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February 07, 2016


German-language newspapers in the U.S.

Foreign language newspapers in the U.S.? And in the Heartland of the nation?!?!? Oh, the horror!

Oh well, at least they weren't Spanish language newspapers. After all, Germans may not be Anglo-Saxons, but at least they are Saxons.... ;-)

I remember my grandmother (born in the US, but spoke only Swedish until she went to grammar school) talking about how, at least before 1916, girls she knew couldn't get jobs in the department stores (in Wausau, WI) because they didn't speak German. You had to speak English, too, but German was a required second language.

Interestingly, the author sees St.Louis as the heart of the heart (and thus the center of the whole empire*) located at the entry of that heartland and greets it as the capital city of THE (not 'a') new Germany beyond the ocean.

*Reich, while a few lines above he named the US a Freistaat (free state = republic). The term Reich is highly loaded in particular at the time this text was written with the old German Reich** gone and the new one far from yet getting founded. Germany tried to become a nation state (mutually exclusive with being a Reich which is defined as a state of multiple peoples dominated by one like e.g. Austria (Österreich = Eastern empire)) but stuck to the old term for less than rational reasons).

**It has been often said that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was neither Roman, holy, German nor even an empire and thus the most misnamed state ever.

The whole quote is just one sentence. A rough translation:
So we meet Washington indeed not in the middle of the present borders of the United States, but in the middle of that Atlantic coast, which at its founding comprised the area of this country--but when now the center of gravity of the new Free Country more and more shifts from east to west, when in fact now the heartland of North America, the land between the Ohio, Missouri and the Canadian lakes, in which now the sons of the heart of Europe most densely settle, so now gains in significance, yes, blooms, there lies at the entry to this heartland, as actual heart point of the whole kingdom, Saint Louis, at the meeting of the two largest rivers of North America--may we in spirit greet it as the capitol of the new Germany on the other side of the ocean!

wj, even worse up to at least WW2 there were official versions of the US national anthem in dozens of languages, so people could join in meaningfully even without knowledge of English. I have seen the text of the Hawaiian version somewhere once (I think at David Neiwerts' Orcinus blog). These days there are proposals to make singing the anthem in anything but English a crime.


At the time Nagel was writing it was perfectly logical to think of St. Louis as "the capital of the West" -- it remained more populous than Chicago for some decades. It's not coincidence that St. Louis was built in the same spot as Cahokia, because it's the most obvious place to put a North American city that's not on a coast.

up to at least WW2 there were official versions of the US national anthem in dozens of languages, so people could join in meaningfully even without knowledge of English.

Xenophobia has been a feature of U.S. culture from the very beginning. But it must be said that currently we are reaching new depths (one wouldn't want to say "heights") of hysteria. At least among some parts of the population.

Hartmut and Ned:

Thank you for your translation help! Yes, that's what I thought he was implying: that the Germans moving to the American Midwest weren't fleeing from or rejecting Germany, they were going to make another Germany across the sea. I really wonder how widespread Nagel's attitudes were.

My own German great-grandparents were in the classic "fleeing Prussian enlistment" class, in the late 1860s.

Still, the heart is thus at the periphery of what he defines as the heartland. ;-)

Not so much the periphery as the entry point. At least for those coming by sea and river transport.

I recall that in the 80's TV miniseries "Amerika" the Soviet occupiers broke up the US into various regions with the midwest chirstened "Heartland."

My own German great-grandparents were in the classic "fleeing Prussian enlistment" class, in the late 1860s.

You mean to say the heartland was founded by draft dodgers? Welcome to America.

@Doctor Science: It's not coincidence that St. Louis was built in the same spot as Cahokia

Not exactly, and in an interesting way. Cahokia is on the eastern side of the Mississippi, down in the American Bottom, while St. Louis is on the bluffs on the western side. That's because Cahokia might have been an important trading point, but it still had to raise all its food within a relatively short radius of the city, meaning it had to be located on good agricultural land. St. Louis had access to much better modes of transportation, so it could be located on the high bluffs, where it wasn't as easy to grow food but was much less prone to flooding.

Doc Science: Thanks muchly for this post, which in raising an interesting question I had scarcely considered before and then starting to explore some of its multitudinous ramifications is exactly the kind of thing for which I keep hanging around Obsidian Wings.

That and the sentences that run on too long, but I can supply those myself.

I'm a bit surprised by the map, I thought there were concentrations of German immigrants in Texas

And by the mid-1850s, New Braunfels was already the third largest town in Texas. It was exclusively German speaking. And most of the hill country throughout the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s developed into an almost exclusive German-speaking area.


Perhaps in terms of numbers, they were outweighed, which accounts for the argument you are making, but I generally don't think of Pennsylvania or New York as part of the Heartland.

German population density in the US, 1870.


There are German immigrants practically everywhere. By now (as of 16 years ago, anyway), they've migrated to the Northern Heartland.


The map was made in 1872, based on the 1870 census.

Deny it all you want, Hartmut, but those maps PROVE that Germany is working on a slow, patient plan to conquer the US.

Just like those Dutch, working on their land invasion of England.



Why should the Dutch wish to invade England? They did that successfully in 1686. The invasion was so successful that even today, the Englishmen talk about glorious revolution instead of remembering in shame how their country was subjugated under foreign yoke by treason and successful hybrid warfare. :-)

Snarki, beware of the Donalds. Both Rumsfeld and Trump are descendants of rather recent German immigrants. And the master plan is still in the working: crossbreeding Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse in order to create an army of Duckmäusers (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duckm%C3%A4user ).

Great to see more digging into the origins of "heartland." Quick check of the Chicago Foreign Language Press Survey turns up on "heartland"s but a few "heart of America"s: http://flps.newberry.org/.

Heart of America was used by Kansas City as a tourism slogan in the 1920s: https://flic.kr/p/neLceQ

i like how states that didn't exist for 100 years after the country was founded get to be the 'heart'.

by all rights, the title "heartland" should be something Boston, NYC and Philly challenge each other for.

Kansas? pshaw.

It occurs to me to wonder. Has the concern about the importance of "the heartland" grown from unhappiness that "the Main Street of America" (i.e Route 66) is gone? (Removed from the US Highway System in 1985.)

Once Route 66 was an icon -- when I, and a lot of Baby Boomers not to mention our parents, were growing up. Its loss is symptomatic of, if actually unrelated to, the way the country has changed over our lifetimes.

And if that icon is gone, another is needed to take its place. Hence, "the heartland."

Politically, the years in which "the heartland" emerged as an icon were also the years of urban crisis, high crime, and, above all else, great anxiety about race in the US. The time was ripe for a nostalgic myth of rural white America as a repository of forgotten, superior values.

The map was made in 1872, based on the 1870 census.

Ah. And now I must retract, and sit corrected.


This map is absolute density of German-Americans. You can see relative density here, in the lower right map, and the Germans of Texas are prominent, while the Germans of NY/NJ are not.

What a terrific post. Worthy of Language Log.

Family stories of pre and during WW I have my great grandfather on my mothers side being removed multiple times and finally banned for his own safety from the local drinking establishment in a western Pennsylvania town for telling everyone that the Kaisers boys would beat the snot out of the Yankees if they were so silly as to go do the English or French bidding. My grandmother was born in the US but not allowed to speak English in the house, only German. Her older brothers were already teenagers when the family moved to the US (port of entry Baltimore, Ellis Island was not the largest port of entry but does have a better PR department)and one was reputed to have gone back to the fatherland to participate on their side in WWI....can not find any evidence to support this though.

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