02/05/07 - germans in new york

In today's excerpt - German immigrants in New York in the early 1800s:

"Second Avenue below Fourteenth Street possessed the distinction of acting as main street to a succession of ethnic enclaves, variously German, Austrian (Klein Wein), Hungarian (Goulash Row), Polish, and Ukrainian. It is best remembered for its half-century term as the Jewish Rialto, the home of the Yiddish theater, which at its peak was staged in as many as two dozen legitimate houses along the span.

"Among [First, Second and Third] avenues and east of them lay a patchwork quilt of ethnic settlements that periodically shifted or expanded with barely visible capillary motion. The German presence, which dominated the Lower East Side above Houston Street for half a century after the failure of the [Germanic] bourgeois revolution of 1848, was an exception to this rule by virtue of having had a distinct end. In the late nineteenth century, the Germans were probably the single most powerful minority in the city, establishing a strong network of political clubs, fraternal organizations, Mannerchors, Turnvereins and a substantial press; and on Second Avenue or Avenue A (Dutch Broadway), more people spoke the Saxon tongue than the Anglo-Saxon. Then, on June 15, 1904, 1,020 people of the neighborhood, mostly women and children, died in the wreck of the General Slocum, an excursion steamer which caught fire on the East River and broke up near North Brother Island. The victims, members of the Lutheran congregation of St. Mark's, on Sixth Street, had been bound for their annual picnic and cruise on Long Island Sound; their vessel was a disaster waiting to happen, with rotting life jackets, unusable lifeboats and an incompetent crew. The toll was such that the funeral procession made use of every hearse in the city. The tragedy broke the spirit of the neighborhood, and although a mass migration of the victim's families ensued, with the bulk of them relocating to Yorkville, the German community was never the same again. A decade later, rabid anti-German sentiments arising from World War I administered the coup de grace."


Luc Sante


Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York


Farrar, Straus and Giroux


Copyright 1991 by Luc Sante


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment