Family research / history & places / Chicago


Growth of population & developement of the city

Within the almost 100 years between 1820 and World War I (1914-1918) around five million Germans immigrated to the U.S.. Allthough they flocked in rather continuously between 1830 and 1900, there were two peaks, the first one with almost 1 million in the fifties and the second one with arround 1,4 millions in the eighties. This so called "immigration of masses" ended by 1890. Because of the large period of time and the geographically different areas they came from, these Germans represented of course no homogenic quantity. Until the middle of the century they predominantly came from southern Catholic Germany, i.e. Wurtemberg and Bavaria, but after the Civil War, emigration had changed to the regions of Lutherian north and northeast Germany. We also have to keep in mind this fact regarding immigration to Chicago.

Chicago itself still in the thirties had been a sleepy insignificant small frontier town. Still in 1850 the inhabitants did not count more than 30.000. But already whithin the next decade it had grown up to 120.000 and from then onwards really exploded by doubling its number every decade until in 1890 it surpassed the million and measured more than 2 million in 1910.
As to the Germans of them, the amount grew from 22.000 in 1860 to 170.000 in 1900. But now you already had to add the 2nd generation born in America and that way you could count 440.000 German-Americans in Chicago by the turn of the century. So without any exageration Chicago had become the second largest German city outside Germany at that time.

The originally Wurtembergian and Bavarian population had now been dominated by the new immigrants from northern and northeastern Germany.

Those ethnic differences don´t seem to be too important from today´s more global point of view. But I believe, they had more significance in those times when people did not move and mix so easily as we do in our modern open societies.
Identity has many faces. And there are to be made several steps until a new developed identity is achieved. Who started in Kiel / Holstein / Germany? Who arrived in Chicago / Illinois /U.S.? When did she or he feel to be an American?

For example, Teuthorns of Frankenhausen in 1848 did not emigrate from Germany but from Thuringia and even after Germany had been founded by the "Deutsches Reich" in 1871, the emigrating Teuthorns of Kiel identified themselves as "from Holstein" instead of "from Germany" when asked for their country of origin in the inquiry of ship documents.

Reflections on these facts are so fascinating because we may recognize similar patterns comparing actual immigration from foreign coutries to Germany or the U.S. . What will actual observations for the southern Bay Area of San Francisco be like? What about Hongkong emigrants to Vancouver or Seattle?

Back to 19th century Chicago it seems important to deal with the immense significance of ethnic neighbourhoods.

Peter Teuthorn, July 19th 2003

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