It is well, before one decides to visit a country, to know something not only of its geographical position but also of its history. Otherwise a good many things one should see either completely escape him or are so misunderstood as to add to the world’s already formidable stock of misinformation.
The war has caused a good deal of it. Forgetting that almost a sixth of the population of this country is of German extraction, we have gone on ranting, school-boy fashion. The friends of the Germans exaggerated their cultural value, and their enemies disparaged it, until either nothing on God’s earth of any value was ever done by a German, or everything that was ever created by civilization from the day of its beginning to the end of the war was done only by Germans.
Now that our patriotic ardor has cooled off, there are a few things that might be told. How many a son who has been in Pershing’s army is unable to look into his father’s eyes, when he remembers the battles in which he has taken part against his father’s people. The older German people were expected to rise to the same degree of patriotism as the people of the other populations in this city. Even if they did not, one must concede to them far greater spiritual difficulties in the situation they were plunged into by the war. A good many of them had to be like the sinner, holier than anybody else, compelled as they were to wave the flag three times as frequently and ten times as loudly as the others. There is many a wife who finds living with her husband well nigh impossible since his return from across the water. She had brothers and uncles abroad who have gone to their graves following the course they thought was right. The wonder of it is that there were not during the war many more conscientious objectors on the ground of fear of fratricide and parricide. One must not forget the stigma put on the Germans when the names and ad-dresses of all the so-called “enemy aliens” were published in the papers and are to this day obtainable in the public libraries of the city; it is the ugliest thing that has resulted from the war hysteria. It is easier to forget victory than defeat. Forgetting defeat frequently amounts to knavishness, while forgetting victory always earns admiration for the victors. “Vae victis” is written in heavy red letters in the history of the world.
There are a few facts in the development of the city of New York which it may do no harm to know better. The Germans were here virtually from the very beginning of the city. Wolfgang Roma, a German, was the first one to lay the foundation of what is to-day the port of New York. Nicholas Meyer, a German-born gentleman, in 1676, at a time when any office-holder in New York was little more than a pirate on the seas of public money, was one of the most public-spirited mayors of the city. Christiansen Klef, one of our first pioneers, although a theologian himself, fought bitterly for religious freedom against all odds, odds that the German founders of the Lutheran Church in New York could not have overcome, if they had not been as steadfast as they were in their belief in religious freedom.
Jacob Leisler, a native of Frankfort-on-the-Main, who was elected temporary governor by the people of New York, called the first congress of the American colonies. A fearless defender of the people’s rights against the oppressions of the Government, he was brought to trial for treason and hanged in 1691, the first martyr of the long struggle of the American people for liberty. Johann Peter Zenger, the owner of the New York “Weekly Journal,” which he founded in 1733, saw numbers of his paper publicly burned by the hangman for his criticism of the acts of the Government. Thrown into prison for his fight for liberty, he was the man at whose trial the freedom of the press was definitely established in America. Peter Minuit, the first director-general of the New Netherlands in 1621, was a German. He it was who closed the bargain with the Indians by which he purchased Manhattan for twenty-four dollars, instead of fighting and shedding blood for the strip of land. The Astors emigrated here from Germany ; Rockefeller is of German ancestry; so, also, are Wanamaker and Siegel. The man who built the Brooklyn Bridge, then probably the most brilliant feat of engineering on this side of the ocean, was Roebling, a German. After designing the bridge he fell ill and could only watch the construction of it through a telescope from a consider-able distance.
And then came 1848, when after an unsuccessful revolution in Germany the best minds, the most active ones, were compelled to flee their country. Many of them came here. One need but mention names like Carl Schurz, Siegel, Ottendorfer, Kapp, Solger, and Dr. Jacobi, not to list a hundred others of lesser importance but of equal quality in every direction, to recall to mind the best men this city has had.
With the forty-eighters and after them came the great immigration from Germany. In the German festival of May 8, 1848, when Frederick Havemeyer was mayor and the German flag was flown from City Hall, fully sixty thousand Germans participated. The Schiller festival in 1859 lasted five days. And when Lincoln’s call for volunteers was heard, the German Turnverein poured volunteers into the ranks of the army. Their elders who had battled for the freedom of the people in 1848 in their own land were the ones who, if they could not themselves go because of age, stirred the younger ones to go. Look at the names of the Civil War veterans.
Now, as to their cultural value. It is doubtful whether we should have had such musical organizations as we have in the city if it were not for the German love for music. The Philharmonic Society was founded in 1842 by Germans. As early as 1880 there were sixty Gesangsvereine in the city of New York alone. In 1856 Karl Bergmann produced “Fidelio,” by Beethoven, with choruses trained here. In 1870 the Germans had their own Stadttheater, which for those days, and even for this day, equaled the best anywhere in the world. Leopold Damrosch and Anton Seidl produced Wagner as early as 1888. Most of the great orchestral and operatic conductors in this city have been GermansAlfred Hertz, Leopold Damrosch, and his sons, Walter and Frank Damrosch. Francis Xavier Ahrens, the former leader of the People’s Symphony Orchestra, has by himself done more to popularize orchestral music than all the other musicians of this country combined. P. A. Schnecker has written more church music of the finest sort than any other man living to-day. What Grau and Conried and Hammerstein did for opera in New York and for music in general, only those closely connected could tell.
Wherever the German lives he must have his Gesangsvereine, his Liedertafeln and his Turnvereine. When they commemorated Wagner at the Hippodrome on December 27, 1913, more than a thousand voices, three hundred of them female, took part in the chorus. Mme. Schumann-Heink was the soloist. George Gemunder, undoubtedly the best violin-maker of the last century, whose violins will in time be appreciated with those of the celebrated Italian masters, lived in this city from 1850 on.
One could go on and on, and never finish the list, of what New York Germans have contributed toward the aggrandizement of the city. The Guggenheims, Belmonts, Strauses, Oelrichses, Eberhard Faber, the pencil manufacturer, the Frohmans, the Schiffs. They have contributed as much as any single nation, if not more, to the construction of the elevateds and subways, to merchandising on a large scale, to banking, and that most beneficial of all institutions, the life-insurance companies.
At the time when they had Das Deutsche Theater on Downing Street, with the highest artistic ambition, the American stage was virtually non-existent but for a few crudities and importations from abroad. The German papers, the first of which, “Deutscher Freund,” was founded in 1820, the “Staats-Zeitung,” the “Volkszeitung,” and the “Herold,” have been examples of what newspapers should be.
Our first flower-raisersbeginning with Jacob Sperry, who had his garden on the Bowery not very long ago, be-fore the Italians took over the professionwere all Germans. The Hessian, Schwerkopf, introduced strawberries into this country. He was also one of the first horticulturists. And how careful and beautiful German workmanship can be is exhibited by the piano-manufacturing houses of Steinway, Knabe, Weber, Somer, Kranich & Bach, and others too numerous to mention. One must not forget that up to 1880 virtually all the musicians of the city were Germans. The same thing could be said of druggists and physicians. To this day they are largely represented in the city, with men like Dr. Herman Knopf of Columbia University, one of the greatest authorities on the eye and ear in the world, and the famous Dr. Jacobi, who departed only recently.
The kindergarten system in New York was established by a German woman, Mme. Maria Kraus, and is still largely continued on the lines she laid down. As early as 1843 Columbia University established a chair for the German language and literature, and there was a great effort to make it compulsory in our public schools. Years later Jacob H. Schiff endowed Cornell University with a hundred thousand dollars for a chair of German literature.
There are, including the Austrians, over a million German-speaking people in New York. Their quarter begins somewhere on First Street, between Avenue A and Avenue B, skirts Tompkins Square on the east side, and extends northward, touching the Hungarian quarter at Fourteenth Street. It spreads further east to Avenue B and C, and sometimes to the very edge of the East River, up to Fifty-first Street at Beekman Place. From there, jumping over a few streets, which are left to the Swedish population of the city, it spreads northward and westward, sometimes even crossing Fifth Avenue, then turning back toward Lexington and Madison, and holding its course westward to Eighty-sixth Street and Third Avenue. The tendency of the German population is strongly to the north and timidly to the west, imitating the spread of the German Empire in Europe. And, as at home, the German population here touches on the west side a corner of the French quarter, further north the Scandinavian, and on its east side the Czecho-Slovak and Polish districts, not to speak of the Hungarian district, which is almost continually on its east-ern flank.
Unlike other nationalities, the Germans, except in the Harlem district, which was taken over by the negroes, have never completely abandoned a region in which they have lived by moving westward or northward. Wherever the Germans settled, early in the history of the city, down on the East Side toward Clinton and Norfolk Streets, at the time Clinton Hall was the Astor Opera-house, they have clung to that district and held on to it, spreading only as they multiplied, without ever completely giving ground. In witness of that are numerous German churches which
still exist in the districts now largely occupied by Jews and other peoples. On Sunday morning hereditary members of the congregation come to sit in the same pews where their grandfathers sat, whether they live fifteen blocks away or fifty, in the German Catholic Church on Second Street or the Lutheran Church on St. Mark’s Place. Other nationalities, in moving away, have given over their churches, or whatever other social halls had been in their possession, selling them at a profit to the new arrivals who have taken their places, but not so the Germans. Even their Liedertafel places and Turnvereine and Gesangsvereine are still where they originally were, in spite of the fact that their members now live miles away. Neither are the original German owners of houses willing to part with the old buildings their forefathers first erected, or to remodel them so as to make them more in keeping with the buildings going up about them. One can still see rows of houses on Thirteenth Street and Nineteenth Street, set back from the sidewalk, with little flower-gardens in front of them and vines creeping over the windows, while large apartment-houses have gone up on both sides and in the back, robbing the houses of the light that had been intended for their windows. There is no doubt that these houses would be eagerly snapped up by buyers at considerable prices if the owners were willing to sell. But most of them are not, and prefer holding on to their properties as of old . . . as homes for themselves.
One of the examples of this German tenacity can be seen on Fourth Street, between Second and Third Avenues, around the Beethoven Hall. Many, many years ago, when the houses were far apart, that district was German. Being near the Bowery, where all the amusement places were, in that district were several Weinstuben and a few German delicatessen stores. The generation which patronized these places is long since dead. The German colony has spread further north and northwest, but the Weinstuben still exist in spite of prohibition. The delicatessen stores are still there. And Germans, probably the sons of the original patrons, or the grandsons, come from wherever they are for their little glass of cider and Gemiitlichkeit to which they are accustomed, at the same table, sitting on the same chair, and looking at the same inane lithographs with the same quaint inscriptions under them. How these delicatessen stores live and exist is beyond any one’s under-standing. But they do. Frau Hausmann, who bought pumpernickel and Klkse-kase for her mother fifty years ago, is buying them now for her daughter or grand-daughter, from the son or grandson of the man who used to serve her when she was in knee frocks.
On Fifth Street, between Avenue A and Avenue B, is my friend Werner, the violin-maker. He is a very old man now, probably eighty years old. He came to this country around the fifties with his father. He is undoubtedly one of the finest violin makers and repairers in this city. Kneisel, Kreisler, Ysaye, Elman, and other great violinists and cellists bring their violins to him for repair and conditioning before they leave for abroad or after their return. And yet Werner’s shop is no larger than it was when his father opened it when they first arrived here from Germany. I dare say it will not be larger fifty years from now, when his son will be as old as his father is now. Father and son have been working now for two generations together. Calmly, slowly, diligently, with the usual five interruptions a day for their meals, which are brought from the back of the store where the family is housed, and with the glasses of beer that succeed one another at regular intervals, father and son are at their bench until five in the afternoon, when old Werner, undoing his leather apron, calls out, “Feieramt; finished,” and the day’s work is done. Should father happen to forget to call the day’s end at the exact minute, the son will continue working. Then, still silently, each one lights his pipe. There is a Lehnstuhl dragged out to the door, if the weather is warm, or placed in the middle of the shop if it is cold ; and the cronies from the neighborhood, their long beards stained with tobacco-juice and smoke, gather in the place to discuss in rare and quiet monosyllables the events of the day. Because of some physical defect, Werner, Jr., did not serve in the army; and his father, who has always been saddened because of his son’s short leg, has repeatedly told me how God has been good to him. Old Werner, although he came here as a little boy, can hardly talk English. It is of him that people have said, “He considers the Americans stupid be-cause they have not learned German in the sixty or more years that he has been here.”
Further up west on St. Mark’s Place, between Second and First Avenues, is the Lutheran Church. Those who have the time and inclination to hear beautiful choir singing and magnificent organ accompaniment and directing would do well to stay around the church after seven o’clock some evening. I lived only a few doors away from the church some years ago, and I found it impossible to do any-thing during those hours but listen to the strong and beautiful singing of the Lutheran hymns as it floated through the open windows. I moved away from that district because of the silly organ-playing at the same hour from a moving picture house on the corner. It maddened me, and as I could not drown out the noise it was best for me to go.
All along on Avenue A and Avenue B are hundreds of old Weinstuben and saloons and coffee-houses, which vegetate now. Further along, toward Tompkins Square, was the old Heimath place, and next to it the Rathskeller. At the Heimath, a spacious basement, gathered nightly around the twenty or more pine tables all the homeless German unemployed. Until twelve o’clock at night everybody was served with a glass of wine and a large hunk of bread for five cents. Exactly at midnight the proprietor, a big, stout man, would yell out at the top of his voice as he extinguished the lamp, “Schlafen!” As if by some witchcraft all the voices were hushed immediately, and those who did not leave instantly went to sleep where they were. The proprietor closed the front door and went to sleep in his own room, which was in the back.
At the Rathskeller things were quite different, though on the same order. Here all the young pseudo-intellectuals gathered to discuss Heine and Goethe and Schiller and music. The Germans have never been much interested in the other arts. Literature and music have always been their forte. And many of them beguiled away their night’s sleep while discussing things of greater importance than mere physical rest. I have many a time heard wonderful poetry recited by poets who have since become famous here and abroad.
Both of these places were closed during the war, al-though several transformations were essayed to keep them alive.
Westward on Second Avenue is the German Eye, Ear, and Nose Hospital, which is one of the most celebrated in the city and has done a great deal for the inhabitants of the neighborhood. The poorer class have flocked to its disthe hospital also helping to implant a respect and everything German.
The Bulgarians, Serbians, Albanians, Rumanians, and all the Balkan people living in the neighborhood have much more confidence in a German doctor or a German druggist than they have in a doctor of their own nationalities. For centuries Germans have occupied similar capacities in their own countries. In-deed, in parts of Rumania a druggist is called a German whether he is German or not. And the word
“Artzt” is as common among the Albanians for “doctor” as if it were a word of their own language. There is an old story that tells how, when the old druggist in a Rumanian village died, the peasants took a German fiddler who happened to be there and compelled him to become their druggist and doctor in spite of his protests. Was he not a German? Therefore he was a doctor and a druggist.
Not far from the hospital is the Ottendorfer Library, where the books seem to be regarded more sacredly than anywhere else. Old ladies, brought to the door by their young daughters or granddaughters, are reading the old German illustrated weeklies that come there. It is the most complete German library in town, owning many old volumes long out of print, which would be the pride and envy of every collector.
Stories of German-American life have been many, but the best of them were written by G. Stiirenburg and have been gathered into a book after they had appeared through several years in the “Staats-Zeitung.”
On Fourteenth Street is the old Luchow’s Beer Parlor and Restaurant. In former years it was the center, and the most fashionable of all the German places. It is still frequented by the more cultivated element, because of old associations, the excellence of its food, and the band that plays for luncheon and dinner. How easy it is to forget there the noise and hubbub of the city ! How easy it is to forget one is not in Munchen, with the foaming big schooners brought by smiling and adept waiters, while the music plays dances and songs that have long since been forgotten elsewhere. It is, I am afraid, the only place in the city where jazz is taboo and Straus is still king.
Further down, on Nineteenth Street, is the Graaf House, the owner of which used to furnish for ten dollars apiece barons and counts to ornament the dinner-table of such as desired their company. In Graaf’s eyes a baron or a count, to be genuine, had only to have his pedigree with him to prove his right to the title. He also had to look the part. He had to know how to wear his monocle and his white vest over his starched shirt-front. A good many of Graaf’s counts, he will tell you, who have been introduced by social climbing mothers at a dinner-table, have married their wealthy daughters. Mr. Graaf finances such affairs to the end. I am told that he has also financed many French and Italian counts in search of wealthy heiresses. But the business has gone down considerably of late, since the Russian Revolution caused so many Russian princes and counts and nobles to flee to America. Really these Russians have much more style and dash, and know how to do the thing in much better form, than the German barons and counts did it. Accordingly a good many of the old German counts have become waiters or valets to the newly rich, whom they instruct in good behavior.
And so the district meanders along, with German bands playing around corners, and German stores selling old zithers, and pastry-shops adjoining one another, up to Fifty-first Street, where is the Kellnersheim, the home of the old waiters. Then it swerves eastward toward Beek-man Place, where suddenly there is a crisscrossing of narrow alleys paved with cobblestones, and houses facing this way and that, set back into the lots, some of them projecting too far over sidewalks, with large brownstone stoops and bay-windows twisting this way and the other. People will show you the place where Nathan Hale was hanged, and others will show you where Horace Traubel, Walt Whitman’s celebrated biographer, lived with his friend Karsner for several years previous to his death.
Speaking of Traubel, who was a dear friend of mine for many years, I must tell what happened at his funeral.
Traubel was of mixed parentage, his father having been a Jew. When he was brought here for his funeral his wife decided to have it take place from the Community Church on Thirty-fourth Street. Many of his friends protested, telling Anne Montgomerie they were certain Horace Traubel would not have wished it so. She overrode all the objections.
The funeral was to take place at three o’clock. The hearse had no sooner drawn up in front of the church when some one came rushing out, calling, “Fire! Fire !” A moment later there was the clang and rush of the fire-engines.
The fire did a good deal of damage to the church, while one of Traubel’s friends, master of the situation because of the bewilderment of the relatives, jumped up beside the hearse-driver, and the whole procession rode to the People’s House on Fifteenth Street, from which the funeral actually took place.
One can see Blackwell’s Island from Beekman Place, and beyond it the loud signs and lights from the Brooklyn side of the river, and sailing-boats and steamers and yachts going up and down the river. It is the most intimate corner of the city. It has remained as segregated and different from the rest of its environment as an island in the midst of the sea. It still is one of the quaintest places in the city. But it has changed in character of late because it has been discovered by the wealthy up-towners, who have, after buying up several of the old houses, built their costlier residences where formerly were one- and two-family houses. I am tempted to hope that the summer odors from the slaughter-house not far off will drive them away in the summer, and thus perhaps help restore the place to its former slow, individual, village life.
There is a beautiful Gesangsverein in the neighborhood, where most of the Bavarians in the city come to sing their evenings away. They came for many years, and have re-turned again, after two years’ absence during the war, to the old place, only to find that it has lost a good deal of its former charm because of the intrusion of the wealthier class.
There used to be a beer-garden in the neighborhood, which I am told had been there since 1680 or 1690, from the time when the Kissing Bridge near-by was one of the city’s institutions. It has been swept away in the recent remodeling of the quarter. Big ugly houses occupy the spot where the Halle once stood. The gates and the door-ways and the windows of the old building lay in a small alley against the wall for years, with nobody to claim them and nobody to take care of them. And the people respected the theoretical property rights of some one who had for-gotten all about these things. As long as the population was strictly German no one touched them. But a southeastern European group came to settle in the neighborhood. Shortly afterward all the unclaimed things disappeared. The wrought-iron gates and finely chiseled doorway found their way to some junk-dealer’s cart for the few pennies that he paid. The Germans object to everybody else as “foreigners.”
Helferich’s violin repair shop on East Eighty-sixth Street, between Second and Third Avenues, was known as the “old man’s hospital” to the ten thousand or more professional violinists, fiddlers, cellists, and contrabassists of New York, scraping their way through life on gut strings.
When a stringed instrument became “cranky,” when the “walls” bulged or the “belly” cracked, when the “neck” had to be shaved down or the bow repaired, the invalid was brought to the old
man. And if(but he very rarely found any too sick to remedy) the instrument was thrown on the scrap-heap.
One left his violin or cello with Helferich, said, “Do what you can with it,” and went for his glass of wine or cider or white beer in one of the A pfelweinstubeu near-by, or for a real dinner in the Heimath, some twenty feet below the street, where the tables were of white pine, where the
buxom waitresses had long eyelashes, and a primas from Budapest with waxed mustache and oiled hair played the latest and the oldest czardas.
And if the visitor had ever been in “Pest” or Vienna, it did not require much generalship to invade a congenial table in the Heimath and make of a trip to the “hospital” a real holiday. You see, the men were from Vienna, the women hailed from Budapest. One could drink, be merry, and forget many things in such a company.
I suspect that Helferich’s renown was due quite as much to the location of his shop as to his workmanship. But as to that, basta!
In his young days Helferich had been known as a great violinist. Yellowed old programs and newspaper clippings with frequent mention of his name hung framed in the shop and attested to Helferich’s great playing at courts and palaces. But in an accident he lost two fingers of his left hand, and his playing career was ruined.
So he learned to repair the instrument he played so well, and came to New York. And in his shop he hung the fiddle he had used, the one given him in Vienna by the Austrian emperor. He hung it in a glass case on the wall over the door which connected the shop with the living apartment in the rear.
In due time he married and had two sons. The older one, after finishing at the public school, was kept at home to learn the trade and help his father. The younger one was destined for higher things.
As Helferich’s fame spread, he accumulated a good deal of money. He never drank except when others paid. He never smoked other cigars than those given him by his customers. But these kept his heart continually warm and cheerful and the shop in thick clouds of smoke. And when he was tired or dreamy, old Helferich would turn his chair so as to face the rear wall and sit looking at the precious Steiner that the old emperor had given him.
If a customer arrived when the old man was thus absorbed, Joseph, his son”the young man,” as he was called walked on tiptoes from his bench to receive him, and the ensuing conversation was carried on in low whispers:
“Sshsshthe old man has the blues.”
Then one day came a telegram to old Helferich calling him away to Cincinnati to the bedside of a dying sister. He took his wife along with him.
“Take care of the shop, Joseph,” were his parting words to his son, with a nod toward the fiddle.
“Don’t worry, father,” the young man replied.
At the door the old man turned again to give advice. “Und if a fire there is, Gott behute, save the Steiner first, Joseph. You are responsible for the violin.”
“Don’t worry, father.”
But the following morning the violin had disappeared from the glass case on the wall. Joseph was struck dumb. His father’s Steiner, the gift of the emperor, was stolen! He would commit suicide. He would disappear. He could not face the old man again.
When he quieted down a little later Joseph had an idea and sat down to work. He worked the whole day and the whole night and the day and night following. Before the sun had risen on the third morning another violin, looking very much like the Steiner, appeared in the place of the stolen one.
That very night Helferich returned from Cincinnati. “Mein sister is not sick at all. She neffer sent no telegram. Verdammt, verdammt!”
The following night old Helferich turned his chair to look at the fiddle. At midnight he was still looking at it.
On his deathbed a few days later he asked for pen and paper and wrote in his best hand in presence of witnesses:
To my wife and son Albert I give everything I possess, and to my son Joseph I leave the Steiner on the wall. FRANZ HELFERICH.
And to this day Joseph Helferich has a puzzled look in his face.
“Do you think he knew?” he asked me the other night in the Weinstube next to the shop.
And suddenly you are at the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge over the East River and across to Astoria, where the younger generation of Germans, as well as the younger generations of other nationalities in the city, flee the Ghettos that give them a hyphen. They desire to be known only as Americans instead of German-Americans or French-Americans or Jewish-Americans.
The German district stretches as far as Eighty-sixth Street and Lexington Avenue. From there on it begins to dwindle as it goes upward.
The beer-saloons in the German quarters in New York have played a greater role than the saloons anywhere else. They were not places where one drank oneself to insensibility. On the contrary, probably because of the great beer drinking capacity of the Germans, drunkenness was a more or less rare thing in them.
In the back of these saloons have been organized a good many organizations which later on became an important factor in the life of the community. Many Liedertafeln were in the backs of saloons. A celebrated Männerchor met for many years back of a saloon in Harlem before that district was taken away from the Germans by the negro population of the city. The socialist movement, which was originally a German movement in New York, was begun in back saloons. Indeed, it was so German that I remember once at a meeting, when one of the speakers got up and began to talk English, the rest of the visitors were so much astonished that they howled their disapproval. It would have fared badly with the speaker had not the chairman turned the tide by announcing that it was indeed a very good sign when the English-speaking population began to join the movement.
Johann Most, the celebrated anarchist, held most of his meetings with his people back of a saloon in Harlem, and he even edited his paper, “Die Freiheit,” from there. I re-member him well. He was one of the most interesting figures I have ever met. His knowledge of things historical was so tremendous and his memory so good that he could discourse upon the history of the world at any period and from every possible angle with the greatest ease and authority. In spite of a rather unpleasant appearance because of the deformity of his face and the thickness of his tongue, he was a most fiery orator. He did more leavening of minds than converting to his theories.
There being no prospect of any considerable German immigration in the near future, with the second generation of the forty-eighters who brought German culture to this country dying out, the German population is slowly merging with the rest of the population. There is still great reluctance about intermarriage because the Germans consider so many races inferior to them, the inferiority of this and that and the other race to the German one having been insidiously taught for generations. And yet the eventual absorption is bound to happen.
My neighbor Talhouse, familiarly called Henry, is a first-generation American. His father, a forty-eighter, left Germany practically with a rope on his neck, and, footing it to the nearest shore, embarked for America, where he changed his name from Hochhaus to Talhouse. It is said of the old man that he rose two hours earlier than he had to every morning so as to hate Germany and the whole of Europe two hours more every day. This hatred for Europe was inherited by his son Henry, whose American-ism was merely hatred for the Old World.
In his delicatessen store Henry has propounded the most drastic action against “them foreigners” and has even risked his bread by rechristening Leberwurst into liver sausage and refusing to serve sauerkraut unless it was served under an American name.
At one time during the war a cardboard sign over the counter announced, “No foreigners are served here.” It was the most effective custom-getter, that sign, until his competitor, Hans Shiller, on the advice of his customers, hung out a similar legend.
Well, Henryfat, blond, blue-eyed, small-eared, lowbrowed, bow-leggedhated foreigners more than he loved Americans, and said so. But his store was always clean, his stuff fresh, and his prices reasonable. His opinions were his opinions. And if he liked to utter them freely, well, they did not weigh on the scales and did not increase the price of ham or pumpernickel.
Elizabeth Talhouse was not allowed to play with foreign children. Whenever she was seen coming home from school with other children, the father put the question, “Are they foreigners?”
“I don’t know, father.”
“You don’t know, hey ! You don’t know?”
Henry Talhouse would not have his daughter associate with other than Americans. And so Elizabeth, blond and pretty, grew into maidenhood and was sent to college.
While in college she met and fell in love with John Smith, the son of Fire-eye Eagle, a Cherokee Indian chieftain. John was tall, brown, and handsome and spoke very little but very wisely. Except the noble dignity of his carriage, there was no other outward difference between himself and the handsomest young college man. When Elizabeth came home from her college, Henry Talhouse exhibited her to his customers. “Und she goes to college mit only Americans. She vas trained not to have notting to do mit furriners. Und ven she marries she vill marry a American, and her children will be third-generation Americans! Understand that ! Third!”
Back of the store, the partitioned-off home of the Talhouses, Elizabeth confided to her mother :
“He is handsome and big and strong, mother. I love him so !” And she hugged and kissed her mother. “Und what does he say, Lisby? Does he lof you?” “Mummerl, mummerl ; of course he does. He told me so.” “Und will he come to see you here?”
“I will write him to come. But we must not say any-thing to papa when he comes. It will be such a surprise to him. Such a surprise.”
It was on a Sunday afternoon that a tall, brown man knocked at the store door of Talhouse. Henry looked through the pane in the partition and announced to his wife and daughter, “One of dem furriners who don’t know that delicatessen stores are closed on Sundays.”
But the man knocked again. “Lisby, you go and tell him. Und tell him that delicatessen stores open from five to six on Sundays in America.”
Henry Talhouse, startled, looked into the store, and what he saw made him forget his English.
“Who is this man, Lisby ?” he yelled. “And what, what business comes he here, I ask !”
“But, father, quiet down. It was all a surprise for you. This is John Smith, the man I am going to marry.”
“What? Donnerwetter! Marry this man? This man. A furriner!”
“But, father, listen.”
“Listen! My daughter, marry a furriner . . . Heraus, heraus!”
“But, father, listen. He is a Cherokee ; listen, a Cherokee.”
“A Sherokee marry my daughter ! My daughter will marry an American.”
“Who is not an American?” quietly asked John Smith, as he approached the irate delicatessen dealer.
“You Sherokees . . .”
So John Smith, Fire-eye Eagle’s son, shed his acquired civilization and did a war-dance in good old Indian fashion then and there.
Henry was looking on in mortal fear from behind the pane of the barricaded door. The police had to quell the riot in front of the store.
But now, two years since, Henry is proudly exhibiting the picture of a little half-breed.
“The third generation. The real American. That comes from bringing up children mit the right idear.”