Date of Award
Program or Major
Doctor of Philosophy
Jeffry M Diefendorf
The history of the German-American communities of Manchester, New Hampshire and Lawrence, Massachusetts raises several important issues about German immigration to the United States. Comprising only a small percentage of the population of the two cities German immigrants founded a distinctive culture--islands of Deutschtum--as vibrant as those in the "German belt" of the Midwest. The historiography has generally concluded that German-Americans could not unite in common cause, and that World War I ended German culture in America. However, not only did Germans in Manchester and Lawrence unite, but they maintained Deutschtum through World War I into World War II.
Several factors led to the longevity of these islands of Deutschtum. Atypical of the majority of German immigrants, one-third of the Germans in Manchester and Lawrence came from Saxony and another seventeen percent came from Silesia. America's pre-eminent textile cities attracted textile workers from the small towns of Saxony and Silesia. Many were acquainted or related to each other, and bonds of family and province existed. The small size of the German immigrant community also helped it survive. The immigrants and leaders knew each other, and first-generation leaders remained active into the 1920s and 1930s. Members of the second-generation continued Deutschtum into the 1940s. A family owned German-language newspaper supported their efforts from 1883 to 1942. The ability of German Protestants, Catholics, and Vereinsdeutschen to put aside old world animosities and unite in common causes helped preserve ethnicity. German Presbyterian churches and their members played influential roles in Deutschtum in Manchester and Lawrence. The Lutheran denomination, pre-eminent elsewhere in German-American communities, was small or nonexistent, and German Catholic parishes also played less important roles.
During World War I, German-Americans in the two cities maintained active and public expressions of Deutschtum, mostly unthreatened by the larger community. Paradoxically, although German culture proudly continued between the wars, the larger and dominant American culture slowly engulfed it. The shock of World War II submerged German identity, and migration out of the cities after the war finally ended the German enclaves and doomed German ethnicity.
McCaffery, Robert Paul, "Islands of Deutschtum: German Americans in Manchester, New Hampshire and Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1870-1942" (1994). Doctoral Dissertations. 1790.