Germany in New York
AMONG the features that impart a character so cosmopolitan to New York, a very prominent one is the large German element pervading that city and its suburbs and neighboring towns. “Which is the German quarter of New York?” I have heard strangers ask, as they noticed the decidedly Teutonic aspect of many passers to and fro in the crowded thoroughfares. It would not be easy to say. Taking the suburbs first, it will be found that much of Brooklyn proper, more of Williamsburg, no inconsiderable portion of Jersey City, and about two thirds of Hoboken, are occupied either by naturalized citizens of German birth, or by native-born Americans of immediate German descent. In the city, there is not a business street in which the infusion of Germany is not manifested by the names upon the sign-boards and doorposts. Whether you dwell to the eastward of Broadway or to the westward, it is much the same thing,— in six cases out of ten the nearest tobacconist, as well as the nearest tailor, is sure to be a German. Should you happen to inquire of a New-Yorker where such or such an article is to be procured, he will tell you, as likely as not, “ O, anywhere, almost, — the Dutchman at the next corner grocery will be sure to have it.” Don’t call the grocer a “ Dutchman ” to his face, though, supposing you should enter his comprehensive mart to make your purchase. Few things excite a German’s ire more than to call him a Dutchman. Pacific in his disposition as the Teuton usually is, I have witnessed more than one ugly row in the public places he frequents, because some person has applied this expression to him, either unguardedly or with wilful intent to exasperate. The objection is to be attributed, I fancy, rather to the fact that the term is frequently used in this country in a disparaging sense, than to any aversion really entertained by the German mind to the industrious native of the land where dikes are as much a necessity as Dutch herrings.
Perhaps, if the preference is to be given to any principal street of New York as channelling the German quarter, the Bowery may be so set down. That very heterogeneous and perplexing jumble of things foreign and domestic may be likened to an immense chain of German sausages, interlinked here and there with material properly American. All along the Bowery, the principal German theatres and lagerbier “gardens” are interspersed at short intervals, and it is in this quarter chiefly that the aspirant for legislative honors or for city office lays his traps to catch the wary German vote.
In sketching German life in New York, it would be outside the question to refer to that comparatively small class of Germans who, from wealth and family connections, hold a high position in society. The representative German is usually a manufacturer of some kind, greater or smaller, or a mechanic, — very commonly a grocer, or a brewer of lager-bier. Sometimes he is a lithographer, a layer-out of maps, or an artist in one branch or another. Finishing photographs in oil or in water-colors is an occupation very common among New York Germans. Legions of them are dispersed as waiters through the hotels and restaurants of the city. A great many — and these chiefly of the Hebrew persuasion — find occupation as dealers in clothing, jewelry, and miscellaneous articles, while others drive a lucrative business as pawnbrokers or “ mock - auctioneers.” New York is indebted for its vegetable markets to the Germans, who were the first to educate the suburban soil for the growth of kitchen stuff, and who have still almost a monopoly of the market-garden business in the neighborhood of the city. In the lower strata it will be found that many of the peripatetic glaziers who wander about the streets with the doleful chant, “ Glass t’ put een!”are Germans, as also are most of the wretched rag-pickers who trudge along the gutters with bag and hook, diving every now and then into the ash-barrels, with the hope of fishing up some pearl from the depths of those receptacles. Germans who are heavy bankers or stock-brokers, or engaged in commerce and manufacture generally, upon a large scale, soon become absorbed into the “ upper-ten ” element of New York society. Abandoning all the manners and customs of the fatherland to the smaller operators and the dealers in retail, they give little or no color to the native society with which they become incorporated. There is, indeed, a passion in the upper circles of New York for the dance called the “ German,” a term applied by extension to any ball or party at which it forms a leading feature in the exercises of the evening. In this sense the influence of the “German” upon the society of New York in its higher phases must be admitted ; but I question if the introduction of the dance referred to is due to the absorbed Teutonic millionnaire.
Of the middling and poorer class of Germans, New York and its suburbs contain about one hundred and fifty thousand, and it is to the characteristic social and political traits of these that I shall chiefly refer in this paper.
The traditional love of the German for the land of his birth — taking this in a geographical sense, and as distinct from associations — must surely be little more than an idea. Germans who have been prosperous in this country very seldom return to the fatherland, let them sing lustily as they may about it over their Rheinwein or their lager-bier. They carry their country along with them when they emigrate, just as they carry their cherished household gods. A patch from the banks of the Rhine, the Oder, or the Main can be found anywhere in the heart of New York, or in the country for ten miles around it. This burly and honest person who keeps a restaurant, or salon, in Broadway, on the German plan, flitted hither a dozen years ago from the borders of the Black Forest. He loved that romantic district and its traditions so well that he brought them away with him in his capacious heart, and set them up in his back yard, which thenceforward became a Garten Wirthschaft, — a sort of Occidental “ Gulistan ” of sausage and lager-bier. There the traits of his boyhood’s home are represented by Small pine-trees, arranged in tubs full of earth. But if the presence of these is not sufficient to keep fond memory wide awake, then he employs a scenic artist to decorate the walls of the yard with views representing sombre stretches of pine-land, lighted up fitfully with wild gushes of water manufactured out of indigo and flake-white. Sometimes a wild boar appears in the foreground, slaking its thirst at a cascade of these refreshing pigments ; and this imparts truth and character to the scene, besides being suggestive of Westphalia ham and Weissbier, both of which are to be had in the establishment. A castle frowns over all, from a lofty pinnacle of rock. To bring the pleasant Garten Wirthschaft of his native land yet more vividly before him, the portly vintner sets along the walls numerous earthen pots with climbing plants in them ; and should these imbecile exotics display any lack of energy in scaling the masonry, then a requisition is again made upon the scenic artist, who, beginning with his magic pencil where the trailer struck work, continues it ad libitum, carrying its leaves and tendrils in mellow distemper over any given area of wall-surface. Small tables are ranged about the yard, and hither crowds of Germans resort in the summer time, to feast upon ragoûts of occult material, washed down with gallons of the ruddy malt liquor. In places of this kind, as, indeed, in most of the upper-class eating-houses of New York, the waiters are almost exclusively Germans. It is a specialty with Germans to attend in restaurants, and excellent waiters they for the most part make. Many of them have received fair educations, and not a few are excellent linguists, speaking two or three languages besides their own. They pick up English very soon after their arrival in this country. The first phrase in our language which every German waiter learns is, “ All right!" This he uses with great complacency, though not always in the right place. “ Waiter, these eggs are boiled quite hard.” “All right!” “Waiter, I ordered veal cutlet, and you ’ve brought me Wienersnitschel.” “All right!” This phrase he never drops, though he learns in time to make proper application of it. He seldom has that indescribable air of politeness peculiar to French waiters. Sometimes, indeed, the German waiter is open to the charge of surliness ; but this, in most cases, applies only to newcomers, who have not yet mastered the first rudiments of the English language, and, diffident about committing themselves to its intricacies, are driven to taciturnity and apparent moroseness.
More characteristic yet than the Broadway restaurants conducted on German principles are the smaller ones scattered everywhere throughout the city,—queer, dingy, rattle-trap dining-houses in which families of Teuton race — men, women, and children — appear to pass a great deal of their time. Take one as a specimen of the class. It is a small wooden house, standing in a row of similar cheap structures, close by one of the main horse-car avenues of the city. The street door opens right into the principal apartment, which is a room sadly out of perspective, owing to the settling of the timbers. The floor is covered with fresh sawdust. Rings of stale beer are observable on the small walnut tables, and the place reeks with the fumes of strong tobacco. The bar, which is also a counter for the exposition — as the term now goes —of a wonderful amount and variety of pungent viands, looks like a breastwork thrown up by a regiment of gourmands to oppose the march of famine. It is piled with joints and manufactured meats adapted to the strong German stomach; — enormous fat hams, not thoroughly boiled, for the German prefers his pig underdone ; rounds of cold corned beef, jostled by cold roast legs and loins of veal; pyramids of sausages of every known size and shape, and several cognate articles of manufactured swine-meat, of which it would be too much for the present writer to remember the names; baskets full of those queer, twisted, briny cakes which go variously, I believe, by the names of Pretzel and Wunder; sardine - boxes piled upon each other quite in the Pelion-upon-Ossa way; huge glass jars of pickled oysters, flanked by huge earthen jars of caviare. Raw onions in heaps give a tone to the combined odors of all these ; and through this confusion of smells come powerful whiffs of the Limburger and Sweitzer cheeses, without which the menu of no German restaurant would be considered complete. Conspicuously posted upon the walls are the Weinlisten, from which documents you gather that white wine is to be had at from one dollar and a quarter to three dollars per bottle, and red wine at from one dollar to four. The inevitable keg of lager-bier lies upon Its slanting trestles, behind one end of the counter. Opening from this room there is a smaller one, lower by a step, and beyond that, up a step, is the real snuggery of the concern, which, in winter, suggests the joys of summer to the habitués of the retreat. This is a room of irregular shape, running almost to an acute angle at its farther end, and in this angle, by fencing off a few cubic yards of space with an ornamental iron railing, is formed a little delta of perennial verdure, roofed with glass. A fountain, presided over by an aquarian boy of cast-iron, painted white, plays in the centre of the little oasis. Numbers of gold-fishes are swimming in the basin of the fountain, which is tastefully bordered with rosy sea-shells. The water-plants in this plot are very pulpy and vigorous, and the ivy pursues its reptile course, with some weakness of purpose, among the intricacies of the vegetation. To give perspective and grandeur to the whole, the inevitable scenic artist has painted the walls with mountain scenery, his conceptions generally being of a mixed character, comprising such anomalies as Swiss châlets shaded by tropical palms. Photographs from cartoons by Kaulbach hang upon the walls. On a bracket in one corner there is a bust of Schiller, faced by one of Shakespeare in the angle opposite. Schiller is ever present to the German mind. The first monument erected in Central Park was that placed there by Germans to the memory of the poet,— a massive head in cast-iron, gazing thoughtfully from its pedestal at the swans that navigate the lake.
The amount of business done in many such rickety, unpromising places as the one just described is sometimes really astonishing. There is no lack of steady patronage during the daytime, when diners come dropping in, by twos and threes, to make havoc of the spiced victuals and fresh-tapped lager-bier. But at night, when the German theatres and other places of entertainment have disgorged their multitudes, then the carver of the cold pig has to gird himself up for his work, and the youth who “ the spigot wields ” in front of the trestled kegs is driven to his best pace in filling out the Seidel of creamy malt. The company in these resorts at night is a very mixed one. The legal and medical professions — in German — are fully represented. Tradesmen and small brokers of every grade abound, many of them bringing their wives and children with them. Yon good-looking man, with heavy amber mustache and closely-cropped head, is an extensive dealer in birds and rare animals of all sorts, and is reputed to have amassed a fortune in the business. Should you have occasion for a rhinoceros, a boa-constrictor, or a harpy eagle from Surinam. (these are mere luxuries, of cosc, and I am only supposing a case,) you can obtain them to order from that enterprising German with the meerschaum face and amber mouth-piece. He has agents in all parts of the world, and may be dreaming, as he sits there in his own cloud of smoke, about expected advices from across the seas, of a giraffe, or a gorilla, bespoken for some spirited showman. Observe that person who looks so like a Russian boyar in his long green caftan heavily trimmed with fur, and cap to match,—a man with a marked stoop in the shoulders, and wearing blue spectacles upon his nose. That is a well-known — nay, renowned — musical composer, and conductor of concerts organized upon the monster principle. Musicians of more humble pretensions are also mingled with the throng. That small, pale-faced man, holding to his heart a brass ophicleide wrapped in green baize, and somewhat taller than himself, is currently believed to drink from forty to sixty glasses of lager-bier every day the year round, except holidays, —when he drinks more. Men with fiddle-cases abound, and there sits a man with both a fiddle-case and a wife. See what a fine, wholesome appetite the lady has. She calls for caviare, and when it comes she chops up with it a large slice of raw onion, and, having added to the whole a squeeze of lemon-juice and a liberal dusting of black pepper, spreads the savory mess upon thickly - buttered brown bread, and attacks it with zest. Her companion prefers the spicy sausage, to a roll of which, about four inches in diameter, he addresses himself emphatically. " Deep as the rolling Zuyder Zee ” are the draughts of creamy beer indulged in by the hearty couple. But beer is not the only liquor ordered by the customers. Many bottles of Rhine-wine are circulating at the tables, and there is a fair consumption of Kirschwasser, Kornschnapps, arrack, and the various other strong waters more or less in use among the Germans.
On a far greater scale than the beerhouses just described are the German places of entertainment where music is provided for the gratification of the customers. The largest of these halls — some of which are capable of accommodating from two to three thousand people at a time — are situated in the Bowery. Many are roofed with glass, and fitted with, fixed tables, which extend, in rows, from end to end of the room. Common wooden benches, instead of chairs, are provided for the customers. From the afternoon until a late hour at night, musicians ply their art industriously in a gallery high overhead. The players remove the instruments from their lips only to exchange them for mugs of lager-bier. In the intervals of the music they light their pipes or cigars, and sit gravely studying the scores before them, as if they smoked in quavers and crotchets, and drank whenever they had forty bars’ rest. It is common to see a table in these places occupied by one family, the smallest baby belonging to which comes in for its share of lagerbier. The tall glasses, like lamp-chimneys, that stand before some of the customers, contain Weissbier, a large glass being necessary to allow for the quantity of froth arising from that light and acid kind of malt liquor. Numerous waiters — many of them mere boys — weave themselves in and out through the crowd, with half a dozen mugs of lager in each hand, and a couple of the lamp-chimney arrangements full of Weissbier tottering atop of all. Small Teutonic girls, with their yellow hair strained back to a painful degree of tightness by semicircular combs, patrol the alleys with little trays before them, offering assorted bon-bons for sale. In the side-alleys games of various kinds are carried on. There is invariably a shooting-gallery of some twelve yards in length, where the bold marksman from the Hartz Mountains, perhaps, pops little shuttle-cock bolts from a spring gun at a grotesque figure made of painted wood, which, on being hit in the “bull’s-eye,” whisks round on a pivot, and jerks a lovely woman of painted wood into its place. The walls in some of these resorts are decorated with cartoons of wondrous conception. I remember one terrible battle-piece, about forty feet long by twelve high, in which that small but redoubtable chieftain, General Sigel, who was the favorite leader of the American Germans in the early days of the war, figured to much advantage. He was represented as careering upon a frantic steed over a battle-field thickly strewn with the bodies of dying Confederates and of dead, waving over his head a falchion of romantic length. Fritz, the waiter, who served under him in Germany, in ’48, will recommend to you some particular ragoût of acid flavor because it was a favorite dish of Sigel’s, and there was a compound beverage named after him in one place that I recall.
Theatrical entertainments used to be a feature of many of these great beersaloons, but the law no longer allows performances of the kind to be mixed up with lager, although music and dominos are not considered as incompatible with beverages to any desired extent. In the saloons there are often aviaries stocked with a great variety of birds. Some of those little enclosures already described are fitted up with curious models, representing mountains and châteaux and cottages, the real rocks covered with real moss. There is always a fountain among these, the water from which turns the wheel of a little mill, and keeps in motion a number of small wooden figures, engaged in various occupations, agricultural and domestic. Crowded as these immense halls are at night, it is very seldom that any disturbance occurs in them. Two or three policemen, in citizen’s garb, are on hand in each, indeed, but their services are not often called into requisition. Here and there loud talking may be heard at the tables, for the Germans are very disputatious, and lagerbier, notwithstanding all that has been affirmed to the contrary, is intoxicating in its effects. But the excitement produced by it seems to be of a mild and innocuous character. Gambrinus, the patron saint of Bavarian beer, is but a drowsy duplicate of Bacchus, after all; nor does the festive goat, whose gambols on the sign-boards of the beerhouses are supposed to typify the playfulness of the Teuton in a state of malt, appear to be exactly the right animal in the right place.
It is notable how much the German’s idea of domestic felicity is disconnected with his own roof and threshold. He works assiduously at his calling from daylight until early afternoon, looking upon his dwelling as a workshop only, and fleeing from it with his wife and children at every available opportunity, to take his ease in the Garten Wirthschaft, which is really his home. Some of the poorest among the artisans drudge laboriously every day in the week, looking forward to Sunday, especially in summer, as a carnival time when it is right and proper that a good part of the six days’ earnings should be invested in libations to Gambrinus. In a little shop hard by where I am writing, there has sat for years, day after day all the weeks round, a graft old German shoemaker, browed and bearded like a satyr. His workshop measures about ten feet by six. The sleeping arrangement for himself and family, at the farther end of it, is a pitch-dark closet, not much larger than an ordinary cupboard. Rough-grained though he seems to be, he must have his bit of verdure nevertheless ; and there it is, — a sickly geranium, pining at the window in its earthen pot. On Sundays he and his wife spruce themselves up a little, and, having packed a basket with the everlasting sausages and Swiss cheese, away they go with their two small children, until they bring up at some holiday grove outside the city, where speculators have set up their altars for the sale of the refreshing beer. And this is the regular Sunday délassement, at New York, of thousands like my old satyr who pulls at waxed ends, and hammers upon shoe soles, in the little shop yonder, for sixty or seventy hours of every week, the year round.
The favorite summer resorts for Germans of every degree are situated on the Jersey side of the Hudson River, away back of Hoboken, north and west, There is no law upon that happy shore against the sale of liquors on Sunday, and hence the preference. To the large breweries that tower up throughout that section of the country, saloons are usually attached, most of them provided with billiard-tables, and having large gardens on the premises, in which swings and “ merry-go-rounds ” for the young folks are "fitted up. For the convenience of dancing parties there is generally a piano in the saloon. The Teutonic vintner is eccentric about his piano. I was acquainted with one stridulous instrument of the kind which was “ contrived a double debt to pay,” one end of it having been converted into a trestle for the irrepressible keg of lager-bier. The old machine was cracked in its upper register, and husky in its lower, as though it had taken its tone from the drowsing liquor of the place. Another, upon which I came in the arbor of a small wayside hostelry, was painted green, to harmonize with the verdure in which it was embowered, and from nails driven into its body and legs were suspended gay placards, setting forth the names of the liquors to be had at the bar. One of these, I remember, was “ Brandismash.” In the public groves and gardens there is generally a large platform for such dancers as prefer taking their waltzes al fresco, and the waltzing of the Germans generally —more particularly that of the German women — is very graceful and artistic in its way. Large parties usually bring musicians with them, and it is pleasant to hear the strains of those bands from grove to grove on that pleasant Jersey plateau in the fine summer days. Along the roads and lanes of this district groups of German cavaliers are to be met with every fine Sunday during the season, and often in the evenings of week days. These are for the most part young men occupied as clerks in the large wholesale establishments belonging to German merchants in the city. The horses ridden are generally very respectable-looking nags of the livery-stable class, well groomed and caparisoned. Many of these dashing equestrians are got up in a tremendous sporting array, with velvet hunting-caps, high varnished boots, and silver-plated spurs. Sometimes, as they jog along in close column, they break out into harmonized German song, causing the pedestrian to wonder what the occasion can be, until a turn of the road brings him in view of the troop, as it bears down upon him half enveloped in a cloud of ruddy Jersey dust. When these fast young Teutons pull up at the breweries for refreshment, the Rhine-wine sparkles on the board, for they are bound to make a day of it, and have the best of everything.
And if this is the way in which the majority of New York Germans, great and small, spend their Sundays, it may be asked, “What religion do they mostly profess ? ” That I cannot undertake to say. Rationalism seems to prevail among them to a great extent. Rhine-wine is the religion of those who can afford to pay for wine, and lager-bier of those who can’t. Music has much to do with the theology of both classes. All the German places of entertainment— theatres proper excepted — are in full operation on Sundays, and drive an immense business. Sunday-evening concerts, where the music is chiefly of the operatic, or “profane,” character, have always been a leading feature here. With some of these—as with the concerts that used to be given at the great Lion Brewery, near the northern end of Central Park, and at Jones’s Wood — there is interference, from time to time, on the part of the police. When this happens great is the indignation among the Germans. Public meetings are held to denounce the magistracy, and resolutions passed for bringing the matter to legal test ; and, as opinion seems to be generally in favor of letting the well-behaved, if beery, Germans go their own way, things mostly return to their former state after a while, and the horn-blower and the fiddler cease to have their day of rest. New York owes everything to its German element for music so excellent, in a general as well as in a special way, as to win the applause even of Europeans visiting the city. With two or three exceptions, the conductors of all the theatrical orchestras in New York are Germans. The monster concerts are always under the direction of Germans, and nineteen out of every twenty of the performers in them are of the Teutonic race. If you hear a good solo player in one of the orchestras, and inquire as to his name, you are almost sure to find that it is a German one. Sometimes the solo player comes accredited in the programme of the evening with a tremendous flourish of recommendation after his name. Witness the following smashing line about a famous performer on the French horn. I dare not tackle it with my pen, and therefore clip it from the printed document and paste it in,
“ Herr WACK (Grossherzoglich hessen-darmstadtischer Hofmusikus).”
The military bands are all made up of Germans, and in the ball-rooms it is the same thing. The great musical association called the Liederkranz was organized twenty years ago, and from it sprang the Arion Society, now equally famous with the parent one for its vocal and instrumental performances. There are numerous choral societies among the Germans of the city, besides. The most impressive dirge it has ever been my fortune to hear was that one chanted by nine hundred Germans on the steps of the City Hall, when the remains of President Lincoln were borne into the hall, on the 24th of April. 1865. This grand choir was composed of singers chosen from the principal musical organizations of the city.
The humor characteristic of the German race is of a very grotesque and peculiar kind. Like the strong spiced viands on which they batten, it is more pungent than delicate. The caviare and onion of the buxom dame lately mentioned might be something akin to it. This weird, exaggerated type of humor is the staple of the comic illustrated papers published at Berlin and elsewhere in Germany; and just like the caricatures in Kladderadatsch or in Fliegende Blätter are the strange characters and processions got up by the Germans of New York at their carnival,— a feast held by the various musical associations of the city in February of each year. This famous buffo anniversary was instituted so long ago as the sixth century, and its origin is traceable to the Saturnalia of ancient Rome. Every German of any social standing in his community is bound to have among his chattels a masking costume of some kind or other, and the more absurd it is the better. It is a high time for the costumers, that time of the grand February carnival. The decorators and bannerpainters drive a lively business then, and even the poets — poor fellows!-— are in requisition, battering their large German brains into chowder in their efforts to reel off odes and mottoes and comic effusions appropriate to the occasion. In the extraordinary ceremonies arranged to do honor to Prince Carnival, the Arion and Liederkranz organizations take a leading part, the masked ball given by them being on a scale of great magnitude and expense. An Arion ball at the Academy of Music, in carnival time, is a thing to be remembered. Many of the tableaux vivants have reference to the politics of the day, numbering among their characters such personages as Brother Jonathan and Uncle Sam, both of them translated into German with great freedom, President Johnson figures on a platform with “ four-and-twenty tailors, all in a row,” each of them doing his best to aid in the reconstruction of certain damaged garments representing States. Horrible practical jokes are played, such as pitching a man over from the upper tier of boxes to the floor, and thus creating a panic among the revellers, until the manslaughter is found to have been perpetrated in effigy only. Glee-clubs make the night hideous with their imitations of the natural frog-concerts on the Jersey Flats, and there is usually a brass band in attendance, organized on the principle of every musician playing his own tune, and playing that as much out of tune as is consistent with the spirit of the occasion. Surprises are the order of the night, a succession of grotesque combinations and diabolical characters making their appearance when least expected, and in wonderful variety of form and color. There is a good deal of comic art observable throughout all these arrangements ; but it is sadly destitute of refinement, its principal elements being coarse ribaldry and clumsy fool’s play. Besides these entertainments given by the two leading societies, similar ones, though on a smaller scale, are provided by the minor organizations. The Harrnonia does its fooling in wild, if not picturesque array. Likewise do those burly Rhine-winers, the Colonia from Cologne, and the Mayencers from Mayence ; nor are the Mozart Verein, the Männer Chor, the Turn Verein, and no end of other societies which it is unnecessary to enumerate here, slow in giving their countenance to the tumultuous doings by which carnival week is marked.
Physical culture is one of the objects chiefly aimed at by all the organizations, musical and otherwise, to which I have referred ; and in this, as in some other things, Young America would do well to follow the example of Germany in New York. It is by the Turn Verein chiefly that the important branch of education in question is thoroughly attended to and insisted upon. Jones’s Wood, an extensive piece of ground on the East River about three miles from the city, is the spot usually selected by these associated athletes for holding their Turnfest, —a festival given annually some time in the fall of the year. The Turner Zöglinge, consisting of some three or four hundred boys who are being educated according to the system of the Turners, forms a very interesting feature of the procession on these occasions. These Turnfests are picnics on a large scale, the members of the combined societies bringing any amount of provender and beverages with them. The scene is brightened by the presence of many fair damsels belonging to the families of the bold acrobats. Gymnastic feats, of course, are first on the programme of the day, and the artistic manner in which some of these are performed would reflect credit on many a professional of the tan-floored ring. No better evidence of the benefits resulting from a systematic training of the muscles need be looked for than the ruddy, healthful appearance of the young men and boys who figure in these performances. There is always some excellent music, vocal as well as instrumental, in attendance, and the afternoon passes merrily away with dances and a variety of curious German games. But there is a political as well as a physical motive at work among these Turners. In 1865 a convention of Turner organizations was held in Washington representing in all no fewer than fifty-nine associations. This movement resulted in the combination known as the North American Turner Union, with New York as its headquarters, and the officers of the New York Turn Verein as its leading spirits. The following extract from the minutes of the convention shows that a desire for wholesome political reform had much to do with the movement in question.
“ The Turner Bund considers that, in dealing with public affairs in this country in the manner as in most cases it is done, there are great obstacles in the way of true liberty, and the Union declares it to be the duty of each and every association to instruct its members in reference to the various political questions, and to make, as far as they are concerned, every effort against every kind of political corruption.
“ It is further declared, that it will be impossible for the Turner Union to reach its object if the various Turner associations do not take measures to inaugurate an earnest political agitation, and thus do their part in removing the political corruption and partisanship which hitherto have induced many of the German societies to exclude the discussion of political questions.
“The Union calls attention to this subject the more as these questions can be agitated without committing the Turners to the usual system of wire-pulling ; for it cannot be pretended that a decided position in reference to politics can be injurious to the system of organization and association among the Germans, though a few associations might consequently have to be subjected to a process of purification, which can only be beneficial as far as the whole is concerned. The statutes of the Union make it the duty of each member to be or become a citizen of the United States, and it is, therefore, considered exceedingly proper that a corporation of equal citizens should not neglect to do their duty as such.”
Proficiency in the use of fire-arms is another branch to which the Germans devote much attention, and they hold Schützenfeste in the neighborhood of New York every year, at which prizes are awarded to the best marksmen. In the sporting branch of gunnery but little can be said in favor of the Teutonic fowler, who is generally a poacher and pot-hunter of the most arrant type. The remarkable scarcity of song-birds and small birds in general about the environs of New York has been attributed—and with justice, so far as my observation goes — to the German gunners, who act on the principle that all is game that comes to their bags. Numbers of skylarks were imported from Europe and set at liberty on Long Island, in the neighborhood of Brooklyn, a few years ago, and they appeared to be thriving for a while. Gradually they disappeared, however, and there is more than a suspicion afloat that the remains of these ill-fated foreigners had postmortem honors paid to them in company with fancy pig-meats and Swiss cheese. Often, upon an autumnal afternoon, as you cross over by ferry-boat to the Long Island or the Jersey shore, you will fall in with some German butcher from the city, who is going forth deliberately, with gun and dogs, to levy war upon Cock Robin and his friends of the wood-sides and hedges. This character is usually rigged out in true Jäger fashion, with an enormous gamebag, all fringed and tasselled, slung over his shoulder, and a double-barrelled gun of foreign manufacture, with a carved stock, upon his arm. His dogs are seldom of the regular sporting breeds. Sometimes he is accompanied by a large Newfoundlander, sadly out of proportion to the small game in view ; but a dwarfed, bandy-legged variety of beagle, with a very long back, appears to be the animal most favored by the German sportsman as his companion and assistant in the chase. See him on his return, late in the evening, and he is making a great display with a few robins and thrushes, and, mayhap, a squirrel or two, hanging to the loops of his game-bag. Central Park is the only refuge now for the birds about New York, and many a wistful eye have I seen turned upon them by the Germans who sometimes take their afternoon relaxation in that pleasant resort.
In Ins politics the German of New York is largely influenced by lager-bier. The excise law passed by the Legislature in the spring of 1866 was a great source of trouble to him, as it forbade the sale of lager or any other liquor on Sundays, in the cities of New York and Brooklyn, and “ the demesnes that there adjacent lie.” The constitutionality of this law was denied by certain enterprising vintners, and the matter was referred to the Court of Appeals. Pending judgment, the law was not enforced during the summer ; but its effects were apparent in the immense majority of German votes gained by the Democratic party in New York and Brooklyn last fall. Just now, at the opening of the new year, the constitutionality of the law has been affirmed by the Court of Appeals, and the watchwords, “ Liberty and Lager-Bier ! ” are vibrating upon the air in guttural German accents.
Viewing the subject at large, a community like that of New York cannot but derive much benefit from the healthful combination of brain and muscle characteristic of its German element. The greatest benefits, however, will not be fully realized until the absorption of that element has given its tinge to the generations to come.