In 1833, two men from Giessen, Germany, decided to immigrate to the United States where they hoped to create their own utopia with the freedoms and democracy they desired but did not have under an aristocracy. They recruited hundreds of others and formed the Giessen Emigration Society.
“It was the year 1834 when 500 Germans came over here to Missouri with the big idea of creating a German state as a new state within the United States of America,” Peter Roloff told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday.
World War I collared the spread of German culture and language across the globe. Though far from the front lines, St. Louis’s vibrant German community was no exception.
A hundred years ago, the growth of the city had largely been driven by thousands of Germanic immigrants who built and controlled large swaths of government, industry, education, and religion. The Great War tested and ultimately transformed that influence in many ways that linger today.
When Berlin-based conceptual artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock first visited St. Louis in 2002, they were surprised by how familiar the city felt to them.
"We were baffled by how German it is. How normal everything sounds and looks," said Stih. "It wasn’t New York, it wasn’t Chicago, for sure not LA, It was something like a nice, quiet, city with extraordinary town planning."