Friday, July 20, 2012

Pommerscher Verein Unveils Immigrant Memorial Marker

On July 15, 2012, a ceremony was held in the Town of Berlin, Marathon County, Wisconsin, to unveil a granite marker commemorating the Pomeranian immigrants who settled in the area. Organized by the Pommerscher Verein Central Wisconsin, a heritage group that studies the history, culture, and Low German (or Platt) language known to their ancestors, the celebration included singing, dancing, speeches, and even a release of pigeons as the monument was unveiled. The songs included a version of "On Wisconsin" and "You Are My Sunshine" in Platt, as well as "Das Pommernlied," which was written in 1850. The group is believed to be the first to translate the Wisconsin state song into a dialect language.

The six-foot-tall marker is made of locally quarried red granite; not only is red granite Wisconsin's state stone, but many Verein members and their families have found employment at such quarries. One side of the marker features a narrative about the Pomeranian settlement of central Wisconsin; the other shows a map of the Kingdom of Prussia, identifying the area where large groups of immigrants originated, as well as a map of Wisconsin, highlighting the counties of Marathon and Lincoln where so many Pomeranian immigrants settled—often in towns with names like Stettin, Hamburg, and Berlin. In addition, the ground surrounding the marker contains 149 tiles engraved with the names of original immigrant settlers and nearly 400 commemorative bricks established by descendant families.
There is a plan to compile a collection of stories about the immigrants whose names adorn the monument.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Das Picknick: A Recitation in Denglish

Here we take a peek at Lustige Sachen für Mädchen zum Lachen. Vorträge für Jungfrauen [Humorous things/recitations to make young girls laugh], compiled by R. Karpinsky and published by the Antigo (Wisconsin) Publishing Company. We haven't been able to determine a date of publication, but it was most likely in the early 1900s. A number of the pieces in this collection, all of which are meant to be read aloud, are in German dialects, and are attributed to German/Swiss Americans, such as Louis C. Marolf of Iowa and Emil G. Brill of Chicago, or have a German-American flavor, such as "Beefsteak-Lied," "Buttermachen auf der Farm" and "Das Picknick."

This last one, reproduced below, is heavily Denglish, a combination of English and German (and that rather a dialect itself), rife with amusing phonetic spellings such as "Tschortsch" for George, "strenhnsche" for strange, "Seihn" for sign, and "hongri" for hungry; and outrageous phrases like "Er lugget e Bäsket mit Lunch an sei Arm," "stickig un warm," "ich schtends bald net mehr, "hurry op," and "Jetzt schtopp das Geholler un Dei Yellerei / Sonscht kriegscht Du e Licking instett e Schtick Pie."

Internet research shows there was a Rev. Rudolph Albert Karpinsky, born 1871 in Augusta, Eau Claire County, Wisconsin, his parents having come to America from Germany in 1868. In 1900 Rudolph received theological training and graduated from Concordia College in Springfield, Illinois, and in this year he also married Amanda Zank of Augusta, Wisconsin. He served as Lutheran minister at Bern, in Nemaha County, Kansas, until 1903, when he was transferred to Belle Plaine, in Shawano County, Wisconsin. In 1911 he was installed as pastor at the Lutheran Church in Manawa, Waupaca County, Wisconsin, serving there until 1946. He died in 1947 and is buried in Green Bay, Brown County, Wisconsin.

Our copy of Lustige Sachen für Mädchen zum Lachen is stamped and inscribed "A. R. Dierks" of West Bloomfield, Wisconsin. Online information suggests A. R. Dierks was a school teacher from 1921 to 1943 at the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Weyauwega (West Bloomfield), Waupaca County, Wisconsin.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Care Packages to Germany after WWII

Among the extensive materials in the Frank and Herta Gross family papers is documentation related to the 500-plus care packages Frank sent to relatives and friends in Germany after World War II.

The images here are from a Hapag-Lloyd's advertisement. Note the names given to some of the options, and also that "in view of the existing uncertainties, only parcels CARL, LAURA, MARIA and HANS are available for the Russian Zone (not for Berlin) via U.S. Parcel Post."

[Click here for a larger, "zoomable" image of this page.]


Thursday, July 5, 2012

How I Learned the English Language

This humorous dialog, intended to be read aloud at Christian social gatherings, is from a book entitled Deutscher Humor I. Poesie und Prosa zum Vorlesen und Vortragen auf geselligen und heiteren Zusammenkünften. The book was compiled by a paster (perhaps Albert Friedrich Grimm) and published by the Antigo (Wisconsin) Publishing Company, probably in the early 1900s. A few of the pieces in the book are in German dialects, but only a few near the end, such as "Wie ich die englische Sprache lernte," have a distinctly German-American flavor.

While it is impossible to determine the authenticity of the story, it is certainly rife with realistic details, as well as a sense of pathos. The speaker claims to have come from Germany as a 15-year-old boy and taken service with a farmer by the name of Chittenden, working for 15 dollars a month. "I'll never understand how he expected to get his money's worth from such a green boy," he exclaims, "though he later told me I gave him an enjoyable summer."

The rest of the piece details several episodes wherein the speaker, who confesses to having been quite vain in his youth, has embarrassing difficulties with the English language; indeed, it is stated that the memories of these injuries to his pride still cause him pain to this day.

Among the incidents: telling others his father was a "begger" as he attempts to pronounce the word "baker"; trying to discern what a "peacock" is and deciding it must be a type of vegetable, like a beet -- which leads to humor at his expense around the dinner table; being told to muck out the stable and, thinking this unfamiliar word sounded much like "table," beginning to set out the cups and plates; and, upon being asked to get a "singletree" (a crossbar to which the traces of a harness are attached), grabbing an ax to cut down the lone shade tree near the house.

Eventually he becomes so fearful of making such humiliating mistakes he doesn't dare to speak a word of English. And, although he insists he can share jokes among other German speakers, he tells us the farmer calls him August -- even though his name is Konrad -- because he reminds the farmer "of the dryest month of the year."

The speaker concludes that these defeats kept him from developing an affinity for the English language; his inability to speak it correctly, however, doesn't bother him, for -- in the Denglish words of his aunt -- "I cannot shpeak der Englisch well / because I picked it up too schnell."

By the way, the 1900 census shows a Bronson Chittenden living in Neva, Langlade Co., WI, 7 miles from Antigo.