Traugott Bromme (1802-1866)

Traugott Bromme sought to further German immigration to the United States both as a public advocate and as an entrepreneurial author and book seller. Realizing that there was a market for guides that German immigrants could use to help orient themselves in their adopted land, he leveraged the first-hand knowledge that he had acquired living and traveling throughout North America, and his general knowledge of the region acquired through other sources, to provide a valuable service to Germans who were trying to escape poor economic or political circumstances in their homeland.

Updated: February 13, 2015

Introduction

The first half of the nineteenth century saw large migrations to the United States from Europe – primarily from Germany and Ireland. Most American immigrants – and perspective immigrants – needed information on the geography, history, and culture of their new adopted home. Traugott Bromme (born December 3, 1802, in Anger, Electorate of Saxony; died September 4, 1866, in Stuttgart, Kingdom of Württemberg), a writer of handbooks for German immigrants, had traveled to the U.S. and was aware that the new arrivals from his homeland were at a loss regarding where and how to begin their new lives. He realized that there was a market for guides that German immigrants could use to help orient themselves in their adopted land and sought to meet the demand. Though Bromme wrote a prolific number of books about America, he quickly faded into obscurity after his 1866 death as other German travel writers supplanted him as the main source of information for German-language immigrants. Thus, Bromme is probably one of the most forgotten authors who wrote about the United States.

Family and Ethnic Background

Simon Traugott Bromme was born on December 3, 1802, in Anger, near Leipzig in the Electorate of Saxony,[1] which would become part of a unified Germany in 1871. He died at the age of 63 on September 4, 1866, in Stuttgart. Though Bromme wrote numerous books he is a nearly forgotten man. TheAllgemeine Deutsche Biographie states only his dates of birth and death and that he “compiled many geographical and emigration writings, travel guides and handbooks. The titles in the Kaiser’s Book Lexicon take up a long column; he is best known for his atlas to [geographer, naturalist, and explorer Alexander von] Humboldt’s Kosmos.”[2]

Traugott’s mother, Friederike Louise née Berthold (1771–1806), died when he was four years old. His father, Johann Simon Bromme (1758–1808), apparently a well-to-do estate owner and a legal assistant to the court [Gerichtsschöffe], died two years later.[3] Traugott had at least four siblings, one of whom was Karl Rudolf (1804–1860), who also went by the name Karl Rudolf Brommy, and who was commissioned in 1848 by the Frankfurt National Assembly to form the first German navy [Reichflotte].[4] As a boy, Traugott watched Napoleon’s troops marching towards Moscow; in October 1813, he witnessed Napoleon’s decisive defeat at the Battle of Leipzig (also known as the Battle of the Nations) by 320,000 allied soldiers that included Austrian, Prussian, Russian, and Swedish troops led by Prince Karl Philipp Schwarzenberg, General Gebhard Leberecht Blücher, General Leonty Leontyevich Bennigsen, and the Swedish crown prince Jean Bernadotte.[5]

In 1817, at age fifteen, Bromme attended a class at a Leipzig bookshop of a man named Steinacker. This apparently led him next to the Kaiser’schen bookshop in Bremen. In April 1821, when he was eighteen years old, he immigrated to the United States with a group seemingly led by an unknown family member. Once in the United States, he is said to have studied medicine.[6] After becoming a “doctor,” he entered the “Columbian” service by serving on a naval vessel and is supposed to have spent some time in a Haitian jail.[7] In June 1824 he returned to Germany, settling in Dresden and becoming a partner in the Walther’sche Hofbuchhandlung [court bookshop], which his brother-in-law, Johann Gottlieb Wagner, a book dealer, had purchased.[8]

Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Bromme’s writing career began in 1824 after he settled in Dresden. Apparently, he published his first work in Rostock in 1827 under the pseudonym M. B. Termo. It was printed by Adlers Erben and bears the cryptic title: M. B. Termo’s Life-Story of Baron von Schäffer, Illuminated by the Torch of Truth [M. B. Termo’s Lebens-Geschichte des Baron von Schäffer, durch die Fackel der Wahrheit beleuchtet]. In this book he speaks of emigration in general and warns against the likes of Baron Georg August von Schäffer, who had enlisted people with false promises for a journey to Brazil. This book gave Bromme his impetus to become a travel book writer and emigration advocate.

In 1831, at age 29, he published anonymously in his own bookshop Free Emigration as a Means to Redress the Distress in the Fatherland. Then, to Draft a Plan for the Establishment of a German Colonization Society. And Next, the Governments of Germany, and then One’s Fellow Citizens Initially Placed at the Heart of a Saxon [Die freie Auswanderung als Mittel zur Abhülfe der Noth im Vaterlande. Nebst Entwurf eines Planes zur Errichtung einer deutschen Kolonisations‑Gesellschaft. Den Regierungen Deutschlands, und zunächst seinen Mitbürgern an das Herz gelegt von einem Sachsen]. In this book Bromme proposed that emigration would not only relieve the “great need of the fatherland” but also provide “peace for our fatherland.”[9] His proposal apparently made himself unpopular with the government. In Saxony there were “laws against emigration and against all who recommended it as a means to remedy the problems of the Fatherland.”[10] Anyone who “enticed” Saxons to emigrate could be punished with up to ten years of incarceration. Bromme, however, did not feel that the fatherland was a piece of real estate. Rather, “The German who turns his back on his homeland in order to improve his circumstances does not want to leave the Fatherland! – his Fatherland is not shackled to the soil and embraced by terminating boundary stones – his Fatherland is of a higher kind, is of the still pure, most powerful surviving German spirit, and his distinctive expression, the German language! These volumes will unite him anywhere he resides on the globe….”[11]

Bromme’s writings also helped to counter those who had cautioned Germans against immigrating to America due to its wild and undeveloped state. For example, in 1820 the Catholic priest and school inspector Kaspar Maximilian Erb had written Words of Warning and Instruction for the German Emigrant [Worte der Warnung und Belehrung an deutsche Auswanderer]. In it he cautioned, “In the vicinity of the settler… live frightfully painted savages, more cruel than the tiger, more bloodthirsty than the panther… In savage bands, armed with clubs, with poison arrows they fall unexpectedly on the defenseless. Here there is no redemption; sure death under the strokes of the battle axe of these cannibals or speedy flight.”[12]

In 1833 Bromme again traveled to the United States, this time to Baltimore (where he might have had relatives), and took up a partnership in the publishing house of Scheld and Company. Since Bromme was in the book trade, had an interest in immigration, and had traveled through North America, he recognized an opportunity to make a profit by writing guidebooks for fellow Germans and German-language readers traveling to the United States. While in Baltimore he published various guides, producing eight titles between 1834 and 1837. He appears to have returned to Germany by about 1840, settling in Stuttgart where he attempted to establish a bookshop. This endeavor apparently fell through and by 1846 he had sold it.[13] That same year Bromme returned to America, spending three additional years there. Author Klaus Dieter Hein-Mooren notes that Bromme’s name appears in the 1847 program of the “National Union for German Emigration and Settlement,”[14] and that in 1848 he founded the Central Union for German Settlement in Lands Overseas. The capital required for the “founding of asylums” was 50,000 Gulden. As a result, shares were sold at 1,000 Gulden each. The goal of the union was: “1. The instruction of countrymen wanting to emigrate in order to protect them from their own carelessness and foreign self interests; 2. To care for the welfare of all, according to the acquisition of his advice from departed emigrants, in all of the regions settled up to now; 3. Founding of independent communities, asylums, and settlements in overseas lands.”[15]

One key thing that Bromme observed in his travels between the German lands and America was that many immigrants to the United States arrived with no prospect of a job and were unable to speak English, the dominant language. These émigrés needed specific information that would let them know what to expect. In response, Bromme published in 1840 a travel guide specifically for German immigrants that became relatively popular and appeared in several editions between 1840 and 1866. It was entitled: Traugott Bromme’s Hand- and Travel-Book [Traugott Bromme’s Hand- und Reisebuch]. Curiously, he published his first travel book with the Buchner bookshop instead of through his own shop.[16]

The content and level of detail contained in Bromme’s travel guide indicates that he did substantial research on the various states using the maps of Henry Schenck Tanner and others.[17] The 1848 edition contains over 550 pages divided into two main parts. In the first part, Bromme offered a general overview of the United States, including thumbnail sketches of most of the states, territories, or countries that an emigrant might enter in North America. He devoted greater attention to settlement locations that he considered most likely to benefit a German immigrant. For example, the state of Pennsylvania, which contained much unoccupied land and a substantial German-American population, is described in about six pages. Bromme devoted much less space to locales he considered inhospitable to German immigrants; he argued that western territories of Missouri and Oregon were not yet ready for settlement due to their “wild inhabitants.”[18]

In the second part of his book, Bromme dealt with the question of who should and should not immigrate to North America; he discussed the various trades and professions most in demand in the region – about one hundred in all. Bromme touted his book “as the most crucial and accurate purveyor of information on the conditions of the western world, in so far as emigrants might be interested.”[19]

Bromme obviously spent some time traveling in the United States and perhaps in other countries of the Western Hemisphere, but it is equally obvious that it was not possible for him to have visited all the places he described in his Hand- und Reisebuch. His travel guide is rather formulaic with regard to the information provided for each state. He included general geographic, economic, and business facts, as well as some vital statistics, and generally devoted two to four pages to each state. His information appears to have been gleaned from numerous sources. Historian Klaus Dieter Hein-Mooren, in his study of German travel guides, says of Bromme: “His writings were not scientific works, but rather generally intelligible, popular representations. He also sweepingly declined to name his sources and to state whether his workmanship was only translations of foreign-language works.”[20]

According to Joseph Sabin, who in 1869 published a massive catalog of books related to America, Bromme produced at least twenty-three titles, all of them concerned with geography. Some were multiple volumes and some were supplements to the works of others, such as those of Alexander von Humboldt.[21] Just as Bromme’s use of sources is uncertain, it is also questionable whether Bromme was actually associated in any way with von Humboldt. Klaus Hein-Mooren believes it is more likely that he, or his publisher, simply used von Humboldt’s name to increase sales.[22]

Bromme did not intend for all his books be used solely as guides. For example, in 1842 he published the second volume of his two-volume set, Portrait of North America [Gemälde von Nord-Amerika].[23] As is apparent in the full title, these volumes were intended not only as travel guides but as “entertaining instruction” as well. In 1866 Bromme’s eighth and final edition of the Hand- und Reisebuch was published posthumously. Hein-Mooren, after examining numerous sources, concludes that Bromme’s “combined editions will have amounted to 25,000 to 32,000 copies.”[24]

In 1849, when he presumably had returned to Saxony, his brother Karl Rudolf nominated Bromme to the Reich’s Ministry of Trade to head the newly established Emigration Office. Unfortunately, he was not accepted for the position. About the same time, the leader of Bromme’s Central Union for German Settlement accused him of malfeasance in his union affairs. This began Bromme’s downward professional and personal spiral. By 1850, he had stopped writing his handbooks on emigration. Hein-Mooren states that it is unclear how Bromme supported himself financially for the next sixteen years until his death in 1866.

What qualified Bromme to write descriptions of America and give advice when he had only lived and traveled throughout the United States intermittently between the 1820s and 1840s? Klaus Hein-Morren answers this question by quoting from the preface of the first volume of Bromme’s Gemälde von Nord-Amerika: “My own look at the land; several years stay, not only in the coastal cities of the transatlantic nation rivaling Europe in richness and life of pleasure, but also in the paltry blockhouses of the new settlers built from rough trunks and the wigwams of the aborigines, in the swamps and lowlands of Louisiana and of Florida, on the Great Lakes of the north, between the tropic islands of the West Indian archipelago and in the dim forests of Canada, on the banks of Newfoundland covered with eternal fog, and on the shores of the Missouri and Mississippi and continued studies of superior works that have appeared in and on America [have prepared me to write on the topic].”[25]

Regarding Bromme’s broader significance, Hein-Morren argues that “[a]n appreciation of Bromme is difficult. Our information is too fragmentary. It is clear that he had not just one profession. He was a doctor, book dealer, travel writer, cartographer, school book author, editor, and functionary. He wanted to live by writing, but he seemingly succeeded at this only to a modest extent. He was unsuccessful as a book dealer, also as a union representative. But also as an author? The question is not easy to answer. He was denied broad public recognition of his work to the end of his life. No obituary notice in 1866 drew attention to his works. Nevertheless, Bromme reached a broad readership. He brought knowledge unacademically to the people.”

Traugott Bromme sought to further German immigration to the United States both as a public advocate and as an entrepreneurial author and book seller. He leveraged the first-hand knowledge that he had acquired living and traveling throughout North America, and his general knowledge of the region acquired through other sources, to provide a valuable service to Germans who were trying to escape poor economic or political circumstances in their homeland. As a result of his association with bookshops, he was prepared to write German-language handbooks for migrants. He produced many volumes during his lifetime. Despite this, however, and probably because they were written in German, he is one of the most forgotten authors to write about the United States.

Notes

[1] Klaus Dieter Hein-Mooren, who provides substantial information on the life of Traugott Bromme, gives Traugott’s date of birth as “am 3. Dezember 1802” [on the third of December 1802], but on the same page he states: “Sein älterer Bruder Karl Rudolf (1804–1860), der sich auch ‘Brommy’ nannte… [His older brother Karl Rudolf (1804–1860), who also called himself “Brommy”…].” We learn two things here: there is apparently an error in the birth dates and that Traugott’s brother also went by the name Karl Rudolf Brommy. Klaus Dieter Hein-Mooren, “‘Gediegene Schriften für Auswanderer’: Bromme, Buchner und die Auswandererliteratur” [“‘Dependable Publications for Emigrants’: Bromme, Buchner and the Emigrant Literature”], Buchhandelsgeschichte, vol. 15 (2001), B45. Since all easily searched resources indicate that Karl Rudolf was born in 1804 and that Traugott was born in 1802, it is probable that he is actually Traugott’s younger brother. However, the point is, a house identified as Karl Rudolf’s birthplace is more than likely also the birthplace of Traugott.

[2] Elektronische Allgemeinen Deutschen Biographie [Universal German Biography] (accessed November 7, 2014).

[3]Karl Rudolf Brommy,” Wikipedia.de (accessed November 11, 2014).

[4] Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B4 (accessed November 11, 2014).

[5] "Battle of Leipzig" Encyclopædia Britannica (accessed November 7, 2014).

[6] Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B45–B46.

[7] According to James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, Bromme “settled in the United States in 1820, and afterward traveled extensively in Texas and Mexico, became surgeon on a Columbian war-schooner cruising in the West Indies, and was detained for a year as a prisoner in Hayti” (Wilson and Fiske, eds., Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography[New York, 1888], 1:384). Historian Klaus Dieter Hein-Mooren’s research indicates that Bromme came to the United States in 1821, studied medicine [although he does not say where], later became a doctor in the “Columbian service,” and spent some time in Haiti, returning to Saxony in 1824 (Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B45–B46).

[8] Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B46

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid, B47.

[11] Quoted in Ibid, B49.

[12] Quoted in Ibid., B46, B47.

[13] Ibid., B47, B48.

[14] Ibid., B49.

[15] Ibid. 50,000 Gulden would be worth roughly $542,000 dollars in 2011$ and 1000 Gulden would be worth roughly $10,600 dollars in 2011$ based on A Handbook for Travelers in Southern Germany (London: John Murray and Son, 1837), 2 and Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, "Six Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.K. Dollar Amount, 1270 to present," MeasuringWorth, 2014, using the Retail Price Index.

[16] Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B48.

[17] Henry Tanner created numerous maps in the early 1800s. As a result, it is difficult to say with certainty which ones Bromme used. For those interested, Tanner’s maps can be viewed online at, for example, http://www.davidrumsey.com/maps2655.html. Regarding his maps, Bromme wrote the following work:Post-, Kanal- und Eisenbahn-Karte der Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-Amerika: nach Smith, Tanner, Mitchel und den Berichten des General-Postamts, bearb. von Traugott Bromme [Postal, Canal, and Railroad Maps of the United States of North America: After Smith, Tanner, Mitchel, and Reports of the General Post Office, elaborated by Traugott Bromme] (Stuttgart, Germany, 1850).

[18] Traugott Bromme’s Hand- und Reisebuch für Auswanderer nach den Vereinigten Staaten von Nord-Amerika, Texas, Ober- und Unter-Canada, Neu-Braunschweig, Neu-Schottland, Santo Thomas in Guatemala und den Mosquitoküsten [Traugott Bromme’s Hand- and Travel-Book for Immigrants to the United States of North America, Texas, Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saint Thomas in Guatemala and the Mosquito Coast] (Bahreuth, Verlag der Buchner’schen Buchhandlung, 1848), 186–89, 225–26.

[19] Traugott Bromme’s Hand- und Reisebuch, v.

[20] Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B48. This and other quotations from Hein-Mooren’s article are translations from the German provided by the translator.

[21] Joseph Sabin, Dictionary of Books Related to America, vol. 2 (New York, 1869), 516–18.

[22] Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B45. Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt (1769–1859) was a German explorer, scientist, and natural philosopher who conducted expeditions to Cuba and Central and South America. His greatest work was the five-volume Kosmos (1845–62). Bromme is credited with working on the illustrations in Kosmos by some scholars of the era (Sabin, Dictionary of Books, 516); this, according to Hein-Mooren, is questionable. Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B45.

[23] Bromme, Gemälde von Nord-Amerika.

[24] Hein-Mooren, “Gediegene,” B53.

[25] Traugott Bromme, Gemälde von Nord-Amerika in allen Beziehungen von der Entdeckung an bis auf die neueste Zeit—Eine pittoreske Geographie für Alle, welche unterhaltende Belehrung suchen und ein Umfassendes Reise-Handbuch für Jene, welche in diesem Lande wander wollen [Portrait of North America in All Connections from the Discovery to the Most Recent Time—A Picturesque Geography for Everyone Who Seeks Entertaining Instruction, and a Comprehensive Traveler’s Handbook for Anyone Who Wants to Travel in this Land] (Stuttgart, Germany, 1842).

Cite this Entry

APA Style

"Traugott Bromme." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved November 14, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship: http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=230

Chicago Style

Bland, Richard L. "Traugott Bromme." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 2, edited by William J. Hausman. German Historical Institute. Last modified February 13, 2015. http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=230

MLA Style

"Traugott Bromme," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2018, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 14 Nov 2018 <http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=230>

Birthplace of Karl Rudolf Brommy

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