We welcome and encourage comments on this subject. Over the past weekend we attended a very interesting lecture which prompted the discussion.
This is proof that the best things really do come in small packages! The Utopia exhibit is huge, and the German American Heritage Museum is definitely up to the challenge.
Have you ever been to the German American Heritage Museum (GAHM) in downtown DC, close to Chinatown? It’s worth a visit, and it’s free. These days, the museum is hosting an exhibition about “idealistic 19th-century immigrants who wanted to create the 25th U.S. state” – German immigrants, that is. They came from Giessen, close to Frankfurt, to Missouri. Here is the Washington Post story about the GAHM exhibit with the name “Utopia: Revisiting a German State in America“.
And while you’re at it, check out this WP article about “How to view art” by Philip Kennicott. Worth reading – and doing.
Originally posted on Missouri Germans Consortium:
Are you following Utopia? Led by an unknown German woman with her precious cargo, who arrived at the Port of Baltimore on Monday evening. She spent the evening at the Baltimore Immigration center after a warm welcome. On Tuesday…
Can you identify? Does anyone have a similar picture of the Medora or the Society?
Writer, Rolf Schmidt, of Bremen Germany found this lithograph in September 2010 in a regional chronicle in the Archives of Altenburg (Thuringia). Schmidt, who is a member of the Traveling Summer Republic said that there was no explanation in the collection of documents or the history of Altenburg. Presumably it was drawn as a farewell to Runkwitz and the members of the Giessen Society. Runkwitz was a bookbinder. Perhaps the artist was a friend or relative, or perhaps a colleague (maybe a fellow book binder or artist?). He must have been in Bremerhaven during the departure, for he has very exact informations about the ship MEDORA (the length, breadth, deepness, ballast, rescue-boat, 200 passengers – “mostly from Altenburg and Coburg” – 25 sailors and officers, Griffiths name, 2 canons, 4 anchors, etc etc.).
We believe the picture shows Runkwitz and his wife and two little daughters embarking on a row boat. Next to them is a man and his wife (he is putting his hand round her neck and on her shoulder) with a little girl. This could be Friedrich and Luise Münch with their 7 year old daughter Pauline. The man is dressed in a robe, with a very broad girdle, which reminds Schmidt of the old pictures of clergymen.
Carl Runkwitz was a close friend of carpenter Jonathan Kunze. Also in Altenberg are Runkwitz’ and Kunze’s application for emigration, to the government, and the permission granted for emigration for both men. Another good friend to Runkwitz was Cornelius Schubert. Drinking buddies on Harriersand, they traveled and lodged together in Baltimore, according to Cornelius Schuberts diary.
For more information on this interesting group of people see the new book Utopia, Revisiting a German State in America, available from the University of Chicago Press.
In the spring of 1834, nearly five hundred Germans board two ships headed for America, all led by the idea of Freedom and Democracy! The Giessen Emigration Society crossed the Atlantic Ocean in hopes of founding a model democratic German State in the U.S., a Utopian colony in Missouri. The Society’s founders Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius plan failed. However, because of their strong beliefs and leadership, with the right conditions, it soon led others to take up their brave idea. Traces of their influence can still be found today.
These fellow students from the University of Giessen created the largest organized emigration society to ever come to Missouri. This politically motivated group came from various cities and villages, from all occupations and religions, united in their search for freedom.
This new book Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America shares a nearly forgotten piece of Missouri history, in both Germany and the United States, and is being shared by an International group of writers, historians and photographers. Full color and illustrations, this 352 page book was first released in Giessen, Germany with the Exhibition by the same name, on November 1, 2013 by the publication firm Edition Falkenberg. This beautifully illustrated story of the Giessen Emigration Society told by Ludwig Brake, Dorris Keeven-Franke, Walter D. Kamphoefner, Rolf Schmidt, Kilian Spiethoff and others; photographs by Folker Winkelmann. The book is now available in the U.S. through the Missouri History Museum and the University of Chicago Press.
ORDER HERE from the University of Chicago Press $27.50 & $5.00 S&H
Available in the U.S. through The University of Chicago Press
1-800-621-2736 (US & Canada) Email: email@example.com
Price: $27.50 USD & 5.00 S&H
Paperback: 352 pages / 233 color plates and halftones
Publisher: Edition Falkenberg (November 1, 2013 Germany)
Edited by the Traveling Summer Republic and the City Archives of Giessen.
Language: English/German ISBN-13: 978-3954945955
Product Dimensions: 10.25 x 8.25 x 1.5 inches Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
“We the undersigned, together with many of our most respected friends and fellow citizens, have decided to leave Germany and to seek their new homeland in the states of North America…”
So began Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius’ pamphlet, a “Call and Declaration on the subject of mass emigration from Germany to the North American free states” first published in 1833, after the plans of German student revolutionaries failed at the Hambach Festival. These fellow students of the University of Giessen, began recruitment of one of the most organized and largest German emigration societies; and the first such to settle in Missouri, the “Gießener Auswanderergesellschaft”. Nearly 500 Germans set out for the U.S. in 1834, seeking freedom, democracy and a better life for their family, settling primarily in Missouri. While their idea of a German State in the U.S. failed of course, their high goal of a State whose rich heritage is predominately German did not.
When Peter Roloff of maxim Films of Berlin, Germany asked historian and writer Dorris Keeven-Franke “what still existed of the German heritage in Missouri?” she was a little surprised, knowing that there is still so much that exists today. Film and documentary producer, Roloff had first learned of the Giessen Emigration Society in 2003, from his friend and script writer, Henry Schneider. Roloff and several other friends, soon formed the Reisende Sommer-Republik in Bremen, around their interest in this group of Germans and what had become of them, holding annual conferences, film festivals, and other cultural and artistic events. The creative group is composed of artists, film makers, historians, writers, and archivists. In 2009, the Traveling Summer Republic visited Missouri for first hand investigation. Roloff filmed their research trip, and in 2010 “A Trip to a Forgotten Utopia” was first released in Bremen, Germany, then in Dutzow, Missouri, to large audiences. In 2011, the group returned and the tour and photo exhibit at the Missouri Journalism Hall of Fame in Washington, Missouri, “Utopia Revisited”, generated even greater interest. Other events, such as “Bold Moves” in Missouri followed, creating a much larger interest.
In 2012, plans began for the Exhibition: Aufbruch in die Utopie: Ausstellungsreise auf den Spuren einer deutschen Republik in den USA, which opened November 1, 2013, in Giessen, Germany. In April of 2014, it will reopen in Bremen, Germany, once again sharing with Germany this once forgotten group. Then it will travel as the original Society did, by ship to the United States.
In September, 2014 the Exhibition: Utopia: Revisiting a German State in America will open at the museum of the German-American Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., sharing this interesting story nationwide. After two months in our nations’ Capitol, it will travel to St. Louis, Missouri, and open at the Missouri History Museum on November 22, 2014. The exhibit is in both German and English and tells the amazing story of these early immigrants, what they thought, the challenges they faced, and the nativism they endured. It shares the history of the Society founder Friedrich Muench and his work as a writer and as a statesman, to continue the Society’s original effort. It explores the impact that the Germans had on Missouri’s involvement in the Civil War and their anti-slavery movement. The visitor not only becomes involved in what these early emigrants faced, but what it means to be an immigrant in the United States today. The utopian ideal is explored, and participants invited to share their ideas of what Utopia means today and to their future. Another unusual concept that is found in the exhibit is its’ own archives, where everyone is invited to read the thousands of pages of research collected and used in the exhibit, the accompanying book and documentary.
The Giessen Emigration Society members came from all religions and all walks of life. This was not a religious orientated society even though Muench had served as a Protestant minister in Germany. The Society was politically motivated, and its members felt that they would find a better life for all of their families. Today, many descendants of the original Society members can still be found, a testament to the stubborn strength and fortitude of these early emigrants. The Traveling Summer Republic is an open group and invites others to join in and get involved. For more about the exhibit, its schedule, events, or to discuss a program, see http://www.mo-germans.com or use the contact form below.