A History of the German Society of Pennsylvania, Founded 1764

A History of the German Society of Pennsylvania, Founded 1764

A History of the German Society of Pennsylvania, Founded 1764

A History of the German Society of Pennsylvania, Founded 1764


In the leading German newspaper of the colony of Pennsylvania, Heinrich Miller Philadelphische Staatsbote , one could read, under date of November 9, 1764, the following advertisement:


Today the ship "Boston," Capt. Matthew Carr, arrived here in Philadelphia from Rotterdam with several hundred Germans, among whom are all manner of artisans, day laborers and young people, male as well as female, also boys and girls. Those interested in providing themselves with such are requested to inquire at David Rundle's on Front Street.

Readers in Colonial days knew that here a shipload of unfortunates were seeking an opportunity to be sold into a more or less uncertain form of slavery, often for a considerable number of years, to repay the shipowner or his agent for passage from their native country to America. More brutal in its frankness is the following typical insertion, which appeared in the Staatsbote on December 10, 1764, just a little over two weeks before the founding of the German Society of Pennsylvania:


The period of service of an Indented maid is for sale. She has only just arrived in this country this fall, is about 22 years old, a strong, hale and hearty wench, suitable for the city or the country, and seems accustomed to doing heavy work. Inquiry may be made of etc. . . .

Such a newspaper item marked only a way station in the long path of suffering of these so-called '"redemptioners," that began in the German homeland, which tens of thousands left in the course of the eighteenth century for political, religious or economic reasons to seek the freedom, tolerance and prosperity of the land known as William Penn ' "Holy Experiment." Benjamin Franklin estimated the population of Pennsylvania in 1764 to be 160,000, of whom he supposed one-third to be Germans. The earliest settlers, among them the thirteen founding families of Germantown (1683), had come at the invitation of Penn himself, following his second visit to Germany in 1677. The pillaging of the Palatinate by the French and the destruction of its flourishing towns and villages, coupled with the religious intolerance and unscrupulous exploitation practised by that unhappy country's own luxury-loving rulers, gave the impetus to the great emigration which led to the earliest settlement of the "Pennsylvania Dutch" country. These settlers were followed by others from South Germany and Switzerland, who left their homes to escape religious persecution: Mennonites, German Quakers, Dunkers, Schwenkfelders and Moravians. The mass . . .

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