German Settlement in Missouri: New Land, Old Ways

May 21, 2018 Posted by: Tom Dewey, Librarian
German Settlement in Missouri: New Land, Old Ways, by Robyn Burnett and Ken Luebbering. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

In German Settlement in Missouri, authors Robyn Burnett and Ken Luebbering demonstrate the crucial role that German immigrants and their descendants played in the settlement and development of Missouri’s political, religious, economic and social landscape. The book uses unpublished memoirs, letters, diaries and official records, providing new narratives and firsthand commentary from the immigrants.

During the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century, about seven million people came to the United States from German-speaking lands. The German immigrants established towns as they moved up the Missouri River into the frontier and their distinctive traditions dramatically changed the culture of the area. They started vineyards and wineries, published German language newspapers and entered Missouri politics.

After the Civil War, the golden age of German culture was thriving in Missouri. The populations of many small towns were almost entirely German.  Schools, churches and publications were almost all in the German language. As German businesses in St. Louis and other towns flourished, the immigrants and their families prospered.  

The authors write, “The towns they built came to resemble what they had left behind. These small Missouri towns preserved much of what was best of their traditions and culture, while embracing the political freedoms offered by their new homeland.”

Anti-immigrant sentiment became a problem for Germans in America during and after World War I. And the period of prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s dealt serious blows to their culture. More anti-immigrant issues arose during World War II. But the unique spirit of the German immigrant remained as they blended into the overall culture of the American Midwest.

Informative and clearly written, German Settlement in Missouri should appeal to most readers, especially those interested in immigration and Missouri history. In German Settlement in Missouri, authors Robyn Burnett and Ken Luebbering demonstrate the crucial role that German immigrants and their descendants played in the settlement and development of Missouri’s political, religious, economic and social landscape. The book uses unpublished memoirs, letters, diaries and official records, providing new narratives and firsthand commentary from the immigrants.

During the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century, about seven million people came to the United States from German-speaking lands. The German immigrants established towns as they moved up the Missouri River into the frontier and their distinctive traditions dramatically changed the culture of the area. They started vineyards and wineries, published German language newspapers and entered Missouri politics.

After the Civil War, the golden age of German culture was thriving in Missouri. The populations of many small towns were almost entirely German.  Schools, churches and publications were almost all in the German language. As German businesses in St. Louis and other towns flourished, the immigrants and their families prospered.  

The authors write, “The towns they built came to resemble what they had left behind. These small Missouri towns preserved much of what was best of their traditions and culture, while embracing the political freedoms offered by their new homeland.”

Anti-immigrant sentiment became a problem for Germans in America during and after World War I. And the period of prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s dealt serious blows to their culture. More anti-immigrant issues arose during World War II. But the unique spirit of the German immigrant remained as they blended into the overall culture of the American Midwest.

Informative and clearly written, German Settlement in Missouri should appeal to most readers, especially those interested in immigration and Missouri history.

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Last updated: May 21, 2018

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