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New World View

Letters from a German Immigrant Family in Texas (1854–1885)

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Edited By Ruth Cape

New World View: Letters from a German Immigrant Family in Texas, 1854–1885 is a bilingual and annotated edition of a collection of letters written by a 19 th century German immigrant family in Texas. Christian Friedrich Bergmann and his family belonged to the large wave of German immigrants that came to Texas in the 1850s. Born in April of 1817 in Ebersbach, a small village then located in the Kingdom of Saxony, Bergmann – together with his wife Johanna Christiane Luise Bergmann and his three sons, Friedrich, Karl, and Christoph – embarked on an overseas journey to America in August of 1854; in November of 1854, they arrived in Texas. The family first resided in San Antonio before later settling on the Guadalupe River near Boerne, where Bergmann bought 320 acres of land and he and his family became farmers and ranchers, as well as active members of their community.
The Bergmann letter collection begins with a detailed description of the sea journey and the many exciting and disheartening moments experienced while at sea. Bergmann then gives deep insight into many facets of immigrant life on the Texas frontier while narrating how he and his family built a life for themselves in Texas.
This letter collection spans a period of three decades, presenting the reader with important insight into the process of German immigrant acculturation in Texas in the second half of the 19 th century. At the same time, it details the numerous challenges many immigrants faced in their attempts to adapt to American culture and succeed in the New World. The book, which includes a historical and biographical introduction, is a valuable source for scholars and students in various disciplines, but also addresses readers with a general interest in the social history of German immigration to the United States and, specifically, to Texas.
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Part One: Introduction

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Throughout history people have departed from areas where they had lived their entire lives and immigrated to faraway places in search of opportunities to build better lives for themselves and their families. Often dissatisfaction with religious, political, social or economic conditions, political oppression or war at home led them to leave everything behind and take the risk of venturing into largely unfamiliar territory, to begin all over again. In the case of German emigrants, “an adventurous spirit,” sometimes referred to as “Wanderlust,” might also have played a role in their decision to leave Europe.1

One of the destinations of German emigrants was the United States of America. The United States is “a nation of immigrants”2 and were originally heavily built on immigration from Europe. Many immigrants stayed and succeeded in building new lives, some returned to Europe after they had experienced failure or had reached their financial goal in the New World.3 In the latter part of the nineteenth century, emigrants who went back to Europe were often referred to as “Americans” in their homelands.4

The single largest immigration group in the United States is made up by Germans. They helped shape American society by bringing in their particular farming methods, food, religions, politics, education, and intellectual life. Thus American history has a German element that is “more than a part,” but rather “woven into the fabric of America.”5

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