Making History Come Alive

German-American Influences and Contributions in Philadelphia

This research project presents the major, tangible contributions made by immigrants from German-speaking lands in Europe and their American-born descendants to the commercial, religious, social, educational, cultural, artistic and military fabric of American society. It is intended to tell a story of how these contributions directly influenced colonial and American life at the time of their discovery, as well as how they continue to impact our lives today. Many of the institutions founded by these Germans and German-Americans continue to thrive, thus imparting the skills, intellect and insight of these talented and determined people to the citizens of greater Philadelphia today.

I invite you to visit these sites and historic markers on the following web pages and later to explore them on your own as they appear throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. It’s a fascinating story and an important chapter of American history. Benjamin Franklin may well have articulated it best when he observed, “America cultivates best what Germany brought forth.”

Marlene H. K. Stocks

EARLY HISTORY - The Founding of Germantown

GERMANTOWN AND FRANCIS DANIEL PASTORIUS The Founding: 1683-1689 “Thirteen Quaker families from Krefeld, Germany founded Germantown in 1683.   Suffering from religious persecution and economic hardships in the Old World, the settlers brought with them essential skills in craft industries and a common desire to participate in William Penn’s ‘holy experiment.’  When the Krefelders arrived … Continue reading EARLY HISTORY – The Founding of Germantown

Influences in Religion

“The population (of Germantown) grew steadily and more diverse, so that by 1735 there were congregations of Mennonites, Brethren (also known as Dunkards and German Baptists), Lutherans, and German Reformed in addition to the Quakers.” (Mark Frazier Lloyd and Sandra Macenzie Lloyd, “Three hundred Years of Germantown History: an Exhibition Celebrating the Tercentenary of this … Continue reading Influences in Religion

Contributions to the War for Independence

  General Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Steuben Statues at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Valley Forge National Park “On December 19, 1777, when Washington’s army struggled into camp at Valley Forge, tired, cold and ill-equipped, it was lacking in much of the training essential for consistent success on the battlefield. On June 19, 1778, … Continue reading Contributions to the War for Independence

Medicine, Education and Science

Hahnemann Hospital – renamed to Allegheny University Hospital – Hahnemann 15th and Race Streets, Philadelphia Dr. Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, for whom the medical college was named, is the founder of homoeopathic medicine. Dr. Constantine Hering is acknowledged as the father of homoeopathy in America. Dr. Constantine Hering was born in Oschatz,Saxony onJanuary 1, 1800. … Continue reading Medicine, Education and Science

Commerce and Industry

The Site of the Home and Printing Plant of Christopher Saur (Sower) 5253 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia “On this spot, was printed, by the elder Sower, the first American book in German type, a book of hymns; here he began to issue the first German newspaper in America; and, forty years before an English Bible was … Continue reading Commerce and Industry


The Centennial: May 10, 1876 to November 10, 1876 “Plans for an eleaborate architectural scheme for the Centennial were abandoned in 1874, only two years before the scheduled opening. Filling the vacuum was Herman J. Schwarzmann, a recent immigrant from Austria, who had served as an architect for the commissioners of Fairmount Park. Schwarzmann, who … Continue reading Arts


“Musical entertainments as there were reflected a strong Germanic influence. The city had a Germania Orchestra, a Maennerchor, an Abt Male Chorus, a Beethoven Society, and a Philadelphia Philharmonic Society with William Wolsieffer as leader.” (Mary Maples Dunn and Richard S. Dunn, Philadelphia, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982, 451) The Philadelphia Orchestra The … Continue reading Music

Architecture and Engineering

Girard College 2101 S. College Avenue, Philadelphia “No other American school was born amid such thunderous echoes as were heard at the founding of Girard College. Stephen Girard died in the closing days of 1831 and he was America’s wealthiest citizen. Nearly the whole of his fortune, or about $7,000,000, was bequeathed to Philadephia for … Continue reading Architecture and Engineering

Cultural Organizations

German Society of Pennsylvania 611 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia  The German Society of Pennsylvania, founded in 1764, is the oldest German-American charitable and cultural organization. “At that time the population of Pennsylvania was estimated by Benjamin Franklin to be 160,000, of whom he supposed one-third to be German. The main purpose of the Society as … Continue reading Cultural Organizations