With October 6th being German-American Heritage Day, what better day to honor the special month?
It’s estimated that 50 million Americans have German ancestry, around 17% of our population. With such a significant portion of our society being of German decent, with immigrants recorded as far back as the Jamestown settlement, it’s not surprising that German-Americans have made a great deal of significant contributions to society, both in the US and globally.
- Experts in traveling on wheels, Pennsylvania-Germans contributed both the Conestoga wagons that carried pioneers westward, and the Studebaker – the popular car produced by Clement Studebaker.
- The famous Brooklyn Bridge, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn, was built by German immigrant and engineer John Roebling.
- Famous business entrepenuaers such as Boeing, Chrysler, Firestone, Heinz, Rockefeller, and Strauss are all of German-American heritage.
- TheAmerican rockets to the moon were designed and supervised by another German-American.
- As President Ronald Reagan pointed out, America also can thank German influence for Christmas trees, Broadway musicals, kindergartens, graduate schools, the social security system, and labor unions.
So what does October 6th actually commemorate? It’s the date which in 1683 thirteen German families from Krefeld, near the Rhine, landed in Philadelphia. These families went on to found Germantown, Pennsylvania, the first German settlement in the original thirteen American colonies. Originally known as “German Day”, the holiday was celebrated for the first time in 1883, on the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the settlers from Krefeld. The custom died out during World War I as a result of the anti-German sentiment that prevailed at the time, but the holiday was revived in 1983, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October 6 as German-American Day to celebrate and honor the 300th anniversary of German American immigration and culture to the United States.
Looking for some ways to honor your German heritage this month? Spend some time researching your German ancestors. If you’re looking for some help, our Tips for Tracing German Ancestors article is full of ideas.