Swiss American Historical Society

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The Swiss American Historical Society (SAHS) is a historical society founded in Chicago in 1927. According to the Society's website, it was established "to promote the study of the Swiss in America, of Swiss–American relations, of Swiss immigration to the United States, and of American interest in Swiss history and culture."[1] Currently, the society unites not only people with these interests, but also those who seek to do genealogical research.

The society publishes the Swiss American Historical Society Review three times a year and meets annually, the location rotating between Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York.

With members primarily in the United States, Canada, and Switzerland, the SAHS fosters contact between both sides of the Atlantic and serves as a link between Swiss Americans, Swiss, and Americans in an effort to promote cultural awareness and mutual understanding.


The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw the establishment of a number of historical societies in the United States, representing various immigrant groups.[2] Amidst this proliferation of immigrant historical societies, Swiss Americans and those interested in them and their history had by the 1920s become disillusioned at "the fact that every outstanding person of Swiss origin was claimed by some other nation.”[3] Among these were Ernest A. Kübler, Bruno Bachmann, and August Rüedy, who on July 4, 1927, founded the Swiss American Historical Society in Chicago. By December the organization had been incorporated into the State of Illinois.

The Society immediately set forth to prepare and publish several works increasing awareness of the Swiss in the United States.[4] However, due to several factors, including the Great Depression throughout the 1930s, the Society began to decline in membership and activity. By 1937, only 48 due-paying members remained. Anti-German sentiment in the forties did little to help the Society's standing. The Society continued mostly dormant throughout the forties and fifties.

Since 1963[edit]

Beginning in 1963, with the involvement of Dr. Lukas F. Burckhardt, SAHS member and cultural counselor at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, Alfred Zehnder, Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States, and Heinz K. Meier, the Society began to be revitalized. By 1965, plans had been established to put out several newsletters per year, to present scholarly papers at their one business meeting per year, and to resume publishing work such as they had started at the Society’s beginning.[5]

In 1979 the organization published an introductory guide to Swiss genealogy to facilitate research for those interested in Swiss family history.

After the 1970s, the Society’s newsletter became increasingly more scholarly, and in 1990 became the Swiss American Historical Society Review, seen by the Society as a voice-giving instrument for Swiss Americans.[6] The Review is currently published three times a year, in February, June, and November. The journal includes book reviews, articles of interest to Swiss Americans, and summaries of Society proceedings.

In addition to the Review, the Society has published thirty books; two more are in preparation.

The Society meets annually, with meetings rotating between Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York. Presentations at meetings explore a variety of topics related to the history of Swiss-American immigrants.

Selected Publications[edit]

Prominent Americans of Swiss Origins, 1932.

The Swiss in the United States, 1940.

Rudolf Aschmann, Memoirs of a Swiss Officer in the American Civil War, 1972.

Paul A. Nielson, Swiss Genealogical Research: An Introductory Guide, 1979.

Emil Frey, An American Apprenticeship: The Letters of Emil Frey, 1860–1865, 1986.

David Sutton, One's Hearth Is Like Gold: A History of Helvetia, West Virginia, 1990.

Laura R. Villiger, Mari Sandoz: A Study in Post-Colonial Discourse, 1994.

Konrad Basler, The Dorkilon Emigrants: Swiss Settlers and Cultural Founders in the United States – A Personal Report, 1996.

Mennonites in Transition: From Switzerland to America, 1997.

Donald Tritt, ed., Swiss Festivals, 1999.

Leo Schelbert, ed., Switzerland Under Siege, 1939–1945: A Neutral Nation's Struggle for Survival, 2001.

Lewis B. Rohrbach, Genealogical Research in Switzerland: An Introductory Guide, 2005.

Leo Lesquereux, Letters from America, 1853, 2006.

Jakob Otto Wyss (1846–1927): Postmaster in Klau – Letters from California, 2007.

Brigitte and Eugen Bachmann-Geiser, Amish: The Way of Life of the Amish in Berne, Indiana, 2009.

Susann Bosshard-Kӓlin, Westward: Encounters with Swiss American Women, 2010.

See also[edit]

Swiss American


  1. ^ Swiss American Historical Society – Web Site
  2. ^ Joseph J. Appel, Immigrant Historical Societies in the United States, 1880–1950. New York: Arno Press, 1980.
  3. ^ Schelbert, Leo (2011). The Reactivated Swiss American Historical Society at Forty: A Retrospective. *
  4. ^ For example, Prominent Americans of Swiss Origin (1932) and The Swiss in the United States (1940).
  5. ^ Schelbert 2011.
  6. ^ Schelbert 2011.

External links[edit]