The “old immigrants”
After 1820, European immigration to the United States began to increase greatly. Those who arrived between 1820 and the Civil War (1861-1865) are often referred to as the “old immigrants,” in contrast to the “new immigrants,” who began to arrive in the decades between the Civil War and World War I. Many of these immigrants came either from Germany, already the main country of origin for Americans who spoke a language other than English, or from Ireland. Germany, in particular, continued to supply the greatest number of immigrants to the United States, so that nearly one-fourth of Americans of European origin in 1990 reported that they were primarily of German ancestry. German was widely spoken in the United States until World War I, and many German American communities had their own newspapers and schools. Some of the earliest literary expressions of the Euro-American immigrant experience, therefore, were produced by Germans.
One of the most important early immigrant writers from the German-speaking area of Europe was the Austrian Karl Postl, who changed his name to Charles Sealsfield after his arrival in New Orleans in 1823. Among his other writings, Sealsfield published a widely readhistorical novel, Tokeah: Or, The White Rose (1828), set in the Neches River area of Texas. Later in the nineteenth century, another major German American writer, August Siemering, also wrote about the experiences of Texas Germans during the Civil War in...
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