance to the subject of emigration, and its future.


In 1829, some said Gottfried Duden’s Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America, in the years 1824, 25, 26 & 27 portrayed Missouri as a place similar to the Garden of Eden. He told of a place where food was abundant, where you were free to chose where you lived, who you married, and what you said. Freedom was the key word. You had the freedom, dearly fought for, to live a life only dreamed of in Germany at that time.

Duden’s critics called him a dream spinner! There couldn’t truly be such a place. In a hard world ruled by Kings, Dukes and monarchs, a freely held election to decide your leader? You were free to chose which state, and on what land, your own efforts afforded you, and not be dependent on what the inheritance laws insisted? Laws that you had a voice in making? Freedom to say what you thought with fear? Incredible! Could there truly be such a place? Or was this only an El Dorado, a dream, a Utopia?

America prides itself on its freedoms and democracy. We celebrate those who work daily to keep it safe, and commemorate those who have made the greatest sacrifice already. Today, residents in many countries still see  America as a Utopia.  They sacrifice everything, just as those early emigrants did, to be able to call it home. And unfortunately, many still show  prejudice, in the same form as what was called nativism in the 19th Century. What are we learning from these lessons in history?

We must examine that history closer, and gain insight, and remember those words our Country’s founders first wrote in our Declaration of Independence. To an emigrant, those are not empty words. They are what they based their decision to come here, to struggle and sacrifice, those very freedoms described.

In 1834, nearly 500 Germans left their families, their homes, and everything they had, behind them forever. They had hopes of creating a new State in America! One filled with Germans, where they could live as Americans. During the Civil War, they held that state, Missouri, filled with slave holders, determined to secede as all other Confederate states had, keeping it for the Union. They paid that sacrifice willingly, proving that emigrants can indeed make the best citizens.

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

wrote Winston Churchill. One hundred eighty years ago they believed. Will it still be Utopia in another 180 years? Lets hope so.

To learn more about the Giessen Emigration Society, visit Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America. The Exhibition from the Traveling Summer Republic in Bremen Germany will visit the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis beginning November 22, 2014. As part of the STL250 Events of the City of St. Louis, it explores the German heritage that made the city great.