The Max Kade Institute is fortunate to have in its collection a cache of nearly two hundred letters, dating from 1846 to the early 1900s, written to Jakob Sternberger by family and friends from various places in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and German states and other places in Central Europe, as well as in North America. The collection also includes about 100 other documents, ranging from Bohemian high school report cards from the 1830s to banking accounts at German banks in Wisconsin from the late 19th century.
Jakob Sternberger came from a prominent family in Kaaden, Bohemia, and had been a student at the Charles University in Prague, where he had been involved in the revolutionary movement spreading across the German states. Fleeing political persecution after 1848, Jakob eventually settled in Wisconsin in the United States. He purchased a farm in Portage, Columbia County, Wisconsin, where in 1851 he tried to establish the nucleus of an ideal world by founding “Marienstern,” a communitarian society in which, among other things, all property belonged to everyone, every member had an equal voice in decision making and women were regarded as equals in every respect. In 1861, at age 39, Jakob Sternberger voluntarily enlisted in the Northern army, where he began to literally fight for his ideals in the American Civil War. Sternberger served as a private in the 1st Wisconsin Infantry regiment, Company E. He mustered out on August 21, 1861. At this time he was still a “subject of the Austrian Emporer”; he became an American citizen on June 7, 1865.
Joseph Mathison was born in 1840 in Denmark. He came to the United States in 1859, settling in Madison, Wisconsin, and working as a barber and later a merchant. On November 12, 1861, he was commissioned as First Lieutenant in the Wisconsin 15th Infantry under Colonel Hans Christian Heg, also called the “Scandinavian Regiment.” Having risen to the rank of captain, he mustered out on December 1, 1864.
The entire corpus of the Jacob Sternberger letter collection has been digitized and can be accessed HERE. It includes transliterations for almost all letters and a few English translations.
The Sternberger project, by Kristen L. Reifsnyder, MKI Newsletter, Winter 2003, pp. 3, 14–15 (PDF)
School document, Jakob Sternberger, Kaaden, 1839
From Jakob Sternberger’s first letter home to family and friends, pp. 6-7, 1850
[Transcription of entire letter, Nov. 1850]
Joseph Mathison to Jakob Sternberger [Steinberger], Madison, WI, 1860, concerning the raising of men for a Norwegian company under Colonel Hegg.
Civil War veteran’s pension, Franziska Sternberger, widow of Jakob Sternberger, 1892
New: German-American Correspondence Collection from the Max Kade Institute
This online collection is a collaboration between MKI and the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries Digital Collections. It includes 134 letters written to and by Jacob Sternberger (1822–1889) and among family members.
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