Final Summary: German Culture and the World Wars in Texas

Hi everyone!

The research is finally done, the paper is finally submitted! It is hard to believe that what started off as a random idea (“hey, wouldn’t this be cool to research?”) has now become a full-fledged research project and paper about the culture and assimilation of German immigrants in Texas.

I think it’s pretty clear what the argument of my paper is from my previous posts, but here is the gist: Over 25,000 immigrants from Germany settled in Texas in the 19th century and managed to maintain their social and cultural traditions for generations after their arrival to the US. In my research I examined the family and social life, religion, language, music, and festivals of the Texas Germans in order to get a broad sense of what life was like as a German immigrant in the towns and hills of Central Texas in the mid-late 1800s. I then studied the history of World Wars I and II in Texas to see what impact that had on the German communities living there and found that World War I especially sparked a wide-ranging anti-German hysteria across the state that made it taboo to be German in Texas and accelerated their assimilation into mainstream Texan culture.

My favorite aspect of this research paper was definitely the chance to travel around Texas, meet new and interesting people, and rediscover a part of Texas’s history that is also part of my heritage since my great-grandparents and grandparents emigrated from Germany to the US in the 1880s and mid-1900s. Nearly everyone that I talked to as I journeyed through central Texas was so excited to hear about my project because the German legacy is such an important but often neglected part of Texas’s modern history, and I loved having the chance to look at my home state through a new lens.

The thing that most surprised me about doing my research was the unexpected ways that information could come to me. When I started out my trip, it had not even occurred to me to check out the local libraries in each of the towns I stopped in and read their local histories and books. Those are resources that cannot be found anywhere else in the world–I bet that not even Swem, as great as it is, has books like A History of Schulenburg, Texas–and they proved to be immensely valuable to me. A museum curator in Brenham suggested to me that I check out their local library, and so I did and made sure to do that with everywhere else that I visited too!

The thing that was most frustrating throughout the trip was realizing that I had to temper my expectations as to what I hoped to learn from some places. The Sophienburg Museum of New Braunfels, for example, advertises itself as a museum dedicated to the history of German immigration to Texas, so naturally I was very excited to visit it–but most of the museum was just that: history, plain and simple. Lots of information about crossing the ocean from Germany, lots of information about dates and important names … not as much about the people themselves, what they were like, how they lived, and what their traditions and culture were like. I still got some good nuggets out of the museum, but I had to realize that some information probably just wasn’t available in the places I would have thought it would be.

Overall, I really enjoyed my summer researching the Texas Germans and hope that y’all have enjoyed following along with my blog! See you all at the summer research showcase!