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The controversy around mechanical music was only a single front in a wider war between the deeply rooted humanism of German culture and the burgeoning new order of modern techno- science. Neatness and clarity are striven for, and dark distanc- es and unfathomable depths are rejected. Cover of "Musik und Mas- chine," special issue of Musikblatter des Anbruch 8, no.
Every- thing is accessible to man; and man is the measure of all things. Metaphysical and theological thought is taking hold in certain groups; astrology, anthroposophy and similar movements are spreading. On the other side: ever more conscious efforts for a scientific worldview, logical-mathematical and empirical thought. One constructs something with tones that is most comparable with a building. This material of music is air, and the tools of music with which we are familiar, human voices and instruments of all sorts, are tools for working on this mate- rial.
J must necessarily arrive at mechanization. J presupposes the unimportance of the emotional and subjective, thus a predominantly collectivist, typical, and objectivizing kind of intellectual orientation. The constructivist form knows no fatherland; it is stateless and the expression of an internationalized way of thought.
For years our literary and graphic arts were devoted to a hysterical glorification of the ego. OBJECTIVE MUSIC The polemical frenzy surrounding mechanical music blurred the distinc- tion between two quite different meanings of the term: first, as a means of replacing the performance of preexisting music; second, and more radically, as a new compositional paradigm conceived from the ground up as music for the machine.
Mechanical music, in this strict sense, is not simply music that happens to be played by mechanical instruments but music specifically composed for these instruments and their technical capabilities. What the hand- punched piano roll encodes is not the trace of a performance but a novel aesthetic phenomenon.
Nothing slips in which is not fixed in the notes by pitch, meter, rhythm, tempo, and dynamics. Every trace of spontaneity, sentiment, and impulse is expunged. For I heard something serene, unquestion- ably self-contained and delineated: mechanical music. Accordingly, rather than concerning themselves with the capability of performers, composers must now attend to lis- teners and their perceptual abilities. But the final per- formance of the Donaueschingen festival, a stage work called the Triadic Ballet, put a very different face on the mechanization of art.
On the stage, three dancers in brightly colored or metallic geometrical costumes performed a series of puppetlike dances, their motions slow and deliberate, animated by a dreamlike seriousness. Offstage and out of sight, a mechanical organ intoned a musical accompaniment, its motoric rhythms seeming to animate the abstract figures onstage.
Equal parts formal rigor and vaudeville playfulness, the Triadic Ballet was at once a multimedia showcase for the mechanical aesthetic and a bizarre critique of the entire phenomenon. The work was the brainchild of Oskar Schlemmer, one of the fore- most theorists and practitioners of the Bauhaus theater. He saw his theatrical innovations as a continuation of the earlier experimental works of artists such as Viking Eggeling, Alexander Lazio, and Ludwig Hirschfeld-Mack, who sought to integrate sound, light, and motion in a single cre- ative vision.
In his pedagogical activities at the Bauhaus, Schlemmer also exhibited a keen interest in music and sound as aspects of stage performance. He encouraged his students to explore the possibili- ties of both mechanical and traditional musical instruments and to investigate the various tonal qualities arising from different physical materials.
Oskar Schlemmer's costume sketches for the Triadic Baitet. Source: Walter Gropius, ed. Arthur S. Schlemmer compared the result to the form of a marionette. The third is based on the laws of motion of the human body, creating shapes based on the dynamic potential of the different body parts. The Triadic Ballet was finally premiered in Stuttgart in and underwent a num- ber of changes and different productions over the following decade.
From the number three and its multiples, Schlemmer 44 I "The Joy of Precision" derived the organizing principle of the entire work. The Triadic Ballet comprises three aesthetic dimensions costumes, music, and dance. There are three dancers, eighteen costumes, and twelve dances. The work contains three major sections, each further subdivided into a series of short dances. His decision to present the ballet in with newly composed music for mechanical organ was likely motivated in part by these criticisms.
Schematic representation of the Triadic Ballet's overall structure. First published as Die Biihne im Bauhaus Munich: Albert Langen Verlag, ], the twentieth century, the organ had been regarded as a triumph in the technological mastery of sound. Hindemith noted with pride how he had wrested music of great 46 I "The Joy of Precision" figure 7. Paul Hindemith composing on a piano roll, circa The character of his accompaniment is typical of the mechanical music genre, favoring sprightly tempos, poly- phonic textures, and virtuosic figuration.
He drolly noted that the only thing missing was a mechanical audience that automatically whistled and clapped. It is only a question of time and money, in order to complete the experiment in this fashion. Schlemmer, like Stuckenschmidt, viewed the machine not as a threat but as an opportunity for new forms of artistic expression.
Their goal was not the fetishization of technology but rather a degree of formal purity that the self-consciousness of performers could only impede. But the two men diverged when it came to the broader meaning of mechanization. For Stuckenschmidt, mechanical instruments were weapons in the struggle between antiquated artistic obscurantism and the modern scientific worldview. Schlemmer, on the other hand, preached a parallelism between technological advancement and spiri- tual depth.
Consequently, potentialities of constructive configuration are extraordinary on the metaphysical side as well. After the second concert in , the movement quickly came to an end. The once vast potential of mechanical instruments seemed to be suddenly and entirely exhausted. Stuckenschmidt withdrew from his proselytizing and penned an acerbic critique of the musical in- fluence of the New Objectivity.
His motive may have been in part per- sonal: in spite of his central role in the development of mechanical music, Stuckenschmidt had not been invited to write music for the concert in Donaueschingen concert. Several weeks before the concert, he wrote a letter to Prince Max Egon of Baden, the nominal patron of the festival, claiming he was the victim of inexplicable injustice on the part of the organizers of the concert among them Paul Hindemith and asking the prince to intervene on his behalf.
Nothing came of it. But the real problem, Haass argued, is that devices such as the Welte-Mignon have been designed from the beginning as instruments of reproduction, meant to record and re-create the highly individual playing techniques of human performers. While Haass tempered his critique by noting that the Welte-Mignon was still capable of playing extremely fast and otherwise unperformable music, his article was an early sign of a growing unease among the ad- vocates of mechanical music.
Before long, they found that the unique technical affordances offered by the instrument — extreme speed, sustained volume, and sheer mass of musical activity — quickly wore thin. Mechanical music seemed perfectly suited to this purpose, because it ran at a constant tempo, just like the film reel. Thus, no sooner had Hindemith attempted to salvage a role for mechanical music as synchronized film accompaniment than this function was eclipsed by the newer and more advanced technology of sound-on-film.
Why synchronize the film reel with a mechanical organ when the music can now be recorded directly onto the sound track? The programs of the next few festivals featured various configurations of film and music, both live and recorded on sound film, but only one additional piece of film music for mechanical instruments, a collaborative piece for the Welte-Mignon by Hindemith and Werner Graff for the Hans Richter experimental short Vormittagsspuk Ghosts before breakfast.
This was the last known original piece of music for mechanical instruments com- posed in the Weimar Republic. The ideal of mechanical music would not be abandoned, however, but pursued in new forms. But they also opened up a new sound world far beyond the confines of the piano, a domain of infinite tonal "The Joy of Precision" I 51 gradations and undiscovered timbres. Another response to the failure of mechanical music was to turn to the new field of electric instruments that had opened up in the second half of the s.
In these instruments, the electrical signal emitted by vacuum tubes was converted into a mu- sical tone, allowing a new degree of control over pitch, dynamics, and timbre. The underlying principle of elektrische Klangerzeugung electric tone generation promised to expand the domain of sound, albeit with human performers ensconced at the controls.
In the music journals of the time, the phrase became a catchall for contemporary develop- ments in music technology, from radio to gramophone to new electric instruments. On a more technical register, the engineer Peter Lertes, who in published the first book-length overview of the new elec- tric instruments, used the term mechanical as a retronym to describe nonelectrophones, similar to the way the word acoustic has been used in the second half of the twentieth century.
He played a curious device consisting of an L-shaped handle that he turned on its axis around a semicircular metal panel; as the handle moved, a connected loudspeaker emitted a keening, disembodied tone that glided and swooped, sounding either out of tune or otherworldly. This device — the Spherophone — was intended to usher in a new kind of music based on microtonal pitch increments discernable to the ear but unattainable by most instruments.
But by the late s, German inventors were constructing a bewildering array of electric artifacts, experimenting boldly with both playing interfaces and techniques of tone production. The result was a class of instrument so novel that it would even- tually require a new organological category to account for it — the electrophone.
Around these auspicious devices, there gathered a net- work of composers, performers, engineers, and journalistic acolytes brought together by glimmering visions of new musical horizons. Although electric music was nourished by the same technological enthusiasm that fed mechanical music, the two movements were in other ways worlds apart. First, electrophones were instruments in the colloquial sense — played live by musicians, rather than programmed and later mechanically activated — and so were more readily embraced by a skeptical musical public.
Second, if mechanical music was a manifestation of the cool, detached sensibility of the New Sobriety, electric music resonated with the apoca- lyptic spirit of expressionism, the diffuse artistic mood that flourished in the years around the First World War. Stuckenschmidt championed mechanical music as an art form suited to the modern, scientific world- view with its distrust of unseen forces, Mager and his allies heard elec- trically generated tones as manifestations of primal energy, signals from the beyond.
He grew up in modest circumstances as one of thirteen children. Having settled on the vocations of schoolteacher and church organist, Mager became serendipitously involved in instrument building in the summer of 19 1 1, when — according to his own telling — a heat wave wrenched his church pipe organ badly out of tune. He procured a set of organ pipes and carefully tuned each by ear to cre- ate a quarter-tone scale, interleaving an additional pitch between each of the twelve semitones of the conventional keyboard.
In the clutch of enthusiasm, he penned a letter to Richard Strauss inform- ing the famed composer of his potentially epochal discovery. Quarter-tone intervals were thus obtained by playing the two manuals simultaneously. He listed each of the eleven new dyads and pro- vided short characterizations of their sounds. As early as , Hermann von Helmholtz had argued in his widely read On the Sensations of Tone that tuning systems are based less on the unchanging nature of sound than on the vagaries of human culture.
Behrens-Senegalden patented in Around the same time, the German sociologist Max Weber was investigating tuning in his study of the social and historical development of European music from the standpoint of mathematical rationaliza- tion. The dominance of equal temperament exhibits the dou- ble edge of rationalization. Syrinx, a novel pub- lished in by the writer and poet Julius Maria Becker , tells the story of a schoolteacher and church organist named Hamann and his quest to overcome the suffocating constriction of musical ex- pression imposed by conventional systems of tuning: We should cry out at the brutality of our scales.
They defraud us of the sub- tlest gradations available to the domain of sound and pin down an infinity to twelve points. They are twelve columns in a river without bridges con- necting them; the whole thing is in truth an acoustic fragment with whose "The Alchemy of Tone" I 57 imperfection the world cannot be content. We have run it through a sieve and come up with these twelve drops, which give only a faint idea of the vastness of the primal sea.
Like Busoni, he was convinced that new instruments alone could surmount the impasse music had reached in the early twentieth century. The exploration of new systems of tuning based on intervals finer than the tempered semitone, then, was more than a merely technical matter. If the history of tuning had traced a trajectory of disenchantment, Mager suggested that enlightened technologies could reinstate the unspoiled wholeness that had been sacrificed on the altar of musical rationalization.
His goal, in short, would be to capture the infinite in an instrument. The inventor was soon called to the front, where he served as a soldier and medic. As a committed socialist, Mager later took part in the Communist uprising in Munich, but after its fail- ure he was forced to flee for Berlin, fearing prosecution for his involve- ment in the attempted revolution. Ferruccio Busoni, whose in- fluential Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music had proposed the pos- sibility of the division of the whole tone into thirds and sixths, was summoned to the city in to lead a master class at the Academy of Fine Arts, and his presence drew a number of young composers who were interested in microtonal composition and instrument building.
They all were veterans of the mi- crotonal scene: Stein had composed and published quarter-tone music as early as ; Mager and Mollendorf had built quarter-tone instru- ments in and , respectively; and Wyschnegradsky and Haba had had their microtonal works published and performed. Flowever, none were satisfied with the available means of realizing their music.
In the fall of , the five men convened to determine a course of action for the development of microtonal instruments. Although the conference ended without any clear resolution, it was a decisive event for Mager, who by this time had come to see the quarter-tone system as an unacceptable compromise between his ideals and the limitations of conventional instrumental technology.
The meeting cemented his decision to abandon acoustic instruments in fixed tuning and instead attempt to gain control of the pitch spectrum by means of electric tone generation. Shortly after inventing the incandescent light bulb in , Thomas Edison had no- ticed that the cathode inside the bulb generated a mysterious emission that blackened the interior of the glass. This finding, investigated but not fundamentally understood by Edison, was later taken up by John Ambrose Fleming, who discovered that the so-called Edison effect was a process of thermionic emission, in which an electric charge flowed from the heated cathode to the anode.
In , Fleming invented the diode or two-element thermionic valve, which found use as a rectifier, converting alternating current into direct current and thus aiding in the conversion of radio signals into audio. A relatively small signal passed to the grid would therefore regulate a much larger current between the cathode and anode, thus amplifying the original signal. Most important, for the later development of electric instruments, he found that beyond a certain level of amplification, the Audion began to hiss, whistle, and howl.
It was no longer simply receiving and amplifying signals; it was now gen- erating its own. It would set in motion a major technological shift, as the vacuum tube in myriad forms together with AC distribution systems replaced the large and unwieldy dynamos as the primary means of generating and controlling electricity. It was in this technological context that Jorg Mager undertook his first experiments in electric tone generation in Berlin in the early s. Fie described the path to his invention in his pamphlet A New Epoch of Music through Radio, published on the occasion of the first German Radio Exhibition in Of course, not with radio transmission, but rather direct generation of musical tones by means of cathode instruments!
Indeed, cathode music will be far superior to previous music, in that it can generate a much finer, more highly developed, richly colored music than all our known musical instruments! A button on the handle closed the circuit, generating a tone for as long as it was held down.
As the player turned the crank, the instrument generated a continuous, gliding transition between tones; it was thus perfectly suited to obtain the finest microtonal inflections. Recounting his joy 62 I "The Alchemy of Tone" figure 9. Technical draft of Jorg Mager's crank-operated electric instrument, circa The pan-tonal circle lay before me! The ocean of tone in its immeasurability! The omnitonium, the musical ideal of all times! For these figures, as for Mager, the glissando was nothing less than the infinite tonal spectrum made audible.
Both employed "The Alchemy of Tone" I 63 beat-frequency oscillators, a means of tone generation based on the heterodyne principle discovered by the Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden in , which allowed for the production of a musical tone as the by-product of two inaudible high-frequency vibrations. As is well known from the study of acoustics, two simultaneous oscillations generate a new vibration whose frequency is equal to the difference between the frequencies of the original two.
The extraordinary richness of tones enables an extraordinary fullness of harmonies. This great number of tones can be most easily named with the number of their vibrations [i. All the euphonies thus discovered will be fixed, until laws for the construction of genuine consonances and disso- nances have been found. For Mager, the music of the future, unleashed by new instruments, echoed the timeless song of the cosmos. Friends of new music, music administrators, acousticians, press, and patrons, help us to attain this, and there is no doubt that something truly great and valuable will emerge!
The money need not be a gift, Busoni wrote — it could surely be paid back with interest in the not- too-distant future. Da cosa nasce cosa [out of one thing comes another] — who knows where it might lead? Its ability to generate tones of any frequency sug- gested to him the possibility of creating synthetic timbres through the superposition of pure tones in harmonic proportions. If this effort were successful, he reasoned, all existing musical instruments would quickly become superfluous. Finally, Hindemith pointed out the economic implications: traditional instruments such as violin and piano were unaffordable for most people, but a Spherophone built to the size of a typical radio receiver — and sold for a similar price — could find a place in every home.
With the addition of a second crank, positioned on the underside of the semicir- cular plate, the instrument was able to achieve a more conventionally musical transition between tones. Previously, to get from one tone to another, the player had to pass through all the intervening pitches, cre- ating a glissando, or release the button while moving the crank to its new position, introducing a gap of silence.
Now the second crank could be moved to the position of the new tone while the first tone was still sounding. By enabling a legato transition between tones, Mager con- formed the Spherophone to conventional playing techniques, and thus took a major step toward the mainstream acceptance of his instrument.
Here the Spherophone shared the spotlight with the eponymous instru- ment of the Russian inventor Leon Theremin. Like the Spherophone, the Theremin produced an eerie, keening tone that evoked supernatural images in the minds of many listeners. Theremin had first toured Germany in , and he set up a laboratory and resi- dence in Berlin in , where he made contact with the Soviet gov- ernment agent Georg Julius Goldberg, who assisted him with publicity and filing patents.
Mager was presented as an archetypical German ro- mantic, idealistic and impractical, while Theremin was depicted as a suave, theatrical showman. Delicate, almost hypersensitive natures with many of the marks of Western European decadence — men that one meets almost never in technical professions but very often in the arts. Beyond their shared calling as musician-inventors, both Mager and Theremin staked their careers on the claim that electric instruments could be reconciled with the expressive demands of performing musicians.
One of the many journalistic juxtapositions of Leon Theremin and Jorg Mager. Source: Die Musik 20, no. By focusing on the immateriality of electric tone production, they attempted to de- couple technology and mechanism and thus accommodate the critiques of mechanical music. Whereas mechanical instruments represented the complete externalization of music from the human being, electric instru- ments were conceived as technological extensions of the human body; instead of posing an obstacle for musical expression, they enabled direct contact between musicians and their medium.
Indeed, many writings on electric music from this period evince a remarkable consistency almost suggestive of a coordinated publicity offensive. This is a fundamental difference from mechani- cal music, in which the dead instrument reigns absolutely. It always produces merely a reproduction of a reproduction, unless one — as has happened — composes for the machine on the basis of its characteristic properties. This is by no means the case, however dangerous the word electricity may sound to artists.
One will readily perceive that this most sensitive of all elements can be influenced through the senses far more easily than the complicated mechanism of a piano. Jdrg Mager and an assistant in the laboratory around the time of the Musik im Leben der Volker international exhibition in Frankfurt. Source: "Eine neue Epoche der Musikgeschichte? In the late s, his focus gradually turned from the microtonal manipulation of the pitch spectrum to the exploration of tim- bre through electric tone generation.
Mager had been grappling for some time with the possibility of using electricity to create new tone colors. And here great prospects beckon. Although traditional instruments had advanced in many respects to allow the performer an ever greater command of pitch for example, valves on brass instruments and equal temperament on keyboards and volume the steel-frame grand piano , the timbre of a given instrument was essentially hardwired and thus largely closed off to compositional design and performative gesture.
For Mager, the manipulation of timbre thus represented the final frontier of instrument building, a problem to which electric tone generation offered the ideal solution. In order to demonstrate how timbre could be artificially generated and controlled, Helmholtz built an apparatus consisting of a set of tuning forks tuned to the harmonic spectrum of a low B-flat.
Each fork was placed between the two poles of an electromagnet and in front of a tube-shaped resonator that ampli- fied its otherwise quiet tone. When the electromagnets were charged, the tuning forks were set into continuous vibration, their relative volume adjusted by partially covering the cavity of the appropriate resonator. Helmholtz described how he could use this device to construct artificial timbres through the carefully calibrated superimposition of individual sine tones.
By isolating timbre as a distinct aspect of sound, Helmholtz demonstrated that tone color was scientifi- cally manipulable, as opposed to God-given and inalterable. Indeed, we already know the magic of timbre, which is to music what color and complexion is to painting. But how poor are our current means of calling forth sound in its infinite richness — and why?
Because our technical means are insufficient. We know from Helmholtz how sound comes into being, that it owes its existence to the simultaneous sounding of many tones, and we can conclude from this that the timbral element must surpass by far the other ele- ments in terms of richness and inexhaustibility. But as long as we are forced to make use only of the few sounds that we can incidentally create, instead of freely combining tones of any number into sounds, this treasure remains closed to us.
The possibility of such a free mastery of tone generation seems to rest upon the use of electricity in the creation of tones, and when we perceive in the example of the telephone how electricity makes possible the reproduction of so many sonic variables, our hope for the free mastery of sound must naturally affix itself to electricity.
In a speculative passage at the end of his 19 11 Theory of Harmony, Schoenberg had suggested the possibility of creating successions of tone colors that possessed the same kind of musical logic that connected the pitches of a melody — a pros- pect he gave the name of Klangfarbenmelodie tone-color melody.
The idea of the spectrum was simply extended from pitch to timbre, from tuning to tone color. For Schoenberg, Klangfarbenmelodie had nothing to do with creat- ing new timbres; rather, it was essentially a novel approach to orchestra- tion. The first technique was to affix plates of various shapes, sizes, and materials to loudspeaker drivers to obtain new tone colors.
The resonant frequencies of these objects interacted with the harmonic spectrum of the electrically generated tones to create novel "The Alchemy of Tone" I 73 and unpredictable timbral effects. These are the loudspeakers. But with his increasing knowledge, he began to gather membranes of astoundingly varied sonic character, sought explicitly for his purposes. Glass sounds different than wood, hanging sheet metal different than an electrically excited gong.
This technique was pioneered by the engi- neer Karl Willy Wagner , whom Mager encountered at the Telegrafen-technischen Reichsamt Reich Office for Telegraph Technol- ogy , where Wagner was president from to He developed two kinds of filters, which attenuated frequencies above and below a des- ignated cutoff point.
Wagner noticed that if a low-pass filter is applied to a violin tone, the sound loses its characteristic timbre and resembles that of a flute. With high-pass filters, on the other hand, one can create timbres in which the lower partials are attenuated or cut out altogether.
Because periodic tones typically have a greater accumulation of energy volume at the lower end of the frequency spectrum, a high-pass filter allows for the creation of timbres whose structure is in direct contradic- tion to the natural acoustic tendency of higher overtones to decrease in volume.
Flidden away in his later patents are techniques that straddle the boundary between the imitative reproduction of familiar sounds and sonic experimentation of a more speculative nature. Because of the nonlinear na- ture of human hearing, adjusting the frequency of the modulating tone changes the frequencies of the four tones and their proportional rela- tions to each other; for example, an increase of hertz applied to all four tones will result in a different perceived intervallic shift for each.
Mager describes a scenario in which four low tones in a very narrow frequency range create the sensation of rolling or rumbling through the beating of their vibrations. As the modulating frequency is increased, the sound changes from a rattling to a hissing. If the modulated tones he in the middle range, the sense of definite pitch is lost; if they are very high in pitch, a slight alteration of the modulating tone creates a chirping sound, and a wider variation creates a sound like that of the howling of the wind.
Unlike the heterodyne-based beat- frequency oscillator of his earlier instrument, this new device generated audible tones through the feedback method earlier explored by radio engineers such as Armstrong and de Forest. Mager eventually dropped the name Kaleidophone in favor of Klaviatur-Spbdropbon Keyboard Spherophone , thus creating a nominal link with earlier models, in spite of the new design. By adjusting the angle of the mechanical connection, the duplicated drawing can be made larger or smaller than the original.
Thus, the familiar gestures of keyboard technique could be mapped onto a new, electrically altered pitch space. The interval spanned by an octave on the keyboard could be made as small as a major second, so that each successive step on the keyboard represented an interval of a twelfth tone, resulting in a scale with 72 distinct pitches in each octave. Mager had not given up on microtonality, but he had abandoned the free-float- ing glissando characteristic of the first generation of electric instruments.
Jorg Mager's notation system for the division of the octave into seventy-two equal intervals. The fate of electric music, Mager declared, hinged on the emergence of pa- trons to support its development. His appeal apparently found a sym- pathetic audience: just months after his demonstration, he received an unprecedented offer of institutional backing.
While he had previously cobbled together a living from intermittent school-teaching duties and stipends from a patchwork of government agencies, he was now guaranteed a generous yearly income. In addi- tion, Mager was provided with an able staff of assistants and allowed to live and work in the Prinz-Emil-Schlofchen, a stately rococo manor constructed in the late eighteenth century.
The latest model of his instrument was in essence an expanded version of the ear- lier Keyboard Spherophone, now equipped with three manuals and a pedal board for a total of four voices. Jorg Mager playing the three-manual Partiturophon, circa Note how his left hand is fingering keys on both the upper and the middle manual: this technique was required for polyphonic playing, as each manual could sound only one tone at a time.
Although noting shortcomings such as the lack of convincing brass and string timbres and a certain tonal mo- notony throughout its various registers, Scherchen offered a vigorous endorsement of the latest model. The instrument was far more wel- coming than earlier versions: it could plug into any domestic electrical socket, and its keyboard interface would be familiar to most musicians. The score calls for four low notes, which were traditionally played on huge bells or other metallophones.
The growling of the poodle is accompanied by microtones. For Walpurgis Night there is ghostly, demonic, eccentric music. The howling of the long-tailed monkey is created by powerfully vibrating metal membranes. But while his role as pioneer of electric music had been largely uncontested since his public debut in , he soon found himself in the middle of a crowded field. Toward the end of the s, a wave of new electric instruments began to appear not only in Germany but also in the United States, France, and the Soviet Union.
Perhaps even more troubling than the growing field of competi- tors, however, was the absence of original compositions for the new "The Alchemy of Tone" I 81 instruments. Early expressions of interest from composers such as Hindemith and Haba had come to nothing, and no others had stepped up in their place.
Untroubled by questions of audience or repertoire, Mager focused his attention on his inventions, seemingly led by the assumption that practicalities would be resolved of their own accord once the instru- ments were perfected. First, automatic in- struments such as the Welte-Mignon mechanical piano offered compos- ers a means of transmitting their work directly to a machine, bypassing the variability and physiological limitations of human performers.
For the champions of the quest for new instruments, it was a small and self-evident step to seek the unifica- tion of these two ideals — an instrument that combined the unbounded potential of electric tone generation with the absolute authorial control of mechanical inscription. If these traces could be freely manipulated or even made by hand, a powerful new form of notation and thus composing could be born. Inspired by this vision, a motley assortment of composers, musi- cians, artists, and intellectuals sought to refunction recording me- dia as instruments for creative experimentation.
Challenging the conventional relationship between musical production composing and reproduction recording , they treated media not as a means of capturing performances but rather as a novel instrument capable of uniquely technogenic effects. The instrumentalization of recording media further encompassed two distinct compositional techniques — two ways of using the graphi- cal representation of sound as musical material.
In the first approach, recordings of natural and human noises, speech, and musical tones were manipulated and rearranged in a manner inspired by contem- porary cinematic technique. In the second approach, the conventional recording function was bypassed altogether in favor of direct inscrip- tion onto the medium, creating entirely new sonic phenomena. In both cases, the purpose was not to capture a realistic approximation of an actual performance event but rather to construct a deliberately artifi- cial work conceived on the basis of the technological medium and its formative potential.
Further, one is not depen- dent on the potential of instruments which are generally limited with regard to range , nor — most importantly — on the physiological capabilities of the instrumentalist. Perhaps this can be fully appreciated only by the composer, who need no longer be impaired by any attachment to old instruments or any consideration of physiological hindrances.
It thus appears in all likelihood that sound film will someday become the most perfect musical instrument. Media instruments seemed to offer the best of both worlds: the organic and the mechanical, fantasy and exacti- tude. Whatever their mysterious inner workings, both the player piano and electrophones at least bore outward resemblances to familiar instruments; recording media, however, had no such foothold in conven- tional models of instrumentality.
Though based on the same underlying principles of musical inscription and electric tone generation, these de- vices lacked the visual and tangible characteristics of traditional musical tools. Indeed, if media instruments were among the most speculative and experimental manifestations of Weimar Republic sound technology, they were also arguably the most prescient of future developments.
Tracing their origins requires a historical ex- cursus to the beginning of the decade. Amid attempts at disruption by Dada artists, Russolo presented a number of works composed for his specially built intonammori, or noise instruments, with which he had been touring Eu- rope since the publication of his manifesto The Art of Noises in 19 Then they must be so constructed that all vibration will stop when the sound is suddenly broken off. Conventional instruments, insofar as they were modeled on the voice, belonged to the same domain.
The noise of a machine as a timbre will be more appealing to him than the songs of birds or men. This song will always touch him only as an individual, more or less according to the manner of its performance, while machine- generated, purely material rhythm exerts less of an effect on the individual. The sound of a pile driver as a timbre will be more familiar to him than the singing of psalms. And this is absolutely necessary, because only new instruments will meet the demands of pure art.
But Mondrian went no further in specify- ing the actual instruments that might make neoplastic music a reality. Instead of simply capturing reality, photo- graphic film and gramophone records could be inscribed upon directly, thus creating new perceptual phenomena unique to the medium.
In , for ex- ample, he ordered five paintings in porcelain enamel on steel from a sign factory in Berlin. Taking a typically interartistic perspective, Moholy-Nagy focused on three different recording media: the gramophone, the photograph, and cinematic film. In each case, he 88 I "Sonic Handwriting" distinguished between conventional applications of the technology to record and reproduce, and unorthodox uses that allow for the creation of new artistic forms. He invoked the abstract visual projections of art- ists such as Walter Ruttmann, Thomas Wilfred, Viking Eggeling, and Hans Richter as models for nonmimetic approaches to the art of moving images.
Instead of recording sound with microphones, he suggested, artists could make inscriptions directly onto the wax disc by hand. Over the course of the next decade, artists would pursue this technological gambit in two media: first, as already suggested by Moholy-Nagy, via the gramophone record, which in the early s was the most advanced and widespread medium for sound recording; and at the end of the decade, in the new format of optical sound film, which offered a more transparent and malleable means of capturing, editing, and manipulating recorded sound.
In , Stuckenschmidt made this assessment: The authentic gramophone has the great advantage over the mechanical piano, that it brings together all imaginable tone colors in an utterly small and simple apparatus. It will possess simply incalculable stimulations for the composer of the future. The number of tone colors is infinite. Every in- strumental tone can be given whatever range.
The differentiation of pitch is infinite. Quarter and eighth tones can be played with mathematical purity. A gramophone recording, after all, contains the sum of all simultaneously sounding musical phenomena: the individual voices of the orchestra or ensemble are amalgamated into a single groove on the record.
How could the composer begin to map the system of correspondences between these inscriptions and the sounds that they index? Conventional no- tation is far superior to the mechanical inscription of the gramophone record, Pringsheim argued, because it presents the instrumental lines in their independence.
The score is not merely a practical necessity for the performance of a work; it is the logical representation of the musical processes that go into the act of composition. The gramophone groove, 90 I "Sonic Handwriting" by contrast, represents complex, agglomerated systems of sound instead of interwoven lines of individual notes.
Because the medium cannot iso- late individual notes and motives, it forces the composer to think in terms of unwieldy sonic masses and timbral progressions [Klangkom- plexe-Fortschreitungen]. Rather than seeking a tabula rasa on which to construct a new musical language, they began by modifying existing recordings on a hands-on, empirical basis. Moholy-Nagy had made arrangements to begin working in record company laboratories in Berlin in early Stuckenschmidt and the American composer George Antheil lined up as collaborators, but before work got under way, Antheil left for Paris and Moholy-Nagy was summoned to teach at the Bauhaus in Weimar.
We even scratched into the grooves with tiny needles and so created rhythmic figures and noises that radically altered the sense of the music. The idea of using gramophone records as scores for machine-readable music would reemerge some years later. But he and Toch found a way of working in the medium that sidestepped the problem of legibil- ity. By adjusting the playback speed of recordings, they changed the pitch and tone quality of the originals; this modified output was in turn recorded on a separate gramophone machine.
At the end of the one-minute piece all three voices sound together, creating a three-voice closing chord. Thus emerged an origi- nal music that can only be rendered by the gramophone apparatus. While Moholy- Nagy and Stuckenschmidt dreamed of coaxing from the disc sounds that had no acoustic correlate in the natural world, Hindemith and Toch exploited the playback mechanism of the gramophone to alter the sound of recordings made in the conventional way.
But even if the concert of Grammopbonmusik contained no purely synthetic sounds, the music was nonetheless estranged from the familiar world of acoustic phenomena. Surprisingly, however, neither Hindemith, nor Toch, nor Stucken- schmidt would pursue the ideal of mechanical music into the new me- dium. Of the original cadre of gramophone experimentalists, Moholy- Nagy alone would champion sound film in the waning years of the Weimar Republic.
In the latter process, acoustic vibrations cause a stylus to cut into a spin- ning cylinder or disc, thus encoding the sounds as a pattern of pits and grooves. With optical sound film, by contrast, sounds are encoded as a two-dimen- sional graphical pattern on a spinning band of film.
In the recording process, acoustic vibrations are picked up by a microphone diaphragm, as in phonographic recording or telephonic transmission. The vibra- tions are then converted to an electrical current, which in turn governs the intensity of a beam of light emitted by an electric lamp. The fluctuat- ing rays of light are projected on the sound track of the moving band of film, where they are captured as a fixed graphical pattern. In playback, a beam of light is trained on a photoelectric cell.
As the film is unspooled, it passes between the beam of light and the cell. The light falling upon the cell is thus modulated by the patterns inscribed in the film, and the sounds emitted by the cell in response to the light correspond to those captured on the film in the recording process. As Thomas Levin has shown, optical sound film was a relatively late manifestation of the long-stand- ing effort to establish nonarbitrary, scientifically grounded correlations between acoustic and visual phenomena.
Until the late nineteenth cen- tury, these efforts resulted only in mute graphical traces: sound could be rendered as a visible pattern, but it could not be reproduced. Scientists had long realized that the quick, subtle vibrations of a beam of light were better suited to capturing the rapid oscillations of acoustic waves than the cumbrous mechanical ap- paratus of needles and wax cylinders.
Thus, a selenium cell could be used in electrical circuits to govern the flow of electricity. The first practical attempt to connect sound and light using the photoelectric cell was the Photophone, invented in by Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Tainter. Essentially, this device replaced the electrical wire of the telephone with a beam of light.
The light beam, whose patterns of fluctuation correspond to the acoustic energy of the transmitted sound, travels some distance until it reaches the selenium cell, where it elicits analogous variations in electrical current. These, finally, are converted via a speaker diaphragm into acoustic vibrations that produce an approximation of the original sound.
Similar to the functioning of the telephone, the underlying equivalence between the mechanical energy of sound waves and the electrical energy of the flowing current enables the transmission of sound over great distances. Not long after the invention of the Photophone, the German inven- tor Maximilian Plessner sketched a prescient, if highly speculative, ap- plication of the photoelectric cell. The fluctuations of light caused by the acoustic vibrations are thus captured on the film as fields of varying shades.
After being developed, the film is played back at the same speed at which it was recorded, while a constant source "Sonic Handwriting" I 95 figure Photoelectric cells. These tiny devices transduce light into electricity; they were central to the development of optical sound film. Schneider, , The sound him techniques of the s picked up where he left off, making use of improved vacuum tube and loudspeaker technology.
The ability to synchronize 96 I "Sonic Handwriting" figure Diagrammatic representation of sound-film playback. Illustration by Wm. Stephen Scott. But ironically, the ad- vent of optical sound film toward the end of the decade provoked a decidedly negative reaction among some of the foremost directors in Europe.
Just as cinematic film had liberated the image from the shackles of sequential time and conventional narra- tive structure, sound film promised to free sound from the limitations imposed by notation and instrumental tone production. The techniques of the artistically advanced cinema — close-ups, slow motion, double exposure, and montage — could now be applied to the composition of music.
The development of sound film as a vehicle for modernist art, according to Moholy-Nagy, hinged on the ability of musicians to conceive of the recording medium in a creative and nonnaturalistic way, just as avant-garde filmmakers had done in the visual domain.
The proper function of sound film was in- stead analogous to the use of montage in silent film. In practical terms, this means separating the soundtrack of the film and experimentally combining individual compositions. The first tendency could be traced to surrealist-influenced films by filmmakers such as Clair and Germaine Dulac, in which cinematic devices such as montage, double exposure, and slow motion create a dreamlike simultaneity of images and undermine linear narrative flow.
The sec- ond approach found precedent in the groundbreaking works of ex- perimental animation of the early s, in which various techniques were used to bypass the naturalistic function of the movie camera and construct a world of pure form and motion. It was no coincidence that the three Ger- man pioneers in sound-film composition — Walter Ruttmann, Oskar Fischinger, and Rudolf Pfenninger — were all veterans of avant-garde cinematic production. A new breed of radio artists — sound engineers by training — such as Hans Flesch and Friedrich Bischoff created imaginative programs only loosely linked to literary or narrative models, guided instead by the seemingly limitless "Sonic Handwriting" I 99 evocative potential of sound.
A good leftist, Weill had joined the organization in The phonographic tech- nique was the inspiration for Robert Beyer, who put forth an elaborate theory of experimental sound-film composition in a series of articles published between and When it is reproduced, the recording projects a sense of space separate from that inhabited by the listener.
Because the sound is presented together with the spatial im- print of its environment at the time of recording, listeners are forced to confront it as what it in fact is: a technologically transfigured fragment of reality. For Beyer, sound came into its own as an object of aesthetic perception only through this radical intervention of technology. Next, Beyer suggested that recording media such as optical sound film undermine the hallowed aesthetic distinction between musi- cal and nonmusical sounds.
The recording apparatus registers all phenomena indiscriminately; it knows no difference between tones and noises. In contrast to the holes on the piano roll, the black- ened blotches on the film sound track relate ambiguously to the "Sonic Handwriting" I phenomena they encode. These markings, when read by the playback apparatus, may produce notes of definite pitch, but they also may not: the only thing that they must produce is sounds. Thus, Beyer de- clared, optical sound film makes it clear once and for all that sound and not tone is the irreducible element of music.
Walter Gronostay, a Schoenberg pupil and a film composer, likewise suggested that sound film augured a new role for noise in music. It evokes emotion, and if it evokes emotion, it is aesthetic, and if it is aesthetic, we must bring it into the field of music and not bar it and say that it is mere noise.
Through this process, electric tone generation takes on a productive as opposed to reproductive meaning. Arnold Schoenberg famously disliked the term atonal because of its absurd implication of music without tones. His idea of Klangfarbenmusik involves not simply the incor- poration of timbral logic into the existing compositional process but a complete transcendence of pitch relationships as the guiding structures of musical creation.
Similar sound images are produced by the whirring harmonies of jazz, the loudspeaker, the buzzing noise of machines, the metropolis, and the newest music. It is sound emancipated from the structures imposed upon it by conventional instruments and systems of notation — abstracted, objecti- fied, and made malleable by the technology of sound film.
For Beyer, media instruments suggested nothing less than a new rela- tionship between technology and the artistic imagination. But by the early s, this re- lationship appeared to be turned on its head. Now, it was the composer who must adapt himself to the exigencies of the new technology. The problem is to switch art from manual to techno- logical methods of production.
Tomorrow the two will be organically united. Today sound film exists alongside music as an artistic genre with its own set of problems. His pioneering abstract films of the early s Opus I-IV, employed a variety of advanced techniques, including photograph- ing hand-shaped plasticine formations and painting directly onto the filmstrip.
In the latter part of the decade, Ruttmann turned his atten- tion to experimental documentary films, such as Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Grofistadt Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis , a cinematic ode to modern life without plot or characters, held together entirely by the up- tempo juxtaposition of shots. The focus is not on the development of sound-image correspondences or the discovery of new synthetic timbres but rather on the compositional organiza- tion of various recorded sounds, mostly of recognizable origin.
These sounds, for the most part quotidian and referential, are rendered strange and artistically compelling through the rapid-fire contrasts and repeti- tions of montage technique. From isolated sonic impressions, he created new unities. Perhaps the closest counterpart was the groundbreaking documentary film Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbass, by the Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov, who devised a plan for the sound track independently of the visual component of the work.
The funda- mental realization behind this approach was that the same graphical pat- terns created by the recording process could also be made, so to speak, from scratch. In a sound-film recording of a speaking voice or a musical performance, acoustic phenomena are represented by inscriptions on the filmstrip.
But if sounds could be captured and re-created in this manner, they could also be summoned up from nothing. Thus, in theory, all known sounds could be synthetically re-created by the careful etchings of the sound-film com- poser. Not only could any preexisting sound be reverse-engineered by "Sonic Handwriting" I hand-drawing its acoustic profile, but the technique of direct inscription could also create acoustic manifestations sui generis, phenomena with no correlate in natural or instrumental sound.
Moholy-Nagy again led the charge: Sound film will have reached a genuine plateau of creative exploitation only once we have mastered the acoustic alphabet in the form of photographic projections. This means that — without actual acoustic events in the exter- nal world — we deliberately inscribe acoustic phenomena on the film strip, and, where necessary, synchronize them with the optical part.
The frequent conflict of interests proved too much for me and ended in a mild nervous breakdown. Charlie Lucas, I should add, never came begging. Just when my two weeks of convalescence ended, the GDR authorities started a school for us. We needed to learn proper trades—like the majority of Germans. The official aim of this schooling which now included the possibility of providing temporary living quarters for up to six new arrivals until private rooms could be found was officially phrased as follows: This home serves as temporary location for persons of foreign nationality who have applied to live in the German Democratic Republic in order to participate actively in the preservation of peace and the construction of socialism.
The main task of the Special School of International Solidarity, therefore, will be the reeducation and job training of these persons with a right to asylum who will one day return to their homelands as patriots in order to support their own working class in the fight to preserve peace and improve their living conditions. Indeed, every effort was made to keep the Bautzen foreigners from returning westward.
The schooling lasted a year and was attended by all the foreigners, who received an average factory wage of marks a month, with an additional marks for wives and 25 marks for each child. Each new arrival was given a onetime sum of marks to purchase clothing and an interest-free credit for furniture if moving into an unfurnished apartment. Although I was in Leipzig by then, I was later lent 2, marks for furniture purchases when I got married.
A younger teacher who spoke fluent French got along much better in his classes for the more sober Frenchmen and, separately by necessity, for the North Africans, who were all illiterate and spoke more or less limited French and German. The one Algerian, by no means unintelligent, still believed the earth was flat!
In the second four-month period, we had classes in the clubhouse two days a week and went for the other days to a workshop in the LOWA railroad-car factory to learn, like so many other apprentices, how to file metal properly and carry out similar basic activities. Classes in the final months, which were all held in a special room set aside for us in the factory, were devoted to specialized training in one of four trades. I chose lathe operator; Charlie chose metalworker.
Others could choose to become painters or carpenters, if I recall correctly. A fair number of East Germans also used the opportunity to cross over and visit West Berlin, some as agitators, others as sightseers—or shoppers. Aside from two members of the amazingly large German clubhouse and school staff over thirty in all , our group included Charlie, myself and one other American, an Englishman, a Frenchman, and two Moroccans. Like most GDR participants we traveled in freight cars with temporary benches, singing much of the way.
Upon arrival everyone got a lunch bag and the address of a place to sleep, often in schools. But we Bautzen foreigners were welcomed by a special group from the Ministry of Interior. Each night we were driven to the vacation home of the ministry on a pretty lakeside near Berlin.
Otherwise, we were free to go where we wished. Charlie met a pretty English teacher who lived in the newly built Stalin Allee and invited us all to visit and look out from the roof over the giant construction site and an adjacent area, still a wide field of ruins, which was built up some years later—and where I have been living since Back in Bautzen, Charlie, though usually smiling, clearly had problems.
We met the good-looking neighbor woman who came to clean up, perhaps to cook, 10 Victor Grossman and perhaps for other reasons. Her husband did not seem to mind; rumors had it that their apartment upstairs was gaining new appliances and furniture faster than usual—thanks to Charlie.
He later moved to another street but could not seem to find a steady companion. Perhaps language and other difficulties were factors. So we were all happy to hear that he was planning on marriage. I vaguely recall the woman: not too young, no beauty, but pleasant and intelligent; it was said she had a desk job with the railroad company, or Reichsbahn. On the wedding day, or so I was told, a crowd of friends and fans went to the Standesamt.
Just about everyone was there—except the bride! Her absence was a mystery. Other possibilities present themselves. Whatever the reason, it was a terrible blow! My more recent research uncovered a surprise. Charlie did finally find someone, it would seem.
He was married on March 31, , to a textile worker from Bautzen. Why did they marry in Leipzig? We must guess at the most likely reason. Marriages with people of color were in those days virtually unknown and undoubtedly not universally approved. It cannot have been a happy marriage. Were the pressures caused by differing nationality but even more by their differing skin color too strong? I cannot answer. Manfred Noack, the director of the clubhouse from to , recently told me the following.
Only six weeks after the marriage, on June 12, , the LOWA factory called to say that Charlie had not come to work, something unheard of with him. Was he ill? Manfred immediately went to his apartment—and smelled gas in the hallway. The door was unlocked; he ran in, opened a window—and found Charlie slumped at a table.
An ambulance took him to the hospital, but it was too late. On the table next to him lay a letter to a woman, probably his new wife, and two books, one by Karl Marx, the other the Bible. Lucas was not the only African American to pass through Bautzen. Arthur Boyd, whose family had raised cotton in South Carolina before moving north to Long Island, was stationed in Berlin when he fell in love with an East Berlin woman then visiting West Berlin.
In a daughter was born and Boyd, who had never had alcoholic or other difficulties with the army, decided to defect to the East. On April 30, , they were sent to Bautzen, a day before the clubhouse was opened. Ingeborg Boyd was not very enthusiastic about life in Bautzen or the connection with the clubhouse. Years later, in any case, she complained about having to march in the May Day parade although it was hot and she was again pregnant. But when the trade school began the following September Arthur completed the course and became a journeyman metalworker, evidently a very good one.
Boyd always had difficulty with the German language, evidently, and this also made it more difficult to find many friends. He also sang and was a good hobby instrumentalist on drums, but in styles as yet largely unknown in the GDR in those early years. As soon as possible the family moved to East Berlin, where Ingeborg Boyd became manager of a co-op grocery. All in all they had six children. When they were together, I recall Ingeborg talking almost ceaselessly while Arthur remained largely silent.
According to his son Leroy, who went to school in East Berlin and later became a construction manager, his father was proud of the awards but always homesick for the United States. He argued with his son, who, raised in an East Berlin school, was very skeptical about the good things in the USA—such as all the many cars—which his father talked about. His homesickness was partly due to his language problem, Leroy believed.
About Arthur and Ingeborg visited us with their oldest daughter Karin, who was then fourteen. When my wife asked her about her hopes for her future she said she wanted to become an actress. Knowing that many girls at that age dream of such a career, and mindful of possible difficulties because of her brown skin color, I recall having some private doubts. She did indeed achieve her goal, however, and after completing her studies at the State Dramatic College in Rostock and also singing lessons she was engaged for ten years at the prestigious Maxim Gorky Theater in Berlin.
Quite probably for that reason she left the GDR legally with her young son in She is now a stage and television actress and director in Munich, with guest performances in Berlin, Stuttgart and elsewhere. Arthur and Ingeborg were divorced in After the unification of Germany, Arthur went to the U.
From reports I heard he was immediately put into uniform and sent back to the United States without any notification of his waiting family in Berlin. Army officials who met me at John F. Kennedy Airport in spoke of another ex-soldier whom they had apprehended and who no longer spoke much English when he arrived at Kennedy. From the description I believe this must have been Arthur Boyd. Evidently he, like me, was then discharged from the army without serving any sentence.
Like me, he returned to Germany and now lives in Land Brandenburg. His son Leroy, although he had argued against his father about the merits of the USA, was not blindly devoted to his memories of the GDR. He spoke in his interview with West German Radio about learning that the family was under observation by the Stasi, as were probably all residents from the United States or other unfriendly countries.
He was stationed in Augsburg in July when, according to what he told the West German radio team, he simply went with a girlfriend to her hometown in Halberstadt in Saxony-Anhalt, crossing the border in uniform and on foot and then checking in at the police station. When Pulley arrived in Bautzen the clubhouse was still there, directed by Manfred Noack, and improved over past years by the addition of one of the earliest television sets in the GDR, a present from the responsible government organization, the Interior Ministry.
But evidently he had not yet completed his apprenticeship. This is how Manfred Noack tells the story: We actually wanted him to finish learning a trade. He had his way; he did not want to be a metalworker but a singer. And he got his way and became a singer. Say, do you love music? And he hired me on the spot. He became a very popular singer, partly because of being an exotic African American from the United States, but also because he displayed plenty of energy singing and easily captured his audiences.
He evidently tried some of the pelvis gyrations that reminded people of Elvis and were officially greatly disapproved of in those days, and on one occasion he provoked a tumult which ended in throwing chairs. But aside from such occasional run-ins with the staid, conservative etiquette still ruling the music scene but always assailed by new fashions and new customs leaking in from the West via radio, television, and personal visits, Pulley, often wearing a white suit presented to him by the central concert agency, sang around the GDR with many of the best-known singers and sometimes went on tour with them as far as Tashkent.
He sang American songs for the most part, but also new GDR hit songs. At earlier concerts with the Bodo Weise Orchestra there were some complaints since the Negro singer included some pelvis gyrations in his program. He went onto the stage and he sang. He achieves an extremely sympathetic effect with the audience and has a fine, warm voice. And they also liked the songs, of course. James was always a modest fellow, a quiet pole. But really quite hot all the same, if you know what I mean.
But Pulley was able to make out after a while, singing at nostalgic East German get-togethers or, more regularly, in programs on passenger cruise liners. I told my wife that we would never have it so good again. Der Spiegel prints a similar quotation from the widow of Willie Avent, an African American and former sergeant, also a deserter, who died in After the large initial group which I had been part of, there was only a trickle of new participants.
By only three foreigners were learning a trade there and the Interior Ministry was questioning the political and financial effectiveness of the project. The Berlin Wall and related measures along the entire German border in virtually ended the arrival of new deserters and finally, in , the Home of International Solidarity was closed for good, though some assistance was given its alumni when required. Aside from the tragic end of Charles Lucas, the handful of African American deserters who went to the GDR and Bautzen managed by and large to adapt quite well and integrate successfully into society, as I did.
This does not mean that there were no racist undercurrents in the GDR. To them, skin color differences represented no drawback to a genuine love affair or marriage. But others, especially those belonging to older generations, most certainly looked askance at such connections.
This is speculation, of course, but antiblack prejudices were hardly eliminated completely despite the stress on internationalism in education, from kindergarten on up, as well as in some very popular books, plays, and films opposing race prejudice.
There were also widespread and often effective campaigns on behalf of discriminated or threatened African Americans like Paul Robeson, the Wilmington Ten, and Angela Davis, who paid greatly publicized and well-received visits to the GDR as soon as they were able to.
There were always many people in responsible jobs who sang the officially approved melodies because of their careers. But there were always many others who were very convinced internationalists. Prologue: African Americans in the GDR 15 In the last two decades of the GDR the problems became more complex when not only our handful of deserters and a small number of African students came to the GDR, but also several thousand young people who arrived on a governmental contract basis to learn a trade and especially to work, while sending money home or saving money or equipment to set themselves up economically once they returned home.
The first to come were Algerians, then Cubans, Mozambiquans, Angolans, and especially many Vietnamese followed. With this larger influx, some problems were almost inevitable, sometimes due to what GDR citizens perceived as special advantages granted the foreigners—desirable homes in the new, relatively modern high-rise building blocks, special paid time in working hours to learn German, and at times lenience in occasional but luckily quite rare clashes.
Since all groups except for the Vietnamese consisted largely or entirely of young men, there were also problems involving competition for women partners, especially at discos. The GDR authorities, inexperienced in such matters, sometimes committed well-meaning or stupid blunders.
More important, in my opinion, however, were the infectious antiforeigner feelings increasingly seeping over from West Germany via radio, television, personal contacts and, in one case, at least, by what might be called literature. In the earlier GDR years, whenever one saw someone reading a thick paperback book wrapped in brown paper to conceal its title one could be quite certain that he— or usually she—was reading a dog-eared copy of Gone with the Wind, which had been removed from GDR libraries.
Perhaps this one book was not so important, but the nasty racial epithets which increasingly circulated during the final GDR years originated, I am quite positive, in the Federal Republic. They were directed especially at the larger groups of foreigners—Turks, Arabs, Vietnamese, but also at blacks. The GDR was a complicated mixture of many currents, changing views and pressures, both internal and external, and far from the monolithic, almost totally negative structure which has been pictured so universally, both before and since its demise.
This also applied to the problems of xenophobia and racism. As far as the clubhouse and school were concerned, at first, and especially under its early Soviet administration, there were doubtless hopes of winning a few propaganda points in the East-West conflict. But it soon became apparent that aside from the transparently dictated and hardly convincing declarations made by the deserters when they first arrived, there were no points to be won.
Nevertheless, the experiment was continued, at great expense, and I know that the two directors, Heinz Schattel and his successor Manfred Noack, as well as others who worked in the clubhouse, were motivated completely by their deeply felt belief in an internationalism which fitted in with their commitment to their communist beliefs and principles. Although I know of only five African Americans who attended this school, it is interesting to note that all got along very well and had a list of accomplishments to their credit, except only in the tragic case of Charles Lucas.
Much of the material for the radio feature quoted above was taken from documents of the GDR Interior Ministry now being kept in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin-Lichtenfelde, which state that in all about U. Americans lived in the GDR. Of these, of course, only army deserters were sent to Bautzen. In the article referred to above, Der Spiegel quotes U. Berliner Zeitung, April 25, , 3. Der Spiegel, April 10, , Their ranks included university professors, lawyers, army officers, journalists, craftworkers, and ordinary laborers.
In public speeches and writings, they attacked this system of bound labor, which, they judged, grossly belied the founding ideals and democratic promises of their host country. In concert with native-born antislavery fighters, the Forty-Eighters swelled the ranks of a protest movement the transnational and multiethnic dimensions of which are still vastly underexplored.
Specifically, it focuses on the companionship of two radicals, the German-born socialist August Willich and the black educator Peter H. Clark, in the immigrant stronghold of antebellum Cincinnati. It sketches how both individuals and their adherents joined forces in the long, often-dangerous battle to eliminate slavery and argues that cooperation helped them mitigate their differences in a society steeped in racist and nativist thought.
Returning to these figures, however, does not only elucidate their interrelated lives and ideas. John Brown, the antislavery revolutionary, had been hung for his ill-fated attempt to launch an insurrection among the slaves of Virginia. In the days following the execution, friends and sympathizers across the North commemorated Brown in various public gatherings Oates , — However, not all who attended the meeting were of German descent. In front of and a little to the right of the podium, the black-red-golden flag of German republicanism stood unfolded.
Shortly after the meeting had begun, a delegation of African Americans entered the hall, exhibiting a flag of their own and fastening it to the ground alongside the others. Cheers and salutes followed and did not ebb until the African American standard bearers took their seats. The first to take the floor and address the interracial crowd was August Willich. By attending, they not only demonstrated their love of freedom but also their willingness to make common cause with people of a different color.
This is echoed in the extensive coverage of the Over-the-Rhine meeting in the local press. Not that many articles, however, were friendly. Was their alliance genuine, based on an appreciation of one another as equals, or was it merely driven by political interests?
To which extent did the different cultural and ideological backgrounds play a role and how were they received by the other? To answer these questions, Willich and Clark need to be examined within the social topography of a city notorious for ethnic conflict at that time. The political careers of Willich and Clark began literally oceans apart. The descendant of an old Prussian Junker family, Willich first emulated his ancestors: he served in the army. But the hierarchical structures of the Prussian military soon collided with his Enlightenment beliefs.
These had sprung from conversations with Friedrich Schleiermacher, the famous Berlin theologian and philosopher, who had mentored August and his brother after the death of their father. Willich eventually resigned after embracing republicanism in an open letter to the king. The revolutions of — gave him the chance to put his political ideas into practice. His military training and eloquence made him one of the most dashing and skillful 20 Mischa Honeck commanders of the democratic militia.
Willich, beloved by his soldiers, allegedly took no privileges and shared their hardships to the very end. After the revolution was put down, Willich emigrated to London where he became a member of the Communist League. But political differences with Karl Marx soon generated personal friction. The factions split and in Willich left London for good.
Stallo was impressed with Willich and persuaded him to relocate to Cincinnati. Willich arrived in , ready to start his editorship in a city reeling under the impact of race, class, and pre—Civil War party politics. Clark was born and raised in Cincinnati as the son of a black barber and the grandson of a Kentucky slave woman and her white master. He was given the best education available to an African American at that time—courses included Latin, history, and philosophy—but that did not shield him against discrimination.
The field, however, in which Clark invested most of his energy, was teaching. But his plans to elevate African Americans by educating them faced huge difficulties. While the Ohio legislature allowed blacks to organize their own public schools, it left them direly underfunded. The charges raised against Clark were that he engaged in free-thought discussion circles and had his students question essential Protestant doctrines. It was not until that he was reinstated.
In the meantime Clark started acting on a wider political stage: along with his uncle, the black civil rights pioneer John I. The growth rate was breathtaking: in the United States census estimated 15, inhabitants; at midcentury this number had skyrocketed to , and kept rising Bertaux , But Cincinnati was not only among the fastestgrowing places in the country. In the s and s nearly two million poor and starving peasants left Ireland; many of them were bound for the New World.
While most Irish settled on the Eastern seaboard, particularly in larger cities such as New York and Boston, some decided to go farther west. However, their chances to thrive in this city as a group were limited. Coming from an overwhelmingly rural, traditionalist, and provincial background, the Irish were largely unprepared to meet the requirements of an emerging industrial market society Miller Another disadvantage was their religion.
Almost all the immigrants from Ireland were Catholics who arrived in America in the midst of a fervent resurgence of Protestantism; many native-born Americans were suspicious of the folkways of the Irish and treated their religious customs with disdain. Lacking a national center, the German immigrants had grown up with separate regional identities, and the cultural idiosyncrasies they held dear continued to blossom in the New World Miller , 2.
Among the earlier arrivals was also Martin Baum, a successful banker and entrepreneur who prospered in the nascent transportation industry. A community as multifaceted as the Queen City Germans was not free of internal strife. Another important aspect was that they figured comparatively high in the skilled professions, undoubtedly a consequence of their training in the European apprentice system.
Unlike other immigrant groups, many of them were not only hard working but also well organized and politically educated. This was certainly the case when fourteen friends responded to the call of revolutionary legend Friedrich Hecker and established the Cincinnati Turnverein in , the first of its kind on American soil. Although a minority, these revolutionaries and agnostics were shrill enough to unnerve their conservative kinsmen as well as many churchgoing Anglo-Americans. The most ferocious nativist onslaught in this decade was the election riot of The German-Americans, in order to defend themselves, barricaded the bridges leading into Over-the-Rhine and summoned their militia units.
So severe was the fighting that civil order could not be restored for three days Baughn Marching back from a picnic near Covington, members of the Cincinnati Turnverein were assaulted by a mob of Ohioans and Kentuckians. Rocks were thrown and pistol shots were exchanged, drawing blood on both sides.
Bordering on slaveholding Kentucky, the Queen City was seen by numerous African Americans as a gateway to a better life. This provided sufficient leeway for the enactment of the Ohio Black Laws of and , which excluded African Americans living in the state from much of its public activity. Some African Americans, if they could afford higher rents, also moved into adjacent white working-class districts. According to one statistic, the Irish were most likely to have black neighbors, but there were also blacks who could be found living next door to German-speaking families.
Another major contact zone between blacks and whites was the workplace, a sphere that became a major breeding ground of racial antagonism. But despite their ambitions and their willingness to work, blacks were largely restricted to unskilled or semi-skilled labor by their white employers. John Baptist Church, in White resentment of black wage labor often exploded in violence as in the bloody riot of when Irish dockworkers attacked their black colleagues, leaving many dead and wounded Taylor , — Recent scholarship, however, has stressed that it was not only economic rivalry or the fear of competition that relegated African Americans to the bottom rung of society.
To be accepted as white meant not to be black, to be exempt from the burdens and inferiorities commonly associated with the black race. Its proximity to the South made the city relatively easy to reach for runaway slaves seeking a safe haven from bondage. Because of this, Cincinnati was also on the front lines of the Underground Railroad and the movement to abolish slavery. From the very beginning, free blacks had managed to build an intricate network that provided food, shelter, clothing, and other services to help fugitive slaves in need.
Clark coordinated these movements, occasionally calling upon the support of white abolitionists with whom they conspired Horton and Flaherty , 72— Although Cincinnati was geographically northern, it looked southward politically and economically. Its mercantile elite had strong business relations with the South and could not afford to lose traders and planters from this region against whom much of the abolitionist propaganda was directed.
When Birney refused to moderate his antislavery criticism, outraged citizens took matters into their own hands. On July 12 and again two weeks later on July 30, , a proslavery mob stormed the office of the Philanthropist and wrecked havoc on the printing press. On the second occasion, the rioters, infuriated over abolitionist ideas of racial equality, also set on fire several buildings in which black and white people were known to mingle.
Birney survived the assaults and resumed his editorial activities in the fall, but not without a heightened sense of caution. Abolitionists, whether black or white, had to endure personal danger and public isolation. This situation had not changed substantially in the s when slavery was attacked by another group of Cincinnatians who had fled from the political turmoil of the Old World.
Truly—a heinous crime in this age and country! Unlike other immigrant groups, these people were not only highly skilled but also well organized and politically educated. To sustain and spread these tenets, they founded organizations such as the Arbeiter- or Turnverein and newspapers like the Cincinnati Republikaner, the very paper Willich took over after his arrival Levine For the liberal and radical Forty-Eighters, slavery was a moral anachronism, a flagrant contradiction of the founding ideals and democratic promises of the country they had emigrated to.
In , a convention of German exiles drafted the Louisville Platform, a manifesto of principles that became a cornerstone of German-American radicalism prior to the Civil War. This same sentiment also prevailed at the meeting of the national Turnerbund, then the leading Forty-Eighter association in the United States.
The older and more conservative German immigrants had little sympathy for the missionary zeal of the newcomers; they repeatedly branded them as hotheads and dreamers who were totally ignorant of the social and political realities in their adopted homeland.
That some of these religiously inspired activists, in order to achieve their goals, would even sacrifice national unity, a central tenet of Catholic political theology, only fueled the hostility of German Catholics toward abolitionism. In the tumultuous weeks following the Kansas-Nebraska Act, German-born radicals were among the first to publicly express their indignation over this contentious law. Interestingly enough, however, the first English speakers in the region to salute the immigrant radicals were not white abolitionists, but African Americans.
Further difficulties arose from the fact that the attempt to recapture the blacks had ended in a deadly fight, in which at least Unexpected Alliance: The Abolitionist Movement in Cincinnati 27 two persons were severely injured.
One was a slave catcher from Kentucky, the other was the fugitive Irvine Broadhus, who later died from the gunshot wound he received defending his freedom Coffin , —88; Conway , The Connelly trial lasted several days and was covered by every major newspaper in the city as well as by the nationwide abolitionist press.
By the time Connelly went to jail, he was an antislavery hero. Unitarian and Methodist delegations flocked to his cell, hailing his efforts for the hapless fugitives. What set him apart from most other local radicals was his communist background. Its mission was to educate the Germanspeaking working population and sensitize them to the social and economic grievances in a rapidly expanding capitalist society.
In his inaugural statement as chief editor, Willich made clear that he had no intention to stray from the path of his predecessors. They organized plays, lectures, concerts, and staged public celebrations to honor such fighters for mankind as Thomas Jefferson, Friedrich Schiller, and Alexander Humboldt Conzen , —59; , 44— They also engaged in political demonstrations dedicated to fellow revolutionaries such as the Italians Orsini and Garibaldi who carried on the battle against aristocracy in Europe.
Without knowledge, the laborer, Willich argued, could not identify and tackle the everyday social iniquities he was exposed to. Public worship of Thomas Paine had a well-known history in Cincinnati, dating back to the early s. On January 29, , more than two hundred GermanAmerican freethinkers and workers formed a procession and marched to Melodeon Hall where they joined a gathering of Anglo-American Paine admirers.
Speeches were held in both languages and resolutions adopted, all with the intent of rescuing the Enlightenment radical from oblivion. Although he never Unexpected Alliance: The Abolitionist Movement in Cincinnati 29 broke with the chief denomination among his black peers, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, he concurrently set out to explore a host of theological alternatives.
This is what attracted him to Masonry, an order in which he served most of his life. For Clark, fighting to end slavery in the South and campaigning for the rights of blacks in the North were two sides of the same coin.
Though officially a free state, Ohio both legally and socially hampered the ability of its African American population to reap the harvests of freedom. This systemic inequality felt more than repugnant to a man of talent such as Clark; his experiences taught him that the ones who had placed all the obstacles in the path of his people were the least likely to remove them. Rather than relying on white support, he wanted to teach blacks how to help themselves.
Except for a few interruptions, he would be employed in this field over the next four decades—first as teacher, then as principal. Education became the institutional framework for his intellectual aspirations, shaping his reputation as an ethnic leader and public speaker. Lessons of Race and Class Toward the end of the s, slavery seemed more firmly entrenched and powerful than ever.
Public opinion in the North had also grown more hostile to slavery, but this was less the result of abolitionist propaganda than the perceived victories of the Slave Power—the Fugitive Slave Act, Kansas-Nebraska, the Dred Scott case. Tensions within the movement heightened. Clark was of this opinion. The black educator, though a man of letters, acknowledged that from the vantage point of the oppressed violence could not be ruled out as a last resort.
Was this not the legacy enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, a document hallowed by black and white intellectuals? Natural rights, after all, meant the right to resist—if necessary with force. While this line of reasoning gave the Garrisonians serious headaches, it was a crystal-clear affair to Clark. To his satisfaction, he found this same clarity of thought among Willich and his plebeian revolutionaries. A dedicated socialist, Willich presented the news of the day as evidence of an unfolding class struggle.
According to his understanding, the great social conflict was between labor and capital, between the producing and property-holding classes. Slavery, he believed, represented this conflict in the most glaring manner. It had to be opposed not primarily because it was a crime against the black race but because it stood for a system of capitalist exploitation that could be found both on the plantation and in the factory. Brown might have started out as a religious fanatic, but his death on a Virginian scaffold situated him alongside recent European martyrs of freedom such as Robert Blum or Felice Orsini.
As part of this universal revolutionary continuum, he came to epitomize moral principles that reached across nations and historical epochs. On the other, the laws that uphold power and bondage—the principle of evil. On December 18, a group of black men—Clark was allegedly one of them—attended a fair organized by the Turnverein but were sent away as their presence annoyed several white visitors.
Although it later turned out that Clark was not among the expelled, the incident sparked a heated debate in the local German-language press, and Willich wielded his pen fervently in defense of the black educator. His egalitarianism did not include a color line which privileged certain races over others. Pushed to the lowest ranks of antebellum society, African Americans, according to Willich, were just as oppressed as the white proletariat in the slums of London and New York and were therefore entitled to solidarity.
They, too, had been suffering the affliction of not receiving their due, which made them potential revolutionary agents. They, too, had a capacity for intellectual development and needed the leadership of people like Clark who were able to incite it. Particularly annoying to Willich was that the expulsion had occurred in his own social milieu, and that some perpetrators were German-born Turner.
In his view, they had not only violated the tenets of Enlightenment humanism but also undermined the notion that the Germans, especially those with a revolutionary background, were the true agents of social progress. As spearheads of the liberation movement in Germany, he argued, the revolutionaries had taken up the struggle for freedom and justice back in Europe; as such, they were now continuing the struggle in the United States under new circumstances, and their enemies were numerous: Irish Catholics, protestant nativists, and, above all, southern slaveholders, who stirred bitter memories of the European aristocracy.
Willich suggested that it was imperative for the revolutionaries to maintain a strong group consciousness in the face of this opposition. The trauma of was still fresh; and if the radicals wanted to learn from history and refurbish their tarnished self-image as a revolutionary elite, they had 32 Mischa Honeck to avoid schisms and steer clear of anything that discredited the movement as a whole—such as incidents of racial discrimination.
Willich assumed command of a German-American regiment and led his men into battle at Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga; meanwhile, Clark continued sounding the abolitionist trumpet behind the lines. But while the war separated the two men geographically, it did not eradicate the concerns that had brought them together.
Willich and Clark, that much is clear, knew and respected each other, thus openly defying the mainstream norms of antebellum Cincinnati. Their relationship illustrates that African- and German-American collaboration in pre—Civil War America was not always a matter of expediency. It shows that the ideological affinities between African- and German-American radicals could translate into a practical solidarity which taught those participating in it important lessons.
On the one hand, Willich, who was used to seeing a world stratified by class, learned to make common cause with people who considered race to be the dividing line in American society. Brief as it was, their alliance put the idea of a colorblind democracy into practice, allowing strangers to become fellows. The following account is based on reports in the December 6, , editions of the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer and the Cincinnati Volksfreund, and on the December 2, 3, 5, , editions of the Cincinnati Republikaner.
Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, December 6, Dayton Herald, September 26, Radical Abolitionist, I July , Church Review 68 : 25— Henry D. Shapiro and Jonathan D. Sarna Urbana: University of Illinois Press, , Bird, Englishwoman in America, For a more detailed description, see William A. Turnerei, ed. Heinrich Metzner, Bd. II, Heft 3 New York, , — Jacobi, , — Malvin is quoted in Richard C. Lafcadio Hearn, Children of the Levee, ed. Frost Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, , Cincinnati Daily Commercial, May 12, Louisville Daily Democrat, March 4, Verhandlungen der Turner-Tagsatzung zu Buffalo, vom Quoted in Martin W.
Philip S. Foner and George E. Walker Philadelphia: Temple University Press, , In , the Ohio legislature allowed blacks to run their own public schools. These schools had to be segregated, however. See also Taylor, Frontiers of Freedom, — Another critical article appeared in the New York Staatszeitung, February 21, The National Anti-Slavery Standard informed a larger abolitionist reading public about the Connelly case.
See also Coffin, Reminiscences, — Ohio State Journal, June 12, Cincinnati Daily Commercial, June 12, The ceremony also made headlines in the Cincinnati Volksfreund and Daily Enquirer. Anti-Slavery Bugle, June 19, The June 26 edition of the National Anti-Slavery Standard carries another abolitionist account of the Turner demonstration. Cincinnati Republikaner, December 6, Cincinnati Republikaner, February 26, March 17, Other significant accounts of the meeting are printed in the Cincinnati Daily Commercial, January 30, , and the Cincinnati Republikaner, January 30, Gaines made this statement in The black leader urged his peers to consider the value of education and send their children to school.
Cincinnati Republikaner, October 3, It was translated and appeared on the title page of the December 9 edition. Cincinnati Republikaner, December 3, Cincinnati Republikaner, December 20, The debate was most intense among the Republikaner, the Cincinnati Volksblatt, and the Cincinnati Volksfreund. Cincinnati Republikaner, December 26, Cincinnati Republikaner, December 5, Cincinnati Volksfreund, December 25, 29, Cincinnati Republikaner, December 27, In a meeting on December 29, a majority of the Turners present adopted a resolution censuring all forms of discrimination on the basis of race or color as incompatible with the principle of human equality; Versammlung vom Benson, Adolph B.
America of the Fifties: Letters of Fredrika Bremer. Bertaux, Nancy. Henry Louis Taylor Jr. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, Bird, Isabella Lucy. The Englishwoman in America, ed. Andrew H. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, Cist, Charles E. Sketches and Statistics of Cincinnati in Cincinnati: Wm.
Cincinnati: City Council, Coffin, Levi. Reminiscences of Levi Coffin. Conway, Moncure Daniel. Autobiography, Memories, and Experiences, 2 vols. Boston: Houghton, Conzen, Kathleen Neils. Frank Trommler and Joseph McVeigh, — Philadelphia, Werner Sollors, 44— New York, Easton, Lloyd D. Athens: Ohio University Press, Foner, Philip S. Walker, eds. Proceedings of the Black State Conventions, — Philadelphia: Temple University Press, Frederickson, Mary E.
Gerber, David A. Leon Litwack and August Meier, — Chicago: University of Illinois Press, Grossman, Lawrence. Gutman, Herbert G. Clark: Pioneer Negro Socialist, Hearn, Lafcadio. Children of the Levee, ed. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, Hochgeschwender, Michael. Horton, James Oliver, and Stacy Flaherty. Kistler, Mark O.
Klauprecht, Emil. Cincinnati, oder, Geheimnisse des Westens, 2 vols. Cincinnati: C. Levine, Bruce. New York: Oxford University Press, Miller, Randall, ed. Philadelphia: German Society of Pennsylvania, Oates, Stephen B. Roediger, David R. London: Verso, Stewart, Charles D.
Taylor, Henry Louis Jr. Taylor, Nikki M. Frederic Trautmann. Wittke, Carl. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, Zucker, A. New York: Columbia University Press, However, the scholarship on the Germans in Charleston has not challenged the longstanding assumption that the Germans had become white southerners prior to the Civil War see Bell 9—28; Reinert Moreover, scant scholarship focuses on the ways interaction between Germans and African Americans challenged white southern norms.
White supremacy prevailed in a caste system that oppressed African Americans, and nearly all white southerners aspired to slaveholding. It appears that most Germans did not aspire to own slaves, and this affected their status in southern society Bergquist 57, 59, 67; Higham 9.
Although most elite white Charlestonians viewed the Germans as white, they did not accept Germans into the urban establishment during the antebellum period. Germans, primarily from Hanover, Oldenburg, Holstein, Mecklenburg, and Bremen began to arrive in Charleston in the mids Bernheim — In , 1, Germans or 9 percent of the white population lived in Charleston.
Second-generation German-Americans increased the population to 2, people or 12 percent of the population. In , the German population in Charleston totaled more than 1, people or 8 percent of the white population. Secondgeneration German-Americans increased the population to 3, people or 15 percent of the white population. In , 1, Germans still lived in Charleston and the second-generation German-American population reached a height of 3, people or 8 percent of the entire population.
African American migration increased the portion of the black population from 17, or 42 percent in to over 27, or 54 percent in See , , and Census. At the same time, African Americans and Germans dispersed throughout every ward in the 37 38 Jeffery Strickland city, virtually ensuring interaction on a daily basis. Germans created important social institutions to assist with their transition into southern society.
John A. Wagener emerged as the leader of the German community. The fifty-six-year-old native of Prussia had settled in Charleston in , and he helped organize various associations, including the German Fire Company, the German school, the German Lutheran Church, and Der Teutone German language daily Silverman and Gorman The numerous German secular organizations held various social activities throughout the year.
The Fusileers rifle company held picnics at the Schutzenfest in suburban Charleston, and the festival entailed a target shooting competition, dinner, and dancing. The Turnverein held gymnastics exhibitions, and German dramatists and musicians performed regularly at German theaters. The Germans even held their own Fourth of July celebrations. Similar to German settlements throughout the United States, religion occupied an important role in the German Charlestonian community.
The Germans primarily worshipped at St. The majority of the Germans were Lutherans and a fewer amount Catholics Bernheim — Economic Relations During the antebellum period, free and enslaved African Americans traded with Germans at a time when white southerners would rarely do so. Although trading with slaves was against the law, many German shopkeepers found this trade too lucrative to avoid.
In turn, the Germans earned a steady clientele of African American consumers and increased their profits. In many instances, German grocers catered to working-class blacks, often selling merchandise in small quantities, and remaining open early in the morning and late at night. Germans sometimes extended credit to stimulate repeat business. These business transactions intensified after emancipation because African Americans had more wages to purchase foodstuffs and other items.
In the federal manuscript census, there were only seventy-four German slave owners in the city thirty-one came from Hanover , and they were underrepresented at every occupational level. Three Germans owned more than twenty slaves but most owned only a few. More important, many Germans had the economic means to own slaves but they chose not to enter the slaveholding class, and they were underrepresented among people of means who chose to own slaves.
The historian Walter Kamphoefner investigated slaveholding among Westphalian immigrants in Missouri with a view toward their socialization German Immigrants, African Americans in Charleston 39 patterns, and he determined that German immigrants were underrepresented as slaveholders in nearly every wealth category — The same was true in Charleston.
Many of the Germans had readily established themselves in the merchant trades of Charleston at a time when merchant trades were not widely respected by white southerners. Instead, white South Carolinians respected cotton and rice planting—and planting relied on slaveholding. Not only did most Germans appear disinterested in planting and slaveholding, they were overrepresented as shopkeepers and their business practices raised the suspicions of native-born Charlestonians.
White southerners perceived that Germans, particularly shopkeepers who sold liquor to and traded with slaves, undermined the slave society in Charleston. The Court of General Sessions prosecuted hundreds of German shopkeepers for selling liquor to slaves and trading with them for property requisitioned from their masters during the s Lesesne 84— In addition, the police arrested countless Germans for loitering or allowing African Americans to loiter outside their stores—probably under the presumption that the Germans were conducting an illegal trade with them see, for example, Daily Courier, November 21, , April 7, , July 12, As mayor of Charleston, William Porcher Miles reorganized the police force to better control these illicit dealings that he believed undermined the slavery system Daily Courier, October 13, Judge David L.
Wardlaw lectured a convicted shopkeeper about the evils of trading with slaves. Jacob Schirmer, an influential German southerner, noted that the fines against shopkeepers for selling liquor to slaves were the highest allowed by the law Schirmer, January 30, In , there were only two German immigrants on a police force that was mostly comprised of white southerners.
White Charlestonians continued to discriminate against German immigrants until the Civil War afforded some Germans the opportunity to prove their dedication to Charleston and the Confederacy.
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