Week Three Readings

Martin Weitz was a German from Schotten who immigrated to the United States. Schotten had infertile soil and a harsh climate, which prevented agriculture. Spinning and linen weaving, even with its low wages, provided an important addition to a family’s income, but cloth production became mechanized, leaving many families struggling and leading some, most of whom were single, to leave for the United States, which was in need of laborers. Weitz was one such emigrant. He was a single wool weaver who likely left without official permission in search of a better life. Weitz found steady work in Rockville, Connecticut, and despite having only a little formal education, he was likely a devoted reader of German newspapers, as he was well-aware of current events. I found it interesting to read about his experiences in the United States and the events of the time he wrote about, such as the issue of slavery (which he was against) and temperance. It was also interesting to see chain migration, as he paid for his sweetheart in Germany to come to America to live with him. Even though he was content in America, he clearly still had a lot of pride for Germany, mentioning singing clubs opening and writing that “with our German singing we earn great respect” (346).

Chain migration was even more evident in the letters from the Stille and Krumme family from Lengerich in the Prussian Province of Westphalia. Wilhelm Stille was the first to leave, and many of his family members soon followed. There had been in a decline in linen production, and seasonal work in Holland had become less profitable, so many farming families were struggling. Wilhelm Stille and Wilhemina, his sister, encouraged young, single members of their family to come to the United States, but not all members of their family survived; for instance, Rudolph died of dysentery. I thought it was interesting to read about the cultural differences noted by the family, such as how Americans did not get baptized at birth and how there were no midwives, just doctors. I also thought it was interesting that Wilhelmina felt her brother was smarter in the United States than he was in Germany, since he was given the ability to develop talent, that Germans were overcharged to immigrate to the United States, and that linen was very expensive in the United States, such that Wilhelmina begged her family in Germany for a coat. Clearly, even though they were happy in America, they still experienced economic struggles.

3 thoughts on “Week Three Readings

  1. I agree with your observations! When it comes to Weitz’s stance on slavery, I wish I could say I wasn’t shocked. On one hand, he was an immigrant to the United States and understood the affect of xenophobia as a foreigner within an already somewhat established country, similar to the sentiments of an African American coming into another country against their will. Neither groups of people tended to understand English well, therefore, communication was difficult. In this regard, I see why he would oppose slavery as there are a few commonalities among them. On the other hand, he was also a white man, which in itself comes with inherent privileges in itself. He did not experience the affects of racism, nor was he generally looked down upon to the same extent as African Americans. I was quite pleased to read of his support of the Republicans (during this time period), as they were advocates for abolition. He seemed rather upset when the democratic candidate won, saying that the democrats somehow cheated. His intentions were in the right place, and for that I gained a bit more respect for Martin Weitz (not that I thought of him in a poor manner before, but this just bolstered his significance in a world of uncertainty.)

    1. Laura, excellent point about Weitz’s financial situation. I sort of glossed over much of the details myself, so I appreciate you explaining them so well. I also appreciate the fact that you mentioned Weitz’s political musings near the end of his journal, as well as the fact that it was not a cut and dry “German/Republican” monolith.

  2. In terms of the politics that Weitz talked about such as slavery but also the two parties (Republican and Democratic parties) I found it interesting how he spoke about how some Germans would side with the Democratic party just because their fathers before them in Germany were considered Democrats so they wanted to remain faithful to that particular party. When reading it I thought that it was still relevant to politics today because there are still people who decide what party or what candidates to vote for.

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