Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The German American Collection, The Album 3

The idea of English as a national language is only about 100 years old. Much of the upper mid-west was pioneered by immigrants from Germany and the Nordic countries. Many of the small farming communities, not only had German, Swedish or Norwegian as primary languages, but sometimes, the only language. In one town, civic documents might be in German, in another, the schools taught in Swedish, and the street signs could be in Norwegian in a third. So what changed? America's entry into World War 1, viewed by many as an unjustified intrusion into a European war of empire, had to be sold to the general public. Propaganda campaigns that pictured German soldiers as blood crazed animals, who willingly bayoneted woman and children, who raped nuns and burnt churches, helped sell American entry into the conflict, while also bringing into question the patriotism of those who continued to speak languages other than English.

So, how can we tell that a photograph is from Europe when all we have to go on are signs in the background, or written labels that may not be in English? In the case of this album, take a close look at the team photo. There is a badge on the athletes jerseys from Aurich. Aurich is a region and town in Lower Saxony, in Germany. (Click on the image to bring it up in a larger window, to see it better.) Throw in some of the building styles, and a non American military uniform that will be in a future post from this album, and Germany, not Minnesota, is the more probable location.

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