Pennsylvania Dutch
Pennsylvanisch Deitsche
Regions with significant populations
German Pennsylvania
Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, California, Ontario
Pennsylvania Dutch
Pennsylvania Dutch English
Lutheran, Reformed, German Reformed, Catholic, Moravian, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite, Amish, Schwenkfelder, River Brethren, Yorker Brethren, Judaism, Pow-wow, Jehovah's Witnesses
Related ethnic groups
Palatines, Missouri Rhinelanders, Hessians, Fancy Dutch, German Americans,

The Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsylvania Dutch: Pennsylvanisch Deitsche),[1][2][3] also commonly referred to as Pennsylvania Germans, are an ethnic group in Pennsylvania and other American states.[4][5][6] They largely descend from the Palatinate region of Germany, and settled in Pennsylvania during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. While most were from the Palatinate region of Germany, a lesser number were from other German-speaking areas of Germany and Europe, including Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Saxony, and Rhineland in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.[7][8][9]

The Pennsylvania Dutch spoke Palatine German and other South German dialects, intermixing of Palatine, English, and other German dialects, which formed the Pennsylvania Dutch language as it is spoken today.[10]

Historically, "Dutch" referred to all Germanic dialect speakers, and is the origin of Pennsylvania Dutch, its English translation. The Pennsylvania Dutch name has caused confusion in recent times, as the word Dutch has evolved to associate mainly with people from the Netherlands.[11]

Geographically, Pennsylvania Dutch are largely based in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country and Ohio Amish Country.[12] The most famous Pennsylvania Dutch groups are the Fancy Dutch and the Amish.

Notable Americans of Pennsylvania Dutch descent include Henry J. Heinz, founder of the Heinz food conglomerate, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the family of American businessman Elon Musk.[13]


"Dutch" is an English word. Dutch in the English language originally referred to all Germanic dialect speakers; Yankees referred to the language spoken by the Holland Dutch as Low Dutch (Dutch: laagduits), and the language spoken by American Palatines as High Dutch (German: hochdeutsch).[14]

Thus the word Dutch in Pennsylvania Dutch is not a mistranslation but rather a derivation of the Pennsylvania Dutch endonym Deitsch, which means "Pennsylvania Dutch" or "German."[15][16][17][18] Ultimately, the terms Deitsch, Dutch, Diets and Deutsch are all descendants of the Proto-Germanic word *þiudiskaz, meaning "popular" or "of the people."[19]

The oldest German newspaper in Pennsylvania was the High Dutch Pennsylvania Journal in 1743. The first mixed English and German paper, the Pennsylvania Gazette of 1751, described itself as an "English and Dutch gazette," in reference to the High Dutch language spoken in Pennsylvania.[20]

Pennsylvania Dutch history in America

Further information: Pennsylvania Dutch Country and Palatine Dutch

Three leading Pennsylvania Dutch states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Actress Hedda Hopper (left) was Pennsylvania Dutch

Waves of colonial Palatines (Pennsylvania Dutch: Pälzer) from the Rhenish Palatinate initially settled in Maryland, the Carolinas, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. The first Palatines in Pennsylvania arrived in the late 1600s but the majority came throughout the 1700s.[21][22]

There were several Palatine state citizen groups: New York Palatines, Virginia Palatines, Maryland Palatines, Indiana Palatines; the most numerous and influential were the Pennsylvania Palatines.[23][24][25][26][27] American Palatines were known collectively as Palatine Dutch (Pennsylvania Dutch: Pälzisch Deitsche),[28] and settled many states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa and Southern states.[29][30]

American Palatines continued to use their language as a way of distinguishing themselves from later (post-1830) waves of German-speaking immigrants to the United States. The Pennsylvania Dutch referred to themselves as Deitsche,[31] and called immigrants of German-speaking countries and territories in Europe Deitschlenner, (literally "Dutchlanders", compare German: Deutschländer), which translates to "European Germans", whom they saw as a distinct group.[32][33]

These European Germans immigrated to Pennsylvania Dutch cities, where many came to prominence in matters of the church, newspapers, and urban business.[33][32] After the 1871 unification of the first German Empire, the term "Dutchlander" came to refer to the nationality of people from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.[34][35][36]

Due to strong anti-German sentiment between World War I and World War II, the use of the Pennsylvania Dutch language declined, except among the more insular and tradition-bound Plain people, such as the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites. Many German cultural practices continue in Pennsylvania in the present-day, and German remains the largest ancestry claimed by Pennsylvanians, according to the 2008 census.[37][38]


The Pennsylvania Dutch live primarily in the Delaware Valley and in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a large area that includes South Central Pennsylvania, in the area stretching in an arc from Bethlehem and Allentown in the Lehigh Valley westward through Reading, Lebanon, and Lancaster to York and Chambersburg.[39] Some Pennsylvania Dutch live in the historically Pennsylvania Dutch-speaking areas of Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.[40]


Palatines and other ancestors

Further information: Palatines § Holy Roman Nationality, and Holy Roman Empire

Historic flag of the Palatines
The Holy Roman Empire during the Palatinate campaign

The vast majority of Pennsylvania Dutch have Palatine ancestry. They are also culturally related to the New York Dutch.[41][42]

The Fancy Dutch descend from Palatines who left the economic conditions and devastation in the Rhenish Palatinate of the Holy Roman Empire during and after the Thirty Years' War; their number included Catholic Palatines, who had already established three Catholic parishes in 1757.[43][44]

The Plain Dutch are descendants of refugees who left religious persecution in the Netherlands and the Electoral Palatinate.[29] Of note, the Amish and Mennonites came to the Rhenish Palatinate and surrounding areas from Switzerland, where, as Anabaptists, they were persecuted, and so their stay in the Palatinate was of limited duration.[45]

Anglo-Americans held much anti-Palatine sentiment in the Pennsylvania Colony. Below is a quotation of Benjamin Franklin's complaints about the Palatine refugees in his work Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind (1751):

Why should the Palatine boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements, and by herding together establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of us Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.

The great Palatine migration and colonial Palatines

Many Palatines fled to the Pennsylvania Dutch Country

The first Palatine migrations began during the Palatinate campaign of the Thirty Years' War, in which large parts of the Palatinate lost more than two thirds of their population. The Palatinate campaign saw heavy fighting in the Rhenish Palatinate, collapse of the state's economy, and wholesale slaughter of Palatine civilians, including women, children and non-combattants.[46]

As early as 1632, Catholic Palatines found their way to America and settled in the Maryland Palatinate, an American palatinate established by the Calvert family as a haven for Catholic refugees. The heaviest concentration of Palatines settled in Western Maryland.[22][47][48]

In 1683, Palatines founded the first borough of Germantown in northwest Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.[49] They settled on land sold to them by William Penn. Germantown included not only Mennonites, but also Quakers.[50]

A portrayal of colonial Palatines in Fraktur art style

This group of Mennonites was organized by Francis Daniel Pastorius, an agent for a land purchasing company based in Frankfurt am Main.[49] None of the Frankfurt Company ever came to Pennsylvania except Pastorius himself, but thirteen Kleverlandish-speaking Mennonite families from Krefeld arrived on October 6, 1683, in Philadelphia. They were joined by eight Low Dutch families from Hamburg-Altona in 1700 and five High Dutch families from the Rhenish Palatinate in 1707.[51]

During the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–97), French troops pillaged the Rhenish Palatinate, forcing many Palatines to flee. The war began in 1688 as Louis XIV laid claim to the electorate of the Palatinate. French forces devastated all major cities of the region, including Cologne. By 1697 the war came to a close with the Treaty of Ryswick, now Rijswijk in the Netherlands, and the Palatinate remained free of French control. However, by 1702, the War of the Spanish Succession began, lasting until 1713. French expansionism forced many Palatines to flee as refugees.[52]

In 1723, some thirty-three Palatine families, dissatisfied under Governor Hunter's rule, migrated from Schoharie, New York, along the Susquehanna River to Tulpehocken, Berks County, Pennsylvania, where other Palatines had settled. They became farmers and used intensive German farming techniques that proved highly productive.[53]

Another wave of settlers from the Holy Roman Empire, which would eventually coalesce to form a large part of the Pennsylvania Dutch, arrived between 1727 and 1775; some sixty-five thousand Palatines landed in Philadelphia in that era and others landed at other ports. Another wave from the Palatinate arrived 1749–1754. More than half of their number was sold into indentured servitude.[54] These indentured servants became known as "Redemptioners" as they would "redeem" their freedom after some years.[55]

The majority originated in what is today southwestern Germany, i.e., Rhineland-Palatinate[54] and Baden-Württemberg; other prominent groups were Alsatians, Dutch, French Huguenots (French Protestants), Moravians from Bohemia and Moravia and Swiss Germans.[56][57]

Black Pennsylvania Dutch

Further information: Black Dutch (genealogy) and Black Mennonites

Black Mennonites

The Pennsylvania Dutch had been the first outspoken community against slavery, beginning with the community of Germantown and its founder Francis Daniel Pastorius, who together with Garret Hendericks, Derick op den Graeff and Abraham op den Graeff organized antislavery protests in 1688. Pastorius and citizens of Germantown criticized the racial lines of slavery.[58]

Many Black people of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country spoke Pennsylvania Dutch.[59][60][61][62] Enslaved Black people cohabitating with Pennsylvania Dutch learned the Pennsylvania Dutch language; as slavery was abolished in Pennsylvania, the free Black Dutch population grew.[59]

There is little evidence specifically of Black Pennsylvania Dutch speakers during the early 19th century; following the Civil War, some Black Southerners who had moved to Pennsylvania developed close ties with the Pennsylvania Dutch community, adopting the language and assimilating into the culture. An 1892 article in The New York Sun noted a community of "Pennsylvania German Negroes" in Lebanon County for whom German was their first language.[63]

Palatine servitude

Further information: Redemptioners

The Pennsylvania German society, founded to protect Palatine indentured servants

About three fourths of all Palatines in Pennsylvania were subject to lengthy indentured servitude contracts by colonial New Englanders.[54] These indentured servants, known as redemptioners, were made to work on plantations; Palatine redemptioners had a high death rate, and many didn't live long enough to see the end of their contract.[64][65][66]

Some Palatines attempted to escape their indentured servitude and became runaways. Palatine runaways were often recaptured, as they only spoke German and were surrounded by English speakers. The plight of the runaway Palatines was so great that the German Society of Pennsylvania was founded in 1764 to protect Palatine redemptioners.[67]

Pennsylvania Dutch during the American Revolutionary War

Further information: Germans in the American Revolution

In the Battle of Germantown in 1777, Pennsylvania Dutch soldiers fought with the United States in the Pennsylvania Militia

The Pennsylvania Dutch composed nearly half of the population of the Province of Pennsylvania. The Fancy Dutch population generally supported the Patriot cause in the American Revolution; the nonviolent Plain Dutch minority did not fight in the war.[68] Heinrich Miller of the Holy Roman Principality of Waldeck (1702-1782), was a journalist and printer based in Philadelphia, and published an early German translation of the Declaration of Independence (1776) in his newspaper Philadelphische Staatsbote.[69] Miller, having Swiss ancestry, often wrote about Swiss history and myth, such as the William Tell legend, to provide a context for patriot support in the conflict with Britain.[70]

Frederick Muhlenberg (1750–1801), a Lutheran pastor, became a major patriot and politician, rising to be elected as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.[71]

Nicholas Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany, 1777

The Pennyslvania Dutch contribution to the war effort was notable:

In the marked influence for right and freedom of these early Hollanders and Palatines, in their brave defense of home, did such valiant service in promoting a love of real freedom to the preserving and hence making of our country.

In the town halls in Dutch cities liberty bells were hung, and from the "Liberty Bell" placed in Philadelphia by Pennsylvania Dutchmen, on July 4th 1776, freedom was proclaimed "throughout all the land and to all the inhabitants thereof." These Palatine Dutchmen gave us some of our bravest men in the war of the American Revolution, notably Nicholas Herkimer.[72]

Pennsylvania Dutch Provost Corps

Pennsylvania Dutch were recruited for the American Provost corps under Captain Bartholomew von Heer,[73][Note 1] a Prussian who had served in a similar unit in Europe[74] before immigrating to Reading, Pennsylvania, prior to the war.

During the Revolutionary War the Marechaussee Corps were utilized in a variety of ways, including intelligence gathering, route security, enemy prisoner of war operations, and even combat during the Battle of Springfield.[75] The Marechausee also provided security for Washington's headquarters during the Battle of Yorktown, acted as his security detail, and was one of the last units deactivated after the Revolutionary War.[73] The Marechaussee Corps was often not well received by the Continental Army, due in part to their defined duties but also due to the fact that some members of the corps spoke little or no English.[74] Six of the provosts had even been Hessian prisoners of war prior to their recruitment.[74] Because the provost corps completed many of the same functions as the modern U.S. Military Police Corps, it is considered a predecessor of the current United States Military Police Regiment.[75]

Hessians in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country

Further information: Hessian (soldier)

The Battle of Trenton, 1776
Many Hessian soldiers settled in Pennsylvania Dutch Country after the American Revolutionary War

The Hessian Palatinate of the Holy Roman Empire signed a treaty of alliance with Great Britain to supply fifteen regiments, four grenadier battalions, two jäger companies, and three companies of artillery.[76] The jägers in particular were carefully recruited and well paid, well clothed, and free from manual labor.[77][Note 2] These jägers proved essential in the "Indian style" warfare in America.[78][79][80]

Hessians composed more than 25% of all British forces during the war. They were excellent soldiers, having been trained and disciplined rigorously in the tradition of Frederick the Great of Prussia, and fought in nearly every major battle of the conflict.[81]

German-speaking armies could not quickly replace men lost on the other side of the Atlantic, so the Hessians recruited Black people as soldiers who became known as Black Hessians. There were one hundred and fifteen Black soldiers serving with Hessian units, most of them as drummers or fifers.[82]

General Washington's Continental Army had crossed the Delaware River to make a surprise attack on the Hessians in the early morning of December 26, 1776. In the Battle of Trenton, the Hessian force of fourteen hundred men was quickly overwhelmed by the Continentals, with only about twenty killed and one hundred wounded, but one thousand captured.[83]

The Hessians captured in the Battle of Trenton were paraded through the streets of Philadelphia to raise American morale; anger at their presence helped the Continental Army recruit new soldiers.[84] Most of the prisoners were sent to work as farmhands.[85]

By early 1778, negotiations for the exchange of prisoners between Washington and the British had begun in earnest.[86] These included Nicholas Bahner(t), Jacob Trobe, George Geisler, and Conrad Grein (Konrad Krain),[87] who were a few of the Hessian soldiers who deserted the British forces after being returned in exchange for American prisoners of war.[88] These men were both hunted by the British for being deserters and by many of the colonists as a foreign enemy.

Throughout the war, Americans tried to entice Hessians to desert the British, emphasizing the large and prosperous German-American community. The U.S. Congress authorized the offer of land of up to fifty acres (roughly twenty hectares) to individual Hessian soldiers who switched sides.[89] British soldiers were offered fifty to eight hundred acres, depending on rank.[90]

Many Hessian prisoners were held in camps at the interior city of Lancaster, home to a large German community known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Hessian prisoners were subsequently treated well, with some volunteering for extra work assignments, helping to replace local men serving in the Continental Army. Due to shared German heritage and abundance of land, many Hessian soldiers stayed and settled in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country after the war's end.[91]

Fancy Dutch

Main article: Fancy Dutch

Germantown, Philadelphia, 1820

In local terminology, the "Plain Dutch" are the Anabaptist Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites and Brethren; they settled primarily in Lancaster and Berks Counties and have a strong commitment to avoiding luxury or ostentation. Accordingly, the German Lutheran and Reformed Church members are known as the “fancy Dutch” or “church people.” [92][93]

The Fancy Dutch came to control much of the best agricultural lands in all of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth. They ran many newspapers, and out of six newspapers in Pennsylvania, three were in German, two were in English and one was in both languages. They also maintained their German architecture when they founded new towns in Pennsylvania.[94]

Members of the Pennsylvania Dutch community already possessed an ethnic identity and a well-defined social-system that was separate from the Anglo-American identity. Their Anglo-American neighbors described them as very industrious, very business minded, and a very rich community.[94]

Fancy Dutch religion and Anglo-American prejudice

Pennsylvania Dutch Governor, Francis R. Shunk
Many Fancy Dutch were soldiers in the Pennsylvania Militia
A Fancy Dutch country wedding

As the descendants of Palatines,[29] Fancy Dutch people were mostly of Lutheran and Reformed church congregations (non-sectarians), as well as Catholics.[95] They were therefore often called "Church Dutch" or "Church people," as distinguished from so-called sectarians (Anabaptist Plain people),[96] along the lines of a high church/low church distinction.

Among the stereotypes created were those of "the stubborn Dutchman" or "the dumb Dutchman," which frequently made Pennsylvania Dutch the butt of ethnic jokes during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Pennsylvania Dutch Professor Daniel Miller argued against these stereotypes by asking:

𝔚𝔲 𝔣𝔦𝔫𝔡 𝔪𝔢𝔯 𝔰𝔬 𝔣𝔯𝔲𝔠𝔥𝔱𝔟𝔞𝔯𝔢 𝔲𝔫 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔬̈𝔫𝔢 𝔅𝔞𝔲𝔢𝔯𝔢𝔦 𝔴𝔦𝔢 𝔟𝔢𝔦 𝔡𝔢 𝔓𝔢𝔫𝔫𝔰𝔶𝔩𝔳𝔞𝔫𝔦𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔇𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔢? ℑ𝔥𝔯𝔢 𝔅𝔞𝔲𝔢𝔯𝔢𝔦𝔢 𝔦𝔫 𝔒𝔰𝔱 𝔓𝔢𝔫𝔫𝔰𝔶𝔩𝔳𝔞𝔫𝔦𝔢 𝔰𝔦𝔫 𝔡𝔢𝔯 𝔊𝔞𝔯𝔱𝔢 𝔳𝔲𝔫 𝔡𝔢𝔯 𝔚𝔢𝔩𝔱. 𝔚𝔞𝔫𝔫 𝔪𝔢𝔯 𝔦𝔫 𝔡𝔢𝔯 𝔚𝔢𝔩𝔱 𝔱𝔯𝔞̈𝔴𝔢𝔩𝔱, 𝔨𝔞𝔫𝔫 𝔪𝔢𝔯 𝔲̈𝔴𝔢𝔯𝔞𝔩𝔩 𝔞𝔫 𝔡𝔢 𝔊𝔢𝔟𝔞̈𝔲𝔢𝔯 𝔰𝔢𝔥𝔫𝔢, 𝔴𝔲 𝔰𝔢𝔩𝔩𝔢 𝔎𝔩𝔞𝔰𝔰 𝔏𝔢𝔲𝔱 𝔴𝔬𝔥𝔫𝔢. 𝔖𝔦𝔢 𝔳𝔢𝔯𝔰𝔱𝔢𝔥𝔫𝔢 𝔤𝔢𝔴𝔦𝔰𝔰, 𝔴𝔦𝔢 𝔷𝔲 𝔟𝔞𝔲𝔢𝔯𝔢.

𝔇𝔢𝔥𝔩 𝔏𝔢𝔲𝔱 𝔟𝔢𝔥𝔞𝔞𝔭𝔱𝔢, 𝔡𝔦𝔢 𝔓𝔢𝔫𝔫𝔰𝔶𝔩𝔳𝔞𝔫𝔦𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔇𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔢 𝔴𝔞̈𝔯𝔢 𝔥𝔦𝔫𝔫𝔢𝔯 𝔡𝔢𝔯 ℨ𝔢𝔦𝔱. ℑ𝔰 𝔰𝔢𝔩𝔩 𝔴𝔬𝔥𝔯? 𝔖𝔦𝔢 𝔥𝔢𝔫 𝔡𝔦𝔢 𝔟𝔢𝔰𝔱𝔢 𝔅𝔞𝔲𝔢𝔯𝔢𝔦𝔢 𝔲𝔫 𝔡𝔦𝔢 𝔟𝔢𝔰𝔱𝔢 𝔲𝔫 𝔫𝔢𝔲𝔢𝔰𝔱𝔢 𝔐𝔞𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔦𝔫𝔢, 𝔲𝔫 𝔰𝔦𝔢 𝔤𝔢𝔥𝔫𝔢 𝔫𝔢𝔦 𝔣𝔬𝔯 𝔤𝔲𝔱𝔢 𝔖𝔠𝔥𝔲𝔩𝔢. ℑ𝔫 𝔢𝔥𝔫𝔢𝔯 ℌ𝔦𝔫𝔰𝔦𝔠𝔥𝔱 𝔰𝔦𝔫 𝔇𝔢𝔥𝔩 𝔷𝔲 𝔩𝔞𝔫𝔤𝔰𝔞𝔪- 𝔦𝔫 𝔎𝔢𝔯𝔠𝔥𝔢𝔰𝔞𝔠𝔥𝔢. 𝔄𝔫 𝔇𝔢𝔥𝔩 𝔓𝔩𝔞𝔱𝔷 𝔰𝔦𝔫 𝔰𝔦𝔢 𝔰𝔬 𝔷𝔦𝔢𝔪𝔩𝔦𝔠𝔥 𝔴𝔬 𝔦𝔥𝔯𝔢 𝔙𝔬𝔯𝔳𝔞̈𝔱𝔢𝔯 𝔴𝔞𝔯𝔢.

𝔇𝔢𝔥𝔩 𝔏𝔢𝔲𝔱 𝔪𝔢𝔥𝔫𝔢, 𝔡𝔦𝔢 𝔓𝔢𝔫𝔫𝔰𝔶𝔩𝔳𝔞𝔫𝔦𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔇𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔢 𝔴𝔞̈𝔯𝔢 𝔫𝔢𝔱 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔪𝔞𝔯𝔱, 𝔴𝔢𝔦𝔩 𝔰𝔦𝔢 𝔫𝔢𝔱 𝔰𝔬 𝔨𝔫𝔦𝔣𝔣𝔦𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔲𝔫 𝔱𝔯𝔦𝔠𝔨𝔦𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔰𝔦𝔫 𝔴𝔦𝔢 𝔇𝔢𝔥𝔩 𝔜𝔞̈𝔫𝔨𝔢𝔢𝔰. 𝔖𝔦𝔢 𝔰𝔦𝔫 𝔫𝔢𝔱 𝔰𝔬 𝔤𝔲𝔱 𝔲𝔣𝔤𝔢𝔭𝔬𝔥𝔰𝔱 𝔦𝔫 𝔡𝔢 𝔗𝔯𝔦𝔠𝔨𝔰 𝔴𝔲 𝔳𝔦𝔢𝔩 ℜ𝔞𝔰𝔨𝔢𝔩𝔰 𝔧𝔲𝔥𝔰𝔢, 𝔞𝔴𝔢𝔯 𝔰𝔢𝔩𝔩 𝔦𝔰 𝔫𝔢𝔱 𝔫𝔬𝔱𝔥𝔴𝔢𝔫𝔫𝔦𝔤. 𝔖𝔦𝔢 𝔰𝔦𝔫 𝔡𝔢𝔰𝔴𝔢𝔤𝔢 𝔳𝔦𝔢𝔩 𝔟𝔢𝔰𝔰𝔢𝔯 𝔞𝔟. 𝔘𝔫𝔰𝔢𝔯 𝔏𝔢𝔲𝔱 𝔨𝔬𝔫𝔫𝔢 𝔤𝔲𝔱 𝔞𝔣𝔣𝔬𝔯𝔡𝔢, 𝔬𝔥𝔫𝔢 𝔰𝔢𝔩𝔩𝔢 𝔊𝔢𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔢𝔦𝔡𝔥𝔢𝔦𝔱 𝔷𝔲 𝔡𝔲𝔥, 𝔴𝔲 𝔡𝔦𝔢 𝔏𝔢𝔲𝔱 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔩𝔢𝔠𝔥𝔱 𝔪𝔞𝔠𝔥𝔱. 𝔖𝔦𝔢 𝔥𝔢𝔫 𝔞𝔩𝔩 𝔤𝔢𝔫𝔲𝔤 𝔏𝔢𝔯𝔫𝔦𝔫𝔤 𝔣𝔬𝔯 𝔢𝔥𝔯𝔩𝔦𝔠𝔥 𝔲𝔫 𝔯𝔢𝔠𝔥𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔞𝔣𝔣𝔢 𝔷𝔲 𝔰𝔢𝔦.

𝔈𝔰 𝔦𝔰 𝔴𝔲𝔫𝔫𝔢𝔯𝔟𝔞𝔯, 𝔡𝔞𝔰𝔰 𝔇𝔢𝔥𝔩 𝔏𝔢𝔲𝔱 𝔴𝔲 𝔳𝔲𝔫 𝔡𝔢 𝔓𝔢𝔫𝔫𝔰𝔶𝔩𝔳𝔞𝔫𝔦𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔇𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔢 𝔥𝔢𝔯𝔰𝔱𝔞𝔪𝔪𝔢, 𝔰𝔦𝔠𝔥 𝔡𝔞𝔴𝔢𝔤𝔢 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔞̈𝔪𝔪𝔢. 𝔖𝔦𝔢 𝔩𝔬𝔰𝔰𝔢 𝔦𝔥𝔯𝔢 𝔎𝔦𝔫𝔫𝔢𝔯 𝔫𝔢𝔱 𝔓𝔢𝔫𝔫𝔰𝔶𝔩𝔳𝔞𝔫𝔦𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔡𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔴𝔞̈𝔱𝔷𝔢 𝔬𝔡𝔢𝔯 𝔩𝔢𝔰𝔢, 𝔲𝔫 𝔳𝔢𝔯𝔩𝔢𝔤𝔩𝔢 𝔢𝔰, 𝔡𝔞𝔰𝔰 𝔰𝔦𝔢 𝔡𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔅𝔩𝔲𝔱 𝔦𝔫 𝔰𝔦𝔠𝔥 𝔥𝔢𝔫. 𝔊𝔲𝔱 𝔈𝔫𝔤𝔩𝔦𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔨𝔬𝔫𝔫𝔢 𝔰𝔦𝔢 𝔫𝔢𝔱 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔴𝔞̈𝔱𝔷𝔢, 𝔲𝔫 𝔇𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔴𝔬𝔩𝔩𝔢 𝔰𝔦𝔢 𝔫𝔢𝔱 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔴𝔞̈𝔱𝔷𝔢. ℑ𝔰 𝔰𝔢𝔩𝔩 𝔫𝔢𝔱 𝔡𝔲𝔪𝔪? 𝔇𝔦𝔢 𝔜𝔞̈𝔫𝔨𝔢𝔢𝔰 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔦𝔠𝔨𝔢 𝔦𝔥𝔯𝔢 𝔎𝔦𝔫𝔫𝔢𝔯 𝔦𝔫 𝔡𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔢 𝔖𝔠𝔥𝔲𝔩𝔢 𝔣𝔬𝔯 𝔡𝔦𝔢 𝔤𝔲𝔱 𝔞𝔩𝔱 𝔖𝔭𝔯𝔬𝔠𝔥 𝔷𝔲 𝔩𝔢𝔯𝔫𝔢, 𝔞𝔴𝔢𝔯 𝔲𝔫𝔰𝔢𝔯 𝔢𝔥𝔤𝔢𝔫𝔢 𝔏𝔢𝔲𝔱 𝔴𝔢𝔩𝔩𝔢 𝔰𝔦𝔠𝔥 𝔰𝔠𝔥𝔞̈𝔪𝔪𝔢, 𝔡𝔢𝔲𝔱𝔰𝔠𝔥 𝔷𝔲 𝔰𝔢𝔦.[97]

Where do we find so prosperous and beautiful farms as those of the Pennsylvania Dutch? Their farms in Eastern Pennsylvania are the model of the world. When we travel in the world, we can above all see the farmers, how that class of people lives. They certainly understand how to farm.

Some people say, the Pennsylvania Dutch are behind the times. Is this true? They have the best farms and the best and newest machines, and they go to good schools. In regards to them, there are some who are slow- in matters of the church. In some places they (the Plain Dutch) live in the same way as their ancestors.

Some people say that the Pennsylvania Dutch are not smart, because they aren't so knavish and tricky as some of the Yankees. They are not so quick on the tricks that many rascals use, but that is not necessary. They are better off this way. Our people can afford not do that trickery, as the bad people do. They have enough learning to be happy and righteous.

It is amazing that some Pennsylvania Dutch are ashamed in this way. They don't allow their children to speak Pennsylvania Dutch or to read it, and are embarrassed that they have Dutch blood. They can't speak good English, and they don't want to speak Dutch. Is that not dumb? The Yankees send their children to German schools to speak the good old language, but our own people want to be ashamed of being Dutch.

The Pennsylvania Dutch had a strong dislike for New England, and to them the term "Yankee" became synonymous with "a cheat." Indeed, New Englanders were the rivals of the Pennsylvania Dutch.[94]

Pennsylvania Dutch during the Civil War

Further information: Battle of Gettysburg

Battle flag of the 79th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, composed of Pennsylvania Dutch

Nearly all of the regiments from Pennsylvania that fought in the American Civil War had German-speaking or Pennsylvania Dutch-speaking members on their rosters, the majority of whom were Fancy Dutch.[98]

Some regiments like the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry were entirely composed of Pennsylvania Dutch soldiers.[94] The 47th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment also had a high percentage of German immigrants and Pennsylvania-born men of German heritage on its rosters; the regiment's K Company was formed with the intent of it being an "all-German company."[99][100][101]

Pennsylvania Dutch companies sometimes mixed with English-speaking companies. (The Pennsylvania Dutch had the habit of labeling anyone who did not speak Pennsylvania Dutch "English.") Many of the Pennsylvania Dutch soldiers who fought in the Civil War were recruited and trained at Camp Curtin, Pennsylvania.[94]

Pennsylvania Dutch regiments composed a large portion of the Federal Forces who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.[102]

Decline of the Pennsylvania Dutch

Further information: German Society of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Dutch have a long literary tradition

Immediately after the Civil War, the federal government took steps to replace Pennsylvania German schools with English-only schools. The Pennsylvania Dutch fought to retain German as an official language in Pennsylvania to little success.[38]

Literary German disappeared from Pennsylvania Dutch life little by little, starting with schools, and then to churches and newspapers. Pennsylvania Dutch became mainly a spoken language, and as education came to only be provided in English, many Pennsylvania Dutch became bilingual.[38]

Anti-German sentiment and Americanization

Further information: Anti-German sentiment

An Anti-German sign reading "No German customers wanted here"

The next blow to Pennsylvania Dutch came during World War I and World War II. Prior to the wars, Pennsylvania Dutch was an urban language spoken openly in the streets of towns such as Allentown, Reading, Lancaster and York; afterwards, it became relegated only to rural areas.[38]

There was rampant social & employment discrimination for anyone suspected of being German. Meritt G. Yorgey, a Pennsylvania Dutch descendant who grew up during the height of anti-German sentiment, remembers the instructions of his father: "Don't ever call yourself "Dutch" or "Pennsylvania German." You're just American."[38]

Many Pennsylvanians of German heritage have chosen to assimilate into Anglo-American culture, except for a significant number of Amish and Mennonite plain people who have chosen to remain insular, which has added to the modern misconception that "Pennsylvania Dutch" is synonymous with "Amish."[38]

Pennsylvania Dutch during World War I

Palatine Dutch in the 27th Infantry Division broke through the Hindenburg Line in 1917.[103]

Interwar period

Before World War II, the Nazi Party sought to gain the loyalty of the German-American community, and established pro-Nazi German-American Bunden, emphasizing German-American immigrant ties to the "Fatherland". The Nazi propaganda effort failed in the Pennsylvania Dutch community, as the Pennsylvania Dutch maintained a distinct culture and history completely separate from the German-American immigrant identity.[104]

Pennsylvania Dutch during World War II

President Dwight D. Eisenhower was of Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry

During World War II, a platoon of Pennsylvania Dutch soldiers on patrol in Germany was once spared from being machine-gunned by Nazi soldiers who listened to them approaching. The Germans heard them speaking Pennsylvania Dutch amongst each other and assumed that they were natives of the Palatinate.[105]

Canadian Pennsylvania Dutch

Many Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonites arrived in Waterloo County, Ontario, in Conestoga wagons

An early group, mainly from the Roxborough-Germantown area of Pennsylvania, emigrated to then colonial Nova Scotia in 1766 and founded the Township of Monckton, site of present-day Moncton, New Brunswick. The extensive Steeves clan descends from this group.[106]

After the American Revolution, John Graves Simcoe, lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, invited Americans, including Mennonites and German Baptist Brethren, to settle in British North American territory and offered tracts of land to immigrant groups.[107][108] This resulted in communities of Pennsylvania Dutch speakers emigrating to Canada, many to the area called the German Company Tract, a subset of land within the Haldimand Tract, in the Township of Waterloo, which later became Waterloo County, Ontario.[109][110] Some still live in the area around Markham, Ontario,[111][112] and particularly in the northern areas of the current Waterloo Region. Some members of the two communities formed the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference. Today, the Pennsylvania Dutch language is mostly spoken by Old Order Mennonites.[113][109][114]

From 1800 to the 1830s, some Mennonites in Upstate New York and Pennsylvania moved north to Canada, primarily to the area that would become Cambridge, Kitchener/Waterloo and St. Jacobs/Elmira in Waterloo County, Ontario, plus the Listowel area adjacent to the northwest. Settlement started in 1800 by Joseph Schoerg and Samuel Betzner, Jr. (brothers-in-law), Mennonites, from Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Other settlers followed mostly from Pennsylvania typically by Conestoga wagons. Many of the pioneers arriving from Pennsylvania after November 1803 bought land in a sixty thousand-acre section established by a group of Mennonites from Lancaster County Pennsylvania, called the German Company Lands.[113][109]

Fewer of the Pennsylvania Dutch settled in what would later become the Greater Toronto Area in areas that would later be the towns of Altona, Ontario, Pickering, Ontario, and especially Markham Village, Ontario, and Stouffville, Ontario.[115] Peter Reesor and brother-in-law Abraham Stouffer were higher profile settlers in Markham and Stouffville.

William Berczy, a German entrepreneur and artist, had settled in upstate New York and in May 1794, he was able to obtain sixty-four acres in Markham Township, near the current city of Toronto. Berczy arrived with approximately one hundred and ninety German families from Pennsylvania and settled here. Others later moved to other locations in the general area, including a hamlet they founded, German Mills, Ontario, named for its grist mill; that community is now called Thornhill, Ontario, in the township that is now part of York Region.[111][112]

Canadian Black Mennonites

In Canada, an 1851 census shows many Black people and Mennonites lived near each other in a number of places and exchanged labor; the Dutch would also hire Black laborers. There were also accounts of Black families providing childcare assistance for their Dutch neighbors. These Pennsylvania Dutch were usually Plain Dutch Mennonites or Fancy Dutch Lutherans.[116] The Black-Mennonite relationship in Canada soon evolved to the level of church membership.[116]

Pennsylvania Dutch today

Diagram indicating Pennsylvania Dutch settlement in the United States
George W. Bush meeting Amish and Mennonites in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Dutch culture is still prevalent in some parts of Pennsylvania today. The Pennsylvania Dutch today speak English, though some still speak the Pennsylvania Dutch language among themselves. They share cultural similarities with the Mennonites in the same area. Pennsylvania Dutch English retains some German grammar and literally translated vocabulary, some phrases include "outen or out'n the lights" (German: die Lichter loeschen) meaning "turn off the lights", "it's gonna make wet" (German: es wird nass) meaning "it's going to rain", and "it's all" (German: es ist alle) meaning "it's all gone". They also sometimes leave out the verb in phrases turning "the trash needs to go out" in to "the trash needs out" (German: der Abfall muss raus), in alignment with German grammar.


Main article: Cuisine of the Pennsylvania Dutch

The Pennsylvania Dutch have some foods that are uncommon outside of places where they live. Some of these include shoo-fly pie, funnel cake, pepper cabbage, filling and jello salads such as strawberry pretzel salad.


The Pennsylvania Dutch maintained numerous religious affiliations; the greatest number are Lutheran or German Reformed with a lesser number of Anabaptists, including Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. The Anabaptist groups espoused a simple lifestyle, and their adherents were known as Plain Dutch; this contrasted with the Fancy Dutch, mostly of the Catholic, Lutheran, or Evangelical and Reformed churches, who tended to assimilate more easily into the American mainstream. By the late 1700s, other denominations were also represented in smaller numbers.[117]


A young Amish woman from Lancaster

Among immigrants from the 1600s and 1700s, those known as the Pennsylvania Dutch included Mennonites, Swiss Brethren (also called Mennonites by the locals) and Amish but also Anabaptist-Pietists such as German Baptist Brethren and those who belonged to German Lutheran or German Reformed Church congregations.[118][119] Other settlers of that era were of the Moravian Church while a few were Seventh Day Baptists.[120][121] Calvinist Palatines and several other denominations were also represented to a lesser extent.[122][123]

Over sixty percent of the immigrants who arrived in Pennsylvania from Germany or Switzerland in the 1700s and 1800s were Lutherans and they maintained good relations with those of the German Reformed Church.[124] The two groups founded Franklin College (now Franklin & Marshall College) in 1787.

Henry Muhlenberg (1711–1787) founded the Lutheran Church in America. He organized the Ministerium of Pennsylvania in 1748, set out the standard organizational format for new churches and helped shape Lutheran liturgy.[125]

Muhlenberg was sent by the Lutheran bishops in Germany, and he always insisted on strict conformity to Lutheran dogma. Muhlenberg's view of church unity was in direct opposition to Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf's Moravian Church approach, with its goal of uniting various Pennsylvania German religious groups under a less rigid "Congregation of God in the Spirit". The differences between the two approaches led to permanent impasse between Lutherans and Moravians, especially after a December 1742 meeting in Philadelphia.[126] The Moravians settled Bethlehem and nearby areas and established schools for Native Americans.[122]

Early schools

According to Elizabeth Pardoe, by 1748, the future of the German culture in Pennsylvania was in doubt, and most of the attention focused on German language schools. Lutheran schools in Germantown and Philadelphia thrived, but most outlying congregations had difficulty recruiting students. Furthermore Lutherans were challenged by Moravians who actively recruited Lutherans to their schools. In the 1750s, Benjamin Franklin led a drive for free charity schools for German students, with the proviso that the schools would minimize Germanness. The leading Lutheran school in Philadelphia school had internal political problems in the 1760s, but Pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg resolved them. The arrival of John Christopher Kunze from Germany in 1770 gave impetus to the Halle model in America. Kunze began training clergy and teachers in the Halle system. Reverend Heinrich Christian Helmuth arrived in 1779 and called for preaching only in German, while seeking government subsidies. A major issue was the long-term fate of German culture in Pennsylvania, with most solutions focused on schools. Helmuth saw schools as central to the future of the ethnic community. However most Lutheran clergy believed in assimilation and rejected Helmuth's call to drop English instruction. Kunze's seminary failed, but the first German college in the United States was founded in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1787 as Franklin College; it was later renamed Franklin and Marshall College.[127]


In Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Dutch Christians and Pennsylvania Dutch Jews have often maintained a special relationship due to their common German language and cultural heritage. Because both Yiddish and the Pennsylvania Dutch language are High German languages, there are strong similarities between the two languages and a limited degree of mutual intelligibility.[128] Historically, Pennsylvania Dutch Christians and Pennsylvania Dutch Jews often had overlapping bonds in German-American business and community life. Due to this historical bond there are several mixed-faith cemeteries in Lehigh County, including Allentown's Fairview Cemetery, where German-Americans of both the Jewish and Protestant faiths are buried.[129]

The cooking of Pennsylvania German Christians and Pennsylvania German Jews often overlaps, particularly vegetarian dishes that do not contain non-kosher ingredients such as pork or that mix meat and dairy together.[130] In 1987, the First United Church of Christ in Easton, Pennsylvania, hosted the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania German Society, the theme of which was the special bond between Pennsylvania German Christians and Pennsylvania German Jews. German Jews and German Christians held "quite ecumenical philosophies" about interfaith marriage and there are recorded instances of marriages between Jews and Christians within the German community. German Jews arriving in Pennsylvania often integrated into Pennsylvania Dutch communities because of their lack of knowledge of the English language. German Jews often lacked a trade and thus became peddlers, selling their wares within Pennsylvania Dutch society.[129]

A number of Pennsylvanian Dutch Jews migrated to the Shenandoah Valley, traveling along the same route of migration as other Pennsylvania Dutch people.[131]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "It is interesting to note that nearly all men recruited into the Provost Corps were Pennsylvania German." -David L. Valuska Archived November 27, 2022, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Jägers were offered a signing bonus of one Louis d'or coin, which was increased to four Louis d'or as Hesse tried to fill its companies with expert riflemen and woodsmen.


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  2. ^ William J. Frawley (2003). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics 2003. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 92.
  3. ^ Joshua R. Brown; Simon J. Bronner (2017). Pennsylvania Germans An Interpretive Encyclopedia · Volume 63. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 3.
  4. ^ University of Michigan (1956). Americas (English Ed.) Volume 8. Organization of American States. p. 21.
  5. ^ United States. Department of Agriculture (1918). Weekly News Letter to Crop Correspondents. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 5.
  6. ^ Achim Kopp (1999). The phonology of Pennsylvania German English as evidence of language maintenance and shift. Susquehanna University Press. p. 243.
  7. ^ Janne Bondi Johannessen; Joseph C. Salmons (2015). Germanic Heritage Languages in North America: Acquisition, attrition and change. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 11.
  8. ^ Fred Lewis Pattee (2015). The House of the Black Ring: A Romance of the Seven Mountains. Penn State Press. p. 218.
  9. ^ Norm Cohen (2005). Folk Music: A Regional Exploration. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 105.
  10. ^ E. H. Rauch (1879). Rauch's Pennsylvania Dutch Hand-book: A Book for Instruction. pp. V.
  11. ^ Sir Richard Philips (1842). A Geographical View of the World: Embracing the Manners, Customs, and Pursuits of Every Nation: Founded on the Best Authorities. p. 3.
  12. ^ Steven M. Nolt (March 2008). Foreigners in their own land: Pennsylvania Germans in the early republic. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 13. ISBN 9780271034447.
  13. ^ Elliott, Hannah (March 26, 2012). "At Home With Elon Musk: The (Soon-to-Be) Bachelor Billionaire". Forbes. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
  14. ^ Nicoline van der Sijs; Nederlandse Taalunie (2009), Cookies, Coleslaw, and Stoops The Influence of Dutch on the North American Languages, Amsterdam University Press, ISBN 978-90-8964-124-3, JSTOR j.ctt45kf9d
  15. ^ Hughes Oliphant Old: The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 6: The Modern Age. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007, p. 606.
  16. ^ Mark L. Louden: Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language. JHU Press, 2006, p.2
  17. ^ Hostetler, John A. (1993), Amish Society, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, p. 241
  18. ^ Irwin Richman: The Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Arcadia Publishing, 2004, p.16.
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In Pennsylvania German