Becoming "old stock" : the waning of German-American identity in Philadelphia, 1900-1930 / Russell A. Kazal.

Kazal, Russell A.
2 v. (xix, 652) p. : ill. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- History.
History -- Penn dissertations.
Americans of German descent form the nation's largest ethnic group, according to the 1990 census; no ancestry is more common. Yet the casual observer might never guess this fact, given the remarkably low profile of German-American ethnicity today. This dissertation uses the case of Philadelphia to examine the waning of German-American identity early in this century and the new identities that, for many Philadelphians of German background, emerged to take its place. This process is explored through letters, newspapers, the records of German and non-German institutions, and interviews with older Philadelphians. Trends toward mixing with non-Germans that underlay these identity shifts are delineated through a quantitative analysis of census samples. Some second-generation German immigrants were already abandoning ethnic ties by the beginning of the century. The anti-German hysteria that accompanied American intervention in the First World War, however, induced many more to reach for new definitions of self. These identities were shaped by the "100% American" nationalism ushered in by the war, the migration of thousands of African-Americans to Philadelphia, and the rise of a racialized nativism that pitted allegedly superior northwest Europeans against "new immigrants" from southern and eastern Europe. The children of German immigrants strongly felt the impulse to define themselves above all as "American," but the meaning of this affiliation varied along class and religious lines. Many middle-class and Lutheran Philadelphians crafted "American" identities in opposition to new immigrants, with some casting themselves as bearers of the northwest European racial "stock" of "our forefathers." Working-class and Catholic Germans tended not to voice such old-stock identities. Rather, many increasingly saw themselves as sharing a common "white" identity with Irish and new immigrant neighbors, one that gained in salience as African Americans settled near working-class European-American neighborhoods. The Philadelphia case thus illustrates how racial identities could function as agents of assimilation, but also how divisions of class and confession within one ethnic group could shape the assimilation of its members differentially, in ways that spawned different racial self-conceptions.
Adviser: Michael B. Katz.
Thesis (Ph.D. in History) -- University of Pennsylvania, 1998.
Includes bibliographical references.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 98-40206.
Katz, Michael B., advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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