History of the Germans in Baltimore
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The history of the Germans in Baltimore began in the 17th century. During the 1800s, the Port of Baltimore was the second-leading port of entry for immigrants, after Ellis Island in New York City. Many Germans immigrated to Baltimore during this time. As of 2000, the German population made up 18.7% of Baltimore's population, with 478,646 people of German descent living in Baltimore. This makes the Germans the largest European population in the city.
German immigrants began to settle along the Chesapeake Bay by 1723, living in the area that became Baltimore when the city was established in 1729. German Lutheran immigrants established Zion Lutheran Church in 1755, which also attracted Pennsylvania Dutch settlers to the region. Early German settlers also established the German Society of Maryland in 1783 in order to foster the German language and German culture in Baltimore.
Following the War of 1812 in North America, a wave of German immigrants came from the Palatinate, Hesse, Bavaria, and Bohemia. Many fled from Germany between 1812 and 1814, during the War of the Sixth Coalition, (1812-1814), the last of the series of French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, in order to avoid military conscription into the Royal Prussian Army. The port of Baltimore was developed as a gateway for immigrants during the 1820's, and soon became the second largest gateway to America after New York City, (and Ellis Island), especially at the terminals of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on Locust Point, Baltimore, Locust Point which had made an agreement with the North German Lloyd Line]]. By 1850, 20,000 German-born people lived in the city. Between 1820 and 1860, Germans were the largest group of immigrants to Baltimore. This wave of immigrants created numerous German institutions, including banks, insurance companies, and newspapers. German immigrants also created a thriving German-language press, including publications such as the "Baltimore Wecker" ("Alarm").
Immigration from Germany increased again after the various Revolutions of 1848 flaring up throughout Europe, bringing thousands of "Forty-Eighters" to Baltimore. By the time of the American Civil War, there were 32,613 German-born residents of Baltimore, not counting their American-born descendents of first generation along with the earlier wave of colonial and pre-revolutionary era settlers which almost worried Benjamin Franklin that the main language soon of North America's East Coast colonies would be German rather than English. Many German immigrants were political and social liberals and freethinkers who would become politically active in opposing slavery, which at times attracted violent opposition from old nativists and Confederate sympathizers, rising eventually into the "Know-Nothings" (American Party) which was unusually strong in the Old Line State in the 1850's. During the Baltimore riot of 1861, the office of the Baltimore Wecker was destroyed by mobs; the publisher, William Schnauffer, and the editor, Wilhelm Rapp, left the city due to the violence. The population continued to surge after the Civil War, due in large part to the agreement signed on January 21, 1867 between the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Norddeutscher Lloyd, a German steamship line which brought tobacco along with further German immigrants to the port of Baltimore from Bremen, Germany. German immigrants disembarked from the steamships at B&O's pier, which was located in Locust Point. By 1868, one-fourth of Baltimore's 160,000 white inhabitants were German-born and half of the remainder were of full or partial German descent.
Many of the German immigrants who arrived during the latter half of the 19th Century were affluent German Jews who created a number of cultural institutions, including Yiddish theatres such as the Concordia Hall and the Convention Hall Theater. Beginning in the 1870's, many wealthy German Jews built lavish homes in the northwest area of the growing city along North Eutaw Street and Eutaw Place towards the new Druid Hill Park of 1860. They also built several synagogues, such as the Eutaw Place Temple. By 1880, there were around 10,000 German Jews living in Baltimore, most of whom were of Bavarian and Hessian descent.
The German-born immigrant population in Baltimore peaked in 1890, when German-born Baltimoreans numbered 41,930 out of the total population of 365,863.
Holy Cross Church on West Street off Light Street in old South Baltimore near Federal Hill was founded in 1860 to serve the growing numbers of Germans moving onto the peninsula south of "The Basin" of the Patapsco River's Northwest Branch and the Baltimore Harbor, which had been annexed into the city in 1816. St. Elizabeth of Hungary Roman Catholic was later founded in 1895 in Highlandtown in east Baltimore to serve the German immigrant community in that part of the city.
In the year 1900, the city's German population was 34,000, according to the United States Census. In 1900 there were over 30 congregations in Baltimore that were holding Sunday services in German. By 1914, the number had risen to 94,000, 20% of city's population. During the 19th Century, many of the city's public schools were known as "German-English". By the 1920's, one third of Baltimore's public schools still offered German-language curricula and a quarter of Baltimoreans could still speak German fluently. Up until World War I the notes from the Baltimore City Council were published in both German and English.
Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in the Federal Hill neighborhood, was listed as a German parish until 1959. The church had historically played an important institutional role for South Baltimore's large German community.
Aspects of Baltimore's German heritage remain, such as the Zion Lutheran Church. The church has held services in both English and German for over 250 years. There is also an annual Maryland German Festival held in the Baltimore area, which is sponsored by the German-American Citizens Association of Maryland.
The German immigrants influenced the cuisine of Baltimore, introducing food items such as Berger Cookies. The Schmidt Baking Company was established by Elizabeth and Peter Schmidt, immigrants from Germany who used German recipes for their products. Baltimore used to have a number of German restaurants, though the Eichenkranz is the sole remaining restaurant which serves German cuisine.
Notable German-Americans in Baltimore
- Wendel Bollman
- Elsbeth Levy Bothe
- Cone sisters
- Caribell Cone
- Etta Cone
- Walter M. Elsasser
- Joseph Fels
- George A. Frederick
- George Fruits
- H. L. Mencken (Henry Louis Mencken)
- Ottmar Mergenthaler
- Hermann Oelrichs
- Wilhelm Rapp
- Isidor Rayner
- Abraham Rice
- George Herman ("Babe") Ruth
- William Donald Schaefer]
- Carl Heinrich Schnauffer
- Charles Stieff
- Louis J. Weichmann
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