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Germans in Illinois

Germans in Illinois

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Miranda E. Wilkerson and Heather Richmond


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
34 illustrations


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  • Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

About the Book

This engaging history of one of the largest ethnic groups in Illinois explores the influence and experiences of German immigrants and their descendants from their arrival in the middle of the nineteenth century to their heritage identity today. Coauthors Miranda E. Wilkerson and Heather Richmond examine the primary reasons that Germans came to Illinois and describe how they adapted to life and distinguished themselves through a variety of occupations and community roles.
The promise of cheap land and fertile soil in rural areas and emerging industries in cities attracted three major waves of German-speaking immigrants to Illinois in search of freedom and economic opportunities. Before long the state was dotted with German churches, schools, cultural institutions, and place names. German churches served not only as meeting places but also as a means of keeping language and culture alive. Names of Illinois cities and towns of German origin include New Baden, Darmstadt, Bismarck, and Hamburg. In Chicago, many streets, parks, and buildings bear German names, including Altgeld Street, Germania Place, Humboldt Park, and Goethe Elementary School. Some of the most lively and ubiquitous organizations, such as Sängerbunde, or singer societies, and the Turnverein, or Turner Society, also preserved a bit of the Fatherland.
Exploring the complex and ever-evolving German American identity in the growing diversity of Illinois’s linguistic and ethnic landscape, this book contextualizes their experiences and corrects widely held assumptions about assimilation and cultural identity. Federal census data, photographs, lively biographical sketches, and newly created maps bring the complex story of German immigration to life. The generously illustrated volume also features detailed notes, suggestions for further reading, and an annotated list of books, journal articles, and other sources of information.


Miranda E. Wilkerson is an associate professor of language and communication studies at Columbia College in Missouri. Her articles have been published in the Journal of English Linguistics and the Journal of Transnational American Studies.
Heather Richmond is a certified archivist with the State Historical Society of Missouri.


"Germans in Illinois stands out as an appealing synthetic study that should attract a wide readership."—The Annals of Iowa

"Germans in Illinois" is an impressive work of original and meticulous scholarship throughout."—Midwest Book Review

Germans in Illinois will change how you think about immigrants and immigration in the Midwest. This book accomplishes something difficult and rare: it provides a lively, accessible introduction to an important piece of regional history that reflects current scholarly understanding of the issues at hand.”—Joseph Salmons, author of A History of German: What the Past Reveals about Today’s Language

“A valuable, concise survey of the history of German immigrants and their descendants in Illinois from the nineteenth century to the present day, including in-depth looks at prominent individuals and important events, as well as a helpful bibliography.”—Linda Schelbitzki Pickle, author of Contented among Strangers: Rural German-Speaking Women and Their Families in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest

“This is the best state-level study of German immigration to date, examining an important state that was second only to New York in the size of its German population. A treat for anyone of German heritage, but also an engaging read for history lovers without any Illinois or ethnic connections.”—Walter D. Kamphoefner, past president of the Society for German American Studies and coeditor of Longer Than a Man's Lifetime in Missouri

A comprehensive, encyclopedic overview of the history and significance of German immigration and settlement in the state. It broadens our discussion about the contributions of the German ethnic group to the society, politics, economy, and culture of Illinois as well as the United States.”—William D. Keel, editor of The Volga Germans of West Central Kansas: Aspects of Their History, Politics, Culture, and Language