Home  »  Volume XVIII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART III  »  § 6. Eighteenth Century Newspapers

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXXI. Non-English Writings I

§ 6. Eighteenth Century Newspapers

The only worthy rival of Saur’s Germantown newspaper was that published by Henry Miller in Philadelphia, Der Wöchentliche Philadelphische Staatsbote, founded in 1762 and continuing to 1779. Miller had had an exceptionally wide experience in Europe, having plied his trade in Hamburg, Basel, Paris, and London, and sojourned and laboured in numerous other European centres. Naturally his horizon was larger, and his attitude more objective and progressive than could be expected of the younger Saur, whose views were narrowed by provincial and sectarian conditions, in which he had spent all his life. Nevertheless the personality of Saur, as it appears in his paper, was more impressive, his manner more intensely serious, his attitude toward the daily life and customs of the Pennsylvania German farmers more deeply sympathetic. Being the conservative guardian of their language and religion, he opposed the free public schools as too powerful an assimilating agent; being a member of the non-resistant Dunker sect and the spokesman for the sectarian doctrines in general, he was, when the revolutionary agitation arose, a pacifist, though not a Tory. Henry Miller, on the other hand, was from the beginning an aggressive agitator for the cause of independence and armed resistance, as he had been an earnest advocate of the free public schools. His paper circulated not among the sectarians, but among the much larger bodies of Lutheran, Reformed, and Moravian Germans of Pennsylvania and neighbouring colonies. During the stormy period preceding the Revolution Miller’s Staatsbote was unquestionably by far the most influential German newspaper, while Saur’s Germantowner Zeitung declined hopelessly.

As many as thirty-eight newspapers printed in the German language appeared between the years 1732 and 1801. Many of them had a very short life, among them the first attempt, the fortnightly Philadelphische Zeitung, a German edition of Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette. Copies of twenty-five of the thirty-eight German newspapers of the eighteenth century have come down to us, and of the six most important among them an abundant supply has survived to testify to their character and circulation. Of Saur’s paper about 350 issues are available, between 1739 and 1777; of Miller’s Staatsbote about 900, published between 1762 and 1779; of the Philadelphische Correspondenz more than 950, between 1781 and 1800; of the Germantauner Zeitung (not Saur’s) 246, between 1785 and 1793; of the Neue Unpartheyische Lancäster Zeitung 465, between 1787 and 1800; of the Neue Unpartheyische Readinger Zeitung about 600, between 1789 and 1800. To this list of leading papers there should be added one born very near the end of the century, the Reading Adler, which lasted for more than a century, from 1796 to 1917, and of which complete files exist.

Postbellum newspapers in German were more numerous than German papers before 1780, and especially toward the end of the century, during the party strife between Federalists and Republicans, was there an acceleration of newspaper production in the German language. Facile princeps among them was the Philadelphische Correspondenz, established in 1781. It lived for more than thirty years, though with many vicissitudes. Its best period was the first decade of its career, when its publisher, Steiner, secured as editors the two Lutheran ministers the Rev. J. C. Kunze and the Rev. J. H. C. Helmuth, also well known as professors at the Philadelphia Academy, the parent of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1782 English papers published translations from its news columns, and in 1788 the paper had a considerable number of readers in Germany, facts which support the reputation of the editors Kunze and Helmuth for having established a good news service, and for having written the paper in a good German style, which the native German recognized as his own language.