Did you know that October 6 is German-American Day?
It may not be a National Holiday (yet?) but today is the day when America celebrates its German heritage. It commemorates the date in 1683 when 13 German Quaker and Mennonite families from the city of Krefeld landed in Philadelphia and later founded Germantown, PA, the first German settlement in the original 13 American colonies. Originally celebrated in the 19th century, German-American Day died out during World War I as a result of the anti-German sentiment that prevailed at the time. The holiday was revived in 1983 by Ronald Reagan for the 300th anniversary of German immigration and culture in the United States.
German-Americans are the largest ethnic group in the United States: Some 43 million Americans, almost 15% of the population, claim German ancestry. But German presence on American soil can be traced back still farther. In 2007, America celebrated the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement dating back to 1607. At that time, a German physician and botanist by the name of Dr. Johannes Fleischer was among the first group of English pioneers to arrive in Jamestown (generally considered “the birthplace of the United States”). More German expertise arrived in 1608 with a group of German glassmakers, wainscot sawyers, and metallurgists. In a way one could argue there have been 400 years of shared history as well as 400 years of German-American friendship.
Some interesting trivia facts:
- In 1688, five years after its founding, Germantown became the birthplace of the anti-slavery movement in America.
- It was the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller (1470-1520), who in 1507 drew the Universalis cosmographia in St. Dié, Lorraine, which is now a part of France. Fascinated by the reports of the Italian discoverer Amerigo Vespucci – who was the first to assume that the then-newly discovered territories must be a continent – Waldseemüller drew it as a continent of its own and named it “America” on his map – the first time ever the name “America” appeared on a map.