As German immigrants reached the United States and began settling in the interior of the country, the German American press catered to their need for news and information, providing stories about their adopted homeland while keeping in touch with Germany. The German American press became one of the largest and most powerful ethnic presses in the country, aiding German politicians at both state and national levels.
Ethnic presses in the United States were a major force in American journalism during the nineteenth century, when mass European immigration was bringing millions of non-English speakers into the United States. The German-language press was one of the most influential of the ethnic presses. The first German newspaper in the British colonies was published by
Meanwhile, developments in Europe invigorated the German American press as political turmoil accelerated German emigration. The
As new German immigrants settled throughout the United States, their daily newspapers followed. By the 1850’s, Cincinnati alone had four German-language newspapers, and
As the circulations of German-language papers topped one hundred thousand in cities such as Chicago and New York, German American politicians used the papers as campaigning tools.
The German American press also aided in the rise of major newspaper magnates, who used ethnic newspapers to expand their overall readership. For example,
European turmoil during the 1870’s and 1880’s drove more Germans to emigrate to North America, increasing demand for German-language papers. New York City alone had more than a half-dozen such papers, while many rural communities with German settlers had their own German papers. However, as German immigration waned, and second- and third-generation German Americans adopted English, the German papers saw their readerships decline. Rural papers were the first to shut down. During the early years of the twentieth century, mergers left most large cities with only one or two German-language dailies each.
American entry into World War I in 1917 proved to be the end of the German American press’s influence in American politics. Much of the fall of the papers may be attributed to the German entrepreneur
In 1918, Wilson signed the
Such regulations weakened the German language press, while growing distrust of the loyalty of German speakers led to the demise of half of the German newspapers during the early 1920’s. The end of large-scale German immigration and the general economic turndown of the Great Depression reduced the circulation of the German newspapers, leaving only a few in the largest American cities such as New York. By the turn of the twenty-first century, fewer than two dozen German American newspapers were still publishing. These included Chicago’s Amerika Woch, New York’s Staats Zeitung, and the Florida Journal.
Fleming, Thomas. The Illusion of Victory. New York: Basic Books, 2003. Discusses how the Wilson administration used the national emergency to attack ethnic groups including Germans suspected of supporting their homeland during World War I. Gross, Ruth. Traveling Between Worlds. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2006. Study of German immigration into the United States that includes coverage of such institutions as churches and the press. Heinrich-Tolzmann, Don. The German American Experience. Amherst, N.Y.: Humanity Books, 2000. Wide-ranging study of how Germans who emigrated to the United States became an integral part of their new country’s cultural and political system. Keller, Phyllis. States of Belonging. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979. Examines several German intellectuals, including publishers of German American newspapers and journals. Miller, Sally, ed. The Ethnic Press in the United States. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987. Shows how immigrant presses were an important part of arrivals to United States, including the active German American press.
European revolutions of 1848
History of immigration, 1783-1891
Italian American press
World War I