German Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles

Slavery Issue Brought New German Paper

"100 Years of Nationalities in Cleveland"
Eleventh of a Series
By Theodore Andrica
Cleveland Press, October 16, 1950

The slavery issue brought about important developments among Cleveland Germans in the decade between 1850 and 1860. In the last named year the city's German population numbered 15,000, or one-third of the total.

The Cleveland Germans of that period were divided in two factions; the older settlers who called themselves the "Grays," and the newer German arrivals, especially those who came here after 1848, who were known as the "Greens."

The "Grays" were content to go along established ways and not to meddle too much in public affairs. They were satisfied to work diligently, save money, enlarge their little workshops and follow the Democratic Party.

The newer German element, being more politically minded, was eager to take part a leading part, if possible, in the city's affairs. The "Greens" were proud of their German heritage and of their free-minded spirit and were anxious to keep together the liberal Germans who arrived in Cleveland in ever increasing numbers.

Clash Brought Paper

The differences between the "Grays" and the "Greens" led to the birth of the Waechter Am Erie. The "Greens" believed that the Germania weekly, published since 1847 by Edward Hessenmueller and Ludwig Wagelin, was not keeping up with the times and that Cleveland Germans needed a more aggressive publication.

Jacob Mueller, who later became a lieutenant governor of Ohio, and Louis Ritter headed a group of Germans who bought 80 shares of stock at $5 each, and with the $400 thus raised began publishing the Waetcher Am Erie. August Thieme was brought from Buffalo to edit the new paper.

A printing shop was set up by Heinrich Rochotte on the second floor of the Plain Dealer Bldg., Superior and Vineyard Sts. The first issue on Aug. 9, 1852 was printed on the Plain Dealer press.

Battled Slavery

Issued twice weekly, the Waechter Am Erie dedicated itself to the abolition of slavery and the "promulgation of liberal culture." Its ceaseless attacks on slavery greatly alarmed the Democrats. The old-time Germans called the people around Thieme a "bunch of revolutionaries."

In a few years, Thieme and Rochotte bought the paper from the stockholders and began issuing it three times weekly, then again twice a week.

Meantime the conflict between the "Grays" and the "Greens" was becoming more acute. Just when it was feared that the rupture would lead to a permanent division, a new unexpected force appeared which united the Cleveland Germans. This was the Know Nothing Party, which advocated hatred of all "foreigners."

The Waechter Am Erie was in the forefront of those fighting Know Nothingism. As result, a goodly number of Cleveland Germans entered the ranks of the Republican Party. The Waechter became an enthusiastic supporter of Salmon P. Chase in his bid for governorship.

Got Help From GOP

During the Fremont-Chase campaign, the Waechter appeared daily (with the financial help of the Republicans) but after the election, it was issued again as a weekly, until Sept. 27, 1866 when it became a daily. During the decade of 1850-60 a third German paper appeared in Cleveland, the "Cleveland Courier," issued first in 1856. It did not last long.

As the battle of words between the abolitionists and the pro-slavery Americans was slowly changed to a real battleground, the Cleveland Germans, just as the Germans in most American states, lined up nearly unanimously with the anti-slavery cause.

When the Civil War opened Cleveland, Germans were among the first to enter the Union Army ranks.