To understand the reason for German immigration it helps to have an overview of the history of the people of Germany. Due to the central location of Germany the Germanic people originally intermingled with many other ethnic groups and ancient tribes such as the Saxons, the Franks, the Slavs, the Celts, the Huns, the Vandals, the Gauls and the Goths. During the Middle Ages the Christianization of the Germanic people and the formation of stable kingdoms replaced the tribal structures. The tribes merged to form the Germanic race sharing the same identity, language, culture and many similar physical characteristics. The first Christian religion of Germany was Roman Catholic but in 1517 Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation which resulted in the whole of Northern Europe, with the exception of Germany, came under the influence of Protestantism. Protestant reform groups emerged including the Lutherans and Calvinists. Also refer to Examples of PUSH and PULL Factors of German Immigration.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1600's: The First German American
The history of German Immigration to America began in the 1600's when German settlers made their way to the British colonies on the east coast of North America. The first English and the German settlers shared the same Protestant religion which the vast majority of the first immigrants to America would share. In 1607 English colonists established the Jamestown settlement in the Virginia Colony. The migrants included the first German American, Dr. Johannes Fleischer, a highly educated physician and trained botanist.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1600's: The Virginia Colony
German Immigration to America continued as other Germans joined the migrants of the Virginia Colony including two Hessian engineers who were experts in glassmaking and sawyers who helped build the homes of the first colonists. In the 1620's they were joined by German mineral experts to explore the natural resources of America. In 1669 map-maker and physician Johannes Lederer, aka John Lederer, arrived in Virginia. Sir William Berkeley, the Royal Governor of Virginia, had commissioned John Lederer to explore the lands to the west of the colony and produce maps of the area. John Lederer was the first to see the Shenandoah Valley and the Allegheny Mountains.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1600's: The Mennonites
The first minor wave of German Immigration to America occurred in 1683 when thirteen German families, consisting of less than fifty people, left Germany in search of religious freedom and the opportunity for trade. Their voyage was undertaken on the ship called the "Concord". They belonged to the Christian group called Mennonites, a radical wing of the Protestant Reformation, also known as Anabaptists. The first wave of German immigrants were weavers and merchants led by Franz Pastorius (1651 – 1720), also known as Francis Daniel Pastorius. They purchased 43,000 acres of land and founded Germantown, (also called Germanopolis) located 6 miles north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many of the Mennonites joined the Quakers, led by William Penn.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1700's: The Redemption System
German Immigration to America increased in the 1700's due to the search for religious freedom and the opportunity to own land and create a new life in America. Many immigrants were poor and the only way to reach the New World was to sign contracts agreeing to work between five to seven years in exchange for transportation and the prospects of a job and a new life in America. The Germans used a form of indentured labor called the redemption system, the Germans who signed this type of contract were called redemptioners. An astonishing 50% to 70% of Germans coming to America in the 1700s, prior to the American Revolutionary War, came as redemptioners contracted via the redemption system.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1700's: German Immigrants and the "Poor Palantines"
German Immigration to America in the 1700's initially centered in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. The vast majority of migrants adhered to the Protestants religion or belonged to small religious sects such as the Mennonites and Moravians. The German settlements in New York were established in 1710 by Protestant Germans from the Palatine region of Germany. The "Poor Palatines" were over 13,000 Germans who had fled to England in 1709 to avoid French invasion and hostilities. The English arranged to settle them in the American Colonies and arranged passage of nearly 3,000 in ten ships to New York in 1710. The German Palantine migrants were assigned to work camps situated along the Hudson River to work off their passage. Over 15,000 immigrants from Germany also left their homelands at this time making their way to Pennsylvania, New York and the Carolinas.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1700's: 1721 - German Migrants in Louisiana
The Mississippi Company held a business monopoly in French colonies in North America. In 1721 the Mississippi Company headed by John Law, settled thousands of German immigrants in French Louisiana. The migrants were Germans of the Alsace region that had recently fallen under French rule. The French Roman Catholics tried to eradicate heresy in the form of Protestantism in Upper Alsace and the Alsatians were forced to immigrate to America to escape religious persecution.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1700's: 1731 - German Migrants in Georgia
In 1731 the Catholic church in Rome started to demand stronger activities to stop Lutheranism. As a result over 20,000 Protestants were expelled from Salzburg, Austria. General James Oglethorpe offered the persecuted Protestant Salzburgers refuge in the new colony of Georgia. The migrants subsequently founded the town of Ebenezer.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1700's: 1741 - The Moravians
They were followed in 1741 by Moravians, the predecessors to the Protestant movement founded by Jan Hus, who was a key contributor to Protestantism. The Moravians, led by pastor Johann Martin Boltzius, founded Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1700's: The American War of Independence
The German Immigration to America in the 1700's constituted the largest single immigrant group during the colonial era. German Immigration to America continued into the late 1700's but conflict began to grow between Britain and the colonies and the American War of Independence (1775 - 1783) erupted.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1700's: The Hessians
When the American Revolutionary War broke out, Britain made arrangements with six German princes to hire some 30,000 "Hessian" mercenaries to fight against the American army during the Revolutionary War. More than half of these troops‑for‑hire came from the German state of HesseCassel, ruled by the Prince of Hesse, from where the name Hessians is derived. The Hessian soldiers had been forced into the military and were encouraged to desert and join the large German-American population. At the end of the war 4972 Hessian soldiers made their home in the United States of America.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1700's: The Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776 and German Immigration to America significantly increased in the early 1800's, inspired by the American ideals of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". According to the names on the U.S. census of 1790 it is estimated Germans migrants constituted nearly 9% of the white population in the United States.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Rappists
German Immigration to America began in 1804 when a wave of Protestant German immigrants from Wuerttemberg founded Harmony in Pennsylvania. These migrants were a group of Separatists from the German Lutheran Church called Rappists after their leader George Rapp, aka Johann Georg Rapp. In 1814 the Rappists purchased 30,000 acres of land in Indiana and founded a new settlement they called New Harmony.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Adelsverein
The largest single German Immigration to America is referred to as the Adelsverein which was organized in 1842, as a colonial attempt to establish a new Germany within the borders of Texas. The Adelsverein was spearheaded by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels (1812 – 1875) who was the leader of the 6,000 German immigrants who made the voyage to the United States. Prince Carl named New Braunfels, Texas in honor of his homeland. Others followed and by the 1850's about 20,000 German migrants were living in Texas.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Forty-Eighters
German Immigration to America increased significantly following the European Revolutions of 1848 within the German states in which rebels fought for unification of the German people. The failure of the revolutionists led to a wave of political refugees who fled to the United States, who became known as the Forty-Eighters. The Forty-Eighters helped to developed the beer and wine making industries in the US. A favored destination of many of the Forty-Eighters was Galveston, Texas.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1800's: The First Wave of German Immigration
The great waves of German Immigration to America occurred in the 1800's. The First Wave of German immigration occurred from the 1840's up to the American Civil War (1861 to 1865). Germany, like many other European countries, suffered from serious crop failures including the potato blight (1845-1849) leading to great poverty and destitution. During this wave of German immigration just under 1 million Germans entered the United States. The flow was halted by the outbreak of the American Civil War.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Second Wave of German Immigration
The Second Wave of German immigration in the 1800's occurred following the period following American Civil War to 1873. During this period German farmers were hit by the influx of cheap American wheat leading to a massive decline in grain prices. German farms suffered and thousands of farm workers became unemployed. Over 1.3 million farmers and agricultural laborers left Germany for better farming prospects in the US. The Second Wave of German immigration was halted when the financial panic of 1873 hit the United States. The Panic of 1873 led to the period in American history known as the Long Depression. The economic disaster lasted for six years and resulted in economic hardships, protests, demonstrations and the first nationwide strikes in the United States.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1800's: The Third Wave of German Immigration
The Third Wave of German immigration in the 1800's began in the 1880's. America was recovering from the long depression and industries were booming during the Industrialization of America. Nearly 1.5 million Germans left their country to settle in the United States. In 1882 about 250,000, the greatest number ever, entered the country. The vast majority of this wave of German immigrants came from northeastern Germany that was dominated by Prussia. The process of industrialization in this area had just begun and the jobs of many skilled craftsmen had been taken over by machines.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1800's: Restrictive Immigration Laws and Ellis Island
The 1880's had witnessed a massive increase in immigration to America - between 1881 - 1890 a total of 5,246,613 immigrants flooded into the US - the majority from Southern or Eastern Europe or Asia. There were calls for the government to restrict immigration and restrictive immigration laws were passed. The 1882 Immigration Act restricted immigrants from Europe and imposed a 'head tax' of 50 cents on all immigrants landing at US ports. The 1891 Immigration Act regulated immigration further introducing the inspection and deportation of immigrants. On January 1, 1892 Ellis Island immigration center (1892 - 1954) was opened.Preference was shown to the "Old Immigrants" and few Germans were turned away.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1900's: World War I
By the 1900's the economic situation in Germany had revived, industries boomed and unemployed in Germany declined. According to the US Census an estimated 2.3 million German-born immigrants lived in the United States and were well established with American population. However, tensions in the nation increased with the outbreak of World War One and anti-German hysteria and a backlash against German culture in the United States emerged. German Immigration to America plummeted in the years surrounding WWI, in the ten year period from from 1910-1919 only 174,227 Germans entered the US.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1900's: World War 2
As time passed German Immigration to America increased, people survived the Great Depression and during the 1920's and 1930's 500,000 German migrants entered the United States. The Nazi party assumed power in 1933 and triggered a significant exodus of Jewish Germans, scholars and scientists (such as Albert Einstein) as Germans fled the coming storm. US attitudes towards German migrants was dramatically effected by the outbreak of WW2 (1939 - 1945). Prejudice and discrimination increased as Hitler and Fascist Germany fought against the Allies, however anti-German feeling was not as severe as it had been during WWI. The number of German immigrants arrived in the United States after the war, as survivors of the terrible conflict sought to escape its harsh aftermath.
History of German Immigration to America in the 1900's - to Present
German Immigration to America slowed during the late 1900's. According to the US Bureau of the Census OF 1990, 58 million Americans claimed to be solely or partially of German descent. German Americans represent 17% of the total U.S. population and have made a significant impact on the culture of Americans.
German Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline for kids
Important facts about the history of German Immigration to America and US laws that effected the migrants from Germany are contained in the following Facts Sheet and history timeline.
German Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline for kids
Fact 1: 1517: Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation in Germany
Fact 2: 1607: Dr. Johannes Fleischer joined English colonists to establish the Jamestown settlement in the Virginia Colony.
Fact 3: 1669: Map-maker Johannes Lederer arrives in Virginia to explore the lands to the west of the colony
Fact 4: 1683: Francis Daniel Pastorius leads the first wave of German immigrants and founded Germantown in Pennsylvania
Fact 5: 1700's: 50% to 70% of German immigrants were redemptioners contracted under the redemption system.
Fact 6: 1710: The "Poor Palantines" immigrate to the New World
Fact 7: 1731: Protestants expelled from Salzburg, Austria and emigrate to America founding the town of Ebenezer in Georgia.
Fact 8: 1741: The Moravian group of Protestants establish the towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania
Fact 9: 1775: The American War of Independence began
Fact 10: 1775: The British hired 30,000 German mercenaries, called Hessians, to fight against the American rebels
Fact 11: 1776: The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776
Fact 12: Congress officially declared the end to the American Revolutionary War on April 11, 1783
Fact 13: 1804: Separatists, called Rappists, led by Johann Georg Rapp immigrated to the US. The Rappists bought 30,000 acres of land in Indiana and founded a new settlement
Fact 14: 1842: The Adelsverein in which 6,000 German immigrants settled in Texas
Fact 15: 1848: Political refugees called the Forty-Eighters immigrated to the US
Fact 16: 1886: The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor, the landmark for all immigrants from Germany
Fact 17: 1891: The 1891 Immigration Act provided for the regulation of the inspection and deportation of immigrants.
Fact 18: 1892: The Ellis Island immigration center was opened in New York Harbor
Fact 19: 1914: The outbreak of WW1 led to strong anti-German feelings
Fact 20: 1933: The Nazi party assumed power lead to a rise in German immigration
Fact 21: 1939: The outbreak of WW2 (1939 - 1945). German refugees flee to the United States
Fact 22: 1940: The 1940 Alien Registration Act required the registration and fingerprinting of all aliens in the United States over the age of 14