Monday, December 5, 2011

NEH Challenge Grant Awarded to MKI

We are thrilled to announce that the MKI has been named the recipient of a prestigious NEH Challenge Grant to support the MKI Library Project. The award will go toward an endowment for a librarian/archivist position, the remodeling and renovation of the MKI’s new quarters in the University Club, and the purchase of some new acquisitions. The NEH Challenge Grant provides us with $300,000, which we must match over the next few years on a three-to-one basis. Thanks to the generous support of friends and associates, the Library Project Campaign is already well on its way. We are happy about the recognition this award is bringing to the Institute and are looking forward to meeting the next challenge.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In 1626, Peter Minuit — a native of the German town of Wesel am Rhein — purchased Manhattan Island for 60 guilders worth of trade goods. Since that purchase, German immigrants have been integral to the development of the city of New York. As the German community in New York exploded in size, it built churches, started businesses, founded hospitals, created clubs, propagated culture, erected monuments, and birthed dynasties in business and the arts. Over the years, however, the community assimilated and dispersed, but it left an indelible mark on the city. New York has been built up and torn down, both by design and by tragedy, but if you look closely, traces of the German immigrant experience can still be found hiding throughout the city’s corridors. German Traces NYC is a mobile, augmented reality experience designed to let learners explore German cultural heritage in New York City. The application makes use of archival documents, photographs, and multimedia narratives to bring to life to this significant thread of New York City and United States history.
German Traces NYC and GeoStoryteller are a joint project between the Goethe-Institut New York and Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

MKI German Genealogy Workshops

The MKI is pleased to offer three German genealogy workshops in March 2012: "Genealogical Resources for German-American Ancestry, Online and Off" (March 3); "Tracing Your Jewish Roots from German-Speaking Europe" (March 18); and "Reading Old German Script" (March 24). More details and registration information is available on the MKI Web site "News & Events" page. (scroll down the page)

Monday, October 31, 2011

40-50% Off on Selected MKI Publications!

Just in time for the holidays and for a limited time only, the MKI drastically reduces the prices of some of its popular books, when ordered directly from the UW Press: click on the link below, add to cart, add promo code KADE11, click checkout and the new price will appear.

"Pickled Herring and Pumpkin Pie: A Nineteenth-Century Cookbook for German Immigrants to America," paper, now $14.95.

"German Jewish Identities in America," cloth, now $14.95.

"Land Without Nightingales: Music in the Making of German America," cloth with CD, now $19.95.

"Atlas of Pennsylvania German," cloth, now $19.95.

"Other Witnesses: An Anthology of Literature of the German Americans, 1850-1914," cloth, now $19.95.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Foremothers: Genealogy and Gender

In a lecture entitled Foremothers: Genealogy and Gender,” presented on October 8, 2011, for the Dane County Area Genealogical Society, Cora Lee Kluge outlined—using as her example a family that lived in the latter part of the nineteenth century in Janesville, Wisconsin––special difficulties researchers encounter when looking into female ancestors. It is often difficult to find out about their backgrounds, since their names may be subsumed under those of their husbands. Furthermore, they lived their lives for the most part in the private rather than the public sphere, so that official documents and records relating to them may not exist at all. Even death notices, obituaries, and grave markers may be of no help, and the records they left—including diaries, letters, or autobiographical writings—tend to belittle their own contributions and achievements. Cora Lee pointed out that such problems confront all genealogists and researchers, but particularly those looking for immigrant forebears. After outlining resources and approaches that are easily overlooked, she asked whether information about these “anonymous” women would be of interest, concluding that without them, their perspectives, and their interactions with others, we are missing a large and equally valid part of the story.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The MKI Library Project Campaign

We are almost there! As many of you have heard, the Max Kade Institute is now moving to a much larger and more centrally located place on the UW–Madison campus: the University Club. We are using this opportunity to build a state-of-the-art library and archival facility for our unique collections of German-language materials published in North America, including an exhibit space and comfortable reading areas for our patrons. The renovation is budgeted at $1.1 million, and we are within reach of our goal. Please help us preserve this important part of American history and support our efforts to raise the final $200,000.

HELP US RAISE $200,000

Through the end of 2011 all donations will be matched dollar for dollar by the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

· Gifts can be made by check, made out to UW Foundation, with MKI Library Project in the memo line and mailed to: Max Kade Institute, 901 University Bay Dr., Madison, WI 53705

· or online through the MKI Web site: (click on “MKI Library Campaign”).

All gifts to the MKI Library Project are fully tax deductible.

For additional information contact: Antje Petty at the Max Kade Institute (608-262-7546) or

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When is a man a German American?

The above question-and-answer comes from the February 1889 issue of Das Evangelische Magazin, edited by C. A. Thomas and R. Matt and published in Cleveland, Ohio, by Lauer und Mattill. Such inquiries appear in the magazine’s “Mit unsern Lesern” section, and while the majority of them are of a religious nature, occasionally something more secular appears. Here a reader from Missouri asks if a man born in America to German parents is a German-American or something else. The editors proclaim that such a person would be as much an American as if his parents had come on the Mayflower with the Puritans. They offer the distinction that a German-American would be someone who was born in Germany, but either naturalized here or became a citizen through the citizenship of his father. The situation, they point out, would be the same for anyone from any other country; but if you are born in America you are simply an American, even if your father was an English lord or an Italian count.

An interesting emphasis on the democratization of America, though perhaps a bit disappointing for those of us today who wish to proudly identify our ethnic heritage, or perhaps even wish to bask in the glow of a presumed noble “von.”

A bit of research into the history of the magazine itself reveals it was published from 1869 through 1927 under several different editors and publishers (although the location of the publishers, despite name changes, was always given as 265-275 Woodland Avenue. This, we discovered was the home of the Publishing House of the Evangelical Association, which produced materials in both English and German). We were also able to discern that R. Matt was Robert Matt, but haven’t been able to yet learn much about him. We did find some information in the 1894 Congress of the Evangelical Association on C. A. Thomas: “Rev. C. A. Thomas, at the head of the publishing interests of the Evangelical Association, was born in Germany in 1840 and came to this country when a boy of fourteen. He entered the ministry in 1859, was elected Presiding Elder in the Spring of 1879, and in the Fall of the same year editor of Das Evanglische Magazin and German Sunday-School literature, Cleveland, Ohio, which office he still holds.” This image of C. A. Thomas was also provided:

We’d like to learn more about Thomas and Matt, and about the German-language activities of the Evangelical Association – if you have information you’d like to share, do contact us at the Max Kade Institute for German Studies in Madison, Wisconsin!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

International Plattdüütsch Konferenz in Wausau, Wisconsin

This year, September 9-11, the 16th Annual International "Plattdüütsch" Conference will be held in Wausau, Wisconsin. Hosted by the Pommerscher Verein Central Wisconsin, the conference will feature talks on the history and characteristics of the Low-German dialects and the culture and traditions of "Platt" speakers around the world. The Max Kade Institute will be represented with an exhibit and talks by Professor Mark Louden and Antje Petty. And there will be plenty of opportunity to have a good time with music, dance, "Platt" demonstrations, and - of course - good food. For more information and a detailed program click here (PDF).

German-American Comedy Songs on the National Jukebox

The National Jukebox, a project of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, is now online providing access to more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Included in this treasure trove of historical and cultural materials are ethnic or dialect recordings that sought to entertain the American public through the use of characters or elements reflecting "attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs associated with ethnic and regional groups at the time the selections were written and performed." Among these we find quite a few recordings of a German-American nature, with performers employing "an exaggerated broken-English dialect infused with German pronunciation, syntax, words, and phrases." The National Jukebox Web site alerts us that dialect recordings (particularly those associated with African Americans) contain "characterizations [that] may utilize outmoded and offensive stereotypes of nationalities, religions, or races." Although the German-American recordings might be a challenge to follow due to the thick "accents," the representations are fairly light-hearted, featuring folks who are "stout, good-natured, musical, hard-working, slow-witted, and frumpy. . . , fond of beer, pretzels, sauerkraut, sausages, and small elongated dogs."

According to Prof. James Leary of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, dialect recordings associated with German Americans (or the "Dutch" as the English of the 18th and 19th centuries referred to anyone from a wide range of Germanic regions) entertained and appealed to both German-American audiences and mainstream Americans.

Take some time to listen to comic songs, skits, and recitations such as "The Germans' Arrival," "Hans Krausmeyer and His Dog Schneider," "Krausmeyer's Wedding Party," "Louisa Schmidt," "Fritz and Louisa," "The Happy German Twins," and "It Takes the Irish to Beat the Dutch." Some of these recordings may also be found and listened to by searching for "German dialect" or "Dutch dialect" on the Cylinder Project site at University of California-Santa Barbara .

You may also wish to read Prof. Leary's paper, "Dialect Songs among the Dutch" [PDF] and listen to audio samples associated with the work:

And to examine German-American ethnic stereotypes through cartoon images found on popular postcards in the 20th century, see:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Germany Reports on German Heritage in Wisconsin

I always find it interesting what German papers report on German history and traditions in America. Over the summer, the official Web site of the German Missions in the United States, did a series on German heritage in Wisconisin. Read what they have to say about "Bierbrauer vs. Piraten," "Appleton's Ancestral Ties to Germany," and "30 Years of Milwaukee's Original Haus Party."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some Things Remain Much the Same. . .

As America commemorates the sesquicentennial of its Civil War, we at MKI are poring over the materials in our collections to illuminate how the events of this era were documented by German speakers in America and in Europe. The following comes from the Geschichte des Tages (Events of the Day) section of the August 4, 1855 Illustrirte Abend-Schule, published in Buffalo, New York. While still several years before the outbreak of armed conflict, this summary of the mood in German America is telling:
America: Party politics, temperance litigation, murders, railroad and steamship disasters – and that's it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Friends of the Max Kade Institute 2011 Annual Meeting ---- St. Nazianz Village, Manitowoc County

Join us on Saturday, May 7, for our annual meeting and an exciting day in Manitowoc County where we will visit St. Nazianz, the site of the Oschwald communal society you have read about in your newsletter. A guided tour will include St. Gregory’s Catholic Church and cemetery; a walk through the village, a visit to the local museum; and a stroll to the old Salvatorian property just south of the village, where we will hold the Annual Meeting. We will conclude the day with supper at the Silver Valley Banquet Hall just west of Manitowoc.

1:30 – 2:00 Registration at St. Gregory's Church, 214 Church St., St. Nazianz, WI
2:00 – 4:00 Tour of St. Nazianz village and Salvatorian property
4:00 – 5:00 Annual Meeting and social time (followed by brief Board of Directors meeting)
5:00 – 5:30 Drive to Silver Valley Banquet Hall, 1222 S Alverno Rd. Manitowoc, WI
5:30 Dinner at Silver Valley Banquet Hall (Buffet with a variety of German dishes)

Please register by April 30th -- click HERE for PDF with registration form and driving directions

Friday, March 11, 2011

University of Heidelberg Honors American Abolitionist and Former Slave

By establishing the James W.C. Pennington Distinguished Fellowship, the University of Heidelberg/Germany is drawing attention to a long forgotten historic occurrence that brought together German democratic revolutionary ideals, the international peace movement and the abolitionist movement in America. In 1849, James W. C. Pennington became the first African American to be awarded an honorary degree from a European University when the University of Heidelberg conferred on him the honorary doctorate of divinity. He had been invited to Heidelberg by the theologian and democratic activist Friedrich Wilhelm Carové after the two met at the 1849 World Peace Congress in Paris.

Pennington was born in 1807 as Jim Pembroke, a slave on an estate in western Maryland, and later worked as a blacksmith. He escaped bondage as a young man, fled north, was able to educate himself, and became the first African American to attend classes at Yale. He was eventually ordained as a Presbyterian minister. In 1849, he published The Fugitive Blacksmith, or Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, an account of his harrowing escape. With his oratory and literary skill, Pennington became a leading voice for the abolitionist movement, representing its Evangelical Christian branch.

According to Dr. Mischa Honeck, Assistant Professor at the University of Heidelberg’s Center for American Studies, Pennington’s honorary degree from Heidelberg not only raised his prominence in the abolitionist movement in the US, but it also was seen as a positive tool for the foundering cause of German liberalism. More information can be found here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

German and German-American Dimensions of the Civil War

2011 is the year of the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the American Civil War. The Max Kade Institute will mark the occasion by hosting an international symposium to examine the time before, during and directly after the Civil War from a unique angle, focusing on immigrants (especially those from German lands) and the global impact of the war (especially within German-speaking Europe). Join us March 3-5 at the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union and the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison. For a detailed program and abstracts of presentations see the MKI Website.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Music of the Old Order Amish

On February 10 at 7pm, Professor Mark Louden (German Department, University of Wisconsin) will hold a lecture on "Music of the Old Order Amish." Professor Louden will give an overview of the variety of forms of musical expression among the Amish, which show influences from both Central European hymnody and nineteenth- and twentieth-century American gospel music. An experience "Vorsaenger" (lead singer) himself, Professor Louden will demonstrate how Amish songs are led in worship and at Sunday evening social gatherings. Join us at the Memorial Union on the UW-Madison Campus!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present

An ambitious project coordinated by the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., will highlight the role played by immigrant entrepreneurs—specifically those who came from German-speaking lands—in the development of America's economic success. The project will utilize a wide range of source materials to provide biographical sketches as well as company histories for businesses from the early eighteenth century to the present day; the information will be presented online free of charge. All entries are to include information concerning the individual's reasons for migration; his or her social origins, regional identity (either in the home country or in the U.S.), religion, ethnic networks, Americanization, and business strategies; the impact of problems in America such as nativism, anti-German sentiments, boycotts, and anti-Semitism; and also the business's development and change over time.
The site is in progress at:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Announcing: Anglo-German Walks 2011

Submitted by MKI Friend JoAnn T.

Neil McDonald, a German teacher from Yorkshire, England is an experienced hike leader and has organized cross-cultural walking weeks for adult participants since 1993. Both English and German native speakers share a week of language, culture, and most-importantly, hiking in the British Isles and German-speaking areas on the continent. I participated last June in the German-speaking Italian Alps (Südtirol), hiking in the area around Meran (see picture) and have fond memories of following the splashing Waalwege downhill and stopping for refreshment at Gasthäuser with unforgettable views!
Destinations for 2011 are the Höllental im Schwarzwald (Black Forest), Dahner Felsenland (Pfalz), Sächsische Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland) and Harzgebirge (Harz Mountains), as well as Exmoor, the Welsh Marches, the Scottish Southern Uplands, and Hadrian’s Wall.
Find more information and request a brochure at: