German-American Experience Research Guide

Missouri’s rich German-American heritage stretches back to early statehood, and the State Historical Society of Missouri has a long tradition of collecting and translating German-American manuscripts, publishing research on the topic, and helping support those interested in their Missouri German heritage.

A Brief History

In the early nineteenth century, Missouri played a central role in attracting Germans to the Midwest, perhaps most notably through Gottfried Duden’s widely read A Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America, which painted a romanticized picture of his time living on a Missouri farm in the 1820s. Beginning in that decade and continuing in larger numbers in the 1830s and 1840s, Germans from a variety of backgrounds settled in the state, particularly in St. Louis and the Missouri River valley. They came for many reasons, most often economic, but sometimes political. After a failed revolution across the yet to be unified German states in 1848, many political exiles immigrated to the United States, where some became prominent in politics and the press. By the start of the Civil War, Missouri had a substantial German immigrant population. Most Missouri Germans opposed slavery, and many played significant roles in the fight to keep Missouri in the Union during the war.

After the war, Missouri’s German-American culture thrived. Missouri Germans held festivals, established beer gardens and breweries, performed in music clubs, built churches, and participated in politics. With the outbreak of World War I, however, German-American heritage suddenly became a target of persecution. With the United States fighting Germany abroad, anti-German propaganda abounded at home. Many Missouri Germans participated in war bond drives or enlisted in the army as they strove to demonstrate their loyalty to the United States. During this time, many German-American institutions such as newspapers and clubs went extinct or became dormant, and many German-language schools and churches switched to English.

Missouri’s German-American culture proved resilient, however, with German-American clubs and heritage organizations rebounding in the second half of the twentieth century. St. Louis, Hermann, Westphalia, and other historically German cities and towns retained and eventually celebrated their German heritage into the twenty-first century. The State Historical Society of Missouri’s collections document and preserve the contributions of German immigrants and their descendants to the state’s history.

Articles in the Missouri Historical Review

Catalog

Many of the State Historical Society’s holdings are included in Merlin, the shared library catalog of the four University of Missouri campuses. The State Historical Society holds numerous books on the history of German Americans in Missouri, the Midwest, and the United States generally. The broadest term to search for German Americans is the subject term “German*.” For a more specific search on Germans in Missouri, simply add the subject term “Missouri” to your search.

Historic Missourian Biographies

  • Adolphus Busch (1839-1913) - Adolphus Busch was a German immigrant who was instrumental in building the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association in St. Louis, Missouri, into the largest brewery in the United States. He is recognized as one of the most successful businessmen of his era, and is memorable for both his extravagant spending habits and his charitable giving.

  • Carl Schurz (1829-1906) - Carl Schurz was a Union general in the Civil War, a secretary of the interior, and a US senator. He was born on March 2, 1829, in Liblar (now Erftstadt), a village near Germany’s western border.

  • Franz Sigel (1824-1902) - Franz Sigel was a Union general in the Civil War. He was born on November 18, 1824, in Sinsheim, a small community in southwest Germany. Franz received an excellent education at the Classical School in Bruchsal and the military academy at Karlsruhe. He served as a lieutenant in the Baden army from 1843 to 1847, but resigned after killing another officer in duel.

  • Casey Stengel (1890-1975) - Casey Stengel was born on July 30, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri, the youngest child of German immigrant Louis Stengel. Stengel was a twentieth-century professional baseball player and manager who is best known for managing the New York Yankees to ten American League pennants and seven World Series championships from 1949 to 1960. Today he is recognized as one of baseball’s greatest managers.

Manuscripts

The State Historical Society of Missouri manuscript collections include personal papers, organizational records, and other materials related to German immigration, and social life and customs, religious practices, family experiences, and other aspects of life in German-American communities in Missouri.

View All German-American Manuscript Collections

Newspapers

The German language press played an important role in Missouri’s German-American communities. The German newspapers in Missouri’s cities and towns helped Missouri German Americans maintain their cultural and linguistic identity. The papers reported on issues of local and national interest, as well as providing opportunities for German-American businesses to advertise to their constituents.

German language newspapers from seventeen towns or cities are represented in the State Historical Society’s newspaper collection. One of the state's early German–language newspapers, the Licht–Freund, a philosophical journal advocating the abolition of slavery, began publication in Hermann in 1840. The State Historical Society of Missouri has digitized its holdings of this paper dating from August 23, 1842, through May 21, 1845.

Several of the German–language newspapers were religious in nature, with Lutheran and Catholic publications predominating. Der Lutheraner began publication on September 1, 1844; the Herald Des Glaubens, a Catholic paper is available as early as October 16, 1889. Both papers were published in St. Louis. Other German–language newspapers were published in Boonville, Brinktown, Clayton, Higginsville, Jackson, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Lexington, Marthasville, St. Charles, Ste. Genevieve, St. Joseph, Sedalia, Vienna and Washington.

For a list of all digitized German Language newspapers, visit the German Language Digital Newspaper Collection.

For a list of newspapers on microfilm at The State Historical Society of Missouri, visit the newspaper catalog.

County City Title Also Available On Date Range
Buchanan St. Joseph Volksblatt Microfilm February 6, 1906; 1920-1932 part of Kansas City Press
Buchanan St. Joseph Das Westliche Volksblatt Microfilm September 9, 1876
Cape Girardeau Cape Girardeau Westliche Presse Microfilm May 27, 1876
Cape Girardeau Jackson Deutscher Volksfreund Microfilm 1886-1918
Cole Jefferson City Der Fortschritt Microfilm 1868-1876
Cole Jefferson City Missouri Staats Zeitung Microfilm 1879-1883
Cole Jefferson City Missouri Volksfreund Microfilm 1876-1925
Cole Jefferson City Jefferson City Post Microfilm 1895-1905
Cooper Boonville Central Missourier Microfilm 1874-1907
Franklin Washington Deutsche Welt Microfilm 4/26/1889
Franklin Washington Die Washingtoner Post Microfilm 1870-1895
Gasconade Hermann Die Gasconade Zeitung Microfilm 1873-1874
Gasconade Hermann Licht-Freund Microfilm 1843-1845
Gasconade Hermann Hermanner Volksblatt Microfilm 1860-1928
Gasconade Hermann Hermanner Volksblatt Gasconade Zeitung Microfilm 1872-1873
Gasconade Hermann Wochenblatt Microfilm 1845-1855
Jackson Kansas City Missouri Post Microfilm 1859-1860
Jackson Kansas City Missouri Staats-Zeitung Microfilm 1898-1917
Jackson Kansas City Neue Kansas Staats-Zeitung Microfilm 1914-1918
Jackson Kansas City Kansas City Presse Microfilm 1898-1920
Jackson Kansas City Kansas City Presse and St. Joseph Volksblatt Microfilm 1920-1932
Lafayette Higginsville Missouri Thalbote Microfilm 1900-1918
Lafayette Lexington Missouri Thalbote Microfilm Sep 2, 1876
Maries Vienna Der Wegweiser ( Supplement to the Vienna, Home Advisor) Microfilm 1905-1907
Osage Westphalia Osage County Volksblatt Microfilm 1899-1917
Pettis Sedalia Sedalia Journal Microfilm 1878-1917
St. Charles St. Charles Der St. Charles Demokrat Microfilm 1852-1916
St. Charles St. Charles Republikaner Microfilm 1884-1901
  St. Louis Abend AnzeigerK Microfilm 1901-1909
  St. Louis Amerika (Catholic) Microfilm 1874-1922
  St. Louis Anzeiger des Westens Microfilm 1835-1881
  St. Louis Anzeiger des Westens Sonntagsblatt Microfilm 1881-1898
  St. Louis Anzeiger des Westens Wochenblatt Microfilm 1853-1898
  St. Louis Brauer-Zeitung Microfilm July 27, 1895
  St. Louis Die Deutsche Tribuene Microfilm 1844-1852
  St. Louis Deutsche WochenSchrift Microfilm 1969-1982
  St. Louis Herald des Glaubens (Catholic) Microfilm 1876-1899
  St. Louis Der Lutheraner (Lutheran) Microfilm 1844-1911
  St. Louis Der Missionar Microfilm 1882-1883
  St. Louis St. Louis Sulamith (Jewish) Microfilm 1880-1881
  St. Louis St. Louis Tribune Microfilm 1880-1898
  St. Louis Volksstimme Des Westens Microfilm 1877-1880
  St. Louis Die Wahrheit Microfilm 1871
  St. Louis Westliche Blätter Microfilm 1862-1864
  St. Louis Westliche Post Microfilm 1858-1876, 1914-1920
  St. Louis Wochenblat der Amerika Microfilm 1874-1886
  St. Louis Sonntagsblatt der Amerika Microfilm 1872-1886
  St. Louis Wöchentlicher Anzeiger des Westens Microfilm 1857-1863
St. Louis Clayton St. Louis County Wachter Microfilm 1903
Ste. Genevieve Ste. Genevieve Freie Presse Microfilm July 22, 1876
Ste. Genevieve Ste. Genevieve Herold Microfilm 1882-1895
Warren Marthasville Der Missionar Microfilm 1881-1882
Warren Warrenton Die Union Microfilm Aug 31, 1876
Warren Warrenton Volksfreund Microfilm 1881-1918

Photographs

The Hesse, Clarence, and Anna Photograph Collection features photos of German architecture in Hermann, Missouri. View additional images of Hermann, Missouri here.

The photographs below are from Mit Feder und Hammer! (With Feather and Hammer): The German Experience in St. Louis. These photographs were a part of an exhibit held in St. Louis in 1983, and in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) from 1984 to 1989. The collection was donated to the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-St. Louis by Dr. Stephen Rowan on December 7, 1983. The full collection contains mounted photographs, duplicate photographs, 4x5 negatives, thirty-five millimeter negatives, one 3.5 micro floppy disk and historical background information about the images in the Mit Feder und Hammer exposition. This collection provides a visual record of the development of the German-American community in St. Louis from 1830 to 1983. The collection is available at The State Historical Society of Missouri. If you would like more information, please contact us at research@shsmo.org.

See the entire digital photograph collection here.

Vertical Files

The vertical files contain magazine and newspaper clippings, handwritten information donated by patrons, bibliographies, programs, brochures, flyers, and other materials that, by reason of their physical formats, cannot be placed on the shelves with books. SHSMO's Columbia Research Center has a vertical file titled “Germans in Missouri,” as well as vertical files on numerous German-American Missourians.