Merchants of Migration: Keeping the German Atlantic Connected in America’s Early National Period

This essay examines how, in the period 1800-1820, merchant practices refined during the colonial era helped to bring thousands of Germans to the New World, in a period before regular commercial shipping between Germany and the United States could furnish large-scale immigration.


There are many individual stories of lasting commercial success among the millions of German migrants who arrived in North America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Enterprise and commercial connections were also essential to the process of migration itself; the way in which the Atlantic was bridged by commercial activity was key to the rhythm and development of German migration patterns.[*] In America’s early national period, enduring commercial practice between the city of Philadelphia, the ports of the Netherlands, and the river ways of the southern German lands proved crucial to the beginning of nineteenth-century mass migration. This essay examines how, in the period 1800-1820, merchant practices refined during the colonial era helped to bring thousands of Germans to the New World, in a period before regular commercial shipping between Germany and the United States could furnish large-scale immigration.

Creating Connections

Within a generation of Franz Daniel Pastorius and the early religious German settlers’ arrival in America, movement from German Europe to North America transitioned into a largely secular migration.[1] Where religious networks had helped to spread initial information regarding the New World, commercial networks quickly developed which allowed migrants not motivated by religion to more easily act on news from America of opportunities across the Atlantic. Those networks connected three regions: the German area around the upper Rhine River and its tributaries, the ports of the Netherlands at the mouth of the Rhine, and the Delaware Valley, with its trading center at Philadelphia. Developed as early as the 1720s, the principal elements in this transit network would shape German immigration to the New World for a century.

From the 1720s through to 1820, German immigration to North America was driven by a passage on credit system that allowed migrants to defray transportation costs until they reached America. The system opened up migration opportunities for those otherwise excluded by cost barriers, a development which proved crucial to both the overall volume of German immigration to North America and early Atlantic migration traditions in German communities. The transit network and credit mechanisms that arose to carry German passengers to the New World increased the profits of ship owners and merchants trading with Philadelphia, whilst establishing German servant labor – as repayment for passage debt– as a core feature of the Delaware region’s economy.

The trade spanned four distinct stages. Firstly, an initial period during which merchants and ship owners first began to profit from the extension of credit to German migrants. Thereafter, the trade began to establish and consolidate profitable conventions, reaching its peak in the mid-eighteenth century. During the second half of the eighteenth century, it then declined in use due to the disruptions of warfare in Europe, America, and the Atlantic. Finally, the trade entered a fourth, resurgent phase; a crucial period between 1800 and 1820, which brought tens of thousands of German and Swiss migrants to the infant American republic. This final phase was critical to the establishment of the nineteenth-century German immigration pattern to the United States, bridging the conventions and routines of the colonial era and the era of mass migration that followed.

From as early as 1722, evidence suggests that shippers in Rotterdam allowed German passengers to travel to Philadelphia on credit. Those who did not pay their fare in advance were given three to four weeks to settle their accounts after arrival.[2] In 1724, Christopher Sauer, recently arrived from the Palatinate, noted that many of the arriving “Palatines” “paid the captain nothing although they had money.”[3] Instead, they kept their cash and sold hardware – knives, ivory combs, and so on – which fetched high prices in the New World, and then paid up with their profits. Sauer thought the transaction a clever way to finance migration, and wrote to his former community that “no-one should indenture himself to the captain, but rather promise to pay on this side if he has no money or little money,” if necessary, “one can borrow the money here and repay in cash.”[4] Such cash was borrowed against a period of labor, used to “redeem” the cost of the debt. Captains clearly found that carrying passengers on credit was commercially viable; taking on passenger ballast was a good subsidy for ships leaving continental Europe, typically carrying finished goods in smaller volume than colonial goods during their outbound journey.

By 1728, the number of passengers seeking to redeem the price of their journey through labor had increased to the extent that captains – who had initially let passengers off the boat to negotiate their contract – now held them on board until payment was settled. A tipping point had been reached, wherein credit-based passengers were no longer incidental additions to particular voyages, but represented a significant enough proportion of profits from the voyage that the viability of the journey depended on recovering their debts. A new commercial operation was in genesis. Over the following two decades, this “redemptioner” credit arrangement quickly became the core of a commercial network connecting the Rhine, the Netherlands, and the Delaware Valley. Its success and profitability made it an integral part of Philadelphia’s maritime trade and labor markets, and defined the Atlantic transit route for generations of German settlers.

During the 1730s, the redemptioner system came to function around four key components. As the British Navigation acts allowed only British ships, captains, and crews to trade with the colonies, British vessels were first needed in Rotterdam, at the mouth of the Rhine, where they could be filled with emigrants. The ships were thus procured by the second – and most important – link in the chain; merchant brokers in the Dutch city who filled the boats with passenger freights and provisions. On the other side of the Atlantic, Philadelphia merchants were the third major component. They consigned the ships, connected passengers “whose time was to be disposed of” to potential buyers, and made sure all accounts were settled. They then filled the ship with dry goods for its return journey. The fourth, “floating” component were recruiters. A number of figures provided a web of contacts able to bring migrants into the transit system. Prominent among these were “Newlanders,” German migrants who had been to the “New Land,” and who had returned to recruit their countrymen. As the number of German migrants in Philadelphia grew, so did the number of individuals who could serve in this role, connecting south German villages to migratory opportunities in the New World through information about shipping and settlement opportunities. Outside of the powerful figure of the Newlander as recruiting agent, merchant firms also hired representatives within Europe, and completed their web of recruitment through contacts with river boatmen on the Rhine, Main, and lower Neckar rivers, who were able to ferry migrants north.[5]

As the volume of migration increased, the Dutch authorities began to enact various forms of legislation in order to prevent civil disruption from the trade. From the mid-1730s, migrants were only allowed to cross into the Netherlands if they had a confirmed contact with whom they could liaise at the docks and who could provide passage space.[6] Migrant groups were also required to have a military escort during the boat ride through the Dutch United Provinces. These points of administration were taken care of by the Rotterdam brokers. The firm of Archibald and Isaac Hope, and then Francis Trimbel, Ward Stanton and John Stedman, petitioned the authorities of the various Dutch states for entry passes, which could be used to issue entry permission for as many as three thousand migrants against their name.[7] Recruiters who brought migrants to the border then gave the name of a particular broker to the authorities, and officials crossed off the numbers against the tally of a particular merchant. Representatives of the merchant houses, stationed at the border, ensured that these bureaucratic details, as well as military escorts, were dealt with efficiently. For their recruiting services, Newlanders could expect various incentives, including a free return passage to America.

By the late 1730s, the system of getting German migrants into the Netherlands and then across the Atlantic was standardized and streamlined. Several thousand German migrants reached North America in 1738, and continued to do so in the following years, until the passage was interrupted by the War of Austrian Succession.[8] In these initial years of the trade, merchants worked on the assumption that if a ship carried one third of its passengers on credit, fare-paying migrants would cover outfitting and provisions. Credit-based passengers ensured that maximum capacity, and thus maximum profit, was achieved. By mixing fare-paying passengers with credit-based travelers, the merchants helped to secure the longevity and impact of the system. The availability of credit encouraged demand, and spread the precedent of emigration, by lowering cost barriers.

In the late 1740s, the return of safe passage conditions in the Atlantic saw migrant numbers surge. With the passage-on credit system well-known to potential migrants, and recruitment methods perfected, between 1749 and 1754, nearly sixty thousand German immigrants reached North America.[9] By the 1750s as many as half were doing so as redemptioners.[10] The mid-century surge was aided by unprecedented levels of recruitment, and the increasing specialization of migrant ships. Prior to the 1750s, vessels had carried an average of 185 passengers, but were now outfitted to carry an average of 300 – an increase achieved not with larger vessels, but by compacting migrants into vessels designed to carry a maximum human cargo.[11]

Throughout the colonial period, the trade, and thus eighteenth-century German immigration, overwhelmingly centered on the city of Philadelphia. The port city on the Delaware commanded German immigrant traffic for two principal reasons. Firstly due to the trade connections between Philadelphia and Rotterdam. The connection was originally engineered by William Penn, who made arrangements with Benjamin Furly, a Quaker merchant in Rotterdam, to funnel co-religionists to his American colony. In 1721, it was Furly who stood security for the Archibald Hope firm, original pioneers in the credit-based redemptioner trade.[12] Activity between Rotterdam and Philadelphia ensured a growing web of contacts between the cities. Inseparable from this developing situation was the preference of migrants themselves for the city on the Delaware. Philadelphia and its back country were sought by German passengers in a self-generative fashion typical of migration movements; as favorable reports returned from that region, so interest in settlement there developed. As German speakers were overwhelmingly the purchasers of German redemptioners, the growing population of German immigrants in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania continually increased the incentive for both shippers and migrants to land there. Abortive surges of German emigration toward other colonies did take place as each tried to recruit German migrants, but Georgia, Nova Scotia, and the Carolinas each failed to develop the sustainable lure of the “best poor man’s country.”[13]

Parallel to these self-sustaining logistical connections which linked the Upper Rhine, via Dutch ports, to the best poor man’s country, was the capacity of the trade to satisfy the requirements of each of its participants. The merchants involved in orchestrating the trade had a clear profit incentive, whilst the migrants themselves were motivated by the confluence of information arriving from America, unsatisfactory conditions at home, and, when necessary, the option to defray travel costs. Ship owners could profit handsomely from the outbound westward journeys, and recruiters and river boatmen aided their own personal and commercial interests by offering their services. Once the logistics of the system had been ironed into a profitable and advantageous arrangement for each party, it proved a durable institution of the German-American experience.

The refinement, development, and increased use of the redemptioner trade by the mid-eighteenth century had major consequences in the immediate and long term. Although the proportion of redemptioners likely never exceeded half of German arrivals, the passage on credit mechanism was central to the development of German migration to America. On the European side, the redemptioner system removed the most significant entry costs to emigration – ocean passage fares and initial settlement costs – significantly increasing migratory opportunity. Although religiously-based immigration policies of the colonial era still restricted the migration of Catholics, a lack of financial restrictions allowed Atlantic networks to stretch across large swathes of the protestant German southwest. Statistics for those departing from their homelands demonstrate the extent to which the system was used by the economically marginalized. From 1749-1754, when redemptioner passage was most prolifically used, figures for Württemberg show that 74.6 percent of departures were of trade and laboring backgrounds – where income was most restricted by guild and institutional control – whilst only 17.7 percent came from the more affluent agricultural sector.[14] The ability of the system to release migratory potential from among lower socio-economic groups created an extensive precedent of Atlantic migration in the German southwest. This had profound long-term implications for future migration choices.

As well as providing widespread opportunities for Atlantic migration to inhabitants of the German southwest, the redemptioner trade also established a sustainable commercial model for merchant interests in the Delaware Valley. For those on the American side of the business, the redemptioner system serviced the high demand for labor in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania backcountry, and promised profits for the merchants involved in completing the trade at Philadelphia’s waterfront. At its mid-century peak, the Philadelphia merchant community began to significantly increase its involvement and investment in the trade. Originally dominated at the Philadelphia dockside by just two firms – Benjamin & Samuel Shoemaker, and Charles & Alexander Stedman – during the early 1750s, the number of merchants participating in the German passenger trade began to grow. Samuel Howell, Robert Morris, Thomas Willing, and the German immigrant Heinrich Keppele, all major merchant figures in the city, became significantly involved. As well as increasing in number, Philadelphia brokers also increased their stake in the trade by directly supplying ships, rather than simply handling incoming passenger freights on behalf of European contacts. Instead of receiving a commission of five per cent for arranging the cargoes and redemptioner contracts in Philadelphia, providing ships ensured that a larger share of the profits from the trade were transferred into the hands of the Philadelphia merchants.

The practicability and profitability of the model as a feature of the Pennsylvania economy, alongside the extensive precedent of Atlantic migration it established in the German southwest, ensured that the system became entrenched on both sides of the Atlantic. At the turn of the nineteenth century, during and after the Napoleonic conflicts of Europe, this would be of crucial importance to the arrival of as many as twenty-five thousand German migrants to American shores.

Persistence of Migration Networks

Through the second half of the eighteenth century, German-Atlantic migration, and with it German redemptioner traffic, dipped in volume. International conflict, as well as alternate offers of land in Europe, undermined the previous fluidity and volume of German-American movement. With the initial maneuvers of the French and Indian Wars, and subsequently the full outbreak of the wider Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), migrant traffic between Europe and the British-American Colonies came to a halt. Shortly thereafter, the American War of Independence (1776-1783) had the same impact. However, in the period between the Atlantic conflicts, when the ocean passage could operate freely and safely, North America was still able attract German immigrants.[15] Many of the major American merchants who entered the German passenger trade prior to the conflicts, – Keppele & Steinmetz, Willing & Morris, and Samuel Howell, among others – continued to orchestrate redemptioner passages between 1763 and 1775.[16] Indeed, between the Atlantic wars, the German passenger trade transitioned almost completely into the stewardship of American businessmen. After 1763, fully half the ships arriving on the Delaware carrying German immigrants were registered in Philadelphia, and only three had no connection to Philadelphia.[17] In the immediate pre-revolutionary era, American-built and owned ships thus came to dominate the available trade.

Significantly, the commercial underpinnings of the trade also survived the American Revolution. Unlike the other major North Atlantic migration systems of the eighteenth century – the British and Irish passage and indenture trades, and the West African slave trade – the Rhine-Low Country-Delaware Valley system was untouched by changes to the British Atlantic after the American War of Independence.[18] Although the American stewards of the colonial trade either passed away or saw family businesses dissolved in the early national period, as a well-established element of Philadelphia’s commerce, the trade in German migrants no longer needed to be sustained by individual mercantile relationships. In place of the long-lived mercantile networks, short-term correspondence, underwritten by the established profitability of the commerce, now arose whenever convenience dictated. After an initially limited period of German immigration in the 1780s and 1790s, the turn of the nineteenth century proved to be an especially convenient era for the merchants of the Delaware region.

In the spring of 1800, troops from revolutionary France crossed the Rhine into German territory, rapidly driving Austrian forces out of Baden and Württemberg. In very short order, southwest German migrants began to move north. In the late summer of 1800, two American ships arrived in Philadelphia, one from Hamburg, and the other from Amsterdam, both carrying German passengers. Crucially, both were American-owned, and both advertised their cargo as redemptioners. The decision of the captains who stewarded these ships to carry credit-based German passengers from European docks no doubt stemmed from the unquestioned assurance that their cargo would generate a return for their merchant owners.

The Amsterdam ship, owned by an L. Cronsital of Philadelphia, carried thirty-one passengers, and the Hamburg ship, which belonged to Jacob Sperry, also of Philadelphia, carried 123.[19] Sperry was a highly influential figure in the city; he had married into the Mühlenberg dynasty, cultivated a major import-export exchange with the city of Hamburg, and would eventually become vice-president of the German Society of Pennsylvania.[20] He was part of a new generation of merchants who had risen to prominence in the Philadelphia shipping trade, and who would provide a conduit for German passengers to escape an increasingly troubled Europe. Yet although merchants such as Sperry, who had begun America’s nascent trade with the Hanseatic cities, would begin to bring German migrants from Bremen and Hamburg at a rate not previously seen, it was once again the Philadelphia merchants who conducted their European trade with the Netherlands that found themselves at the forefront of the commerce. At the mouth of the Rhine, the Dutch ports maintained their competitive advantage in embarking German migrants; the only shift from previous patterns being that Amsterdam, not Rotterdam, commanded the majority of the trade, a result of persistent Dutch policy to favor the commerce of the capital.

When the Peace of Amiens was declared in March of 1802, the stream of Atlantic-bound German migrants began to grow. In the late summer and autumn of 1802, three American ships returned to Philadelphia from Amsterdam; two were owned by local merchants, William Parker and Manuel Eyre, whilst a third belonged to two New Hampshire merchants who were able to capitalize on their vessel’s fortuitous location in Amsterdam to transport a cargo of redemptioners to Philadelphia.[21] The merchants of the firm Wharton & Lewis acted as their consignees. Smaller loads from Bremen and Hamburg also arrived that year.[22] The prominent merchant brokers of Philadelphia were beginning to find a consistent supply of German redemptioners for their vessels. When war between England and France broke out again in May 1803, the British blockade on French and Dutch shipping placed American shipping in the position of a flag of convenience, allowing American merchants to monopolize the surge in German migration.[23]

At the point when American interests gained this decisive advantage, the potential supply of migrants also began to swell significantly. In 1803, the Württemberg Separatist Johann Georg Rapp, a preacher from the district of Maulbronn, elected to remove himself and his followers to America, after years of persecution by the authorities.[24] Rapp’s decision was likely aided by his surroundings – his home district of Maulbronn was at the historic center of German immigration to Pennsylvania, and a significant stream of migration continued after his departure. In 1803, he travelled with his surveyor on the ship Canton in order to identify a settlement site. Over the next two years, Rapp’s letters home encouraged large groups of his co-religionists to follow him, and with them came hundreds of their fellow villagers, once again taking advantage of the organized transport model that could get them from Swabia to the Delaware Valley. By 1805, more than 1,000 Württembergers had moved to Pennsylvania on ships organized to carry the “Rappite” movement, with thousands more following the same route to Amsterdam in order to find passage.[25]

Between 1803 and 1807, American ship owners organized at least twenty voyages of German passengers from Amsterdam to Philadelphia, many of them using the same ships and captains for repeat journeys.[26] The Philadelphia merchants Drinker & Bartow and Godfrey Haga repeatedly orchestrated the voyages of the Rappites and their fellow Württembergers, transporting at least two hundred individuals at a time, and selling the labor of those who were not religious refugees through redemptioner-style contracts.[27] As the volume of German migrants increased, so did merchant interest up and down the American coastline. Ship owners from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York contributed to the trade, landing redemptioners into the Pennsylvania market, using Philadelphia contacts as consignees. Many ancillary voyages, usually smaller in passenger number, also occurred from Hamburg, Antwerp and Bremen, whilst Baltimore began to emerge as an important secondary port of debarkation. It is likely that at least 9,000-10,000 Germans reached North America between 1800 and 1807; at least sixty percent of the ships arriving from Amsterdam carried redemptioners, whilst thirty-five percent of all arrivals came as redemptioner freights during the peak years of 1803-1804.[28] From 1808, with the total blockade of European shipping, and thereafter Anglo-American naval conflict, the Atlantic passage was once again closed to German migrants. However, the preceding influx of German immigrants was an important marker in commercial continuities.

The fluidity with which Philadelphia merchants extended their trading networks into German passenger and redemptioner traffic around 1800 demonstrated how embedded that trade was in the maritime and labor market practices of the Delaware Valley. Although the Rhine-Low Country-Delaware Valley migrant trade had not seen heavy usage for some time, the profusion of the system under the stewardship of the Hopes, Stedmans, and Shoemakers during the colonial era made it a fundamental element of commerce in the greater Pennsylvania region.[29] The German immigration influx at the turn of the nineteenth century was dependent on this immersion; the ready provision of American shipping made the 1800-1807 migration possible, whilst business confidence in the redemptioner system underwrote much of the cargo space and ultimately the overall volume of the movement. Simultaneously, the success of the turn-of-the-century trade for American ship owners confirmed their confidence in the existing model of German immigrant transport, therefore ensuring their continued engagement with the trade. At the close of the Napoleonic Wars, that engagement would again be of fundamental significance to another major migration surge, the largest since the middle of the eighteenth century.

A Final Resurgence

In the immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, at least 35,000 people left the German states of Baden and Württemberg, attempting to reach Russia or the United States.[30] The stream of migration to Russia, which came mostly from Württemberg, followed on from a large number of departures in 1804 – also the most recent high point of Atlantic migration – and was a response to semi-official recruiting campaigns by the Russian Tsar.[31] The Atlantic stream of migration, which began in the early summer of 1816, was initially stimulated by recruiters in the Rhine-Low Country-Delaware Valley trade in migrants, and then accelerated rapidly as material circumstances in the German southwest descended into famine conditions.

At the close of the Napoleonic era, much of Europe was exhausted, regardless of whether actual conflict had taken place in a given region. The German states of Baden and Württemberg had been allied to Napoleon, and had been significantly enlarged as a result. Yet despite a lack of any major warfare in the region, the populations of both states were in dire conditions. During the conflicts, the forced requisition of grain in order to feed troops had emptied rural reserves. Financial support for Napoleon had also emptied fiscal reserves. After the conflict, the excessive leveraging of taxes in order to re-float government finances created a critically vulnerable position for the people, with both reserves of food and wealth utterly depleted.[32] These circumstances became catastrophic under the unusual weather conditions of 1816, when much of the normal weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere were disrupted by the global effects of the massive eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia. The eruption lowered temperatures and caused excessive rainfall, creating “the year without summer.”[33] In the German southwest, heavy rain and the early onset of winter destroyed the harvest, leaving virtually no crops for consumption or for seeding in the following season. The lack of harvest left laborers without work, whilst the lack of income for farmers heavily curtailed their demand for the goods and services of local tradesmen. In regions with no grain reserves, the population was forced to purchase food at high prices, at a time when there was no money available. By the winter of 1816, the situation had become dire for most people.

Many months before, recruitment for migrants had begun on the Upper Rhine, where the already difficult postwar conditions represented a commercial opportunity for those who had connections with merchants in the Netherlands. Persuasive attempts were made to get struggling rural workers to leave for America and thus fill river boats. The initial enterprise of migrant recruitment was centered on the Rhine city of Basel, on the German-Swiss border, where a river boat captain forwarded passengers on to his merchant contacts in Amsterdam.[34] The process was aided by various recruitment promises; when later interrogated, migrants alleged that they were offered free transport, food, petty cash, and both land and animal stocks when they reached America.[35] The initial stimulus to migrate therefore carried all the hallmarks of the more nefarious recruitment practices and promises of some Newlanders and boatmen in the previous century. Some Dutch merchants even travelled personally to the migrant source regions, canvassing beleaguered populations and offering them northbound transport.[36] In very short order, innumerable river boatmen on the Rhine and Neckar, without any onward connections in the Netherlands, began shipping migrants north, where passage to the New World could be sought.

Active solicitation, as initially occurred in southern Baden, was not necessary once the movement began to gather pace. Outside of southern Baden’s Breisgau, which was new to American migration, northern Baden and Württemberg had experienced Atlantic migration, in various volumes, for three generations. The success of recent migrants also helped to encourage departure; the redemptioner system was well known, and “the impression seemed to have gotten about that the Württemberg Separatists who had made good in America [under Georg Rapp] could be depended upon to pay the passage of any fellow countrymen.”[37]

At the English Channel coast, outbound passenger traffic to North America was once again heaviest from Amsterdam. In America, whilst Philadelphia continued to command the majority of incoming German passengers, Baltimore also emerged as a significant port of debarkation. This development was aided by two factors. First, the general rise of the port as an export center for American products, especially tobacco, which increased its level of trade with Europe, in particular the German city of Bremen, and second, the arrival in the city of a number of German migrants during 1800-1808, increasing its attraction as a port of landing.[38] The German merchant Christian Ludwig Mannhardt, for example, arrived in Baltimore around 1802, and became an established merchant figure in the city by 1804.[39] Mannhardt originated from Maulbronn, the county seat of Johann Georg Rapp’s home district, and may have influenced Rapp’s decision to leave. Indeed, when Rapp first arrived in Philadelphia, on a ship owned by a Philadelphia-Baltimore consortium, it was Mannhardt to whom he turned when seeking a loan to buy land.[40] Alongside the growing trade of Baltimore with European ports, influential links such as these between the city and the German southwest allowed migration networks to begin extending along new seams of American commerce. However, whilst Baltimore was in its ascendency, Philadelphia remained the central magnet for the German passenger trade. Two thirds of German migrants landed there between 1815 and 1820, and even Baltimore ship owners frequently chose to land their German payloads on the Delaware, in order to take advantage of its redemptioner markets.[41]

Across the immediate post-Napoleonic era, from the end of 1815 until the winter of 1819, sixty-two ships carrying German passengers arrived in Philadelphia.[42] Twenty-five of these came from Amsterdam, with the rest coming in smaller volumes from Hamburg, Antwerp, Rotterdam, and Bremen. European-owned ships commanded the early stages of the movement, reflecting the European networks between the Rhine and the Netherlands which solicited the earliest stages of emigration, and provided passage at the onset of the movement. In 1816, five ships fully laden with German passengers arrived in Philadelphia, of which three were European.[43] However, American shippers were once again quick to profit from the trade. In 1817, ten more ships arrived in Philadelphia from Amsterdam, and fully half were American owned.[44] By 1818 and 1819, although the migration flow had slowed, the traffic had transferred largely into American hands; in both years three out of four arriving passenger ships from Amsterdam were American.[45]

The German migration between 1815 and 1820, during which approximately 15,000 immigrated to the U.S., peaked in 1817, when as many as 48 percent arrived as redemptioners.[46] As in 1800-1808, the redemptioner contract was key to the overall volume of migration; the ability of German migrants to pay for their passage was drastically minimized by the events of 1816.[47] Indeed it was precisely the prospect of mortgaged transportation, embedded in the logistics of Rhineland migration, that both prompted and carried the exodus.[48]At the peak of the movement in 1817, several ships departed Europe with cargoes of more than four hundred passengers, in a return to the “high age” of commerce in redemptioners during the 1750s. Carrying capacity per ship was much higher than in 1800-1808, when the greatest single ship load was 270; in 1817, several ships embarked with an excess of four hundred passengers.[49] Philadelphia firms such as Glaser & Smith and E.W. Hoskin became repeat handlers of very large redemptioner cargo loads, consigning some of the most heavily-laden ships of the exodus, which typically carried very high numbers of redemptioners. Indeed, so packed were some of the vessels, and so poorly provisioned, that civic outcry began to be heard at the treatment of German passengers.

Typical of the under-provisioned, over-populated vessel was the ship Hope, consigned by the Philadelphia merchants Glaser & Smith in August 1817. The passengers had been put on ration whilst still in the English Channel, where it was also discovered that very little medicine had been loaded with the provisions. The ships’ doctor, moreover, “turn’d out to be as they say, a farrier, or horse doctor.”[50] The captain refused to put into an English port for more supplies, and as a result, the passengers arrived in a dreadful state of sickness. Extra provisions were demanded of Glaser & Smith in order to clothe and feed the passengers on arrival, which, after some contractual arguments, were partially met. The Hope would be the last vessel of redemptioners the firm consigned. The passengers on the Hope at least suffered a better fate than those on the infamous ship April, which failed to even navigate the Delaware up to Philadelphia, leaving nearly 500 passengers – of an original 1,200 – stranded in New Castle.[51] Massive passenger loads and high mortality on the ships Xenophon, Vrow Elisabetha andAmazon – all consigned by E.W. Hoskin – also brought outcry in the press against the abuse of redemptioners.[52] The swell of desperate German migrants in Dutch harbors without either the means for travel or subsistence ensured that abuses and exploitations of the Hope and April became an increasing characteristic of the movement. As such abuses increased, so did measures to regulate the incoming surge of migration.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, tightly-packed ships and the increasing abuse of passengers had prompted similar concerns. In 1764, the German Society of Pennsylvania was formed in order to curtail abuses against German redemptioners, and through its efforts achieved some legal regulation of the trade. The laws prescribed adequate accommodations and provisions for Germans during the voyage, and for some time after landing defined ownership of property in order to prevent captains from selling immigrant luggage in order to meet fares, provided measures of redress in case of loss or death, and forbade the separation of man and wife.[53] As the new surge in the trade began to reach the volumes – and reflect the abuses – of the mid-eighteenth century, attempts to protect the welfare of migrants also harked back to the high age of colonial-era redemptioner traffic.

In 1818, abuse of the passenger trade caused the German Society to again lobby for tighter regulations. Redemptioner contracting was to be overseen by a bilingual official, provision of education made for servant children, a thirty-day period after arrival allowed for redemptioners to repay their passenger debts – the provisions for which were to be covered at the shippers expense – and the sale of servants across state lines without their consent was prohibited.[54] The German Society of Maryland, seeking to manage the influx of migrants to Baltimore, also successfully lobbied for laws that mirrored those of Pennsylvania. It is noteworthy however, that calls for an abolition of the redemptioner system were scarce; members of the German Society themselves acted as agents for redemptioner labor, and the trade was an integral part of the labor market, finding high demand whenever the German-Atlantic passage could function.[55]

By 1819, individuals who had crossed the Atlantic in previous waves had begun to return to their home villages to recruit additional migrants, in a further replication of the self-generating patterns seen in the late colonial era.[56] However, just as the system began to once again consolidate into a pattern of repeat voyages under specific merchants, and Newlander recruitment in former home communities sought to stimulate further trade, the emigration stream ceased. There were two principle reasons for this. First was the implementation of Dutch legislation in the middle of 1817, which stated that groups of migrants needed the sponsorship of a “substantial” Dutch citizen in order to enter Dutch territory; without such sponsorship, a high personal reserve of cash had to be demonstrated by individual migrants, in order to gain entry.[57] The legislation was essentially a reiteration of that passed almost a century prior when the trade had originally begun to grow. In Hamburg, fast developing into a secondary port of embarkation, the arrival of destitute Württemberg families prompted a similar bar on poor migrants who did not arrive in organized groups.[58] The legislation was designed to keep penniless migrants from continuing to pile up in the port cities, but it effectively halted the exodus of speculative, credit-based migration, which had been the engine of the migration surge. This lowered the supply of redemptioners and thus affected the overall volume of migration, which finally ceased altogether at the end of 1819. With the return of good harvests, even the stream of fee-paying migrants swiftly dried up. By the time prosperity had returned to a war-torn Europe, the Rhine-Low Country-Delaware Valley migration system had carried in excess of twenty thousand German immigrants to the United States.


The waves of German migration into the United States during 1800-1807 and 1815-1819 were dependent on, and carried by, a transport network and model devised in the colonial era. The longevity of that model relied on its suitability for all parties, from the potential migrant, to the Atlantic shipper, to the dockside merchant and the American artisan or farmer in need of labor. However, whilst the system continued for generations, in the early nineteenth century it brought German migrants into an America very different from the colonial region that Germans had migrated to during the eighteenth century. By the period of the 1800-1807 and 1815-1819 migration waves, the territory of the United States settled by native-born and immigrant Europeans had expanded dramatically.

As the congressional land of the Northwest Ordinance was opened up for settlement, the German immigrants who landed between 1800 and 1820 began to filter into the territories of Ohio and Indiana, thereafter relating the situation and prospects of these regions to their former village neighbors. Much of this initial settlement came as direct result of the service contracts to which newly arriving migrants found themselves bound. By 1817, the ability of Philadelphia and its immediate suburbs to absorb the flush of German redemptioners was becoming exhausted; as a result purchasers came from further and further afield. At the end of 1817, only a quarter of servant contracts were based in Philadelphia; many immigrants found themselves bound not only to the immediate hinterlands of the city, but to buyers further afield in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.[59] Nearly one in ten servants in 1817 were bound to buyers from the western counties of Pennsylvania on the expanding northwest frontier.[60] It was not uncommon for landowners and businessmen to travel substantial distances in order to acquire large numbers of servants.[61] Many Germans, such as Georg Rapp and his followers, also moved west seeking isolation for religious settlement, whilst others, such as the industrialist Johann Jacob Weiler, did so to pursue business.[62]

As a result of their extensive spread through the newly expanding U.S., the early nineteenth-century arrivals produced the embryonic networks of German immigration for the new century; the desired settlement areas of future German immigrants arriving in the United States shifted from the eighteenth-century heartlands in Pennsylvania and the Great Valley, toward the Midwestern “German belt” characteristic of the nineteenth-century influx.[63] The eighteenth-century transit model was therefore pivotal in helping to establish the future patterns of German immigration; it provided the logistical, commercial, and social networks, which, in a tumultuous turn-of-the-century Europe, allowed material hardship in the southwest German states to translate into Atlantic migration. In so doing, the system bridged the two major eras of German immigration to North America.

After 1819, the Rhine-Netherlands-Delaware Valley system came to a close. When agricultural depression began to affect Baden and Württemberg in 1828, motivating some rural communities to seek migration, shipping between Europe and the United States had changed. During the 1820s, the regularity of trade between European ports such as Le Havre and Bremen with American ports such as Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York led to the introduction of regular packet lines, and far lower passage costs than those offered by irregular eighteenth-century shippers taking migrants instead of ballast. In conjunction with punitive legislation against poorer migrants, this development changed the pattern of German emigration, by diverting migrants away from the Low Countries, toward new ports of embarkation. There, relatively low ticket prices allowed emigrants with at least some capital to embark for the United States, where they landed as either purchasers of land or immediate members of the wage labor market. A new era of transatlantic commerce had superseded the arrangements among merchants in Philadelphia and the Netherlands and the system they devised in order to profit from credit-based passenger agreements. For the next twenty years, until the crises of the “hungry forties” German immigration became characterized by a more affluent migrant-type, the purchaser of a passage ticket on the packet lines operating between Europe and America, whilst the poorest migrants were largely excluded by cost.[64] It would not be until later in the nineteenth century, when the availability of remittances and the diffusion of cheap steam travel became widespread, that the German laborer would return as a central figure in America’s German immigration.

The nineteenth-century migration of Germans to America, despite changes in transport systems and settlement areas, was, however, deeply influenced by the period which had preceded it; a century of German settlement in North America, conveyed by the enduring commercial links between the Upper Rhine, the Netherlands, and the Delaware Valley. Those links saw the trade in German migrants become a standard element of commerce on the Delaware, a profitable and durable business that passed through four generations of Philadelphia merchants, and which shaped the pattern of German immigration into America not only for the period spanning 1720 to 1820, but, by founding early nineteenth-century migrant networks, for generations beyond.


[*] Research supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation [AZ 37/V/13], and the Horner Library Fellowship of the GHI, Washington D.C.

[1] The transition from very small religious groups travelling to America to larger numbers of economically-motivated migrants happened in the 1710s. In 1709, as many as thirteen thousand people left the Palatinate, Kraichgau, and Württemberg in an attempt to reach the British colonies based on false assumptions about free offers of land and transportation. Eventually, the British government did, in fact, ship nearly three thousand individuals to the colonies, mostly to New York, from whence letters began to return as soon as 1714. The episode released the discussion of America from the confines of religious circles, and was pivotal in shifting “migration to the American colonies from an extraordinary step to a broadly acceptable option.” See Marianne S. Wokeck, “Rethinking the Significance of the 1709 Mass Migration” in Jan Stievermann & Oliver Scheiding, eds., A Peculiar Mixture: German Language Cultures and Identities in Eighteenth Century North America (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013), 23-42. Also Phillip Otterness, Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004).

[2] Marianne Wokeck, Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America (University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 1999), 85.

[3] Donald F. Durnbaugh, “Two Early Letters From Germantown” in Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography 84, (1960), 231-232.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Wokeck, Trade, 33-35, 82.

[6] Ibid., 63-65

[7] Ibid., 65

[8] Whilst 4,741 German passengers are known to have arrived in the American colonies that year, the number should have been much higher: some 6,490 German passengers embarked for the New World in 1738, but a number of major incidents at sea led to an extraordinary passage mortality of thirty-five percent, costing the lives of more than 2,000 individuals. See Wokeck, Tradep.45; Brigitte Burkett Emigrants from Baden & Württemberg in the Eighteenth Century – Vol I: Baden-Durlach & Vicinity (Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1996), x; On 1738, Klaus Wust “The Emigration Season of 1738: Year of the Destroying Angels” in The Report: A Journal of German-American History (Baltimore: Society for the History of Germans in America, 1986), 21-56.

[9] Wokeck, Trade, 45

[10] Ibid., 44, 84, 226.

[11] William T. O’Reilly, “To the East or to the West? Agents in the Recruitment of Migrants for British North America & Habsburg Hungary: 1717 – 1770,” Ph.D. diss. (Oxford University, 2001), 193; Wokeck, Trade, 78-80.

[12] Wokeck, Trade, 72.

[13] Marianne Wokeck, “Harnessing the Lure of ‘the Best Poor Man’s Country’: The Dynamics of German-Speaking Immigration to British North America, 1683-1783” in Ida Altman, James Horn, eds., To Make America: European Emigration in the Early Modern Period (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 225.

[14] The remaining 8.3 percent came from the moneyed and educated classes of clergymen, schoolteachers, surgeons, innkeepers, and so on. See Wolfgang von Hippel, Auswanderung aus Südwestdeutschland: Studien zur Württembergischen Auswanderung und Auswanderungspolitik im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1984), 52. On the oppressive nature of guild control and limits on wage incomes in contemporary Württemberg, see Sheilagh Ogilvie, State Corporatism and Proto-Industry: The Württemberg Black Forest, 1580-1797 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); also, Sheilagh Ogilvie, A Bitter Living: Women , Markets and Capital in Early Modern Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

[15] The overall volume was lower in this period, as offers of land – and safer transit – in Russia, Prussia, and the Habsburg Empire became increasingly popular with southwest German migrants. Between 1763 and 1769, for example, generous offers of free Russian land helped to significantly dilute German Atlantic migration, absorbing some 4,500 immigrants a year. See Karl Stumpp, The Emigration from Germany to Russia in the Years 1763 to 1862 (Lincoln, NE: Publication of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1973), 32. Between 1764 and 1775, the average number of German arrivals in America dipped to 1,110 a year, compared to 5,414 in the dozen years prior to the Seven Years War. Wokeck, Trade 45-46.

[16] Wokeck, Trade, 71.

[17] Ibid., 95. Also appendix, 240-276.

[18] With three successive legislative acts in 1783, 1803, and 1816, the British government rendered indenture-based voyages essentially unprofitable, therefore ending the major system of Irish emigration. Kerby Miller, Emigrants & Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 170, 193-194.

[19] Ralph B. Strassburger, Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808 (Baltimore: Genealogical pub. Co., 2nd ed., 1966), 106, 108.

[20] See Oswald Seidensecker, Erste Teil der Geschichte der deutsche Gesellschaft von Pennsylvanian: von der Gründung im Jahre 1764 bis zur Jubelseier der Republik 1876 (Philadelphia: Graf & Breuninger, 1917), 442-443.

[21] The ship of James Sheafe and Matthew Clarke, The Jacob. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1882. Index and images. FamilySearch. (accessed 2014), citing NARA microfilm publication M425. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, roll nr.4, p.279.

[22] The ships from the Netherlands Jacob, Devotion andBelvidere carried 432 German passengers, whilst six from Hamburg and Bremen carried 263, none with more than 81 passengers, and three carrying cabin passengers only, of two, five and seventeen in number. See Strassburger, Pennsylvania German Pioneers 112, 114-117, 120-123.

[23] Only one ship carrying redemptioners from Amsterdam to Philadelphia during the Napoleonic conflicts was a non-American vessel, the British ship Venus, which arrived August 8, 1805. Strassburger, Pennsylvania German Pioneers 169.

[24] See Karl J. Arndt, George Rapp’s Harmony Society: 1787 – 1847 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1965), 42-49.

[25] Ibid., 65-68.

[26] Strassburger, Pennsylvania German Pioneers 105-198.

[27] Drinker & Bartow were responsible for two voyages of the ship Margaret, one from Amsterdam in 1804, and one from Antwerp in 1805, as well as the voyage of The Fair American in 1805. The ships carried 270, 236 and 249 passengers respectively, almost exclusively from Württemberg. See Strassburger, Pennsylvania German Pioneers 153, 163, 178, and Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1882, roll nr.6, pp.52-53; roll nr.8, pp.501-502; roll nr.9 pp.130-131.

[28] Estimates of slightly more than 8,000 German-speaking arrivals between for the period 1800-1808 seem somewhat conservative; Farley Grubb has enumerated 8,031 for Pennsylvania alone, with arrivals in Baltimore significantly inflating the figure. See Hans-Jürgen Grabbe, Vor der grossen Flut: Die Europaische Migration in die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika 1783-1820 (Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag, 2001), 144; Farley Grubb, German Immigration and Servitude in America, 1709-1920 (New York: Routledge, 2011), 344. On redemptioner figures, Grubb, Ibid.

[29] Fogleman outlines this tract of German-American settlement as that stretching from Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey through southeastern Pennsylvania and the southern backcountry as far south as the North Carolina Piedmont. See Aaron Spencer Fogleman, Hopeful Journeys: German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996), 8.

[30] The Württemberg interior ministry counted 17,216 emigrants from January to July 1817, the Baden ministry 16,321 from January to May. More than 2,000 departed Württemberg in 1816, a number likely exceeded in Baden. See Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart (HSAS) E146 Bu1783; Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe (GLK) E236 2871.

[31] See Stumpp,Germany to Russia 24-25; Mack Walker Germany & The Emigration: 1816-1885 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964), 10-15.

[32] On conditions in 1816, see Walker, Emigration pp.1-6, and on the excessive taxation of rural populations, Gunther Moltmann, Aufbruch nach Amerika: Friedrich List und die Auswanderung aus Baden und Württemberg 1816/17 – Dokumentation einer sozialen Bewegung (Tübingen: Wunderlich, 1979), 130-166.

[33] As well as the eruption of Tambora, the failure of the Gulf Stream compounded meteorological problems by allowing low pressure systems to settle over continental Europe, admitting “the invasion of masses of polar air.” See C. Edward Skeen, “The Year Without a Summer: A Historical View” in Journal of the Early Republic 1:1 (1981), 62.

[34] GLK E236 2870, nr.7-11.

[35] Gerhard P. Bassler, ‘Auswanderungsfreiheit und Auswandererfürsorge in Württemberg 1815-1855: zur Geschichte der südwesdeutschen Massenwanderung nach Nordamerika’ in Zeitschrift für Württembergische Landesgeschichte 12, (1974), 131.

[36] Antwerp merchant Heinrich Dirks, for example, made repeated journeys into Württemberg, canvassing migrants in public houses, including The Rose in Heilbronn, and The Anchor in Horkheim. Through his dealings with the Württemberg Separatists, Dirks was part of a wider network that also included Antwerp merchant C.J Lauwers, and the Nordheim Separatist Christoph Greulich, who were responsible for the emigration of up to 1,000 Württembergers. HSAS E146 Bü1628 nr.21, 20; nr.46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52. Also Bassler, ‘Auswanderungsfreiheit’, 131.

[37] Arndt,Harmony, 182-183.

[38] As early as 1799 there were 19 Bremen shippers trading regularly with Baltimore. Rolf Engelsing, Bremen als Auswandererhafen 1683-1880 (Bremen: C. Schünemann, 1961), 19.

[39] I am grateful to Dr. Ellen Miles of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery for additional biographical information on Mannhardt.

[40] Arndt, Harmony, 62-63.

[41] Across the entire 1815-1820 period, Philadelphia absorbed at least 8,522 of an estimated 13,500 German and Swiss passengers, or 63 percent. See Grabbe, Flut: 148; Grubb, German Immigration 344. In some quieter years of the trade, Baltimore had received more immigrants than Philadelphia. For example, in 1789, it received 260 “Palatines” to Philadelphia’s 120. However, such occurrences were due to incidental trade transactions in otherwise quiet years; when the trade was running at full force, the existing trend of debarkation in Philadelphia continued to dominate. See Grabbe, Flut, 349.

[42] Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1882. roll nr. 9-29.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Forty-eight percent is estimated from the study of the Philadelphia Registry of Redemptioners, Grabbe, Flut, 335. The German emissary Moritz von Fürstenwärther, sent to Philadelphia by the Hessian Minister and Bundestagrepresentative to the Netherlands, Hans von Gagern, to report on the movement, gave almost exactly the same estimates whilst witnessing the immigration in 1818. See Ibid., 345; also Walker, Germany, 27. Von Fürstenwärther was largely critical of the conditions faced by Germans in America in the published version of his report, Der Deutsche in Nord-Amerika (Stuttgart and Tübingen: Cotta, 1818).

[47] Although the proportion of redemptioners in 1816/1817 was higher than a decade prior, the immigrants of 1800-1807 were also an impoverished group; ships manifests for the period show that more than sixty percent of arrivals had no possessions of any value. Grabbe, Flut, 349.

[48] Data for the districts of southern Baden during mid-1817 show that 90.4 percent of those departing were wage earners, with a full 43.1 percent giving “day laborer” as their primary means of income. GLK E236 2871.

[49] The ships Amazon, Vrow Elisabetha, Xenophon and Francis, all of which arrived in 1817, had in excess of 400 passengers. Both the Amazon and Francis were owned or part-owned by Woodbridge Odlin, a merchant of often questionable conduct in the trade. See Grabbe, Flut, 342, 346; Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1882 roll nr.24, p.256, 380, 384, roll nr.25, p.148.

[50] German Society of Pennsylvania (GSP) AE2.2 1802-1821, 14.08.17.

[51] On the journey of the April see Jan Alberts, Lynden Reynolds, ‘”Odyssey of Woe: The Journey of the Immigrant Ship April from Amsterdam to New Castle, 1817-1818” in Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography 118:4, (1994), 303-323.

[52] Both the Vrow Elisabetha and Xenophon suffered high mortality; the former departed with 477 on board, losing 19, the latter 484, losing 49.

[53] Wokeck, Trade, 161.

[54] Grubb, Indentured Servitude, 321. The prohibition of sale across state lines was no doubt legislated to prevent groups of redemptioners from being “driven” across borders into neighboring states such as Ohio where attempts were made to sell their contracts, bought for $76 in Philadelphia, for as much as $250. See Grabbe, Flut, 347.

[55] The first president of the society, Heinrich Keppele, was a prominent trader in redemptioner servants, and the tradition continued until the end of the redemptioner era. See the example of C.H Grundelbach, member of the German Society of Pennsylvania and active redemptioner agent in 1818 and 1819, Grabbe,Flut, 343-344.

[56] Among those returning was C.L. Mannhardt, by now a respected member of Pennsylvania German society and Philadelphia civic life, but wanted by the Württemberg authorities for “seducing Württemberg subjects to emigrate,” see HSAS E146 Bü1628, cover sheet. Mannhardt had in fact returned to his home town of Maulbronn, to persuade former associates to travel to Philadelphia and help him establish an institute of education. See Martin Ehlers, Maulbronn Heimatbuch, im Auftrag der Stadt Maulbronn, bd.1, mit Beiträgen von Konstantin Huber (Maulbronn: Stadtverwaltung, 2012), 326.

[57] On sponsorship by a Dutch citizen, see Hans Christoph von Gagern, Mein Antheil an der Politik, III (Stuttgart, Cotta, 1830), 147-148. The barriers at the Dutch border were described by the Württemberg emigrant Leonhard Wörner to Georg Rapp, after Wörner and his group were stopped on their voyage to reach Rapp’s Harmony society: “We wanted to be with you too but we got to Oberwesel in Prussian territory. There we were stopped. Our ship was held up… because so many have returned from Holland because the people were cheated so by ships captains to whom they paid passage and who then made off with it. Now the Dutch have issued orders that whoever cannot pay his entire passage may not come to Holland, for everyone would have to give 200 florins security. Since our money did not suffice, all had to return home. Imagine what an awful thing that was… Now I have nothing more than that which I earn with my hands, for you can imagine that it is hard for such a difficult household. I have six children.” Cited in Arndt, Harmony, 190.

[58] Jörgen Bracker, Friederich Jerchow, “Hamburg als Auswandererstadt/Hamburg as Emigration City“ Hamburg Porträt, Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte, Heft 19:84, (1984), 7.

[59] Grabbe, Flut, 340-342.

[60] Ibid., 343

[61] As well as sales to Pennsylvania’s neighboring states, and in spite of laws against the sale of redemptioners across state lines, purchasers from as far afield as Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina were provided with servants by intermediaries. Philadelphia agents such as Woodbridge Odlin apparently disregarded the law in order to provide servants, whilst figures such as C.L. Mannhardt brought attention to the issue in the German language press. Grabbe, Flut, 346-348.

[62] Rapp initially founded his first colony near Pittsburgh, before moving on to the Wabash in Indiana. See Arndt, Harmony, 61-71, 181-200. Weiler arrived in Ohio in 1818, and was the richest man in the state when he died in 1881 (aged 100), having been a major figure in railroad building and ‘the development of the whole region.’ See Albert Bernhard Faust, The German Element in the United States (Boston: Houghton & Mifflin, 1909), 422.

[63] On initial German settlements in Ohio, see D.H Tolzmann, Das Ohiotal – The Ohio Valley: The German Dimension (New York: Peter Lang, 1993), 24-30.

[64] Migration from the German southwest, where partible inheritance allowed families to sell land in order to pay for migration, was characterized by group migration in this period; in impartible regions, such as the German northwest, and parts of Hesse, both of which began to join the migration from 1832, migration was often financed from the savings of a head of household, thereafter sending remittances from America to fund the passage of family members. See Walter D. Kamphoefner The Westfalians: From Germany to Missouri (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 40-50; Simone A. Wegge, “To Part or not to Part? Emigration and Inheritance Institutions in Nineteenth Century Hesse-Cassel” in Explorations in Economic History 36, (1999), 40.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Merchants of Migration: Keeping the German Atlantic Connected in America’s Early National Period
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date April 19, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018