Recent German Heritage in Baltimore

Figure 1.  Bottle from the Israel Greenberg Bottlers.

Figure 1. Bottle from the Israel Greenberg Bottlers.

Back in January of this year, I wrote an essay about the first wave of German immigration into Maryland. This week, I am taking a look at the later influx of German immigrants.   I was led to this topic when I noticed that our Baltimore collections contained quite a number of beer bottles whose brewers had distinctly German names.

This early twentieth-century bottle (Figures 1 and 2), molded with the name of Baltimore bottler Israel Greenberg, was found in a privy associated with the family of German upholsterer Edward and Vera Hahn (18BC135). The row house formerly occupied by the Hahns had been demolished to make way for the new construction of Baltimore’s Juvenile Justice Center north of the harbor in the city’s Old Town (Williams et al. 2000:234). The same privy also contained bottles from the Gottlieb Bauernschmidt Strauss Brewing Company (Figure 3).

Figure 2.  Drawing of the molded mark on the bottle shown in Figure 1.

Figure 2. Drawing of the molded mark on the bottle shown in Figure 1.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Baltimore was home to immigrants of many nationalities; according to the 1870 census, over 10% of Maryland’s citizens had been born in another country. More than half of that immigrant population was German.

German immigration into Baltimore began in the eighteenth century and saw periods of increased influx as many Germans fled their homeland during the frequent wars that ravaged Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Immigration expanded in the twentieth century, with the number of Germans increasing from 34,000 at the turn of the century to 94,000 in 1914, a figure that constituted 20% of the city’s population. One third of Baltimore’s public schools offered German-language curricula during the 1920s and a quarter of city residents could speak German fluently (Rasmussen 1999).

Figure 3.  Drawing of mark on another bottle from the Hahn privy.  This bottle was contained a beverage from the Gottlief Bauernschmidt Strauss Brewing Company.

Figure 3. Drawing of mark on another bottle from the Hahn privy. This bottle contained a beverage from the Gottlieb Bauernschmidt Strauss Brewing Company.

As with many urban immigrant populations, German residents of Baltimore often faced the challenges of low wages, overcrowding, poor living conditions and poor health conditions. The archaeologists working at 18BC135 found evidence of the changing use of the backyards that reflected greater numbers of people living on the block (Williams et al. 2000:280).

A number of Germanic institutions were established in the city to help immigrants establish themselves in their new home. Perhaps the first such organization in Baltimore was the German Society of Maryland, formed in 1783 (Wust 1981). Baltimore had three German language newspapers, once of which remained in publication until the mid-1970s (Rasmussen 1999). Close to one hundred German-American clubs and aid societies provided assistance to help immigrants meet the challenges of bridging language and cultural barriers, of finding employment, and of the important needs for friendship and entertainment. A home for orphans of German ancestry was established in 1863 (German Orphans Home).

Perhaps most interesting to me was learning about the shooting clubs that were established as early as the mid-19th century. The most popular of these parks, known as Schuetzen vereins, was a 45-acre private establishment called Western Schuetzen Park on the grounds of Mount Clare plantation. In addition to archery and marksmanship competitions, the park sponsored community days, picnics and outdoor concerts (Packard 2012). The park also contained formal gardens, dining halls, bowling alleys and beer gardens (no doubt amply supplied by nearby breweries like Bauernschmidt and Rost).  There were several Schuetzen vereins in Baltimore; Figure 4 shows  a circa 1867 print of one of the other parks, this one located off of Belair Road (now known as Gay Street).

Figure 4.  Circa 1860 print showing Western Schuetzen Park.

Figure 4. Circa 1860 print showing one of Baltimore’s Schuetzen Parks.

German contributions to Maryland’s past have been numerous, but a few of the highlights found on the German Marylanders webpage include the first sugar refinery in the United States, founded in 1796 (Scholtz 1929), the first umbrella manufactory in the nation (the company’s motto was “Born in Baltimore, Raised Everywhere”), started in 1828 by Francis Beehler (Charm City History 2013) and the creation in 1940 by Gustav Brunn of that beloved and most Maryland of seasonings—Old Bay.

Pride in German heritage continues to be strong in Maryland. The Society for the History of Germans in Maryland was founded in 1886, followed in 1900 by the German-American Citizens Association of Maryland. This year’s 114th annual Maryland German Festival was held on June 26th and 27th at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. The festival featured authentic German cuisine, music and, of course, beer!


Charm City History. 2013. “Born in Baltimore, Raised Everywhere”. Website accessed 7-25-2014.

German Orphans Home, 2014. German Orphans Home. German Marylanders. website accessed 7-17-2014.

Packard, Aaron. 2012. Baltimore’s Schuetzen Park & Its Tokens. Nova Numismatics Website accessed July 17, 2014.

Rasmussen, Frederick N. 1999. German Thread Runs Thought Fabric of City. Baltimore Sun. Website accessed 7-18=7-2004.

Scholtz, Karl A. M., 1929. The German Citizens in Baltimore.   Maryland 1729-192, pp. 253-159. Website accessed 7-25-2014.

Williams, Martha, Nora Sheehan and Suzanne Sanders.   2000. Phase I, II, and III Archeological Investigations at the Juvenile Justice Center, Baltimore, Maryland. R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Frederick, Maryland.

Wust, Klaus. 1981. The German Society of Maryland, 1783-1981. The German Society of Maryland, Baltimore.

4 thoughts on “Recent German Heritage in Baltimore

  1. Mount Clare lies on the western part of the city, but it is not near Belair Rd. We’re there two Schuetzen park locations over the years?

  2. Thanks for pointing this out, Beverley. There were several other Schuetzen parks in Baltimore during the nineteenth century. I did a bit more poking around and discovered through the Maryland Historical Society webpage that this print does not depict the Mount Clare park, but another in the more northern portion of the city. I have updated the blog to reflect these corrections.

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