1st German News in America

First German Newspaper in America Published by Benjamin Franklin in 1732

At a noteworthy exhibition that took place recently in Philadelphia, under the auspices of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, there was shown a copy of the Philadelphis’ schen Zeitung, which is supposed to be the only copy of the first newspaper in America printed in German. This paper was published by Benjamin Franklin in 1732. It is a closely printed, four-page,small-sized leaflet filled with news from Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna, and other important European cities. It does not contain any advertisements, and is dated June 24, 1732, being the second issue of the publication The first issue must have been published fourteen days before, since the paper was published twice a month.

Benjamin Franklin’s knowledge of the German language was equivalent to that of a high school graduate after four years of study. He did not, therefore, pay much attention to German grammar.

Die Philadelphis’sche Zeitung of Benjamin Franklin reached its sixth issue with fifty subscribers. Benjamin Franklin never forgave his German fellow-citizens for their complete lack of interest in his journalistic ambitions in the German language; he called them “German Boors” (German dumb bells) of course, it is correct that the first German immigrants were not exactly intelligent. A rural minister of those times said in his farewell sermon: “God rules the world and the stupidity of Brush Alley, and by most of them it can be read from their faces; as calves I received them, as oxen I must leave them in God’s name. Amen.” However, the German-American press is only forty two years younger than the English-American. The first leaflet printed on American soil in the English language appeared Sept. 25, 1690, when Benjamin Harris published in Boston his Public Occurrences, in a tiny form.

Benjamin Franklin’s Die Philadelphis’sche Zeitung was the forerunner of many German language newspapers that came and went, but nevertheless preserved their influence until today. This influence, beginning with Christoph Saur’s Germantown monthly periodical Der Hoch deutsche Geschichts schreiber (the High-German Historian), or Sammlung wichtiger Nachrichter ausdem Natur and Kirchen Reich (Collections of important news from Nature and Church), first published in 1739, is still preserved by the present daily newspapers printed in the German language in all principal cities of the United States of America.

Abendpost — June 26, 1932