Imagine America without Uncle Sam or Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Brooklyn Bridge. Imagine America without Babe Ruth or Doris Day or Elvis.
Without the contributions of German Americans, America would not be the country it is today. You know that painting of Washington crossing the Delaware at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? It was painted by Emanuel Leutze. The Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey? They were first drawn by Thomas Nast, who was also the first to render Uncle Sam as we know him today.
Eberhardt Anheuser and Adolphus Busch are revered in bars and taverns all across America and Levi Strauss invented the reinforced cotton trousers that were first worn by the 49ers of the California Gold Rush. John Jacob Astor, John D. Rockefeller, Goldmann Sachs, Oscar Meyer… the list of German Americans who have made their mark on our country goes on and on.
You can find out more about America’s German heritage at the German Tourist Office’s new website GermanOriginality.com. They see the site as a way of promoting travel to Germany for people who want to trace their ancestral roots.
German tourism has always had a tough row to hoe, what with two world wars and the Holocaust, but anyone who thinks these tragic events happened because Germans are bad people has sadly missed the point.
Many German Americans had reason to stop speaking German and celebrating their national heritage during the world wars, and this is one reason their contributions to our way of life have been less visible than other nationalities, but fully one fourth of all Americans are of German ancestry, and our countries have been closely linked since the first German immigrants came to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608.