The Max Kade Institute offers a variety of virtual lectures and other presentations. Click on the links in the titles below to watch a video recording.
Text Mining America’s German-Language Newspapers, 1830–1914
November 15, 2023
During the era of transatlantic mass migration in the nineteenth century, texts spread extensively through the emerging German American press network. This was made possible by innovations such as the rotary press, linotype and stereotype machines, advancements in telegraphic, ship, railroad systems, as well as editors’ professional networks and the widespread custom of copying material. Which texts traveled across states and decades? This presentation focuses on the intricate system of textual exchange offering both distant and close readings of the German immigrant press. Additionally, it underscores a methodological innovation, demonstrating how newspapers, when treated as data, in conjunction with advanced computational methods, offer novel avenues for exploring digitized archives.
Jana Keck is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute Washington (GHI). She coordinates the GHI’s research area Digital History and the institute’s project “Migrant Connections,” a digital research infrastructure for German-American History.
Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War
October 17, 2023
Between 1776 and 1783, Great Britain hired more than thirty thousand German soldiers to fight in its war against the American rebels. Collectively known as Hessians, the soldiers and accompanying civilians, including hundreds of women and children, spent extended periods of time in locations as dispersed and varied as Canada in the North and West Florida in the South. This presentation highlights some of the key experiences of these participants in a war on a distant continent against a people that had done them no harm.
Friederike Baer is Associate Professor of History and Division Head for Arts and Humanities at Penn State Abington College.
‘Wo man singt:’ German American Singing Festivals, 1849–1914
April 5, 2023
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Between 1849 and 1914, German-American singing festivals with thousands of participants and visitors were a constant yet changing element in the cultural landscape of the United States. They brought German and European music to America, helped immigrants construct a German-American (musical) identity, and contributed to asserting their status in society. This presentation focuses on the beginnings and the expansion of German-American choirs, especially Männerchöre (choirs for male voices), singing federations and their festivals, and the musical repertoire that was performed from the mid-nineteenth century to the beginning of World War I.
Heike Bungert is Professor for North American History at the University of Münster in Germany.
Comanches, Captives, Germans: Transactions on the Texas Frontier, 1847
Christopher J. Wickham and Daniel J. Gelo
February 9, 2023
In 2021, three finely worked sketches dating back to the middle of the nineteenth century were brought to the attention of scholars studying the relationship between German settlers and Comanche Indians. Seemingly the work of one artist, and (with one exception) never published, the drawings provide a detailed and unique view of encounters between Germans and Comanches in the Texas Hill Country. Two of them depict the dramatic transfer of a captive girl from the Comanches to the Germans. Who was the girl? Who were the Comanches involved? Who were the Germans? Where and when did this exchange take place? What do we make of the rich Indian and German cultural details that the artist includes? And, of course, who was the artist, and how important is his work? Trying to find answers to these questions, the presenters will examine the drawings in detail and decode information placed by the artist.
Christopher J. Wickham received his Ph.D. in the UW–Madison German Department. After 25 years of teaching at the University of Texas at San Antonio, he retired in 2017.
Daniel J. Gelo, is Dean and Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he taught for 31 years.
African Voices in German-Language Publications: Slave Ship Survivors in the Atlantic World, 1739–1932
November 10, 2022
Millions of Africans were victims of the transatlantic slave trade, and scholars generally believe only a handful of publications exist that include the Africans’ own accounts of life in Africa, the Middle Passage, or life in bondage throughout the Atlantic World. Aaron Fogleman’s presentation is based on “Five Hundred African Voices,” a joint project with Robert Hanserd (Associate Professor of African and Atlantic History at Columbia College Chicago) to catalog all published accounts by Africans enslaved in the transatlantic slave trade, 1586–1936. The catalog so far covers accounts in eighteen languages of which German is the second most prominent after English. This presentation will focus on German-language publications on both sides of the Atlantic and the role of the German language and Germans themselves in publishing these works.
Aaron Spencer Fogleman is a Distinguished Research Professor of History at Northern Illinois University. He has published widely on immigration, gender, race, and religion in early America and the Atlantic World.
New York’s German-Language Press in Times of Peace and War, late 19th Century to 1918
October 13, 2022
This presentation examines New York City’s thriving German-language press on the eve of World War I by looking at three representative newspapers: the bourgeois New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, the socialist New Yorker Volkszeitung, and the William Randolph Hearst-owned, yellow press-inspired New Yorker deutsches Journal. We will explore the three newspapers’ respective backgrounds, layouts, and appeal; place them within the larger context of the New York daily press (with the Yiddish-language Forverts as well as the English-language yellow press serving as points of reference and comparison); and evaluate the three newspapers’ fates during and after World War I.
Peter Conolly-Smith grew up in cold war West Berlin and now teaches late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century U.S. social and cultural history at the City University of New York, Queens College. He is the author of Translating America: An Immigrant Press Visualizes American Popular Culture, 1895-1918, Smithsonian Books (2004).
Making English Canada: German and French Bilingual Schools in Ontario, 1880–1912
March 8, 2022
When Anglophones and Francophones debated bilingual education in Ontario from the 1880s to the eve of the First World, they often spoke of German schools. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, German stood alongside French and English as one of three possible languages of instruction in the public and Catholic separate schools of the province. Yet starting in the 1880s, a series of cultural policies aimed to ensure that all schools in Ontario taught English, even if it was alongside French or German. With these policies, government officials and politicians increasingly sought to merge cultural and political definitions of belonging, and they embraced the idea that all citizens should share a common language. This talk presents the history of German-language education in Canada’s largest province and its slow removal (long before the First World War) while also tracing some of the origins of Canadian multiculturalism and government attempts to manage that diversity.
Benjamin Bryce is Assistant Professor of history at the University of British Columbia.
The German-American Feminist and the Rape Trial of a Yankee Abolitionist: Insights from the Letters of Mathilde Franziska Anneke
Alison Clark Efford
February 17, 2022
Alison Clark Efford explores how German-American feminist Mathilda Franziska Anneke responded to the 1859 “seduction” trial of Wisconsin’s leading abolitionist, Sherman Booth. Anneke, a Forty-Eighter and woman suffragist, was a friend and comrade of Sherman Booth, whose fame stemmed from fighting the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Using evidence from Anneke’s correspondence, Dr. Efford shows that Anneke walked a fine line between seeking justice for the girl Booth raped and defending the abolitionist cause Booth represented.
Alison Clark Efford, is Associate Professor of History at Marquette University. She recently published a co-edited collection with Viktorija Bilic (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee): Radical Relationships: The Civil War–Era Correspondence of Mathilde Franziska Anneke.
How Swiss German is Amish Shwitzer?
Anja Hasse & Guido Seiler
December 9, 2021
Adams County, Indiana, is home to the Swiss Amish, a population that does do not speak Pennsylvania Dutch, but Shwitzer. The language sounds surprisingly familiar to speakers of modern Swiss-German dialects – and very different at the same time. Amish Shwitzer has preserved much of its original Bernese-Swiss-German vocabulary, but its grammatical structure has changed drastically. Rather than converging to American English, though, it has taken on elements of Pennsylvania Dutch. This presentation will examine the fascinating evolution of one of America’s unique minority languages.
Guido Seiler is a professor of Germanic Linguistics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. His research specialization lies at the interface between historical and variationist linguistics and theoretical modeling of grammatical structure and language change.
Anja Hasse received her Ph.D. Germanic Linguistics and is now a postdoctoral researcher working on the “Amish Shwitzer” project. She is interested in non-standard Germanic varieties, their grammar, and contact between them.
This event has been cosponsored by the German Program in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Healing Traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch
Patrick J. Donmoyer
November 18, 2021
Exploring the cultural and historical roots of Pennsylvania Dutch healing traditions, Patrick Donmoyer introduces the customs, folkways, and rituals widely used for treating illness among humans and domesticated animals. Drawing upon his family experiences with healing traditions, as well as historical manuscripts commonly kept in family bibles and personal papers, this presentation highlights the interrelation of culturally-specific forms of medical care, with religious belief, the folk customs of the calendar year, and agricultural traditions.
Patrick J. Donmoyer is the Director of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University, a folklife museum and research center on the Kutztown Campus. An avid speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch and advocate for regional folk culture, Patrick’s work blends language, cultural traditions, and vernacular architecture in his folklife research.
The German-Jewish Diaspora — From China to the US
October 19, 2021
From 1938 to 1941, more than 17,000 German and Austrian Jewish refugees fled from the Nazi terror to Shanghai, China. The refugees’ hope to use Shanghai as a temporary safe haven before transferring to the US or elsewhere was soon dashed by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of the Pacific War. As a result, they ended up spending a decade in China before many of them immigrated to the US after the end of World War II. In this presentation, Weijia Li will examine how the German-Jewish refugee community in Shanghai thrived despite the harshness of life in exile and during the war and how its members looked forward to a new life in America.
Dr. Weijia Li is a Clinical Professor and the Director of the Global Higher Education (GHE) Master’s Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s School of Education.
From Farm to Farmers Market: Amish Folk Society in the Age of Fast Capitalism
Simon J. Bronner
March 25, 2021
This presentation examines the twenty-first-century economic shift in Amish communities from local producers and artisans to participants in a national market system. One example is the dramatically increased presence, and in many Pennsylvania locations the domination, of Amish vendors in farmers’ markets. Although it might look as if they have changed their traditional values centered on closeness to the land, the Amish have created a special niche that mediates between the slow capitalism of a producer or communitarian farm economy and the fast capitalism of a market system in the digital age. Not motivated by profit, they have forced a re-examination of cultural factors in changing relations of the Amish to “the English” and indeed within Amish society.
Simon J. Bronner is Dean of the College of General Studies and Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. The recipient of the Pennsylvania German Society’s Award of Merit, he is the co-editor of Pennsylvania Germans: An Interpretive Encyclopedia (Johns Hopkins University Press) and contributor to Writing the Amish: The Worlds of John Hostetler (Penn State Press).
The Lives of Amish Women
February 10, 2021
Having researched Amish life for nearly forty years, Dr. Johnson-Weiner has turned her attention to Amish women. Where much of the existing scholarship had subsumed Amish women, assuming perhaps that whatever was said about men was also true of their sisters, Dr. Johnson-Weiner explores how the sisters uniquely contribute to the communities that men and women build together.
Karen M. Johnson-Weiner is Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Emerita, State University of New York at Potsdam. She is the author or co-author of several books on the Amish, including most recently The Lives of Amish Women and the forthcoming All About the Amish.
From the Spanish Royal Court to the White House: Alexander von Humboldt’s Quest for Knowledge in a World of Politics
November 19, 2020
The year 2019 marked the 250th anniversary the birth of Alexander von Humboldt, the Prussian explorer, naturalist, historian and humanist, whose wide-ranging work continues to influence scientific theories and movements to this day. This lecture discusses Humboldt’s role between the declining Spanish empire and the rising American nation at the time of his visit to the United States in the spring of 1804. It analyzes the delicate balance Humboldt struck between science and politics, focusing on how he made use of the political connections offered by monarchical Spain on the one hand and Jefferson’s cabinet on the other, while the two nations, in turn, used his scientific work for their own strategic purposes. Rather than being caught between the interests of these two nations (and those of others), Humboldt created what can be called an Empire of Knowledge, an elaborate worldwide network through which he circulated information, scientific ideas, and resources.
Dr. Sandra Rebok is an internationally renowned independent historian. She worked at the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid and was a Marie Curie Fellow of the European Commission Research Executive Agency at the Huntington Library. Her research focuses on Alexander von Humboldt, transnational scientific collaboration in the 19th century, cultural transfers and intellectual networks, and the exploration of the American West.
Sponsors: the event is sponsored by the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies and co-sponsored by the Friends of the Max Kade Institute; the Center for German and European Studies; the Center for Culture, History, and Environment; and the Department of German, Nordic and Slavic at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; with funding provided by the University Lectures Anonymous Fund.
“Thousands of Rhine-Hessians are Living Here” — The Southwest German Immigrant Experience in 19th Century Wisconsin
October 29, 2020
In the mid-nineteenth century, emigrants from the present-day German state of Rhineland-Palatinate settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in rural clusters in surrounding counties, such as Washington, Sheboygan and Fond du Lac counties. This presentation will focus on their socio-economic background, the importance of chain migration, and the acculturation that took place in Wisconsin. It will touch on agriculture and urban occupations (especially beer brewing and wine import businesses), architecture, and social life. The final part of the lecture will illustrate how some communities in the home country benefited from the support of public projects and remittances made by their former citizens who had become successful in Wisconsin.
Dr. Helmut Schmahl is a lecturer in the History Department at Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany, and a high school teacher of History and English. His scholarship focuses on German immigration to North America, particularly emigration from Southwest Germany.
Faithful to the Fatherland or Doughboys of Deutsch? New Perspectives on the World War I Experience
Walter D. Kamphoefner
October 1, 2020
This lecture examines the experiences of German Americans during the Great War, focusing on their treatment by the Anglo-American society as well as their own attitudes toward the war and the Fatherland. Both groups failed to distinguish between political loyalty on the one hand, and cultural loyalty and language preservation on the other. Whereas many civilian institutions in America were highly intolerant and discriminatory toward ethnic Germans, the U.S. Army was more accepting and practiced ethnic pluralism in its ranks. This is reflected in the many letters written home in the German language by U.S. soldiers, many of which were subsequently published in German-American newspapers. Some who paid the ultimate sacrifice are commemorated on gravestones with German inscriptions in American cemeteries.
Walter D. Kamphoefner is Professor of History at Texas A&M University, focusing on immigration history and the U.S. Civil War and publishing in the field of immigration and ethnicity. His forthcoming book, Germans in America: A Concise History (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021), surveys the German-American experience over three centuries.