The Makers of American Wine: A Record of Two Hundred Years

By Thomas Pinney | Go to book overview

THREE
George Husmann
A PURE AND LOFTY FAITH

MISSOURI GERMANS

Saint Louis and the region around it have long been associated with wine. The Jesuits of Saint Stanislaus Seminary at Florissant, just north of the city, began making wine in 1823 and continued down to 1960; the American Wine Company, founded in 1859 by a Chicago politician, produced a wellknown sparkling wine, called “Cook’s Imperial,” in cellars dug beneath the streets of Saint Louis (they are still there, but are disused and inaccessible). It was the Germans, however, who really put the region on the wine-making map. Lured by the seductive account of his life in frontier Missouri published by Gottfried Duden in 1829, many Germans, as individuals or in groups, came to settle in the Saint Louis region. They were pulled by Duden’s idyllic descriptions, and, at the same time, pushed by genuine economic distress and by political repression in the post-Napoleonic German states.1

They were not necessarily from the German wine regions (as George Rapp was, for example), but Duden had stressed the potential of the Missouri country for wine growing, and, like all of the other early settlers, the Germans could hardly help being struck by the wild grapes that abounded all around them in the new country. So it was natural that many of them went in for growing grapes and making wine, with results both like and unlike those of the many settlers who had preceded them in this country and had tried their hands at wine making. In German fashion, they also took up the scientific study and classification of vines and entered into the demanding work of hybridizing new ones. Dr. George Engelmann of Saint Louis, a passionate amateur scientist, became the leading authority on the classification of native American vines; the Bushberg Nursery, near Saint Louis, developed

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