German Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles

Earlier Schools Stressed German

"100 Years of Nationalities in Cleveland"
Twentieth of a Series
By Theodore Andrica
Cleveland Press, date unknown

From 1859, when teaching of the German language was first introduced in the Cleveland High School, to the early 1900's, the German language was as important in the educational system here as any major subject, mathematics, for example.

During the period mentioned the Cleveland school system had "German" superintendents and it had as many as 172 German teachers.

Teaching of German began in Cleveland as soon as the earliest German Protestant churches were established in the 1840's, but it remained for the so-called 48ers to put the German language on the educational map.

The earliest German element had little interest in any movement that was not directly connected with its churches. A contemporary German writer complained that "the very old Germans took of their hats to the Yankees and forgot their mother tongue."

The newest Germans, arriving here in the 1850's, brought new enthusiasm for their cultural background. With idealism and sparing no expense they worked to insure the perpetuation of the German language. While disagreeing on many subjects, the new Germans agreed unanimously on the question of teaching German.

The first German schools in the early 1850's were the three maintained by the Freimaenner Bund. Franz Georgi and F. P. Schroeder were the teachers at the one on St. Clair Ave. and Erie St. (now E. 9th).

The second was on Mechanic St. (W. 38th St.) where George Raeder and Karl Gobelli were the teachers. The third was on Laurel St. (part of Scovill Ave.) in the building which later was known as Teutonia Hall, where Wilhelm Buerger was the teacher.

German was introduced in the Cleveland High School in 1859 when Karl Ruger was hired as professor of German at the annual salary of $1200. Students in the senior class could take German instead of higher mathematics.

It remained for Andrew J. Rickoff to introduce German in elementary schools. When he came to Cleveland in 1867 there were 2,000 pupils in the German Free Schools and church schools.

First German superintendent was Konrad Hotze and the first German elementary school teachers were:

Miss Emma Reisch, Rockwell School; Miss Flora Kahnheimer, Willey School; Miss Ottile Esen, Case School; Miss Auguste Krehbiel, Rice School; F. P. Schroeder and Miss Mary Heinsohn, Bradburn (Brownell) School; August Esch, Sterling School; Miss Emma Krehbiel, L. F. Wilhelm and William Buerger, Mayflower School: Miss Julia Berger, Miss Amalia Pfund and John Raeder, Orchard School; Miss Emilie Wucherer, Wade School and John Glueck at University (Tremont) School.

Louis Klemm followed Hotze as German superintendent in 1875. August Esch followed Klemm in 1877, then came Joseph Krug, who in turn was succeeded by Herman Woldmann in 1895.

German-English textbooks were introduced in 1877 by the School Board and this action brought criticism from both the German and the "American" element of the city. The Germans considered the quality of ther books inferior, the "Americans said that money was spent uselessly."

By 1891 fully 51% of all schools pupils took instruction in German, but by 1901 the percentage went down to 41%.

Besides the instruction given in public school, German was taught to 5000 pupils in eight Catholic German schools, and to 4000 pupils in eight German Protestant churches.