EDUCATION AND WORKING CLASS CULTURE:
GERMAN WORKERS' CLUBS IN NINETEENTH CENTURY CHICAGO
Fred M. Schied
The front page of the December 25, 1873 issue of the Chicago Tribune did not wish residents of the city good cheer. On this particular Christmas day, news of the holiday season was carried on pages two and three. The entire front page of the newspaper dealt with organizations threatening the city. Under the headline, "Our Communists," the city's leading English language newspaper promised to give Chicagoans "A brief sketch of the Socialist movement" and to identify "The First Organization in Chicago" to introduce this new doctrine. There followed a remarkable series of articles, including a biographical sketch of the leader of the international communists, one "Carl Marx," and most surprisingly, a long summation of Marx's "peculiar ideas as expressed in his work The Communist Manifesto." The article quoted extensively from the Manifesto.
Along with the articles on the international communist (or socialist-the words were used interchangeably) movement, much of the front page was devoted to the local Chicago situation. That situation, according to the Tribune, was desperate. Over one-quarter of the city's working population was unemployed. Many of those still employed had suffered severe wage reductions. Unemployed workers were demonstrating. The Socialists had taken over the leadership of these "desperate and hungry men." The City's Relief and Aid Society, organized to provide food to the unemployed and their families, was riddled with corruption. Demonstrations were planned by the Socialists to demand action to reorganize the Society. Two years after the Great Fire which almost destroyed Chicago, the city seemed on the brink of anarchy.
Where did these socialists and communists come from? How did they become so influential in the city? How did their ideas spread so quickly that the city's largest newspaper would devote its entire front page to their "peculiar" ideas? Who was responsible for this unrest? The answer, at least for the Chicago Tribune, was obvious. In its article on the local roots of socialist activity, the newspaper laid the responsibility at the feet of one group: the recent German immigrants and their foreign doctrines. The Tribune traced the beginning of this movement back to the formation of the Arbeiter-Verein (workers' club) in 1858. By 1871, the Tribune wrote, the Social-Politische Arbeiter-Verein (Social-Political Workers' Club) had accepted as its creed the Manifesto of the Communist Party and had held meetings where this "peculiar" philosophy was discussed. It was within these organizations and among their immigrant German members that the danger lay.
The Tribune articles did not go far enough. Not only were meetings held at one Arbeiter-Verein, but by the early 1870s Arbeiter-Vereine were located throughout the city. Moreover, the largest of the clubs had a lending library containing books by Marx, Lassalle, Weitling, and a host of other European radicals. The club held regularly scheduled debates on social issues of the day and weekly talks by such people as Joseph Weydemeyer (a friend of Karl Marx and Marx's American correspondent), as well as picnics, balls, concerts, and song festivals that attracted hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of participants. From the late 1850s until after the Haymarket Affair in 1886, the Arbeiter-Vereine were at the center of a vigorous cultural and social movement which shaped and significantly influenced the course of American radicalism.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the Arbeiter-Vereine in their cultural and historical context, and, especially, to explore the educational aspects of these clubs. This paper argues that the Arbeiter-Vereine were part of a broader artisan culture which was crucial to the emergence of a distinct American working-class culture. It further suggests that radical European socialist thought was introduced to American society through German working-class organizations such as the Arbeiter-Vereine.
In order to examine the conditions which lead to the founding of the Arbeiter-Vereine it is necessary to take a closer look at the economic and social forces which shaped Chicago.
CHICAGO IN THE 19TH CENTURY
During the mid-to-late 19th century, Chicago experienced a boom in its population unprecedented in American history. From a small town of approximately 30,000 inhabitants in 1850, Chicago grew to 109,000 in 1860, to almost 300,000 in 1870, and to 503,000 in 1880. By 1890 Chicago had become one of the largest cities in the United States with a population in excess of 1,000,000. From 1850 to 1890 Chicago's population doubled almost every ten years (City of Chicago, 1976). Given the state of technology during the mid-19th century and the virtual destruction of the city during the Great Fire of 1871, the growth of this Midwestern metropolis lead civic boosters to call Chicago the 'Wonder of the West" (Pierce, 1957, p. 87).
As astonishing as this growth was, even more astonishing was the reason for the city's population explosion. The increase in population was due almost exclusively to a massive influx of immigrants. In 1860, when Chicago's population had reached 100,000, almost one-half of its population was foreign-born. The single largest immigrant group was German. By 1870, when Chicago's population neared 300,000, over 52,000 residents were born in the German states. Combined with children of German-speaking parents born in the United States, the German element (foreign born or born of German-speaking parents) was probably closer to 70,000. By 1890 the German element consisted of 325,000 people; one-third of the population of the city (City of Chicago, 1976). In fact, native-born individuals of native-stock Americans were in the distinct minority. In 1884 they accounted for only 24% of the entire population of the city. The Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung, the city's German working-class newspaper, could boast in the same year that only five cities in Germany had a larger German population (Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung [hereinafter ChAZl, 1884, August 30).
But if the Germans were the largest ethnic group in Chicago they were not the only group. The city was filled with immigrants from Ireland, Scandinavia, Bohemia, and a growing number from Poland. Measured by ethnicity (defined by foreign birth or family origin), in 1890, 76% of the population was made up of immigrants or the children of immigrants (City of Chicago, 1976). However, it was the Germans who, during the period from 1850 to 1890, dominated the ethnic life of the city. The North Side of the city, home to most of Chicago's Germans, was called the Nord Seite by even the English language press. The second largest newspaper in the city was the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, one of three daily German language newspapers. Chicago also had ten weekly German newspapers (Arndt & Olsen, 1955).
Economically, Chicago was America's original boom town. It grew from a small frontier town into a major manufacturing center. The immigrants came to work in the giant manufacturing plants in America, but for the most part, they did not share in the economic growth of Chicago. Chicago's growth coincided with two periods of depression, a decline in the demand for skilled workers combined with an increase in demand for semiskilled workers, and numerous massive strikes (Kann, 1977; Nelson, 1988).
The jobs the immigrants had were mostly factory jobs, irregular in nature and subject to the fluctuations inherent in a capitalistic economic system. During hard times one-third of the city's work force could be unemployed, the rest could suffer from wage cuts ranging anywhere from 10% to 75%. Housing conditions for working people were primitive, and sanitation services were almost nonexistent. When the spring rains came, Chicago's streets became impassable. Visitors to the city were shocked at living conditions; observers called the slums of Chicago worse than any in industrial England (Pierce, 1957). Yet, the immigrants still came--for many of the Germans, emigration was the only option.
The German states in the 1830s saw the rise of increasingly militant political activity. Unemployment, declining incomes, deteriorating working conditions, and reduced social status plagued the artisans. Outright starvation haunted the lower classes in 1845-1846. Much of the social turmoil can be attributed to the beginnings of German industrialization. However, German society still reflected a society retaining strong vestiges of feudal relationships and institutions. The result was that German lower classes found themselves faced with a situation in which the beginnings of industrialization combined with a system that reflected still powerful feudalism (Engels, 1967; Noyes, 1966).
In 1847 hunger riots broke out in most of the German states and troops fought with rioters. In 1848 revolution broke out in the German states. This liberal bourgeois revolution had a broad base of support. Artisans, peasants, students, and members of the middle class participated in the revolution and toppled most of the governments in the German states. However, the liberal bourgeoisie saw itself threatened from below as well as above. Engels (1967) argued that this (inevitable) mistrust ultimately led to the successful counterrevolution that re-established the old regime.
It was during this time of revolutionary upheaval in Germany, from about 1845 through the 1850s that the rate of German immigration to the U.S. rose dramatically, while the character of the immigration changed. In 1854, the height of pre-Civil War German immigration, between 150,000 and 225,000 Germans settled in the United States. This number was not surpassed until the early 1880s. Furthermore, these immigrants had different backgrounds from the earlier German immigrants; they tended to be poorer and less rural. Artisans made up significant numbers of the immigrants and were disproportionately represented in the German immigration (Walker, 1964). Yet this artisan culture, long ignored by historians, carried within it traditions which had great impact upon American working-class radicalism.
ARTISAN CULTURE: UNCOMMON COMMON MEN
New labor historians, such as Gutman (1973), Palmer (1976), Brody (1979), and Montgomery (1980), have viewed culture as something more than tools in the anthropological sense or as inherited resources. Culture for these historians refers to the unfolding of everyday life. Thus, culture is "patterns of socially learned behavior expressed in artifacts, languages, traditions, values, and the like." Culture in this sense "is used"; and "any analysis of its use immediately brings into view the arrangement of persons in social groups, for whom cultural forms confirm, reinforce, maintain, change or deny particular arrangements of status power, and identity" (Mintz quoted in Palmer, 1976, p. 8).
Viewing culture from this perspective, one can trace elements of an artisan culture back to the middle ages. Journeyman-skilled workers--tailors, carpenters, printers, cigar makers, and others--created a culture in which movement (or "tramping"), self-education, political activism, and craft tradition played a central role in one's existence.
Throughout Europe and the United States, 19th century artisans worked and moved from place to place. Literate and worldly, artisans often hired one of their own to read to them while the others worked. Some artisan groups taxed themselves to form libraries (Gutman, 1973). Artisans looked back on a culture dating to the middle ages which transcended ethnic characteristics (though it did not exclude ethnic differences).
Eulogizing one 19th century German-American artisan, historian Bryan Palmer (1976) wrote: "He could spin a yarn, write a poem, make a speech, sing a song, bring a melody from a guitar, or tip a glass of lager beer with unequalled spirit and cosmopolitan politeness." He was a "most uncommon common man" (p. 5). Though not all artisans were as cosmopolitan, it was from these "most uncommon common men," whose very existence was threatened by industrialization, that organizations such as the Arbeiter-Vereine emerged. Due to historical conditions discussed above, large numbers of German artisans emigrated to the United States. Along with the tools of their crafts, they brought their culture and traditions with them.
ARTISANS AND ARBEITER-VEREINE
Arbeiter-Vereine were not unique to Germans living in the United States. They existed wherever German expatriates found themselves. Curiously, there were few workers' clubs in the German states themselves. Due to the repressive laws of the German states, most workers' organizations (including the popular singing societies) were outlawed or severely repressed.
However, various workers' associations were founded outside the German states. The first Arbeiter-Verein was founded in Paris (home of some 50,000 to 80,000 German artisans) in 1830 (Amann, 1975). In 1840 former members of the Paris club founded the Kommunistische Arbeiterbildungsverein (Communist Workers' Education Association), more commonly known as the London Bildungsverein (Education Association). Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels became its most prominent members (Shipley, 1983).
However, the center of the German workers' movement, especially after 1848, was Switzerland. Here the policy of many of the Swiss cantons was reasonably tolerant towards workers' organizations, in general, and German political refugees, in particular. It was here that the German and Swiss artisans formed singing societies, reading groups, and educational clubs. Geneva had a Bildungs und Unterichtsverein (education and lecture club) which had its own dining hall and library and offered instruction in singing, natural science, and French. By 1840 several Arbeiterlesevereine (workers' reading clubs) had sprung up in several Swiss cities.
The activities of the Swiss clubs varied greatly, but had several elements in common. Most clubs had some educational or formal social programs and existed as a place were German artisans could gather to drink their beers and sing their songs. These clubs formed the basis of German artisan culture and became the center for much of the political activity of the German workers' movement (Noyes, 1966; Schluter, 1907; Shipley, 1983).
As indicated above, tramping and political activism played a central role in the life of 19th century artisans. One of these tramping artisans, significant to this study because of his later involvement in the American Arbeiter-Vereine, was Wilhelm Weitling. Weitling, a journeyman tailor, traveled throughout Europe. In 1836 he was living in Paris where he became involved in radical circles. He then moved to Brussels where he met Karl Marx. In 1846 he came to the United States and remained there, except for a brief return to Germany to participate in the revolution of 1848. Weitling had developed a theory current among workers' clubs and groups called Handwerker-Kommunismus (artisan communism). He espoused a program of producer and consumer cooperatives, labor exchange banks, and communal, cooperative colonies. His basic idea was that the system of economic production was to be based on cooperative efforts of skilled workers residing with their families in colonies.
Weitling's reputation preceded him to the United States. In New York he made several speeches to German workingmen groups, helped organize that city's Arbeiter-Verein, and was able to gather enough funds to begin a newspaper, Die Republik der Arbeiter (The Workers' Republic). The newspaper provided him with the vehicle to advocate for his program of producers' and consumers' colonies.
Weitling toured the United States and claimed to have established Arbeiter-Vereine in such diverse locations as Newark, New Orleans, and Philadelphia. Whatever his influence in other cities, it is clear that he was the key figure in the creation of the Philadelphia Arbeiter-Verein. Organized after the news of the German Revolution of 1848, the constitution of the Philadelphia Arbeiter-Verein demanded that the state provide full employment and care for the aged and called for genuine democracy in the United States.
Organizationally, the club met once a week and debated such issues as land reform, national workingmen's leagues, and abolition of inheritances. Additionally, it provided sickness and death benefits and built an ArbeiterHalle (workers' hall) (Foner & Chamberlin, 1977; Wittke, 1950).
Weitling sought to organize a national organization of German workingmen. In 1850, under the auspices of the Philadelphia Arbeiter-Verein, he called together a national convention of workers with the express purpose of creating a national organization. The meeting drew 4,000 workers and was an indication of Weitling's national (and international) prominence. This workers' association sought to establish producers and consumer cooperatives, a workers' bank, and workers' communal colonies; It further urged the creation of Arbeiter-Hallen (workers' halls) and Arbeiterbildungsvereine (workers' education clubs) in German communities throughout the United States. These Vereine and Hallen were to serve as cultural centers and meeting places for labor groups, establish mutual insurance societies, provide reading rooms, and (a special interest of Weitling's) support singing societies (Schluter, 1918).
Weitling, himself, provides us with a picture of the German-American workers' community and the Arbeiter-Vereine. Traveling throughout the country attempting to build his organization, Weitling visited numerous cities and urged the creation of Arbeiter-Vereine where they did not exist and expansion of Arbeiter-Vereine in those areas where they did exist.
Weitling's workers' organization, racked with internal fiscal difficulties, began to come apart after only two years. Nevertheless, Weitling managed to keep his organization limping along until 1857 (Schluter, 1907).
The idea of worker halls and worker societies did not originate with Weitling. Arbeiter- Vereine and Arbeiter-Hallen were elements of German artisan culture. Thus, their introduction into the American setting cannot be traced to one organization. However, the popularization and form of Arbeiter-Vereine seem to be due to the influence of Weitling and his Arbeiterbund (worker's federation). It is doubtful that in 1850, any radical other than Wilhelm Weitling could have called a meeting in which over 4,000 Handwerker (artisans) appeared.
ARBEITER-VEREINE IN CHICAGO
Influenced by Weitling's national movement, the first Chicago Arbeiter-Verein was organized during the troubled year of 1857. Chicago, as well as most of the rest of the country, had suffered from the Panic of 1857 during which numerous bank collapses resulted in at least 204 business closings and left many workers without jobs. Those who kept their jobs faced wage reductions of up to 65% (Pierce, 1940).
The Chicago Arbeiter-Verein was founded by dissatisfied German artisans and their allies who, influenced by socialism, saw the primary issue of the time to be the conflict between capital and labor. As early as 1854 the newspaper, Ver Proletarier (The Proletarian) had dealt with the issues of the day from a socialist perspective (Nelson, 1988).
The Arbeiter-Verein was part of a larger effort among German workers to organize. During 1857 attempts were made to organize several unions. Saloons catering to working men also began to appear, and workers' singing societies began to be established (Keil & Ickstadt, 1979). It was within this milieu that the Arbeiter-Verein was organized. The Verein was, above all, a cultural institution. The club sponsored a variety of functions and events, sometimes in conjunction with other organizations, including dances, lectures, debating societies, singing groups, and an evening English school. By the early 1860s the club was the center of the German workers' community (Illinois Staats-Zeitung [hereinafter ISZ], 1861, June 3; 1862, July 11).
By 1862 the club had a membership of 389 men, a library of over 500 books, and an English language school which met every week during the winter. In addition, the club sponsored social events every Sunday night and presented lectures every two weeks. The president of the club commented that "much friendlier spirit prevails in meetings. When debating, it is done with less bitterness and without sarcastic references to individuals" (ISZ, 1862, May 26, p. 3).
During the club's early years much activity revolved around developing cooperative workers' organizations and joining with Weitling's movement. Many of the lectures and debates at the club centered around the role of labor in a new age of industrialization.
Among the earliest and most influential lecturers at the Chicago Arbeiter-Verein (and later at other Arbeiter-Vereine throughout the city) was Joseph Weydemeyer. Weydemeyer was a former lieutenant in the Prussian army who met Karl Marx in Cologne when Marx was the editor of the Rheinische Zeitung. After resigning from the military, Weydemeyer became a radical journalist, inspired and encouraged by Marx. After the collapse of the 1848 Revolution, Weydemeyer emigrated to the United States, at least partly due to Marx's persuasion. Once in the United States, Weydemeyer visited German communities throughout the country spreading Marx's ideas. Serving as Marx's American correspondent, Weydemeyer and Marx wrote to each other until Weydemeyer's death (Oberman, 1947).
At the Arbeiter-Verein, Weydemeyer spoke on the international dimension of the workers' movement and spread the tenets of scientific socialism. Weydemeyer caused some controversy within the club by his criticism of Weitling's romantic socialism. While it may be overstating the case to say that Weydemeyer introduced Marx to Chicago, he did popularize Marx's thought and may have been responsible for the Arbeiter-Verein's acquisition of some of Marx's works (ISZ, 1859, March 3; 1859, April 8).
As well known as Weydemeyer was within the German workers' movement, his renown did not exceed that of the Chicago Arbeiter-Verein's first president, Theodore Hielscher. A hero of the failed 1848 Revolution, Hielscher was a teacher by profession (Dobert, 1950). It was Hielscher who started and taught in the evening English language school and was the club's most prominent lecturer during the late 1850s and early 1860s. Hielscher constantly urged the club to expand its evening school offerings by establishing additional classes in a new bookkeeping system then popular. Hielscher's suggestions were ignored by others in the club (ISZ, 1861, March 3).
Hielscher, though no socialist, was an ardent radical republican. A vehement abolitionist before the War, he became an ardent supporter of the Union during the Civil War. Hielscher led the club during the Civil War years, and by 1865 it grew to 1,000 members and had a library of over 3,000 books (ISZ, 1865, November 10). Not surprisingly, during the 1860s' debates and lectures moved from the workers' concerns to issues raised by the Civil War. The club itself saw its membership decline in 1863 as more men enlisted in the union army. (Joseph Weydemeyer resumed his military career, this time in the Union army.) (ISZ, 1863, October 20; Oberman, 1947)
After the War, discussion turned once again to the concerns of working people. By 1866 Hielscher's name disappeared from the leadership of the club, but it appeared later in advertisements in the Illinois Staats-Zeitung showing him as the head of his own school, teaching, presumably, his much discussed bookkeeping system (ISZ, 1867, September 11).
The early years of the Civil War also saw the rise of other Arbeiter-Vereine in the city. These clubs, while sharing the philosophy of the original club, were located in the growing neighborhoods of the city and were often more overtly socialist in tone than the original club. By the late 1860s at least three clubs existed in the city. All of them had libraries and all of them had debate evenings, lecture nights, dances, and special events. Most significant of these neighborhood clubs was the 5ocialer Arbeiter-Verein der 10th Ward (Social Workers' Club of the 10th Ward) (ChAZ, 1876, December 3; ISZ, 1867, September 13). As one of the most active and radical clubs in the city, the club sponsored lectures by such well-known radicals as Weydemeyer; Eduard Schlager, a socialist union organizer; and Dr. Ernest Schmidt, the Socialist Party's candidate for mayor in 1877. The Arbeiter-Verein der West Seite (Workers' Club of the West Side), about which less is known, also seems to have offered similar programs. By the mid-1870s numerous Arbeiter-Vereine existed throughout the city. Some seem to have been no more than social organizations which disappeared after a relatively short period of time. Others had small libraries, reading rooms, and regularly scheduled entertainment.
All the clubs with the exception of the original, which by 1869 had purchased its own hall, held their meetings in the back rooms of neighborhood saloons. The clubs, while not formally associated, generally coordinated their activities. Rarely would major events overlap. For major events, such as well-known speakers or celebrations, the neighborhood Arbeiter-Verein would rent the meeting hall owned by the original club (ISZ), 1869, October 6).
Arbeiter-Vereine were generally open six evenings a week with the major social activities planned for Sunday, the working person's day off. In a given week in 1876, for example, the Chicago Arbeiter-Verein held its monthly business meeting on Monday evening. Tuesday and Thursday were given over to English classes, and Wednesday evening to the debate society. Sunday evenings were reserved for the club's most important activity of the week. This Sunday evening program consisted of a talk by Dr. Ernest Schmidt on the proclamation supporting the working men in Chicago along with a concert by one of the singing societies. Also, a special treat on this Sunday was a "tableaux vivant," a popular 19th century still-life consisting of live actors posing in a famous historical scene. This night's tableaux vivant was a still-life dramatizing the defense of the barricades during the days of the French Commune (Keil & Jentz, 1989, pp. 279-280).
Club life in the 1870s consisted of more than just attending occasional events at the Arbeiter-Verein. Rather, Arbeiter-Vereine served as meeting place, library, school, recreational center, and even mutual benefit society. It was also the basis for organizing, recruiting, and agitating. During periods of labor unrest the clubs became the focal point for organizing demonstrations and political action. They provided forums for lectures, discussions, and songs regarding topical issues. In 1873 the action to be taken against the city's corrupt Relief and Aid Society was debated and discussed in the workers' clubs preceded by, in good Arbeiter-Verein tradition, a concert by one of the singing societies. These meetings were sponsored by both the Chicago Arbeiter-Verein and the Socialer Arbeiter-Verein and attracted crowds of up to 2,000 (ISZ, 1873, December 31).
But it was not just during times of crises that the clubs were active. Although little more than the titles of the lectures survive, a quick overview includes talks on the distribution of wealth, class warfare in America, the development of industrialization in America, revolutionary activities in Europe, and so on (ISZ, 1876-1880). The libraries of the clubs, judging from a kind of suggested socialist reading list published by the Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung on November 23, 1883, included Marx, Lassalle, Bebel, as well as classical novels and subscriptions to various German and European socialist and labor newspapers.
The Arbeiter-Vereine were part of a larger vibrant culture that revolved around various organizations and events that touched every aspect of life. The culture consisted of singing societies, theatre groups, large picnics and parades, dances, and the annual anniversary celebration of the Paris Commune (Poore, 1979; Schluter, 1918).
The singing societies, so integral to the workers' club life, and present at almost all events, went by such names as the Rote Mannerchor (Red Men's Choir), the Socialistische Mannerchor del Nord Seite (Socialist Men's Choir of the North Side), and Liedertafel des Socialischiste Arbeiter-Verein (Singing Society of the Socialist Workers' Club). Theater groups, especially in the 1870s, presented plays about workers' lives. Picnics and parades were by far the most popular events. Usually held at the lakefront or just outside the city limits, picnics were major social events. Under large red banners speakers would exhort the crowd, bands would play and (of course) the singing societies would perform (Kann, 1977; Nelson, 1988). Some of these picnics were extremely large. The Chicago Tribune (1883, July 15) estimated the crowd at one picnic to be in the neighborhood of 10,000. The Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung (1883, July 15) estimated the crowd as twice as large.
If picnics and parades under red banners made some elements of the city nervous, the annual commemoration of the Paris Commune terrified these same groups. Officially celebrated in March of every year beginning in 1872, the Communefeier served as the focal point for various plays, concerts, speeches, and debates. The Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung sometimes used the occasion to write heroic articles on both the Commune and the failed Revolution of 1848 (1879, March 10).
From the late 1850s to the mid-1880s the Arbeiter-Vereine were vibrant and active in Chicago. Yet, by the early 1890s, the clubs had for the most part disappeared. The original Chicago Arbeiter-Verein limped along until the early 20th century as a mutual benefit and aid society which rented out its aging Arbeiter-Halle. A fire destroyed the hall, and a few years later the Verein also disappeared (ISZ, 1904, February 12).
It is beyond the scope of' this paper to examine in depth the decline of the German socialists and their institutions in Chicago. Nevertheless, three hypotheses may help to explain their decline. First, the Haymarket Affair of 1886, in which eight socialists (seven Germans) were charged with throwing a bomb at police (four of the socialists were eventually hanged), brought a wave of repression which effectively shut down the clubs, saloons, and newspapers connected with the Haymarket martyrs. The surviving organizations either changed their names and kept a low profile (like many of the singing societies) or changed their focus (like the Arbeiter-Vereine). Secondly, the pace of industrialization, both in Germany and the United States, had almost destroyed the artisan class. By the 1890s many of the traditions and customs of artisans had become crushed under the increasing mechanization of society. The German immigrants arriving in the 1880s were semiskilled or unskilled laborers less acquainted with artisan culture. Finally, the nature of the city had begun to change. The new arrivals to Chicago came from Eastern and Southern Europe and brought their values and traditions with them. More and more, the German socialists saw themselves within an American context, rather than a German-American context. These mid-19th century radicals may, however, have laid the basis for an American working-class culture.
This study has sought to assess the impact of German workers' clubs with respect to the education of working people. The paper has argued that the educational component of the clubs was one aspect of the cultural context, and that to isolate education would fragment an organization whose very strength was its connectedness with a community.
The study has several inherent limitations. It does not claim to get "inside" the clubs; that is, it makes no attempt to analyze the membership or leaders of the clubs. While sources are limited and no membership lists survive, a group biography of the leadership would provide a sense of what went on within the clubs. Moreover, other studies which use non-English sources would provide insight into the relationship between various ethnic groups.
Over twenty million people immigrated to the United States in the 19th century. Historians of workers' education need to begin to use sources from within the immigrant community in order to understand the impact these twenty million immigrants had on workers' education.
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