Tag Archives: Earnest Archives & Library

How God Spoke to the Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravians Through the Media

Dedication
This blog post is dedicated to Corinne Earnest who left time on May 26, 2016. Without Corinne, Patricia, and Russell Earnest’s unflagging dedication to Fraktur, we would all still be trying to put together many of the pieces of the historical puzzle that they have researched, and solved. She was not zealous for her own purpose, but rather reached out and shared freely her great love and knowledge of Fraktur with everyone. We all shall miss Corinne.

Introduction
The Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravians produced their everyday tools and utensils from seven media: stone, wood, glass, metal, clay, textiles, and paper. Both decorative Fractur script and motifs, as well as everyday cursive calligraphy adorned this material culture, capturing both the spiritual and secular principles then prevalent. In this post we take a look at the scripts and motifs; the practical aspects of time and materials; and how God spoke to the Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravians through the media.

Adam & God
When Adam, father of all mankind, realized his memory wasn’t going to be good enough to remember all the names he had given to earthly living things, he thought he’d better have a talk with God. Now God didn’t want Adam to remember everything, so He said: “Adam, a man can’t keep everything in his head. There should be another way to remember, don’t you think?” Adam, being very relieved, agreed, and so God gave Adam a set of symbols that could be used to keep a record of things. Adam’s children carried on the tradition, and their children’s children, and over time others called these symbols letters or alphabets, and this way of remembering writing.

Writing School in Session
Today, the world over we find varying alphabets, and mankind is still using them to remember. So it was, too, in the eighteenth century when around 1760 people began to ask Johann Michael Schirmer, a writing master, mathematician, and school teacher in the free imperial city of Frankfurt am Main to put together a practical self-instructional handwriting book for the use of young people and adults. Schirmer had very little free time and was reluctant, but finally realized he was the only one who had the broad knowledge and skill necessary to inspire youth to take up the pen and learn to write German in Fraktur, Current, and, chancery scripts, and to notate their Latin, Italian and French in round lettering known as Literae Rotundae and square lettering or Romanae Quadratae. Schirmer’s title page indicates that Current, Canzleÿ, and Fractur are to be understood as German calligraphy, and Cursiva, Rotunda, and Quadrata as Latin calligraphy.

Current Script
Current, also known as German script, was so named, according to Schirmer, because it was “currently” in common use among the general public. He emphasized that his exercises were so designed to teach one to write in this cursive script with ease and clarity as if one letter grew out of the other.

Chancery Script
Canzleÿ or chancery script was created from Fractur quite by accident in the chanceries and scriptoria. As shortcuts were found to speed up the making of initial capital letters, first lines, and other applications in Fractur script, rules were altered. Eventually a whole new set of criteria was recognized under the name of chancery script. Schirmer advises the reader that there was no uniform agreement among writing masters concerning this.

Fractur Script
Initially German-speaking calligraphers preferred writing in Fractur, but found it required a great deal of time and skill to do so. This made it unsuitable for everyday situations, and, as already mentioned, encouraged simplification in the rules. So it is not surprising that scribes naturally developed a handwriting for daily use, and eventually designated Fractur exclusively for the ornamentation of initial letters, opening text, and important words in documents. Schirmer notes that only after the introduction of the printing press, [1] did people begin referring to the script as Fractur. Although there is no proof of this, one thing is certain: Fractur deriving from the Latin word Fractus, and meaning fractured or broken, certainly was used by those printing or handwriting these angular broken letters, and is still used today to describe its fonts and calligraphy.

Cursiva, Round Letters, Square Capitals
Schirmer categorizes Cursiva, Rotunda, and Quadrata as Latin calligraphy. Quadrata or Square Capitals were tedious to form because of their straight lines and angular configuration, making them more suitable for carving inscriptions on stone with a chisel than for writing a text on parchment or paper with a pen. Calligraphers, therefore, as with Fractur, in the course of time modified the shape of this script to a rounder lettered form that could be written with a flowing connected hand and speed for everyday use, calling it Cursiva. They reserved the Square Capitals for special headings and text on paper, and used them on readily conducive media such as stone or metal.

Intended for cursive handwriting, Schirmer includes large and small Round Letter (Literae Rotundae) alphabets in lower case (Gemeine), as well as decorative upper case (Versalien) examples,. He also introduces Literae Romanae Quadratae (Square Capitals) to be used as ornamental lettering.

Ornamented Letters in Latin and French
For those writing in Latin and French, Schirmer recommends twelve (12) examples in round capital letters to decorate introductory lines.

Ornamented Letters in German
When writing in German, he suggests using any of the following thirty-eight designs in lowercase Fractur to ornament initial text.

“Youth’s Lifelong Obligations”  Vorschrift by Johann Michael Schirmer, ca. 1760
Schirmer’s European writing samples are not only exercises to master the various scripts, but are also reminiscent of what we find in similar Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravian Vorschriften in America: a combination of design examples, practice formulas, and moral tips, taken mostly from the Bible, hymns, and religious poems, to keep young and old on the path to heaven. The following text from his “Youth’s Lifelong Obligaions” parallels what we find in American writing samples of the time period:

Focus on your Creator when young, and have Him ever before your eyes and in your heart.
With unfeigned love, childlike diffidence, and total confidence, dedicate the first fruits
of your endeavors to Him. Accustom your lips not to curse or swear, and never be afraid
to use them in prayer, praise, and thanks. Be diligent in learning the Word of God, and live
your life accordingly. Be humble towards everyone, and respect the elderly. Always be willing to oblige your friends and enemies. Avoid hateful words and foolish actions. Shun the temptations of youth, and remain chaste and virtuous. Be steadfast in your work, and eat your bread with dignity. Bann all falsehoods and lies. Harbor no evil thoughts nor associate with bad company. [2]

“Connoisseurs’ Writing Sample for Reading and Writing” by Wilhelmus Faber, 1812
A comparable American Vorschrift created by Wilhelmus Antonius Faber (active ca. 1790-1820) in 1812 for Johannes Klinger, a school boy living in Exeter Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania, demonstrates not only text similarities, but also mirrors a number of precepts found in Schirmer’s Writing School in Session or German, Latin, and French Writing Samples:

  • Firstly, Faber uses Fractur script for the initial lines as suggested by Schirmer, and chooses a double band decorative element similar to Illustration 7 of How to Decorate Opening Lines Written in German, (Copperplate No. 46 ) to ornament the opening religious text “Wohl dem den der Herr in…” Just as Schirmer demonstrates the use of calligraphic flourishes in Youth’s lifelong Obligations, (Copperplate No. 40), so too we find Faber embellishing not only the initial letter “W” with flourishes, but also, in similar fashion, all along the top of the line.
  • The religious text in Fractur script paraphrases the Psalmist David, and then in German script quotes verses 9-11 from Psalm 91, demonstrating the every day cursive handwriting the student is more likely to use throughout his life. The upper and lower case alphabets in Current script are included for practice purposes.
  • The final line Johannes Klinger’s Writing Sample, 28th November 1812 is important text identifying the owner, and, accordingly is also done in Fractur.

Connoisseurs’ Writing Sample for Reading and Writing, 1812
He whom the Savior blesses in his work and household shall prosper. For the Lord is your refuge, and the Most High your deliverance. No evil will befall you, and no plague come nigh unto your dwelling. For He has entrusted you to his angels that they may protect you wherever you may be [Psalm 91:9-11].
A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A a | b c d e f fs g h j i k l ll m n o p q r s ss s t u v w x y z tz ch ß sch sl si tz
Johannes Klinger his Writing Sample, Exeter the 28th of November 1812 [3]

Faber was most likely a school teacher, and is best known for his decorative Scherenschnitte or cutwork that frequently encircles the text. However, he also made writing samples such as the FLP example. It has been suggested that he was Moravian since he reputedly once lived in Lititz, Pennsylvania, a Moravian community in northern Lancaster County. He was also, however, active in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Lebanon, Montgomery and Northampton Counties. Knowledgeable in German, Latin, and English, his calligraphy is remarkably fine, and that of a trained scrivener.

A New Definition of Fractur, 1897
In 1897 another meaning of Fractur was introduced that has redefined the way we think of Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravian material culture. In September of that year Henry Chapman Mercer gave a talk The Survival of the Mediaeval Art of Illuminative Writing Among Pennsylvania Germans to American Philosophical Society members in Philadelphia. He suggested that it would be much more convenient if all Pennsylvania German illuminated manuscripts be called Fractur. Since then objects with or without Fractur script can be called Fractur. For example, a bird or flower or geometric design on paper, textiles, clay, wood, glass, metal, or stone with or without any text can be referred to as Fractur. The material culture of both groups, therefore, is represented through visual, as well as written Fractur. Stone and textiles, per Ellen Gehret in This is the Way I Pass My Time, vie with works on paper for containing the most Fractur script, and hand towels are “more verbal than any other form of Pennsylvania German needlework with the exception of samplers.” [4]

“My God, Through the Blood of Christ” Sampler by Elisa Kulp, 1816
Elisa Kulp, a Mennonite living in the Franconia area of Montgomery County Pennsylvania, worked a most extraordinary sampler in 1816. An A B C sampler with square capital letters in the upper half, along with floral and geometric designs in the lower ensured that she would be able to number and mark her linens with her name or initials for inventory, as well as have a template of decorative motifs to embellish other textiles throughout her life. It is worthwhile pointing out that household textiles were highly valued, and an important part of one’s estate.

Elisa embroidered her name in full twice, and also added her initials so that there would be no doubt to whom this lovely piece belonged. She also embroidered two spiritual reminders, both in square capital letters:

  • MEIN GOTT ICH BITT | DURCH CHRISTI BLUT | MACHS DOCH MITT | MEINEM ENDE GUT or MY GOD I ASK YOU THROUGH THE BLOOD OF CHRIST TO ASSURE ME A PEACEFUL END.
  • O EDEL HERZ BEDENKE DEIN ENDE or O NOBEL HEART CONTEMPLATE YOUR END.

The origin or inspiration of these phrases can be traced to Ämilie Juliane, Imperial Countess of Schwartzburg-Rudolstadt (1637-1706), who was born in 1637 in Barby, a place which in the eighteenth century was to become strongly associated with the Moravians. Like Luther, this noble lady considered prayer and diligence key necessities to one’s life, meditating three times daily. She died in Rudolstadt in 1706. Ämilie Juliane is known to have written over 500 hymns, one of which Die Eile des Lebens or The Hurriedness of Life contains the phrase Elisa cross-stitched “Mein Gott ich bitt durch Christi Blut Machs doch mit meinem Ende gut.” This refrain comes at the end of each of twelve verses, “My God, my God, I ask you through the blood of Christ to assure me a peaceful end.” The beginning of the third verse “Lord, teach me always to contemplate my end,” or “Herr, lehr mich stets mein End gedenken’ may have inspired Elisa to encircle a flowering heart motif in the center of the bottom half of her sampler with the entire command “O Edel Herz Bedenke Dein Ende” or “O Noble Heart, Contemplate your End.” This was a saying near and dear to the Pennsylvania Dutch and appeared frequently on samplers and towels in the abbreviated form OEHBDDE.

“That Which You Want Others to Do” Susanna Steltz Plate by Georg Hübner, 1789
There are two kinds of Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravian redware: the greater majority falls under utilitarian in glazed, unglazed, or partly glazed ware; and a much smaller group of “fancy” glazed and decorated ware. Georg Hübner, a potter in Limerick Township, Montgomery PA made a slip decorated, sgrafitto dish thirteen inches in diameter for Susanna Steltz in 1789 that falls into the latter category. Slipware refers to glazed pieces that have had an element of design added such as a drawing, date, name, or saying. For sgraffito, from the Italian for “scratched,” the slip is painted on the surface and the design is scratched through the slip revealing the contrasting red clay beneath. Although such a piece showed off the potter’s skills, and was less likely to be used daily, there is evidence from marks of wear and tear on some that not all were presentation pieces. The Steltz piece, however, appears to have been rarely used, and does, indeed, demonstrate Hübner’s masterful work.

The potter inscribed the outer rim of the plate in Fractur script with a command Jesus gave to the multitude in his sermon on the Mount found in chapters 5-7 of St. Matthew, and chapter 6 of St. Luke—specifically Matthew 7:12, and Luke 6:31, as well as the date and name of the plate owner: “ March 5th 1789 the plate of Susanna Steltz. All that you would have others do unto you, do unto them.” [5] The inner portion is decorated with a double-headed eagle as per the Fractur script between the two heads: “Portrayed here is a double-headed eagle.” [5] Please note that this is not a Holy Roman Empire double-headed eagle bristling with authority and might, but rather a double-headed eagle of totally different temperament to whom Hübner gave a broad and flowering Pennsylvania Dutch heart.

“Dear People, Observe” Pennsylvania Stove Plate, 1753
Radiant-heat stoves existed in northern Europe as far back as the mid-sixteenth century. The tradition of casting them in iron with low relief decorative and textual elements, both secular and religious, also originated on the Continent. Some of the eighteenth-century German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania brought these cast iron stoves along with them to heat their homes, and when they needed to replace or repair damaged or worn plates, found iron masters who could replicate the traditional plates at local forges.

The Pennsylvania Dutch house in the mid- to late eighteenth century consisted of three rooms on the main floor: a Küche or kitchen on one side of a centrally-located chimney, and a family living space known as the Stube or “room,” as well as the Kammer or “sleeping chamber” on the other. The fireplace opened into the kitchen and, just as in Europe, the most economical way to heat the Stube was via the cast iron five-plate jamb stove, which when put together, formed an open box that could be put against an opening in the wall shared with and opening into the kitchen fireplace. Placing hot coals or burning wood from the fireplace side into the stove opening provided heat in the Stube without the annoyance of smoke.

These plates were made in the same way as in Europe, and typically were adorned with secular or religious inscriptions done in Romanae Quadratae or Capital Square Letters. Fractur visual motifs such as tulips, stars, medallions, wheat sheaves, and human figures often depicted a Biblical story with or without a saying, reminding the viewer of his temporal existence, and need to take stock of the eternal path he was forging.

One unusual stove plate, however, stands apart from all the others, and appears to be a political satire on an event taking place on September 14, 1753. As Henry Chapman Mercer noted in 1914 in his work The Bible in Iron, and as is still the case:

No event on September 14, 1753, either in Pennsylvania, where James Hamilton
(1748-54) was Governor, or in Germany or England, where Frederick the Great
and George the Third reigned, appears to explain this joke or satire (the only
caricature in the whole collection), upon some person, so publicly well known as
to strike the popular fancy and increase the sale of a stove at that time. [6]

This stove plate’s message was easily understood by the denizens of southeastern Pennsylvania in 1753, and although we don’t yet know the true significance of its imagery and text, we can at least contemplate both its visual, and verbal elements.

Two vaulted panels are divided by a vertical molding: At the top on the left in relief are the letters “17.” In the center a rider, in tricorn hat and long coat, clenches a sword in right hand, while holding aloft possibly a torch in his left hand. He conspicuously sits upon a goat. At the top on the right are the letters “53.” In the center a man on foot, wearing a headdress and long coat faces the rider, and with both hands holds a sword in horizontal position in front of him.

Underlined Romanae Quadratae or Square Capital Letters follow:

SEHET. ZU. IHR LIBEN.      DEAR PEOPLE, OBSERVE
LEUT. WIE. DER. HERR      HOW THE GENTLEMAN
AUFF . DIESEM PFRTE       RIDES UPON THIS HORSE.
REIT. D 14 SEPTEMBR      THE 14th OF SEPTEMBER

“Michael Weber Rests Here in God” Tombstone

“Well over one thousand examples of handcarved decorated gravemarkers exist in Pennsylvania German graveyards with German inscriptions and decorations not unlike those on Fraktur.” [7] The tombstone of Michael Weber, a Revolutionary War veteran, is one of these, and, although the tombstone cutter failed to include any Fractur visual motifs, he chose to inscribe Fractur script, a much more difficult task than if he had used the Square Capital Letters or Romanae Quadratae so suited to stone carving. This marker, unlike many that have been damaged by vandalism, acid rain, and neglect is well cared for and clearly legible: “Michael Weber rests here in God. He was born September 29, 1735 and died December 24, 1826 at age 88 years, 2 months, and 25 days.” [8] As so many others before him, who had used the tools of their trade upon stone, wood, glass, metal, clay, textiles, and paper, this tombstone carver consciously left a lasting warning and promise, one which reaches us even today as we read upon the gravemarker: “O wayfarer, consider your end, which can come all too quickly. Put on Christ Jesus, through whom you can be redeemed.” [8]


Endnotes
[1] Johannes Gutenberg introduced the first movable type printing press in Mainz ca. 1440.

[2] Youth’s Obligations Towards Life, a translation of Schirmer’s writing sample “Lebens Pflichten der Jugend,” in Geöfnete Schreib=Schule…Franckfurt am Maÿn: Selbstverlag, ca. 1760, copper plate No. 40. For original Fraktur script see Fig. 8. The following is a transcription thereof: Bedenke an deinen Schöpfer | in der Jugend, und habe denselben immer vor Augen | und im Herzen: widme ihm die Erstlinge deiner Kraft, in hertzlicher Lie= | be, kindlicher Furcht und vollkommenem Vertrauen. Bewohne | deinen Mund nicht zum Fluchen und Schwören, und schäme dich | nicht, denselben im Beten, Loben und danken aufzuthun. Lerne fleis= |sig das Wort Gottes, und führe dein Leben darnach [.] Sey demü= | thig gegen jedermann, und ehre die Alten. Befleissige dich der | Dienstfertigkeit gegen Freunde und Feinde. Schandbahre | Wort und Narrentheidung laß ferne von dir seyn. Fliehe die Lüs= | sten der Jugend, und halte dich keusch und züchtig. In deinem Be= | ruf sey fleissig, und esse dein Brod mit Ehren. Verbanne die | Falschheit und Lügen. Hege keine böse Gedanken, und meide | endlich alle böse Gesellschaft.

[3] “He Shall Prosper Whom the Savior Blesses,” a translation of Wilhelmus Faber’s 1812 Johannes Klinger Vorschrift. For original Fractur and German script, see Fig. 9. The following is a transcription thereof: Vorschrift der Liebhabern zum Lesen und Schreiben, 1812. Wohl dem, den der Herr in | seiner Arbe[i]t segnet, und seine Haushaltung beglücket. |[Luther Bibel, 1545; Psalm 91: 9-11] Denn der Herr ist Deine Zuversicht der Höchste ist Dein Zuflucht. Es wird Dir kein |übels [sic] begegnen, und keine Plage wird zu Deiner Hütte sich nahen. Denn er hat seinen [sic] | Engel befohlen über Dir, daß sie Dich behüten auf allen Deinen Wegen.
A B C D E F G H I K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A a | b c d e f fs g h j i k l ll m n o p q r s ss s t u v w x y z tz ch ß sch fl fi tz
Johannes Klinger seine Vorschrift, Exeter d 28ten November 1812

[4] Ellen Gehret, This is the Way I Pass My Time: A Book About Pennsylvania German Decorated Hand Towels (Birdsboro, PA: Pennsylvania German Society, 1985), 5.

[5] For original Fractur script, see fig.10. The following is a transcription of the plate rim: “Mertz.5ten 1789 Susanna Steltz, ihre schüssel, Alles was ihr wolt das euch die Leute Duhn sollen Das Duth ihr ihnen.“ Between the two eagle heads, the transcription reads: “Hir ist Abgebilt ein dobelter Adler.”

[6] Henry Chapman Mercer. The Bible in Iron (Doylestown, PA: Bucks County Historical Society, 1961), 59, No. 73, “The Man and the Goat.”

[7] Gehret, 5.

[8] For original Fractur script, see Fig. 12. The following is a transcription of the tombstone: “Hier | ruhet in Gott | Michael Weber | er war gebohren den 29 . | September 1738, und starb | den 24 . December 1826, | in dem Alter von 88 Jahre, | 2 Monate und 25 Tage. | O, Wanders Mann | Gedenk ans Ende. | Das leichtlich kommen kann; | Vielleicht auch gar behende, | Und ziehe Christum Jesum an, durch den man selig werden | kann.


SOURCES
Arthur Cecil Bining. Pennsylvania Iron Manufacture in the Eighteenth Century. Harrisburg: PA Historical Commission, 1938.

“Wilhelmus Antonius Faber” in Russell D. and Corinne P. Earnest, Papers for Birth Dayes: Guide to the Fraktur Artists and Scriveners. East Berlin, Pa.: Russell D. Earnest Associates, 1997, 2nd ed., vol. 1, 264-265.

Wilhelmus Faber’s Johannes Klinger 1812 Vorschift in Henry S. Borneman, Pennsylvania German Illuminated Manuscripts. Norristown, Pa.: Pennsylvania German Society, 1937, published as plate 3.

Ellen Gehret. This is the Way I Pass My Time: A Book About Pennsylvania German Decorated Hand Towels. Birdsboro, PA: Pennsylvania German Society, 1985.

Tandy and Charles Hersh. Samplers of the Pennsylvania Germans. Birdsboro, PA: Pennsylvania German Society, 1991.

Stacy C. Hollander et al., American Radiance: The Ralph Esmerian Gift to the American Folk Art Museum Catalog. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001, 141-142, no. 104 [Georg Hübner].

 Catherine E. Hutchins., et al. Arts of the Pennsylvania Germans. New York, NY: Published for the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum by Norton: 1983.

Henry J. Kauffman and Quentin H. Bowers. Early American Andirons and Other Fireplace Accessories. Nashville, Tn: Nelson [1975].

Henry J. Kauffman. American Copper & Brass. [Camden, N.J.]: T. Nelson [1968].

_______________. Early American Ironware: Cast and Wrought. Rutland, Vt.: C.E. Tuttle Co., 1966.

_______________. Pennsylvania Dutch: American Folk Art, New York: Dover Publications, [1964], 94-95 [Georg Hübner].

Henry Chapman Mercer. The Survival of the Mediaeval Art of Illuminative Writing Among Pennsylvania Germans. [Doylestown, Pa: Bucks County Historical Society], [1897].

_______________. The Bible in Iron. Doylestown, PA: Bucks County Historical Society, 1914, 59, No. 73, The Man and the Goat. Google Books, Accessed 22 July 2016 https://books.google.com/books?id=kC9PAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Lisa Minardi. A Colorful Folk: Pennsylvania Germans & the Art of Everyday Life. Winterthur, DE: Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, Inc., 2015, fig. 20, 22 [Georg Hübner].

_______________. “A Colorful Folk: Pennsylvania Germans And The Art Of Everyday Life, In Collect Interiors + Collections Online, Fig. 5. Photograph by Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library. Accessed 27 July 2016.   https://www.incollect.com/articles/a-colorful-folk-pennsylvania-germans-and-the-art-of-everyday-life

Betty Ring. Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers and Pictorial Needlework,
1650-1850 . New York: A. A. Knopf, 1993.

Earl F. Robacker. “Pennsylvania Redware,” in Pennsylvania Folklife. Vol. 46, No. 3 (1997), 137-142. Pennsylvania Folklife Magazine. Book 150. Accessed 26 July 2016 http://digitalcommons.ursinus.edu/pafolklifemag/150 [Georg Hübner].

Margaret B. Schiffer. Historical Needlework of Pennsylvania. New York: Scribener, 1968.

Johann Michael Schirmer. Geöfnete Schreib=Schule oder Deutsche, Lateinische, und Franzöische Vorschriften. Frankfurt am Maÿn: Selbst Verlag, ca. 1760.

Peter Steltz Sr., Last Will and Testament, with Codicil, 1832. Wills, Vol 6-7, 1821-1839. Proved and Letters Testamentary Granted to Valentin, Christian, and Peter Steltz Jr.; Author: Montgomery County (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills; Probate Place: Montgomery, Pennsylvania

John J. Stoudt. Pennsylvania German Folk Art: An Interpretation. Allentown, Pa.: Schlecters, 1966, 313 [Georg Hübner].

Stove Plate – Eighteenth Century. Pennsylvania. The State Museum of Pennsylvania. 33.107.3, accessed 9 July 2016 http://statemuseumpa.org/biblical-guidance-cast-iron/

Swan, Susan Burrows. A Winterthur Guide to American Needlework. Winterthur, Del.: Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 1976.

_______________. Plain & Fancy: American Women and Their Needlework, 1650–1850. Austin, Texas.: Curious Works Press, 1995.

Marjie Thompson, Kathleen L. Grant and Alan G. Keyser. Forgotten Pennsylvania Textiles of the 18th and 19th Centuries. Cumberland, ME: Linen Press, [2005?].

Daniel Berkeley Updike. Printing Types Their History, Forms, and Use: A Study in Survivals. Cambridge:Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1962, 2 vols.

Anna Maria Weber, m. n. Angelmayer (6/21/1749-4/3/1834), Friedensville Cemetery, Friedensville, Pa Accessed 10 July 2016 http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=80302681

Michael Weber (1738-1826), Friedensville Cemetery, Friedensville, Pa.Accessed 10 July 2016 http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=16462194&ref=acom


Winterthur Research Fellow, Moravian and Pennsylvania Dutch Material Culture, 2016
Every year Winterthur provides fellowships to a select group of scholars for research
in their chosen areas of study in social and cultural history, including material culture, architecture, decorative arts, design, consumer culture, garden and landscape studies, Shaker studies, travel and tourism,the Atlantic World, and objects in literature.
~ Winterthur Research Program

Thanks to a short-term research fellowship this summer at Winterthur I have been able to study rare books such as Johann Michael Schirmer’s ca. 1740 Geöfnete Schreibschule in the Winterthur Museum Library Collection of Printed Books and Periodicals; objects in the Winterthur Museum Collection; and manuscripts in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.  All has contributed to my research for a book in progress Heavenly Fraktur: How Fraktur Influenced Pennsylvania German and Moravian Material Culture. This blog post is based on that research. My sincere thank you to all at Winterthur who have made this fellowship possible.

My thanks also to Donald Trump of the Friedensville Evangelical Lutheran Church; Joanne Kintner and Robert Wood of the Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc.; Patricia Herr, Author and Collector; Dorothy McCoach, Independent Textile Conservator; Janine Pollock and Joseph Shemtov of the Rare Book Department at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

How God Spoke to the Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravians Through the Media Blog Post including transcriptions; translations; and photo images, except for images of the Elisa Kulp 1816 Sampler; the Susanna Steltz Plate; and Sehet zu ihr liben Leut Stove Plate,
© 2016 Del-Louise Moyer.

Geburtsbriefe and Taufwünsche: European Phenomena

An Alpbrief [1] from the fourteenth century is the earliest extant record in a German-speaking area of Europe that requires a Geburtsbrief as proof of identity: Any nonnative who wished to join one of the three communities in and around Klosters in the Canton of Graubünden Switzerland had to “…present a Geburtsbrief, that is, a written proof of birth; land of origin; and that he [was] of legal lineage…” [2] Geburtsbrief is the earlier form for Geburtsschein, a term recognized today for eighteenth and nineteenth century Pennsylvania Dutch birth records/certificates containing principally the names of the parents, baby, date and place of birth.

Such documents have become collectors’ items, serving no functional purpose. It is important to remember, however, that there was a time when they were an integral part of people’s lives, and could be used in both Europe and America as proof of one’s origins when needed.

Translation [3]
A son was born into this world to this wedded pair, that is to Johannes Landes, and his legal spouse Elisabeth, m.n. Schott. His name is Samuel Landes, and he was born on the 17 January in the Year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 1801 in America, in the State of Pennsylvania, in Bucks County, in Rockhill Township; Written on the 13 March in the Year 1816.

The Taufbrief or baptismal letter, also known as a Taufwunsch or baptismal wish, Taufzedel, Taufzettel, Taufzeddul or baptismal note, and Göttelbrief or godparent letter was used differently than a Geburtsschein, or Taufschein, and bears witness to the relationship and responsibilities between godparents and the consecrated infant. This was to be a lasting memory to the child of its dedication to God on that day, and the desire of its sponsor(s) that it might continue to thrive in its relationship with its Creator as it grew to adulthood. It always contains the names of the sponsors, and often the child’s first name, and the date of baptism. It may or may not contain the church affiliation and place, child’s last name, and date of birth. It almost never contains the parents’ names. The earliest known Taufbrief dates back to 1593 in Saverne, Alsace for a Catholic baptismal service.[4]

That the Taufzettel was well established and flourishing at the beginning of the eighteenth century is attested to in an all important source describing the practical details of a woman’s life: Gottlieb Siegmund Corvinus’ (Pseudonym: Amaranthes) Nutzbares, galantes und curiöses Frauenzimmer-Lexicon of 1715 (A Useful, Noble, and Curious Lexicon for Women): [5]

Pathen-Zettul are those printed papers with copper etchings
or engravings intended for a baby boy or girl, and are decorated
with all kinds of rhyming congratulatory verses. The godparents
sign their names on the sheets; tuck their gifts or sponsor money
into them; and usually wind something around to make them secure. [6]

These then were the Patenbriefe that publishers offered and marketed through local bookstores, as well as itinerant book sellers who canvassed the countryside with their wares. Some of the better known were Reinholden Printers in Leipzig; J. Balzer and E. W. Buchheister in Breslau; J. H. Hierthes in Weissenburg; Johann Andreas Endter in Nürnberg; F. J. Oberthür in Straßburg; and Gottfried Hoffmann in Waldenburg, who printed baptismal greetings from 1756 on, and whose heirs continued to do so into the beginning of the nineteenth century. Among the older printed Taufzettel are some fine examples depicting symbols related to baptism and virtue; scenes from the life of Jesus; the four Evangelists; and often the entire baptismal sacrament itself.

Translation [7]
[Center]
Baptismal Note
Most precious child, may you so live on earth that you attain bliss.
I also want to ask of God that after this sojourn here, he might
take you into Salem’s dwelling,[8] into joyful eternity. Amen
I, your most faithful godmother, wish this for you. Elisabeth Käster
at Kästers house on the 22nd Day of December
in the year 1811 you
were baptized in holy consecration at [Blank]

[Upper Left Corner]
May God give this child faith; cleanse it of all its sins; and give it an
upright spirit –

[Upper Right Corner]
to do as God the Father commands, according to His will while
living here on earth, and afterwards in eternal life.

[Lower Left Corner]
Take this penny from me. May God replace it with a better one.
Obey your father and mother—

[Lower Right Corner]
Be happy among pious people, and avoid the evil ones.
Then you’ll be able to enter heaven with God.

The hand-done Taufwunsch was represented first and foremost in the Alsace, and to a lesser extent in Silesia and Bohemia. Especially charming and artistically creative, their makers, whether teachers, ministers, or simple farmers, showed originality in their calligraphy and accompanying decorative elements, replicating on their baptismal greetings the tulips, forget-me-nots, roses, and carnations found in their gardens. The real world that surrounded them supplied the roosters, doves, swans, peacocks, and eagles. Architectural elements dating back to the Renaissance, and adorning town buildings, stone grave monuments, and the homes of the elite perhaps inspired the imaginative figures of unicorns, mermaids, mermen, and angels. The artist, who was more in tune with tradition than symbolism, added these to his design as well, and his love and joy in the artistic process more than made up for any drawing talent he may have lacked.

The following illuminated manuscript, attributed to the Tall-Soldiers Artist, is labeled Taufschein, but follows neither the European Taufbrief template nor the usual and customary formula of American Taufscheins as we understand them today. Rather, it is a baptismal or Tauf adaptation by the artist/scrivener in the form of a Schein or certificate, thus without a place to insert coin(s). More than likely the token gift of money accompanied the Taufschein.

Translation [9]
Michael Bossert was born into this world on 26 February in the year 1766 of Christian Lutheran parents. His Godfather Johann Michael Ritter has had this baptismal certificate made for him in celebration thereof. His Godmother was Margaretha Beck.

The Sussel-Washington Artist, active from 1760-1779, expressly created Taufwünsche that followed the European formula and so labeled them. He used a standard template of baptismal wishes in the center, flanked usually by the charmingly attired God or godmother on one side and the Peter, Pfeter, Pfetter or godfather on the other.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fig. 6a Christlicher Tauff Wunsch for Samuel Staud, Pennsylvania, 2/28/1785, 39.164.1 (Courtesy of Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pa.; Photo Image © Del-Louise Moyer)

Translation: [10]
Christian Baptismal Wish: O dear child in Christ, you have been bought through Christ’s death, who, purchased you from Hell with His blood. After your baptism I wanted to send this to you as a remembrance and ever-present reminder. Grow up to honor God, to give joy to your parents, for the benefit of your neighbor, and for your salvation. Samuehl Staud was born Feburary 28, 1785, and baptized by Pastor Henrich Dehkert [Deckert]. Baptismal sponsors were Samuehl Marburger and his wife Maria, in Braunschweig Township, Berks County, in America.

Fig. 6b Christlicher Tauff Wunsch for Johan Heinrich, Pennsylvania, 3/1/1771.
1961.1118 A (Courtesy of Winterthur Museum, Wilmington, De)

Translation  [11]
Johannes Siberi Godfather Susanna Siberi Godmother
Christian Greetings spring forth from the heart’s bower in seven hours. Along with that I wish you luck, health, blessings and prosperity in your life here, and in time may you enter into the kingdom of eternal joy that no man’s tongue can describe; that no eye has seen; and no ear yet heard. Grow up to honor God, for the benefit of your neighbor, and for your salvation. Johan Heinrich was born March 1, 1771 in Warwick Township [Lancaster County].

Fig. 6c Christlicher Tauff Wunsch for Maria Gertraud, Pennsylvania, 9/25/1776, Visual Grace: Important American Folk Art from the Collection of Ralph O. Esmerian, Lot 617 (Courtesy of Sothebys, New York, NY)

Translation [12]
Godmother Maria Hemperling  Godfather Ludwig Hemperling
Christian Baptismal Wish: O dear child in Christ, you have been bought through Christ’s death, who, purchased you from Hell with His blood. After your baptism I wanted to send this to you as a remembrance and ever-present reminder. Grow up to honor God, to give joy to your parents, for the benefit of your neighbor, and for your salvation. Maria Gertraud was born September 24, 1776, in the sign of Aquarius in Paxton [Township] in Lancaster County [now Dauphin County] in Pennsylvania in America. May God grant His blessing.

Fig. 6d Christlicher Tauff Wunsch for Stovel Ehmrich, Pennsylvania, 1958.0120.015A (Courtesy of Winterthur Museum, Wilmington, De)

Translation [13]
Christian Baptismal Wish: O dear child in Christ, you have been bought through Christ’s death, Who purchased you from Hell with His blood. After your baptism I wanted to send this to you as a remembrance and ever-present reminder. Grow up to honor God, to give joy to your parents, for the benefit of your neighbor, and for your salvation. Stovel Ehmrich was born January 23, 1771, and baptized by Pastor Schultz. Godparents were Stovel Herrold and his wife Catharina in Bethel Township in Berks County in America in Pennsylvania. [Different hand not original to text as created ] The parents were Johannes Emrich and his wife Gertraut.

Superstitious beliefs also influenced what one might add to the Taufzettel as a gift, and different areas had their own peculiarities. This is especially true as to whether the baptismal letter was to be sealed or left open:

  • In some places, at the end of the consecration the godparents would put a certain sum of money into their Patenbrief, and place it into the godchild’s cradle.   The baptismal letter was left unsealed. This was true, especially if it was for a baby girl, in which case one would wind one strand of thread, and one strand of silk around it. The thread was to be used to sew the child’s first shirt. The silk, which was usually red in color, was to be used some time later to wrap around the baby’s hands. [The reason for the latter custom is unknown].
  • For a baby boy, one added nine kinds of seed to the baptismal letter so that when he grew up, the grains he planted would grow well.
  • Similarly for a baby girl, one added several grains of flax seeds and a threaded sewing needle so that one day her flax crops would flourish, and she would learn to sew well.
  • Including bread, cheese, wool, or flax meant the child would never want when it grew up.
  • In some regions it was believed that the Taufwunsch was to be left open so that the child’s mind would be open to understanding. Otherwise the child’s ability to learn would be impeded.
  • In the Canton of Bern, Switzerland there were to be three Godparents, each one presenting the baby with a separate Taufzedel. If, when the child grew up, it kept the letters on its person, neither witches nor ghosts could ever have power over it. [14]

In 1856 Pastor J. Baumgart described the then current ceremony in middle Silesia:

Before the godparents leave the church, they place a coin into a special fold in so-called Patentbriefe, which are decorated with printed vignettes and appropriate verses. Colorful ribbons are wound around the baptismal letter. The least the sponsors can give a baby girl is one Reichstaler three Pfennig, and the three copper pennies better not be missing. [15]

 It is a curious thing that in the early twentieth century it was sensed and lamented both in German-speaking areas of Europe as well as in America that an era was coming to an end, and the demise of once flourishing folk customs such as the Geburtsschein and Taufzettel were at hand. Prior to World War II feeble attempts were made to reawaken the desire to return to such traditions, but ultimately people were too far removed from the lifestyle that gave birth to these customs. Today Geburtsscheine and Taufwünsche similar in design and content can be found in both museums and libraries in Germany, Holland, Poland, Austria, parts of the former USSR and America leaving little doubt that both forms of identity, one for the temporal needs of this world, and the other for the spiritual were European phenomena that German-speaking immigrants brought with them as they settled southeastern Pennsylvania and other areas in the Americas in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Strong cultural ties to regional customs ensured that there would be no cookie cutter formula, neither in Europe nor in America, and that their usage would be adapted to the temporal and spiritual demands of the geographic areas where they would take root and flourish.

___________________

ENDNOTES
[1] Alpbrief was an agreement designating how residents of adjacent alpine areas were to distribute and care for the surrounding pastureland.

[2] Chur, Graubünden, Alpbrief des Hochgerichts Klosters Innern Schnitzes: Statutarrechte   von Graubünden im Brätigäu [14th century], VII, 3, 102ff.

[3] Transcription Fig. 1
Diese Beÿde Ehegaten | Als Johannes Landes Und | Seine eheliche
haus frau Elisabeth; eine | geborne Schottin Ist einen Sohn zur Welt
geboren | Namens; Samuel Landes | Ist geboren d[en] 17ten Jenner
im Jahr | Unsers Herren und Heilandes Jesu Christi | 1801 In america
Im Stat Pensÿlvanie[n] | Im bucks Cauntÿ Im Rockhill | Taunschp;
Ge=schrieben d[en] 13te[n] | Merz Im iahr 1816.

[4] Frederick W. Weiser. “Piety and Protocol in Folk Art: Pennsylvania German Fraktur Birth and Baptismal Certificates,” Winterthur Portfolio. 8: 1973, column 1, 22.

[5] Gottlieb Siegmund Covinus (Pseudonym: Amaranthes). Nutzbares, galantes und
curiöses Frauenzimmer-Lexicon.
Leipzig: Johann Friedrich Gleditsch und Sohn, 1715.

[6] Ibid, 1447. Pathen=Zettul = heissen diejenigen in Kupffer | gestochenen oder radirten abge= | druckten Blätter | auf Knäblein oder Mägdlein eingerichtet, und | mit allerhand glückwünschenden | Reimlein gezieret, worein die Ge= |vattern das Geschenke oder Pa= | the= | Geld mit Unterschreibung | ihres Nahmens, einzuwickeln und | zu versiegeln pflegen.

[7] Transcription Fig. 4
[Center]

Tauf= Zedel
Werthes Kind, leb so auf Erden, | Daß Du mögest selig werden. |
Ich will Gott auch für dich bitten; | daß er dich nach dieser Zeit
Nehme auf in Salems Hütten, | In die frohe Ewigkeit. Amen. |
Des wünsche ich, dein allergetreuste Tauf= | Goten Elisabeth Käster |
zu Kästers Haus | Den 22 Tag Christmonat im Jahr 1811 |
bist du getauft worden bey der heiligen Tauf zu [Blank]
[Upper Left Corner]
Gott geb den Glauben diesem | Kind, Und wasch ihm ab all seine |
Sünd; und geb ihm seinen guten Geist –
[Upper Right Corner]
Zu thun was Gott der Vater | heißt. Nach seinem Willen hier |
zu leben; Nach dieser Zeit das ew’ge Leben.
[Lower Left Corner]
Den Pfenning nimm und hab von | mir, Einen bessern woll’ Gott
ge= | ben dir. Thu Vater und Mutter gehorsam seyn—
[Lower Right Corner]
Thu gern bey frommen Leuten | seyn. Der schlimmen Leuten nimm |
dich nicht an, So kannst mit Gott | in Himmel gan.

[8] Salems Hütte or Salems Dwelling refers to the new Jerusalem in Revelations 21, and God’s tent in Salem in Psalm 76: 2.

[9] Transcription Fig. 5
[Original hand] Michael Bossert | ist von christlichen Lu= | therischen Eltern auf dieße Wett [sic] 
ge = | bohren den [different hand] 26 Febrar ann[o]1766|[Original hand] Dießen Tauffschein hat ihme sein | Peter Johann Michael Ritter zu | einem Andencken machen lassen | seine God ist geweßen, Marga | retha Beckin.

[10] Transcription Fig. 6a
Christlicher Tauff wunsch | du bist O: liebes kind in Christ[i] | Tod gekaufft, der dich mitt seinem Blutt, hatt von der Hell erkaufft | deß zur erinnerung, und stettem | angedenck, hab ich nach deiner Tauff, dir dieses wollen sen | den, wachs auff zu gottes | ehr, und deiner eltern Freud | zu deinem nechsten nutz und | deiner seeligkeit. Samuehl Staud \ gebohren den 28ten February 1785 | getaufft von Pfahrer Henrich deh= | kert Tauffzeige Samuehl mar | burger und sein ehe frau maria | in Braunsweig Daunsip in Bergs \ Caunty in amerika

[11] Transcription Fig. 6b
Johannes Siberi
Tauff Zeige |Susanna Siberi Tauff Zeige
Christlicher Wunsch kommt auß | dem herzen grund, in Sieben | Stund, winsch ich darbei, Glück | Heill, Seege und gedeien, in die = | sem leben allhier, Zu wandeln | und gehen ein, in die ewige | freud, die kein menschen Zung[e] | ausprechen kan, da kein auge | gesehen, und kein Ohr nie ge= | hoeret hat, wachs auff zu gottes | ehr; zum menschlichem nutz und | deiner Seeligkeit. Johan | Heinrich gebohren 1771. d| 1ten mertz warwick | Daunsip

[12] Transcription Fig. 6c
Tauf zeigin maria Hemperlinge Tauff Zeige Ludwig Hemperling
Christlicher Tauff Wunsch | du bist o liebes Kind in Christi | Tod getaufft der dich mit seinem blutt | hat von der Hell erkaufft, daß zur er = | rinnerung und stettem angedenck hab ich nach deiner Tauff, dir dießes wollen |senden, wachs auff zu gottes ehr | und deiner eltern Freud \ zu deinem nech = | sten nutz und deiner seeligkeit. Maria Gertraud gebohren | den 24ten September 1776 | im Zeichen Waßerman in | Becksten Caunty, Lenkester Caunty in Penselvani in | amerika Gott gebe seinen | seegen

[13] Transcription Fig. 6d
Christlicher Tauff wunsch, | du bist O: liebe kind, in Christi | Tod getaufft, der dich mit seinen |blutt, hat von der hell erkaufft | deß zur errinnerung, und stet = | tem angedenk, hab ich nach | deiner Tauff, dir dieses wol= | len sencken, wachs auff zu gottes | ehr, und deiner Eltern Freud zu | deinem nechsten nutz, und deiner | seeligkeit stovel ehmrich gebohren | den 23ten January 1771 getaufft | vom Phahrer Schultz Tauffzeige | stovel Herrold und sein ehe frau | Catarina in Bettel daunsip | Bergs Caunty in amerika in | Pensylvani [Different hand not original to text as created →] Die Eltern waren Johannes | Emrich und frau gertraut.

[14] Adolf Jacoby. “Taufbriefe,” in Monatsschrift für Gottesdienst und kirchliche Kunst. 13. Jahrgang, Heft I, Januar 1908. Göttingen Germany: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, herausgegeben [für] Dr. Friedrich Spitta and Dr. Julius Smend, 1908, 202-211.

15 Ibid, 204. Ehe die Paten die Kirche verlassen, werden dem Kinde noch die Patengeschenke eingebunden d. h. ins Bettchen gelegt und zwar Geld in besonders dazu gefertigten Couverts (sogenannte Patenbriefe mit Vignetten und bezüglichen Versen geziert) gewickelt und mit buntseidenen Bändern umschlungen. Die niedrigste Taxe für das Eingebind einer Magd beträgt 1 Rtlr. 3 Pf., der Kupferdreier darf nicht fehlen.


I’d like to thank Corinne & Russell Earnest of the Earnest Archives and Library; Bill Daley and Bod Wood of Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc.; Edwin Hild and Patrick Bell of Olde Hope Antiques; Jeanine Pollock and Joe Shemtov of the Free Library of Philadelphia; Scott Schweigert, and Ashley Hamilton Houston of the Reading Public Museum; Jean Solensky, Librarian for the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera; Susan Ishler Newton, Photographic Services Coordinator; Julia R. Hofer, Registration Database Specialist; and Lea Lane, Elizabeth and Robert Owens Curatorial Fellow, all of Winterthur.

Geburtsbriefe and Taufwünsche: European Phenomena Blog Post including transcriptions; translations; and photo image for Christlicher Tauff Wunsch for Samuel Staud © 2016 Del-Louise Moyer.