John Henry Keppele portrait

John Henry Keppele portrait

John Henry Keppele


John Henry Keppele was a successful, respected, and well-known butcher, innkeeper, merchant, ship owner, and real estate entrepreneur.


John Henry Keppele (born August 1, 1716 in Treschklingen, in the Kraichgau region of the Grand Duchy of Württemberg; died June 1, 1797, in Philadelphia, PA) was a successful, respected, and well-known butcher, innkeeper, merchant, ship owner, and real estate entrepreneur. Keppele (baptized Johann Heinrich Keppele) was also a one-term member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, a cornerstone of Philadelphia’s St. Michael’s Lutheran congregation through his service as an elder for many years, as well as a founding member and long-time president of the German Society of Pennsylvania (GSP). Beginning in the late 1740s, Keppele and his family lived on the same block of High Street (later Market Street) as Benjamin Franklin. Later, the Keppele and Franklin families inhabited residences separated only by a narrow, thirty-three-foot lot; close enough for Sarah Franklin to know about the marriage of Keppele’s oldest daughter Maria Catharine in 1765 and to report it to her father while he was in Britain.[1]

Johann Heinrich Keppele, a third-generation Treschklinger, was one of two sons born to Leonhard and Eva Dorothea (née Schuhmann) Keppele. Leonhard Keppele was an Amtmann, a local government administrator and himself the son of a Schultheiss, a local tax collector and judge for minor disputes. Heavy taxation, as well as declining opportunities at home and the economic promises of the bourgeoning Pennsylvania Colony, probably motivated Johann Heinrich Keppele to leave his native village at age twenty-two and travel to Pennsylvania by himself. Keppele’s educational background in Württemberg and specific details about why he left Europe are not known. Immigrating to Pennsylvania in 1738, Keppele was among the earliest of an estimated fifty-five thousand German speakers who arrived in Philadelphia between 1737 and 1754.[2] While it was less common for young German men to immigrate alone in the first half of the eighteenth century, as a Pietist Swabian Lutheran, Keppele did benefit from an extensive social and religious network that was trans-Atlantic in scope. Swabian Lutheranism had direct links to the broader Pietist movement in the German states, which was centered in the eastern town of Halle, the intellectual and logistic home of German Pietism. At the time, Halle was under the control of the Kingdom of Prussia. In spite of never returning to Europe, Keppele maintained close connections to his Pietist religious and ethnic roots throughout his life and participated actively in his local German Lutheran congregation in Philadelphia.[3]

Keppele left Rotterdam in the spring of 1738 and arrived in Philadelphia on November 9, 1738, after a harrowing twenty-five-week journey on board of the Charming Nancy. Passengers and crewmembers suffered from an outbreak of fevers that “spared no one” and took the lives of 250 of the 312 people during the ocean voyage.[4] Keppele never forgot this horrendous experience and it contributed to his long and influential involvement with the German Society of Pennsylvania, whose founding was precipitated by another deadly trans-Atlantic voyage nearly thirty years later. Keppele arrived in Philadelphia as part of the first cohort of German American entrepreneurs (1720-1750), where his business and life experiences spanned the second (1750-1780) and third (1780-1810) groups whose fortunes were shaped by imperial wars as well as the American Revolution. [5]


Keppele had been in Pennsylvania Colony for fewer than three years when he married a fellow German-speaking immigrant, Anna Maria Catharina Barbara Bauer, in January 1741. Nine years her husband’s junior, Barbara (born 1725; died November 3, 1774, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) had arrived with her mother, stepfather, and siblings in 1737. Both born into small families, Keppele and his wife had fifteen children over the course of their nearly thirty-four-year marriage. However, six of the children died in infancy or early childhood. The Keppele’s sons were particularly vulnerable to death in infancy; three boys died within days or weeks of birth. Two girls died at ages four and six, respectively. Barbara Keppele died at age forty-nine in 1774, after a four-week long “nervous fever.”[6] Keppele never remarried and lived for another twenty-three years until June 1, 1797.

Keppele recorded the births and deaths of his family in a small booklet that began initially as a registry and eventually turned into a sort of diary where Keppele commemorated landmark events of those closest to him. The thin book also included instructions for his funeral, religious sentiments, and advice for his children, as well as a detailed account of money and other gifts he had given or loaned to his children during his lifetime. Part account book, part will, Keppele kept careful track of how much he gave to his children, their spouses, and his grandchildren. Keppele ultimately bestowed generous gifts and loans to his descendants that amounted to over one hundred thousand dollars in today’s currency.[7] He also noted with obvious pride in his book the anniversary of his arrival in North America.

Two years before his wife’s death, Keppele’s hearing became impaired, and none of the doctors he consulted and treatments they prescribed could restore it. Instead, an almost constant buzzing sound in his head plagued Keppele and by 1787 he reportedly had completely lost his hearing. A year earlier he had felt that death was imminent, though he would live for another eleven years, and had left detailed instructions for the disposal of his property and funeral arrangements.[8] Characteristically of his pietism and his modesty, he wished to be buried in plain clothes.

In comparison to prominent Anglo-Philadelphians, Keppele’s estate was modest. In addition to some land in Lancaster County, he owned at least three houses and lots on Philadelphia’s busy High Street and Frankford Road, as well as several large lots in outlying but increasingly desirable areas of the city. The goods in his home, including furniture, books, and bedding were appraised at $1,074 at the time of his death (approximately $20,000 in 2011$).[9] His impressive collection of silverware, including five pots for tea and coffee, weighing a total of 594 ounces, indicates that Keppele participated to some degree in the consumer revolution of his time and acquired goods that confirmed his growing social status. The 1794 city directory lists Henry Keppele as a “gentleman” living on 93 High Street, next to his 30-year-old son George, a merchant, and his youngest surviving child.[10] His grandson, Michael Keppele lived close by on Mulberry Street and is listed as an attorney. He rose to prominence in the next century when he served as Philadelphia’s mayor from 1811 to 1812.[11]

Business Development

Keppele landed in Philadelphia perhaps physically weakened by the long ocean crossing and the health hazards of the fever epidemic on board. He did, however, arrive as a free man, rather than as a “redemptioner” (similar to an indentured servant) like many, if not most, other German speakers his age. Keppele also arrived at a crucial time when Philadelphia was on the cusp of growing from a “crossroads town” into a city, marked by publicly-financed cobblestone streets with whale-oil lamps that lit up the city after dark. The emerging urban spaces were maintained by taxpayer-funded street cleaners and city-regulated water pumps provided water for sanitation purposes, which helped to improve the always precarious early-modern public health of the community. Moreover, scheduled stage-boats and coaches transported goods and people throughout the region and regular mail service connected Philadelphia with New York, Boston, and eventually Baltimore and beyond. “By mid-century the most frequently used highway in America was the great Philadelphia Wagon Road that led out from the city to Lancaster.”[12] With easy access to material such as lumber and ash, Philadelphia also emerged as a profitable center for the shipbuilding trade. Considering Keppele’s professional metamorphosis from artisan to innkeeper, merchant, real estate investor, and later ship owner, he seems to have taken full advantage of Philadelphia’s economic development while also contributing to the region’s growing prosperity.

The location of Keppele’s initial residence in Philadelphia is unknown, as is his early source of employment, but he and his bride Barbara had acquired sufficient space and financial means to host the newly-arrived Lutheran minister Henry Melchior Muhlenberg for some time after his arrival in 1742.[13] A year later, Keppele’s financial situation and reputation were also sufficient for him to cosign the purchase of property that would become St. Michael’s Church, home of German Lutheranism in the mid-Atlantic region and beyond. It is an early indication of Keppele’s dedication to his religious community and personal faith that he used his credit to assist his congregation before purchasing any real estate for himself. Keppele worked as a butcher for several years in the mid-1740s, but he had become an innkeeper by 1747, the year in which he bought a house and a lot on High Street for £478 (approximately $120,000 in 2011$).[14] It is likely that he both lived and worked there as his occupation shifted from innkeeper to merchant after acquiring the property. Within a year he was selling large quantities of linseed oil, which could be used as foodstuff, a paint binder, a finish for wood, and a form of putty. While his business records have not survived, it is possible that the same German-speaking farmers who bought real estate from him and purchased European imports sold by Keppele also produced the linseed oil. By the 1750s Keppele offered his customers imports that ranged from European lemons, cheeses, and fabrics to Caribbean luxuries such as sugar, molasses, and rum. Keppele’s growing involvement in trade and imports played a part in Philadelphia’s rise as a commercial center. Between 1757 and 1760, for example, the value of imported goods arriving in the city quadrupled.[15]

Keppele must have been well known among German speakers in the Philadelphia area because as early as 1747 his name is listed in Christopher Saur’s Pensylvanische Berichte, a newspaper with an estimated four thousand German-language subscribers, as the person to contact regarding a lost horse and a German inheritance matter.[16] Since Keppele was entrusted with information about an overseas inheritance, he must have been well-connected abroad. The newspaper notices did not specify Keppele’s address or his occupation, suggesting that Saur’s readers, if not most German speakers in the area, were familiar with his name and identity.[17]

Between 1752 and 1775, Keppele was also part owner of up to a dozen ships that transported German immigrants to Philadelphia. Although the trade in immigrants conducted by Keppele and his partner and son-in-law, John Steinmetz (born 1740; died September 6, 1803), ranked only fifth among approximately twenty-five merchants involved in the business, Keppele did benefit directly from the trans-Atlantic immigration ventures of an estimated 2,258 German-speaking newcomers.[18] As a ship owner, Keppele also helped German Lutheranism by agreeing to receive books on consignment from Halle via Rotterdam and transporting them on his ships.[19] Success in the European ship trade allowed Keppele to venture beyond his German connections. In 1761 he invested in the profitable Caribbean trade when he became part owner of the Britannia, which sailed to Barbados and Jamaica.[20] Keppele’s changing economic pursuits from butcher and innkeeper to merchant, ship owner, and real estate investor indicate that he found growing financial success by capitalizing on the expanding German-speaking community around him.

Keppele also made money through government contracts by providing various goods, food, and wine to Native Americans directly, as well as during official treaty negotiations between colonial and tribal leaders. While the amounts did not add up to more than £150 (an estimated £18,180 in 2010), the contractual links that Keppele forged with Anglo-Pennsylvania’s Quaker ruling establishment demonstrate how well connected and integrated within the broader political and business community he had become by the mid-1750s.

Keppele seems to have earned most of his modest fortune through speculative real estate ventures by buying larger tracks of land, especially in Lancaster County, west of Philadelphia, and dividing it into smaller parcels for sale to newly-arrived German speakers. He also acted as a mortgage lender and relied on prominent Pennsylvania attorneys to collect debts when needed. At the same time, it is clear that Keppele was not a cutthroat businessman: he asked his lawyer Edward Shippen only to have the debtor’s property seized if there was no other way to collect what was owed. The success of Keppele’s network of customers, suppliers, and debtors may have depended on his reputation as an honest and kind man.

Keppele and his family did not live extravagantly. He usually employed an indentured servant, and owned one or two horses, as well as a few cows.[21] By 1772 “he was one of 84 carriage owners in the city.”[22] In the mid-1780s Keppele traded the carriage for a chariot and chair, probably to accommodate his declining health. In 1753, Keppele bought a house and four-acre lot in the Northern Liberties area, which would become an enclave for German speakers in the nineteenth century. In Keppele’s lifetime, the Northern Liberties were known for the modest country retreats of middling Philadelphia businessmen. As one historian has noted, “the true mark of having arrived was the ownership of a country estate,” among mid-eighteenth-century Philadelphia gentlemen.[23] Keppele met this criterion before the American Revolution. Pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg’s journal repeatedly mentioned that Keppele spent considerable time at his “country estate.”[24]

Social Status and Political Networks

Keppele was a financial, social, and moral leader of the German Lutheran congregation in Philadelphia. Repeatedly, he spent substantial sums of his own wealth to finance the building of the congregation’s schoolhouse and a new, larger church building. It was Keppele’s good reputation and credit that allowed the congregation to borrow 894£ 6s. 2d. (approximately $171,000 in 2011$) plus interest from the Pennsylvania Hospital in May 1762.[25] Yet Keppele was a very modest man who did not make his own contributions known until after a very acrimonious power struggle led to accusations of fiduciary dishonesty against Keppele in his role as church treasurer. Newer members were concerned over the congregation’s financial liabilities, a dispute that was only resolved when Keppele handed over the property deeds and other church documents to a newly created council of trustees for safekeeping. Even when some congregants continued to challenge the elders’ decision to build the schoolhouse, complaining about the costs and criticizing the quality of the workmanship, Keppele did not reveal the centrality of himself and his character in the eyes of the broader Anglo-Philadelphia business world. While scholars generally credit Pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg with guiding the congregation’s expansion plans, the clergyman’s own journal and church financial records show Keppele’s quiet yet determined role in helping the congregation make beneficial, long-term real estate decisions.

In addition to his lifelong dedication to the German Lutheran church in Philadelphia, Keppele is most visible in the historical record through his involvement with the German Society of Pennsylvania (GSP). The story of how the German Society of Pennsylvania was founded at Philadelphia’s Lutheran Schoolhouse on Cherry Street on December 26, 1764, has been told many times by past and current members, as well as historians of German Americans in the United States. Responding to a letter published on November 19, 1764, in Henrich Miller’s Der Wöchentliche Philadelphische Staatsboote (The Weekly Philadelphia State Courier), which described the miserable conditions of recently-arrived German immigrants, many of whom were hovering near death, German speakers quickly donated money and supplies to help the sufferers.[26] By the end of the month prominent Germans of the city had resolved to found an association to engage in more concerted efforts on behalf of newly-arrived German speakers. This resolve was formalized less than a month later when sixty-five members gathered and elected Henry Keppele the first president of the organization, a position he would hold until 1780. Members also elected a vice-president, two secretaries, a treasurer, a lawyer, and six overseers or directors who were each responsible for poor relief for two months per year.[27] Since Keppele and the other GSP founders were members of the German Lutheran congregation, the church’s schoolhouse on Cherry Street was a logical choice as the temporary headquarters of the German Society.

Keppele was likely selected as a candidate to be the first president of an association dedicated to assist newly-arrived German immigrants because of the hardships he had endured during his own trans-Atlantic journey in 1738 and because of his involvement in the immigrant trade as a ship owner since the 1750s. Beyond his personal motivations, Keppele had become a well-respected leader of German speakers in Philadelphia. During the French and Indian War between 1754 and 1763, he was chosen as the lieutenant for the North Ward, although he never saw any actual fighting in the conflict.

When Keppele was elected to a one-year term of the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1764, three years after becoming a naturalized British subject, he was able to support the GSP’s first legislative agenda, the goal of which was to protect German immigrants from the worst abuses during their voyage across the Atlantic.[28] A new law that regulated the transportation of immigrants to Pennsylvania added a height requirement for the minimum space allotted to each passenger. An earlier act of the Assembly had only specified the length and width of berths on board ships.[29] Moreover, the new legislation required ship captains to furnish medical assistance to sick passengers, prohibited them from making more than fifty-percent profit from the sale of wine, spirits, and other provisions, required the regular cleaning of passenger quarters, and mandated the presence of a translator upon arrival to read and explain passengers’ rights.

Additional provisions of the 1765 law pertained to those who had to sell their labor upon arrival to pay for their passage. Unlike indentured servants, who were generally from the British Isles and contracted themselves for a fixed number of years before embarking upon the transatlantic journey, redemptioners, typically of German and Swiss birth, negotiated with the ship captain on a specific price for their passage to Pennsylvania but did not learn how long they would have to serve a master who agreed to pay for their passage until they were auctioned off. Some German-speaking passengers counted on relatives already in Pennsylvania to pay their fare upon arrival, making the sum of the freight relevant instead of the length of a person’s indenture. However, a growing number of German speakers without someone to redeem them upon arrival were vulnerable to the fluctuations of the local labor market and had less control over the length of their bondage than Anglo and Irish immigrants. In addition, prior to 1765 any relatives accompanying passengers who died at sea had been required to pay the dead person’s outstanding fare. Now only children could be held liable for their deceased parents’ passage fare debts. Moreover, husbands and wives could no longer be separated without consent as a result of having to sell their future labor in return for paying off debts incurred on their voyage.[30]

The new legislation protecting German immigrants was not without benefits for ship owners, among them Keppele himself. Health policies and stipulations regarding provisions for voyages promised fewer deaths on board ships and thus more profits. Regulating the fares for Atlantic crossings and ensuring the orderly sale of indentures was also advantageous for these merchants since both aimed to lessen the time necessary to collect the money due upon arrival, either from passengers’ friends and relatives or through the sale of their labor.

At the time of Keppele’s single term as Pennsylvania Assemblyman and the founding of the GSP, political tensions between the colonists and imperial Britain were on the rise. Keppele was among a relatively small number of German speakers who publicly opposed British taxation. Nearly a decade later, Keppele and his family continued to demonstrate their resistance to imperial policies. The Pennsylvania Gazette noted approvingly that at the funeral of Keppele’s wife in November 1774, “no mourning of any kind was worn, no gloves or scarfs given.” The newspaper heralded this as “an example… well worthy of imitation by all ranks of people.”[31] As historian T.H. Breen has pointed out, consumption of British imports had become politicized after the Stamp Act in 1765. Funerals, in particular, were occasions for conspicuous consumption among the well-off urban merchant class. For that reason, the Continental Congress had passed a resolution in September 1774 that stated

[O]n the death of any relation or friend, none of us, or any of our families will go into any further mourning-dress, than a black crape or ribbon on the arm or hat, for gentlemen, and a black ribbon and necklace for ladies, and we will discontinue the giving of gloves and scarves at funerals.[32]

While the Keppele family’s pietist convictions and adherence to German traditions may also have contributed to the lack of funeral accouterments, the Pennsylvania Gazette clearly interpreted the absence of gloves and scarves in political terms. Considering that Keppele had acculturated to Pennsylvania merchant fashions by the 1770s, at least to the point of having had his portrait painted as well as providing financial support of the newly-chartered Bank of Pennsylvania during the Revolution, it is plausible that Keppele’s wife’s funeral expressed his political leanings.

During the American Revolution and the two-year-long British occupation of Philadelphia, the GSP suspended its meetings, benevolent activities, and plans for the construction of its own building. In 1765 the GSP had purchased a lot on Seventh and Market Streets for 125 pounds Pennsylvania currency (approximately $26,660 in 2011). Fundraising difficulties and indecision delayed any action until 1776, when an adjacent property was added for 200 pounds ($42,000 in 2011).[33] By June of that year, lumber and stones were purchased and men were hired to begin construction, but due to “the dangerousness of the time” the building project was postponed.[34] During the occupation of Philadelphia, from September 1777 until the fall of 1778, British authorities confiscated the GSP building material and used it to erect a stable.[35]

Like many civilian residents of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s legislative assembly, and the national government’s Executive Council, Keppele moved to Lancaster during the British occupation of the city. There he lived with his daughter Barbara and her husband Henry Helmuth, a local Lutheran pastor.[36] Due to his age, his status as a widower, and the ill-effects he suffered from his increasing loss of hearing, Keppele’s revolutionary activities were limited to investing money in the newly-chartered Bank of Pennsylvania. This new financial institution was, however, “less a bank than a patriotic fund-raiser with its primary goal to provide funds to supply American troops.”[37]

When, after the interruption due to the war, Henry Keppele as well as other GSP members returned to Philadelphia in 1779, he and his son, Henry Keppele Jr., became involved in a dispute concerning the Society’s funds. Henry Keppele Jr. had served as GSP treasurer since 1766, while his father had acted as a bank for the Society to whom the treasurer was expected to pay interest on the funds entrusted to him. When the newly elected treasurer, Georg Reinhold, requested transfer of the Society’s money and financial documents, Keppele Jr. was unable to produce them. Keppele Jr. had entrusted the GSP papers to his father during the war, but it is likely that both men forgot about them due to the disruptions caused by the conflict and the elder Keppele’s temporary relocation into the Pennsylvania interior. When a GSP committee approached Keppele Sr. in 1780 regarding the situation, he was able to produce the papers but not the funds. While it is not clear if Keppele Jr., a small merchant and a patriot who was married with three children, embezzled the funds or simply lost track of them during the war years, his brother-in-law, John Steinmetz, who had vouched for him, paid 390 pounds, 8 shillings and 3 pence to the Society (approximately $74,860 in 2011$) to settle the matter. The younger Keppele died three months later, but his demise was not mentioned in the Society’s minutes, which was unusual since the death of most other long-serving board members was generally noted, and may have reflected an implicit rebuke of Keppele Jr.’s actions.[38] Any outright suspicion of embezzlement by Keppele Jr., though, was ultimately defused by his father’s prominence in the organization and Steinmetz’s generosity, which was based not only on family obligation but also on late eighteenth-century notions of honor.[39]


Henry Keppele’s legacy is most visible in GSP records and the journals and reports of Lutheran minister Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. More than two hundred entries in Muhlenberg’s three-volume journal, which spanned the years from 1742 to 1787, pertain to Keppele. Muhlenberg and Keppele talked to each other almost daily between the 1740s and the 1760s, which were formative decades for the two men and the Lutheran church they created. Keppele’s astute skills as a merchant, real estate investor, and fundraiser were a perfect match for Muhlenberg’s spiritual leadership. Together the two German speakers became important founders of Philadelphia’s German-speaking community. Ultimately, Keppele utilized both the profits and social capital he acquired from more than three decades of business activities to support his local religious and ethnic community and create an environment that encouraged and supported German immigration into Pennsylvania.


[1] Sarah did not, however, remember the name of Maria’s husband, John Steinmetz. Benjamin Franklin Papers, Sarah Franklin to Benjamin Franklin. 12: 152, 30 May 1765. (accessed April 22, 2012).

[2] This number is based on Marianne Wokeck’s research, which is based on ship lists. Marianne S. Wokeck, Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Immigration to North America (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), 45. Aaron Fogelman’s estimates are slightly lower. Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys: German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775 (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 2.

[3] No letters survive that indicate direct communication between pietists in Halle and Keppele in Philadelphia. Since he was a layman, his connections to pietists in Halle were probably indirect and channeled through Lutheran minister Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (baptized Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg). A.G. Roeber has written about the trans-Atlantic network of eighteenth- century German speakers. He finds that “within the triangulated area of the Kraichgau towns Heilbronn, Sinsheim, and Eppingen grew powerful family connections from which Keppele benefited.” A.G. Roeber, Palatines, Liberty, and Property: German Lutherans in Colonial British America (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 123-124. Immigrants strengthened these connections by making relatives abroad godparents of their children. For example, Keppele’s brother, Christoph, in Heilbronn became the godparent in absentia for Keppele’s fourth child, George Christoph, born January 1, 1747. The child died eleven days after his baptism. See Heinrich Keppele, “Geburtstagsregister meiner und meiner gantzen Familie, wie auch Geburtstage und Seufzer in Unterschietlichen Zeiten,“ German-American Collection, German Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.

[4] Keppele, “Geburthsregister.”

[5] Marianne Wokeck, “Introduction, From the Colonial Economy to Early Industrialization, 1720-1840,” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present (accessed February 8, 2013).

[6] Keppele noted the “Nevers Fieber” as the cause of his wife’s death in his “Geburthsregister.”

[7] Each child and grandchild received £500 upon marriage. The value of these monetary gifts fluctuated between 1766, when Keppele recorded the first such gift, and 1787, when he gave his youngest, still unmarried, son £788. For example, the modern purchasing power of £500 in 1766 was £54,000, which declined to £49,000 by 1787. Keppele always noted the monetary gifts in pounds, never in dollars, so the conversion of historical sums to contemporary sums in U.S. dollars does not convey the true value of the gift at the time. MeasuringWorth (accessed January 6, 2013).

[8] Keppele, “Geburtstagsregister.”

[9] $1,074 equals approximately $19,600 in modern purchasing power. MeasuringWorth (accessed January 6, 2013)

[10] James Hardie, A.M., The Philadelphia directory and register: containing the names, occupations and places of abode of the citizens; arranged in alphabetical order: a register of the executive, legislative, and judicial magistrates of the United States and the state of Pennsylvania… and the magistrates of the cily [sic]: to which is added, a short account of the city; and of the charitable and literary institutions therein [1794]. Early American Imprints, Series 1, no. 27089

[11] Harry Pfund, A History of the German Society of Pennsylvania, 1764-1964 (Philadelphia: The German Society of Pennsylvania, 1964), 5.

[12] Theodore Thayer, “Town into city, 1746-1765,” in Philadelphia: A 300-Year History (New York: Norton, 1982), 68-208.

[13] The Journals of Henry Melchior Mühlenberg, 2 December 1774, II: 639. Upon learning that Barbara Keppele had died, Muhlenberg recalled “the departed woman as a constant well-doer toward me and mine for thirty-two years. When I first came to this country, though they were still young beginners in housekeeping, they took me in for a time and cared for me, and ever since they have remained bosom friends.”

[14] Calculation based on an exchange rate of two to one between U.S. dollars and British Pounds in 2011.

[15] The value of imported goods rose from £168,000 to £700,000 between 1757 and 1760. Thayer, 75.

[16] Pensylvanische Berichte, September 16, 1747; October 16, 1747; and November 16, 1747.

[17] Willi Paul Adams, “The Colonial German-language Press and the American Revolution,” in The Press and the American Revolution, eds. Bernard Bailyn and John Hesch (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1980), 160-167. Saur’s newspaper had a larger readership than Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette, with a circulation of 2,500 subscribers.

[18] For a list of Philadelphia merchants who owned ships involved in the immigrant trade see, Wokeck, Trade in Strangers, 71.

[19] Roeber, 98.

[20] Ibid., 124.

[21] Keppele often made his horse available to Muhlenberg, who was grateful for the generosity. See, for example,The Journals of Henry Melchior Mühlenberg 4 April 1763, 1:615.

[22] Craig W. Horle et al., eds., Lawmakers and Legislators in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary, vol. 3 (Philadelphia: University ofPennsylvania Press, 1997), 783-793.

[23] Theodore Thayer, “Town into City, 1746-1765,” Philadelphia: A 300-Year History, ed. Russell F. Weigley (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982), 68-108.

[24] The Journals of Henry Melchior Mühlenberg 31 July 1761, 1:460.

[25] Muhlenberg Journal 10 March 1763, 1: 605.

[26] Miller’s newspaper was the second German-language newspaper in Philadelphia, starting publication in 1762. Willi Paul Adams, “The Colonial German-language Press and the American Revolution”, in The Press and the American Revolution, eds. Bernard Bailyn and John Hensch (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1980), 170.

[27] For a list of the offices and office holders from 1764 until 1917, see Seidensticker, “Mitglieder des Verwaltungsraths,” 439-456.

[28] All information based on Keppele’s “Geburthsregister” and Laurie Wolfe's unpublished “Notes on Heinrich Keppele” later published in Horle et al., eds., Lawmakers and Legislators in Pennsylvania.

[29] This law was passed in 1750.

[30] Farley Grub, “Redemptioner Immigration to Pennsylvania: Evidence on Contract Choice and Profitability,” Journal of Economic History (June 1986): 407-418. See also, Birte Pfleger, “Between Subject and Citizen: German speakers in Eighteenth-Century Pennsylvania,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Irvine, 2003, chapter 4. After the Revolutionary War, another law was passed that required the presence of a translator when passengers negotiated their indentures. The GSP furnished a German-speaking advocate at that time and continued to provide translation services and immediate assistance to newly-arrived German speakers until the late nineteenth century. The GSP had lobbied for this provision since 1765 when it asked for the presence of “a reputable and discreet German Inhabitant of the City of Philadelphia [who would] truly interpret, in English and German, between the said office and Passengers.” Votes and Proceedings Vol. VI, January 11, 1765.

[31] Pennsylvania Gazette, November 9, 1765.

[32] T.H. Breen, “‘Baubles of Britain’: The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century,” Past and Present 119, (May 1988): 73-104.

[33] In 1773 the GSP received the legislature’s permission to conduct a lottery to raise money for building material. This generally popular way to generate financial support especially for church building projects and other community or benevolent causes, produced 800 pounds Pennsylvania currency for the Society. See image of lottery announcement, LCP. For a discussion of the process see Seidensticker, 71-72.

[34] June 5, 1776, GSP Minutes.

[35] For years after the Revolution, the GSP sought, unsuccessfully, to obtain compensation for the building material from Congress.

[36] For a vivid description of Philadelphia during the American Revolution see, Harry M. Tinkom, “The Revolutionary City, 1765-1783,” in Philadelphia: A 300-Year History, eds. Russell F. Weigley (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982): 109-154. For more on Pennsylvania immediately before and during the American Revolution, see Richard Alan Ryerson, The Revolution is Now Begun; The Radical Committees of Philadelphia, 1765-1776 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978). William Pencak, “The Promise of Revolution,” in Pennsylvania; A History of the Commonwealth, eds. Randall Miller and William Pencak (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002). John Frantz and William Pencak, eds., Beyond Philadelphia: The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterland (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998).

[37] Laurie Wolfe's unpublished “Notes on Heinrich Keppele” are from the project on Pennsylvania Lawmakers.

[38] The new GSP treasurer first requested the money in January 1779. More than a year later Christoph Ludwig, a prominent Society leader, was appointed to inquire about the funds. Six months later the board became impatient and demanded the documents from Keppele Sr. and from Keppele Jr.’s wife. By March 1782, five months before Henry Keppele Jr.’s death, the GSP passed a resolution to get the money from Keppele Sr. and threatened legal action if he did not comply. But the organization quickly rescinded its threat due to the honorable character of the older Keppele and in light of everything he had done for the Society. About six weeks later John Steinmetz who had vouched for Keppele Jr. settled Keppele Jr.’s debt. GSP Minutes: January 20, 1779; April 28, 1781; October 12, 1781; March 20, 1782; March 25, 1782; May 9, 1782.

[39] For a discussion about eighteenth-century notions of honor, see Richard L. Bushman,The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Knopf, 1992) and David Shields, Civil Tongues and Polite Letters in British America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997).

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title John Henry Keppele
  • Coverage 1716-1797
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date May 20, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018