“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, Missouri 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 German 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 August 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 www.gahmusa.org.
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.
Today Joan and I started our journey east and discovered the Historic German Village in Columbus, Ohio:
“In 1796, Congress appropriated the Refugee Lands for individuals who had supported the Colonial cause in the American Revolution. By 1802, an American Revolution veteran named John McGowan claimed 328 acres, most of what would become the German Village. As German immigrants arrived, McGowan sold tracts of land to them. By 1814, the German Village found its roots, originally called “die alte sud ende” (the old south end), and German immigrants contributed to building the first statehouse.
By 1830, massive German immigration to the city had occurred. These South Enders had little time or money for extras. As the local newspaper, “Der Westbote,” described in 1855: “The people who live in these small houses work very hard. You will not find silver on the doors, but you will find many little gardens which produce vegetables for the city’s market. You will not find silk or other very expensive things; but the houses are very clean, the people work hard, and are very healthy, and they are very happy.” (https://germanvillage.com/about/history/)
“Today, German Village is a historic neighborhood just south of downtown Columbus, Ohio. Initially platted in 1814 in Columbus’s South End, the German Village area primarily developed between 1840 and 1914. It was settled largely by German immigrants in the mid 1800s. German descendants at one time comprised as much as a third of the population of the entire city of Columbus.”
Missouri is the state where “the Sun of Freedom shines” according to Friedrich Muench, co-founder of the Giessen Emigration Society in 1834. This land was uncharted, fertile, inexpensive and wide open. young attorney named Gottfried Duden from Remscheid Germany had taken notice of this newly formed State called Missouri just five years earlier. When he published a small book on the subject in 1829, A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America he described what some referred to as a veritable Garden of Eden, with rolling hills, wide fertile river valleys and acre upon acre of inexpensive land. Even better, was the land came with all of those American freedoms called Democracy, where one had the right to vote and the ability to pursue the American dream. This book was an instant best-seller! Just the right words at just the right time. And a new floodgate for German emigrants was opened. Within the decade of the 1830s over 120,000 Germans would emigrate to the United States with over a third of those settling in the State of Missouri, and many coming because of Duden’s book.
“In 2015, Missouri Humanities Council Executive Director Dr. Steve Belko recognized the amount of German heritage that filled the State and began the German Heritage Corridor of Missouri inventory. With Missouri’s General Assembly also recognizing the importance of its’ German heritage, the sixteen counties of Boone, Chariton, Saline, Lafayette, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Cole, Callaway, Osage, Gasconade, Warren, Montgomery, Franklin, St. Charles, St. Louis and the City of St. Louis were officially signed into being by Governor Nixon on July 1, 2016 as the German Heritage Corridor. In the Fall/Winter issue of the Missouri Humanities magazine, Belko states “Although the particulars of this story center on Missouri, the Missouri Humanities Council expects national and even transatlantic interest in this project, due to both its scale and the vast percentage of Americans who trace their ancestry to Germany”.
The Corridor’s inventory explores the State’s heritage in five phases: Early Settlement 1819-1848, Revolutionary 1848-1875, Growth and Prosperity 1875-1914, Gilded Age from 1914-1945and Modern which is post 1945. To better understand and interpret these phases in Missouri’s history the project uses five themes to guide it: Environment (which includes the parks and trails), Demographics, Work and Technology, Institutions and Values. According to Belko, all of this combined gives us a much greater picture of the state’s German heritage. From the little village of Dutzow, where they first settled alongside Duden’s Missouri farm, to the huge City of St. Louis, this heritage can still be found today. It is heard at the St. Charles Oktoberfest in the fall and or Hermann’s Maifest in the spring. It is tasted in the wineries near Augusta, which lies in the first such designated American Viticultural Area in the U.S., or inthe breweries in St. Louis. It is also heard in the voices of the Dammenchor as they practice in the German Cultural Society’s hall, or the young children’s voices as they practice their German at the St. Louis German School. Sometimes, we come upon it by surprise when we discover the German settlement of Munichburg inside Jefferson City, our State Capitol. Perhaps we will find it in the St. Paul High school in the City of Concordia … which is on one end of the Corridor, as its history ties it with the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis at the other end.
From one end of our State to another, Missouri’s German heritage encompasses more than just the Corridor, its inventory gathers the stories, the history, the festivals and the places that help us to identify with our German ancestry. Collecting the organizations that still exist, some of which are nearly 200 years old such as the St. Louis Liederkranz, help us to better understand our ancestor’s lives. This German American identity is what sets us apart and makes us proud. We take pride in this heritage and celebrate its history. We want to continue to share and impart these stories so that the next generation and many more after that, can also share in this story and take pride in this heritage. When our ancestors left Germany’s shores, they came packed with all of this. Today, we must take responsibility and see that it is not lost. We must first gather this information and slowly unpack it and share it, then celebrate it, in order that all future generations may then know and appreciate our German American heritage.”
The German American Heritage Foundation’s Ambassador Magazine