The German &
German-English Public Schools
The first German school house established in Baltimore was in 1758 at the S.E. corner of Holliday and Saratoga Sts. Several German schools had various degrees of success and Scheib’s, Knapp’s, Deichmann’s (see below) and other private or parochial schools were conducted with great success. The benefit was not intended to insure to German children only in being taught English, but to American children being taught German.
Long before the public schools were instituted by the State Legislature, there were parish schools operated by the churches. Many of the German Protestant schools were backed by funds from Germany.
Many U.S. schools adopted German concepts of early childhood education, higher education for girls, music and manual arts, vocational education and structured teacher training and certification. The first successful Kindergarten was founded in 1856 by German immigrant Margarete Mayer Schurz, wife of Carl Schurz in Watertown Wisconsin.
In rural areas, it wasn’t uncommon to find both public and private parochial schools teaching exclusively in German. It wasn’t feasible in most large cities, however, a few such as Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland found it not only feasible but preferable to operate bilingual public schools.
Problems that led to the closing or demise of the German-English Schools:
Decline of immigration from Germany
The First World War
Several Articles of Interest regarding German Schools in Baltimore City
Inter-marriages with non-Germans
Marriages of persons of German descent who had lost the art of German speech
In 1870 when the use of German as an every day language was at its’ peak, the demand for instruction in it in the public schools became insistent.
In 1873 a resolution was reported by the Joint Committee on Education of the City Council of Baltimore and unanimously adopted by both branches requesting the Board of School Commissioners ‘to consider the propriety of introducing the study of the German language in the public schools of the city. The matter was referred to a special committee of the Board. They reported that it was inexpedient to introduce the study of the language in the Grammar Schools and that the best method would be to establish separate schools in which the English and German languages could be simultaneously taught.
Around this time, they established one school as a sort of test. Anyone who wished to learn the German language with their English studies would be eligible for enrollment. Almost immediately upon its establishment several hundred pupils applied for admission. The following year two additional schools were established. About 1500 pupils entered within weeks of their opening. Of these students all but five were pay students. The fee at the time was a $4 book fee per year.
By 1875 four English German schools had been established and were in regular session. The following information was taken from a 1876 catalog of schools and universities:
* English German School, No. 1, Biddle Street, near Fremont.
9 Teachers. 575 Scholars.
A. T. King, Principal.
V. Scheer, Vice-Principal.
* English German School, No. 2, 174 Hamburg Street.
12 Teachers. 558 Scholars.
Richard Grady, Principal
Philip Wacker, Vice-Principal
* English German School, No. 3, Trinity Street, near Exeter.
15 Teachers. 615 Scholars.
C. W. Virtue, Principal.
J. H. H. Maenner, Vice-Principal
* English German School, No. 4, Aisquith Street, near Fayette.
4 Teachers. 67 Scholars.
E. M. Jackson, Principal. C.O. Schoenrich, Vice Principal
Number 5 (1876) Fremont Street near Lombard
(According to Rippey’s Directory of 1888, the schools were located at: )
No. 1 English-German — Druid Hill avenue near Biddle.
No. 2 English-German — Charles and Ostend.
No. 3 English-German — Baltimore opposite Lloyd.
No. 4 English-German — Chase and McDonogh.
No. 5 English-German — Fremont Avenue and King.
In 1878 a movement began to make ‘English-German’ schools tax free, eliminating the $4 book fees.
In 1879 the names were changed from ‘English-German’ schools to ‘Public Schools’.
In 1880, there were still only five schools with total enrollment of 3440 pupils. By 1883 the enrollment was 3869 and school Number 2 was given a new building at the corner of Charles and Ostend Streets. It was over crowded before it started and an addition was provided in 1884. School Number 5 had 900 pupils and was built to accommodate 600.
In 1885 enrollment had risen to 4616.
In March 1886 a course of study in German for grades 1 to 8 was adopted. The goal ‘every effort should be made towards giving pupils the ability to speak and write German correctly’.
In 1887 the name of the schools was changed back to the English-German schools. In 1888 and 1889 enrollment grew to 5030. In 1893 enrollment was at 5439. In 1897 this number rose to 6780 and it 1899 it was 6931.
In 1890 about one fourth of Baltimore families spoke German in their homes and businesses. Up to the mid 1800’s it is safe to say that nearly as many people of all ages spoke German as spoke English only.
Interesting Note: In Weishampel's Baltimore Guide (1896), it is indicated that the State Normal and Public Schools (the State Normal School was intended for the instruction of teachers and was housed in a building on Layfayette Square. The building cost was $150,000. It also noted that the public schools or their free education system costs the State about $600,000 per year.
In 1900 a new building for Number 5 was completed at Lexington Street near Fremont Avenue.
In 1903 in a report by the new Superintendent of Schools, James H. Van Sickle, noted that there were thirteen schools that were either wholly or in part English-German schools. Children who attend them are usually of German parentage.
Elementary school German language enrollments were at their peak between 1880 and 1910.
Until the onset of World War I German was taught in the public schools. It came to a complete halt at this time. It is estimated that as late as 1910 nine million people in the U.S. still spoke German as their mother tongue.
**June 4, 1923 a Supreme Court decision, "Meyer vs. the State of Nebraska" , a knowledge of the German language by itself could not be regarded as harmful and that the right to teach and the right of parents to have their children taught in a language other than English was within their liberties guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
**In 1925, the Supreme Court ruled ‘Pierce vs. the Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary’ that children between the ages of eight and sixteen were not bound to attend a public school.
Private German Schools
Zion (Schreib) School (1836-1895)
* German American Zion School. Gay Street, near Fayette. Kindergarten attached. Rev. H. Scheib, Director. R. Ortman, P. Fehler, W. Haines, Z. Aulabaugh, A. Schmidt, A. Ehrhard, E. Wiegand, A. Brummer and N. Klassert, Assistants. Zions-Schule, incorporated in 1836, and in 1870 had over 800 pupils, with sixteen teachers, drawing salaries of $14,000, under the direction of pastor Scheib. Rev. Scheib retired in 1897 at the age of 88 after serving the church for 61 years.
http://zionbaltimore.org/vthistory_1800s_the_scheib_school.htm. *There was another German American Zion School at Aisquith Street between Jefferson and Orleans. The principal was G. Facius.
F. Knapp’s German and English Institute (1852-1916)
The school was founded by Frederick Knapp (1821-1893) in 1852. The Maryland Legislature incorporated the school in 1863.
Classes were conducted for children from Kindergarten to High School age. German was taught in all grades. German was the language of all resident teachers. Courses included Literature, Mathematics, Science, including Geology, Physiology, Hygiene, Natural Philosophy, Chemistry and Astronomy. There were also courses in Ancient and Modern languages including Latin, Greek, French, Spanish and Hebrew. There were instructions in vocal and instrumental music, and special branches that taught Mechanical and Free Hand Drawing, Bookkeeping, Needlework, etc.
The school was originally located on Frederick Street and served a student base of approximately 20 students. The student population increased to 400 making a move necessary. The first move was to a building on Gay Street in 1859. In November of 1864 major improvements were made when Knapp purchased three houses at the corner of Holliday Street and Orange Alley. He modernized the houses and built wings on the rear of the houses. He purchased the homes for $12,000 and renovation costs exceeded $20,000. Within the buildings there were rooms for study, apartments for instructors, rooms in one wing dedicated to female students, a large eating hall and sleeping quarters for the boarders. There was also a quad or area for recess. At this time there was a student population of approximately 800 with 29 teachers.
This growth was in part, made possible due to the students attending. Many prominent German families sent their children to Knapp. Names such as Marburg, Numsen, Kuebler, Kronmueller, Lobe, Strauss, Frische, Wiener, Wiesenfeld, Rosenfeld and Mencken, to name a few were educated at Knapp. The school grew and became one of the largest and most prestigious in the US. Students came from all over the US and Canada.
If you can imagine these buildings began where Zion’s garden now stands and across Lexington to the City Hall Plaza. In fact another move was made necessary when the homes along Holiday Street were to be destroyed to make room for Lexington Street.
The school then moved to Hollins Street and Parkin Street. Knapp took over the former Ross Winans house, today Lithuanian Hall*.
In 1873, Frederick Knapp formed a Department for the teaching of the deaf and became successful as a leader in innovation for education of the deaf. At their 50th Anniversary in 1902, it was reported that the school had taught 220 deaf children how to talk. This became one of the most predominant schools in the south for the teaching of deaf. Their system was so successful the Maryland General Assembly established an ongoing scholarship to the school so that more deaf children could be enrolled. Also, in 1902, it was the largest private school in the US. When the Deaf School was established, Frederick withdrew from the regular classes and his son William took the leadership role for the larger school.
The school closed in 1916. The total number of students going through the Knapp Institute numbered 17,340.
· The Year in Education 1879.
· The Baltimore Sunpaper (various dates)
About the buildings on Parkin and Hollins Streets and today’s residents:
*Lithuanian Hall Association purchased the building in 1916 from the F. Knapp Institute. From their website: In 1916 and 1917, two buildings on the corner of Parkin and Hollins Sts., previously known as F. Knapp‘s Institute School for the Deaf, were purchased by the Lithuanian Hall Association. These building were originally built in 1853 and opened as F. Knapp‘s Institute, a German and English academic school. When the school‘s popularity grew, a second campus with a larger capacity was opened on Holliday Street, which later became the site of the City Hall Plaza across from Baltimore‘s City Hall. Meanwhile the two buildings on Hollins and Parkin Streets became an Institute for the Deaf in 1887, when Mr. Knapp took a personal interest in helping deaf children, and felt they could succeed better at the smaller campus.
The buildings were originally owned by Thomas Winans, son of Ross Winans, inventor and designer of the B&O’s first steam locomotive.
Sunpaper Article: Removing the Handicap of Deafness 9-28-1930
The ‘Independent Academy’/’Irving College’
The Academy was founded by Ferdinand Dieffenbach in 1853. It was located in Manchester, Maryland. It began operating with just two students. Mr. Dieffenbach was a refugee of the 1848 Revolution in Germany.
Dieffenbach changed the name of his school for young men and boys to Irving College in 1858 in honor of the famous American author, Washington Irving. It was incorporated by the Legislature on February 1, 1858. The scholars came primarily from Pennsylvania, Maryland and across the South including Texas. In addition to Greek, Latin, English grammar and foreign languages, the curriculum included mathematics and science plus quite a bit of military training. Dieffenbach, the President, spoke 7 different languages. By 1860 the two schools were large enough to require six instructors including one listed as a military inspector. “A sound mind in a sound body” was the College motto. Dieffenbach’s wife established a school for girls in 1858. It was called the ‘Manchester Female Academy’.
The school prospered and was a well-respected institution. Ferdinand Dieffenbach, unfortunately died at the very early age of 40 (dod 3-1861). His family attempted to keep the college going, but the Civil War and inexperience was hard on the college. It existed and was renamed ‘Irving Institute’ in the 1880’s but was ultimately sold at a public sale in 1898.
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The Dalrymple's University School of Maryland was located on the south side of Mulberry, now the head of Cathedral and it cut through to Saratoga. It was also known as Dalrymple's Select School, located at 139 Lanvale Street.
Wacker Schule (1851)
Wacker-Schule-founded in 1851 in South Baltimore had about 400 students in 1870. The Wacker Schule was led by Philip Wacker (2-18-1827 to 9-15-1884). Mr. Wacker was born in Beulfeld, Württemberg in 1827 and was naturalized in Maryland Circuit Court in 1853. Mr. Wacker opened the school in South Baltimore in 1851. It was called Wacker’s German and English school. Many children from the South Baltimore area attended. When the English-German public schools opened in 1875, Mr. Wacker closed his school and became the assistant principal at German School #2 on Charles near Cross Street. He held this position until he died.
Mr. Wacker was involved in many German clubs including the Sons of Liberty, which is where he died while taking minutes at Wacker’s Hall, which was located on Hamburg Street near Leadenhall. He also belonged to the Masons. He resided at 176 Hamburg Street, which was next to the Hall, which initially served as his school.
Mr. Wacker’s son, Oscar (one of four children to Philip and Christiana Schmeck), was influential in Baltimore academics, serving as the School Board Commissioner.
**While doing private research the handwork of one of the students of Wacker was found. It belonged to a Sophia Heilmann, daughter of George and Barbara. The family lived on Randall Street. Sophia married a Henry Seifert.
Reinhardt Schule (girls)
Reinhardt, Misses M. & B. German and English School for Young Ladies. 30 North Greene Street, near Fayette.* Reinhardt-Schule for Girls-founded in 1861 offered a higher curriculum
Tome’s School at Port Deposit, was one of the best preparatory schools for boys in the country. (Jacob Tome)
Küster Schule (girls)*
Kuster, Miss A. English and German School for Young Ladies and Children. 39 Lexington Street, near St. Paul. Miss A. Kuster, Principal. E. Kuster, S. Harris and Kev. A. Grave, Assistants.
Diesterweg Institut-East Baltimore, had about 250 pupils in 1870.
Source: *George L. Smith [from old catalog]. Baltimore hand book of colleges, schools, libraries, museums, halls, &c. 1876].
Source: Undercurrents of German Influence in Maryland-A paper written by Prof. Albert B. Faust-Cornell University-February 21 1911
English, French and German Day School for Young Ladies. 253 West Hoffman Street, corner Druid Hill Avenue. Miss Rebecca McConkey, Principal.
*German American Zion School
Aisquith Street, between Jefferson and Orleans. G. P\\CIUS, Principal. H. G. Brown, F. Barthel, J. H. Lindermann. W. Mayer, F. Blume, Miss Maggie Dunlap and Mrs. M. Motz, Assistants.
* German American School
Central Avenue, near Fayette Street. Rev. L. 1). Maier, Director.
* Broadbelt, John E.
English and German Boarding and Day School. 9 Aisquith Street, corner Jefferson.
German Catholic schools
St. John German Church
The church was established in 1799 and closed in 1841. It was located at Saratoga Street and Park Avenue. St. John’s under diocesan priests gradually grew in size. The pastor, Rev. Benedict Bayer, tenured his resignation because he found it impossible to reach all of his nearly 4000 parishioners. The resignation was contingent on the Redemptorists succeeding him and:
That they (the Redemptorists) assume charge of the German Catholics,
That on the same site on which St. John’s stands, they build a larger church and a house large enough for the training of students or novices of the same society, and
That in the same place they build a school for the Germans.
The Redemptorists plunged into the task of rearing their church, novitiate and school. While St. John’s was being razed, the congregation had to find shelter elsewhere for church. The Irish church of Old St. James’ on Aisquith and Eager Streets in Old Town (East Baltimore) was being vacated at this time for new quarters on front Street (St. Vincent’s) and Archbishop Eccleston kindly extended the use of its facilities to the Redemptorists and the flock of St. John’s for the ‘perpetual use of the Germans’. Thus was started what was later to prove the most flourishing and intensely German parish in the entire archdiocese.
St. James the Less
As early as 1843, school was held in the basement of St. James Church. Keep in mind that St. James was an Irish parish and was vacated for the building of a new church. The Irish kindly allowed the Redemptorist to use the building located at Aisquith and Eager Streets. In fact it was stated that it was for the ‘perpetual use of the Germans’. In 1847 the Redemptorists of St. James’ sold their house to the Notre Dame sisters, who had just arrived. From their convent they took charge of several schools, St. James being one of them. When the new convent house was built for them in 1863, they moved in and used the old convent house to shelter the 562 students.
The cornerstone of the new school was laid in May 1864. Since the completion of the new school on Somerset Street attendance was rapidly growing and by the end of 1878 there were 500 boys and 400 girls. By 1855, 1020 students were attending St. James School.
Many of the male students, in fact 274, fought in WWI, seven never returned.
The cornerstone of the school was laid at Pratt and Register Streets in 1845. The bricks used in building the school were from Bremen, Germany and were used as ballast in the hold of a ship. The two story, four room structure had been named in honor of St. Michael and was attended after 1847 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who for seventeen years, walked each morning from their convent on Aisquith Street to the school. The school was a focal point for the ever increasing number of German immigrants who made their homes near the school.
As the result of a petition, the then pastor of St. Alphonsus, Father Gabriel Rumpler, undertook the building of a church in connection with the St. Michael School. The church was blessed in 1852 and the growth of the new parish was rapid. The growth of the new born parish of St. Michael’s school rose from about 300 in 1852 to a little less than 500 at the beginning of the Civil War.
The heights of attendance was attained in 1897 when the rolls included over 1600 pupils. St. Michael’s was, at one time, the largest Redemptorist parish in the U.S.
In the early 50s a society of St. Paul in Federal Hill approached Rev. Francis Seelos of St. Alphonsus and requested a church be built in their area. Rev. Seelos first suggested they seek a site for a school. Mr. Joseph Kaufman, at his own expense, remodeled numbers 51 and 53 Brown Street (now 7 and 9 Cross Street) and donated the buildings as the first Catholic School on Federal Hill. It opened in September 1855 to over 60 students. In March, 1857, ground was broken for the erection of a larger school building. In January 1865, the Katholische Volks-Zeitung reported that the school at its founding numbered scarcely 70 children now has 300, so that a larger building was required.
Although founded by the Redemptorists, the parish on December 19, 1869 was turned over to Father Ludwig Vogtman, a secular priest who was brought directly from Westphalia. He engaged the Sisters of Christian Charity to conduct the school. The sisters were founded by Pauline von Mallinckrodin in Paderborn in 1849. They took charge of about 250 children at Holy Cross in 1886. When Father Charles Damer was installed as pastor in 1890 he erected a new school, modern in every respect, complete from kindergarten to high school, a social center hall, bowling alleys, conference and club rooms.
The nearest place of worship for those living in Canton was St. Michael’s. In 1870 the Rev. Joseph Müller was commissioned to begin collecting funds for the foundation of a new parish. Two years later the Redemptorists were able to purchase a lot on Snake Hill (Highlandtown), former site of Fort Marshall of the Civil War days and present location of Sacred Heart Church near the corner of Eastern Avenue and Conkling Street. By 1873 both the school and church were started in the basement of the first church. School Sisters of Notre Dame took over the classes in 1876.
Fourteen Holy Martyrs
West Baltimore German Catholics needed a church and school in West Baltimore. They went to Father Joseph Wissel, pastor of St. Alphonsus’ in 1869 and he invited all German speaking men living west of Pear Street to a meeting to discuss the possibilities. Results were quickly apparent. By May 1890, excavation was begun on a lot on Mount Street between Lombard and Pratt Streets for a church and school. Archbishop Spalding dedicated the church in January 1871, in honor of the Fourteen Holy Martyrs. The Benedictines replaced the Redemptorists as ministers of the parish in 1874. In 1880 Benedictine nuns from Chicago took charge of the school but were later replaced by the Notre Dame nuns.
The Institute of Notre Dame
The school was established by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. They made their trip to the United States at the request of King Louis I of Bavaria. The King contributed to their expenses and told them he would not forget them in America. So on July 31, 1847, one novice and five sisters including Mother Teresa (Caroline Gerhardinger), the Reverend Mother and Sister Mary Caroline (Josephine Friess) arrived in the U.S. and proceeded to St. Mary’s Pennsylvania. They weren’t happy with what they found, so the two sisters left for Baltimore where they founded a motherhouse very near to the St. James Church. In a short time, the three sisters had assumed the charge of St. James, St. Alphonsus and St. Michael’s schools. Their schools have spread all over the United States.
The exact beginning of IND is not known, but is usually placed around 1849. By 1857 there were 70 students. They outgrew the original school and on September 8, 1862, the foundation was laid for the new school. The school was ready for occupancy and 26 girls appeared for classes in September 1863. The first public commencement was held on July 24, 1864.
Sister Clarissa arrived in 1864 and was later appointed Mother Superior in 1873. Extensions to the school included a chapel, an auditorium, more classrooms, music and art studios, etc. Sister Clarissa died in 1924, at which time the school had 250 pupils. In 1926 a final building was erected that brought the entire group to Ashland Avenue.
The Institute of Notre Dame announced the closing of their school permanently in May 2020. They cited decreasing enrollment over the past few years.
College of Notre Dame
On North Charles Street at Homeland Avenue stands the College of Notre Dame. It was purchased in 1871 by the Notre Dame Sisters. The school opened in 1873 and President U.S. Grant crowned the first graduates in June 1876. Notre Dame of Maryland was the first Catholic women’s college in the U.S.
Sts. Peter & Paul-Cumberland
The German people began to work on a church on the lots at the corner of Plumb Alley and Fayette Street in the spring of 1848. The church was dedicated to Sts. Peter and Paul on September 23, 1849.
At the close of 1849, the brother in charge of the school had 56 pupils. Three years later an old public school house nearby was purchased and turned into a parochial school. IN 1855 the Redemptorists at Sts. Peter and Paul’s opened a college for the young members of the order. Most of the students had been born in Germany.
The Redemptorists desiring a college and novitiate much nearer to Baltimore, abandoned Cumberland in 1866. The Carmelite Fathers from Straubing, Bavaria, led by Father Cyril Knoll, succeeded them.
Another shift in pastors occurred in 1875 when the Capuchin Fathers replaced the Carmelites. Driven from Westphalia by the oppressive May Laws of 1875, they sought refuge in Cumberland where they wanted to use as a novitiate the college abandoned by the Redemptorists.
Johns Hopkins University
The history of Education in Baltimore is vitally important. Johns Hopkins was and still is a MAJOR influence in higher education. It was a German influence brought to America by an American. The work of President Gilman at JHU is world renowned. He transplanted the German University idea on American soil. Many of the early professors at JHU were German university trained. Many of the directors were German.
A Short Overview-History of the University of Maryland
Since many of the physicians sketches on this page, are graduates of the University of Maryland this short synopsis of the University is important.
The University of Maryland began in 1807 then named ‘The College of Medicine of Maryland’. It was the fifth such college in the US (Penn, Harvard, Dartmouth and Columbia). In 1812 provisions were made to organize additional schools of Divinity, Law and Arts & Sciences. Again, in 1840, the School of Pharmacy was added. It was also around this time that the school declined to establish a separate School of Dentistry and missed out when the first in the US college for dentistry was established, ‘The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery’. The University’s School of Dentistry was not established until 1882.
The School for Arts and Sciences was slow to catch on, but in 1831 a regular faculty was appointed and courses in Philosophy, History, Classical and Modern Languages, Political Economy, Geology, Rhetoric, Botany, Mathematics, Applied Chemistry and similar fields began. The school still wasn’t as popular as the Medical or Law school and some of this is attributable to the strong competition from the newly founded Johns Hopkins University. The popularity of JHU causes such a decline, that University of Maryland’s School for Arts & Sciences that in 1907, it merged with St. John’s College in Annapolis.
In 1913 and 1915 respectively, the Baltimore Medical College and the College of Physicians and Surgeons united with the University of Maryland Medical School.
In 1920, the Maryland legislature merged the university with the Maryland State College in College Park and from then until present has been known as the ‘University of Maryland’ and it applied to both the schools in Baltimore and in College Park. The later was chartered in 1856 under the name of the ‘Maryland Agricultural College’, the second in the US. The control of the college being in state hands since 1914. Now the Schools of Medicine and Law remained in Baltimore and the Engineering, Agriculture, Arts and Sciences, became the backbone of the College Park school.
Since this time, the school has merged with other schools. In fact, in 1998 the five schools are merged including the Eastern Shore and Baltimore County Campus as one University of Maryland.
Notable German faculty during the first century of existence: Charles Frederick Wiesenthal, Samuel Baker, William Baker, Samuel Baker, Jr., William Baker, George W. Miltenberger, Charels Frick, Julius Friedenwald, Edgar Friedenwald, Harry Friedenwald, John Hemmeter, Ernest Zueblin, Pearch Kintzing, Harry M. Stein, Harvey G. Beck, Harry Adler, Alfred Ullman, Edward Uhlenhut, Jose Hirsch, T.F. Leitz, M. Kahn, Frank Saenger, James Mydegger, Melvin Rosenthal, Harry Deuel, Frank Hachtel, Charles Schmidt, Charles Caspari, John Ruhräh, Frank Bressler, John Uhler, Alred Mayer, William Simon, Timothy Heatwole, Lewis Steiner, William Schultz, Walter Hartung and John Krantz. There are many more and if you would like to add to the list contact firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] Max Kade German American Center, by Willi Paul Adams, ‘The German Americans-An Ethnic Experience’.