Week 3 – Stille, Krumme + Weitz

The reading about the Stille and Krumme family started by telling us where their family came from, their immigration path, as well as where they ended up. The Stilles came from a providence called Westphalia just as immigration was starting to gain speed in Germany. From this reading and their letters to one another, it was easy to tell that the Stille/Krumme family was in an economic crisis and immigrated in order to make a living. At the time, many people were employed in the textile (linen) industry, but as industrialization was happening and less people could do the same work, people lost their jobs. A lot of people were also forced to work as tenant farmers, where they farmed on a piece of land owned by someone else who then got part of the profit. With few job options available, it seemed smart to try to move elsewhere. As mentioned in the lecture on Monday as well as in the reading, this family (and others) took part in chain migration, where people from similar backgrounds/cultures settled near the same places. There was also mention of the midwestern cities that German immigrants mostly settled in as well as the prominence of German lettered newspapers. This creates cohesion and community amongst immigrants during their transition. Despite the movement of people from their communities towards the new opportunities in other places, there was still a great amount of contact (which resulted in these letters). When arriving in the U.S., a lot of the German immigrants worked on farms to try to send money back to their families. I was interested in the different levels of education that it seemed like the different letter-writers had throughout the reading.

Similarly to the Stille/Krumme family, Martin Weitz wasn’t the wealthiest man being a cattle farmer. The land was barren of crops, the wool weaving jobs were being industrialized, and he didn’t make enough profit to support his family… something had to change. More and more people from these farming turned industrialized areas started immigrating to America. But, unlike in his home state, the wool/textile industry was booming and created jobs and had what seemed to be supportive wages. Weitz found work in Connecticut, where there were few foreign immigrants but later more and more German immigrants settled there too. Overall, I feel like Weitz seems overwhelmed in his letters, he marvels at the food and the processes that are different in the U.S. than where he was from. I couldn’t imagine what it was like to go from a small farming town to a larger, more industrialized city. Through his letters, he seemed to begin slowly building up confidence and wealth from his job; the relief of being able to help his family financially was tangible from reading his letters.

Both of these readings clearly exhibited what was talked about in class and made the information more concrete for my own thinking. Both the Stille/Krumme family’s and the Weitz family’s paths started in similar places and ended in success stories which was exciting to read about.

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