Culture at Twilight: The National German-American Alliance, 1901-1918

By Charles Thomas Johnson | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

Defenders of Culture, 1899—1905

The representatives who gathered in Philadelphia in April 1899 visualized the e stablishment of a state organization that could serve as a nucleus for a national association. Delegates came from various local German-American organizations such as the Pittsburgh Turnverein, Altoona Deutsche Verein, and the Philadelphia Deutsche Verein. They represented a cross-section of middle to upper-middle class German- Americans, many of whom were established professionals including engineers, law yers, doctors, educators, and businessmen. An observer would search in vain for representatives of the farming and working classes. Accounting for this situation was the fact that delegates came from German-American organizations in Pennsylvania's cities. Workers and farmers as a rule had neither the t ime, money, means of communication, nor an intellectual or emotional interest in something as abstract as a quest for German culture. The convention mentioned nothing concerning labor or agriculture, and the organizers had no intent to address such concerns.

On April 16, 1899, the delegates created the Deutsch- Amerikanischen Zentralbundes von Pennsylvanien (the German- American Central Alliance of Pennsylvania). For its pre sident they elected Dr. Charles J. Hexamer. Born in Philadelphia on May 6, 1862, Hexamer was one of five children of Ernst and Marie Hexamer. Ernst Hexamer, a “48er, ” (political refugees from the failed 1848 revolutions in the German-speaking regions of central Europe) had emigrated to the United States in 1856 where he pursued his career as a civil engineer. In 1859 he married Marie Klingel and moved into a house at 716 Wallace Street in Philadelphia. 1

The Hexamers, while assimilating well into middle-class American society, also maintained their German traditions. Ernst and Marie spoke English, but German remained the primary language of the house.

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