Extra! Extra! German Immigrants in the United States
Were Germans the most influential group in the ethnic press? For a time, yes! In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Germans came to the United States in droves. For decades, Germans were the largest non-English-speaking immigrant group in America. Between 1820 and 1924, over 5.5 million German immigrants arrived in the United States, many of them middle class, urban, and working in the skilled trades, and others establishing farming communities in the West. Their numbers and dedication to maintaining their language and culture made Germans the most influential force in the American foreign-language press—in the 1880s, the 800 German-language newspapers accounted for about 4/5 of non-English publications, and by 1890, more than 1,000 German newspapers were being published in the United States.
Germans were the first non-English-speaking group to publish newspapers in America. At least until the First World War, these newspapers were critical for maintaining German American identity. For many German immigrants, the emphasis was on the first part of that identity—they were Germans first, and sought to become Americans without relinquishing their German-ness. The group established a pattern that other immigrant groups followed later. They came to America, settled into cultural enclaves, and constructed microcosms of their society in the new country. Maintaining their language and printing newspapers in their native language was critical to that process. Some of the many German-language newspapers published in the United States may now be found in Chronicling America.
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