A Shared German Vernacular
The Americanism, Pa Dutch, has always indicated a broader group of immigrants in pre-American Revolutionary period from Europe’s Rhine Valley
This proper Americanism, and founded a suburb Pennsylvania Dutch, of Philadelphia, known as has always indicated a Germantown. broader This is where Christopher group of immigrants Sauer printed the first German Bible in the Free who came World, and thus, Quakers to America and Mennonites were able in the preAmerican to worship God without being forced to join a national Revolutionary church or get any government period interference within from Europe’s Penn’s Commonwealth. In Rhine time, Germantown became Valley, which the printing center for the should be preferred by all PA Deitsch religious texts serious scholars over the and documents for the term Pennsylvania German Pennsylvania Dutch Protestant or German-American, since religions, until the the latter of which are not Ephrata Cloister’s press Americanisms. Hardly had was begun. Shortly thereafter, William Penn became the PA German printers proprietor of the British were established in all colony of Pennsylvania in the major cities of the PA the New World when German Dutch Country where the Protestants accepted Christian religion was followed. his invitation, as early as The lure of going to 1683, to begin a Holy Christian America where there was settlement by his “Society both freedom of opportunity of Friends,” known and an abundance of as Quakers. These German farmland and material resources Quakers and Mennonites warranted many arrived in his “City of Rhinelanders to sell themselves Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia, into servitude just to under their leader, pay off their ocean passage Francis Daniel Pastorious, by Colonial sea captains.
These large numbers of Germanic peasants, begging for a new beginning, soon outnumbered William Penn’s English colonists to number a third of the settlers in the early Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The fact that so many Continental Europeans shared a German vernacular, did not seem right for them to be given a German label by Dr. Arthur D. Graeff, a very strong advocate of the term, “Pennsylvania German” in the 1960s. Only could Pennsylvania German be proper when referring to folk art, namely illuminated birth certificates of these people, since the basic text used on these documents was in German, written in an 18th Century script known as Fraktur. But when talking about the social interaction of the Pennsylvania Dutch culture that evolved from 1683 to the present, among the several groups of Swiss Amish and Mennonites and French Huguenots, the exclusive use of the term “German” is not fair to these other assimilated groups of varying ethnicity!
There cannot be any mistake that the German dialect is still the tongue that binds all the Pennsylvania Dutch. But “Pennsylvania German” proponents of the past and present have been blinded to the melting pot process, that through acculturation, the Pennsylvania Dutch culture is in and of itself a unique American institution. As a more urban Pennsylvania Dutchman who graduated from college, I was not exposed to the Pennsylvania German Dialect, and amused by old-timers whom I interviewed early on teased me. A small narrow-minded group of Pennsylvania Dutch who did not believe my pedigree, because I could not “Schwetz Deitsh” (speak Dutch).
Always admiring the research and writings of Doctors Shoemaker, Yoder, Stoudt, Weygeandt, Kauffman, Robacker, along with historians and folklorists Frances Lichten, Frederic Klees, Robert Bucher, Richard Shaner, Alliene DeChant, Florence and Russell Baver, among numerous others, I was certainly knowledgeable of the culture and its rich, near 350-year history.
Pa. Dutch were working true-grit individuals. Pictured is an old photo of farmer John Hoch of the Oley Valley. Photo taken in the early 1900s by Amandus Moyer.