Friday, October 26, 2018

Staff Picks: Pamphlet from the German Austro-Hungarian Bazaar by German Women of San Francisco

The CHS collections comprise a diverse body of materials which document the environmental, economic, social, political, and cultural heritage of California and contribute to a greater understanding of the state and its people.

For this year’s American Archives Month, we asked a few of our Exhibitions and Library & Archives department staff members to choose a piece (or collection) from the CHS archive, and to interpret it in their own word, or describe why it’s meaningful to them. This week, Will Murdoch, CHS' Cataloger, explores a commemorative pamphlet and lecture from the German Austro-Hungarian Bazaar organized by German women of San Francisco:

Vortragsfolge. Deutscher und Oesterreichisch-Ungarischer Basar veranstaltet von deutschen Frauen zu San Francisco, Cal., U.S.A. 9-10-11 December 1914 
The most surprising thing about this pamphlet from our collection is that it still exists at all.  Let me describe it. Published in December 1914, this document appears to be a program for a San Francisco
fundraising festival (“basar”), put on in support of the troops of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. The local German-American societies (“helping committees”), including the Hungarian Society, planned fundraisers to supply aid to wounded troops, widows, and orphans of their “old country” early on during the Great War. The pamphlet above requests assistance and aid for wounded soldiers and includes portraits of German and Austro-Hungarian generals alongside heroic-looking troops.

The document is written completely in German with the exception of one page which is in English and shows a portrait of Woodrow Wilson and a quote about how America must stay neutral during the European conflict.

It was early on in the war and pre-May 1915 when Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare, started using poison gas, and launched Zeppelin bombings of civilians. In December 1914, German-Americans in San Francisco could still help their old country and while also being patriotic Americans. That would change the following year when public support of Germany began to be seen in a much different light. After May 1915, pro-German support and printed materials, like this pamphlet, would have been unpopular and, by 1917, even treasonous. Relations between immigrant groups and their countries of origin remain complex to this day and this unique piece from our archive can serve to remind us how quickly loyalty and public opinion can change.  After May 1915, many German-Americans in San Francisco would have wanted to suppress the evidence found within the pamphlet, making this a rare find indeed.

Later …American anti-German propaganda:

Destroy this Mad Brute -- Enlist, ca. 1917, Harry R. Hopps (American 1869-1937), Color lithograph, Louis and Jodi Atkin Family Collection, Modern Graphic History Library, Washington University Libraries

Written by Will Murdoch, Cataloger at California Historical Society.
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