Being a son of the midwest, and having a deep rooted german lineage. I dare say, I am German as expletives. Sure I eat the occasional bratwurst and sauerkraut. Maybe I occasion an Octoberfest beer… But, this is not an article about lederhosen or Bundesflagge und Handelsflagge. This essay aims to explore the traits of German Americans and discuss the Economist Article that claims Germans Americans as the forgotten ethnicity in American culture.
I have a rich, often ignored German ancestry. I never really knew why, or how, but I always felt it was where my entrepreneurial spirit stemmed from. Then one day… I stumbled upon this interesting article:
Let’s break it down, Germans keep to themselves, whether we wanted to or we were forced to – we kept to the grindstone, we looked for nothing in return and we built the hinterland of America from the wild frontier it once was, into the foundations for agriculture, industry and most importantly into the fertile brewery grounds they are today.
In 1910, about 9% of the American population was born in Germany or was of German parentage, making it the largest ethnic group in America. These early Germans yielded strong economic and cultural influences on their towns and rural communities. The so-called “German Triangle” of Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, still bare many of the marks of this influence. Ironically, as the article explains above, German Americans influenced culture through their skills. They did not actively engage in politics or lobbying, they instead focussed on enterprise and community. Many of the enterprises go without saying, as many of these companies exist today. However, little is known about the German Schools, social clubs and craftsman guilds that were all spearheaded by German Americans.
So why is this important, for me, this is an important thread in the fabric of American culture. It shows me that early Germans were driven by value in work ethic and not political advantage. That communities can collaborate together to upwardly ascend their economic well-being in a city. I think many of these individualism traits and the power of the individual resonate with Americans today. However, our systems and structures on how to be successful are not necessarily organic. They tend to be overly political and progressive rather than being founded on the individual and enterprise.