Weitz and Still-Krumme Letters – Sarah Sklar

The Weitz and Still-Krumme letters are the letters of German immigrants, written back home, and can be compared and contrasted in interesting ways. 

Martin Wetiz and the Stille family were both pushed out of their respective hometowns for many of the same reasons: industrialization being the most pressing. But Weitz was a wool weaver and the Stilles were farmers, so naturally Weitz ended up in an urban area while the Stilles tried to remain in more rural areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania (with the exception of Ernst Stille who traveled back and forth between New Orleans and Cincinnati, working on river boats.) The two immigrant families also emigrated at very different times; Weitz in 1854 and the Stilles in 1833. The twenty year difference can be seen in their descriptions of their journeys, but also in their descriptions of the United States when they arrived. Although both sets of immigrants were different in when they emigrated and their occupations, many other characteristics of their journey remained the same. They both appreciated the freedom that came with living in the United States, but both warned family that attempting to start a new life was not for everyone. Both sets of immigrants also didn’t speak any English upon arrival, so they relied heavily on ethnic enclaves, both rural and urban. 

I think the most interesting thing about these letters aside from them being amazing primary sources, is the way the social climate and politics of the United States are described. For example, Martin Weitz was lucky to have found a job in New York as soon as he arrived, but he was aware of  his luck and said “It is sad when someone travels to America and doesn’t have a cent and has no friends and acquaintances. I was lucky, because thousands wander around and sleep on the streets. Wetiz also describes the difficulty of not being able to speak English, which I think is a difficulty immigrants to the U.S. still face today: “If I had been able to speak English I could’ve gotten a job but I can’t.” Furthermore, Weitz describes unemployment in the U.S.: “If you don’t have a job in America, it’s a terrible thing.” I think this quote is particularly interesting because it still rings true in so many ways. The U.S. isn’t exactly known for its social welfare programs, and this is reflected in Weitz’s letters from the 1850s. Finally, Weitz describes the political climate of 1856 by saying: “Now the Democrats say Kanas must be free, but the President [Buchanan] isn’t making it free. I believe it will end in a civil war… in America we have freedom of the press where all the scandals come to light. If there hadn’t been such cheating in the Democratic party we would have won.” Finally, I think these quotes are particularly interesting because they reflect something rather rare, a German immigrant passionate about American politics and describing them to family back home. On the other hand, the Stilles can be quoted as asking about the Failed Revolution of 1848, which I assume they supported because of their social class.

4 thoughts on “Weitz and Still-Krumme Letters – Sarah Sklar

  1. I agree with your intake on the two readings. I also I found it fascinating to learn more about Stille and the family economic problems.

  2. I like this analysis of both texts, and I think shows a pattern in the migration experience. While different migration experiences can vastly differ, especially when comparing it to people of color’s experiences, there seems to be a recurring theme of the difficulty adapting to living in the United States. This is especially true when it comes to finding work, having enough money to live, and helping their families overseas. I think it is interesting how Weitz and the Stiles-Krummer family come from different backgrounds and come at different times but still share a lot of experiences coming into the United States.

  3. I think you did a really good job of summarizing and analyzing these readings. One thing you mentioned that I thought was really significant and I, unfortunately, forgot to mention was when Weitz wrote about how not speaking English made it difficult to get a job. I think that this a theme that we are already seeing reoccur in our class readings, in this one as well as in the reading about Job last week. I agree with your point that this is still often a problem for immigrants today and I look forward to hopefully seeing more about this in class to be able to learn more about the struggles faced in history and today.

  4. I thought it was interesting to see language play a factor in their immigration experience as well, also Wilhemina expressed that Americans “weren’t afraid of overcharging Germans,” I wonder if the language barrier played a part in that.

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