Germans in San Antonio: Freie Presse fur Texas
On October 28, 1945, publication of the influential German newspaper Freie Presse für Texas ended eighty years after August Siemering issued the first edition in 1865. In addition to being a newspaper editor, Siemering also worked as a teacher, writer and journalist, and public official, and he was involved in the establishment of the San Antonio Express (now the Express-News). Under Siemering’s leadership, the Freie Presse “became one of the leading Republican newspapers of the South” following the Civil War. At various times throughout its history, the Freie Presse was issued weekly, bi-weekly, tri-weekly, and daily. Each edition of the paper contained numerous advertisements for San Antonio businesses as well as works of fiction and national and international news.
The Freie Presse was one of many newspapers serving the large German population of San Antonio and Texas during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The San Antonio Zeitung was first published in the 1850s, and, according to Glen E. Lich in The German Texans, “eighteen German newspapers were in existence by 1892.” The number of German newspapers continued to grow, reaching 29 in 1907 before declining. Lich states that “eleven papers ceased publication during World War I,” presumably due to anti-German sentiments. By 1941, when the United States entered World War II, only six German newspapers were still being published; “by the end of the war, four were left, and the last of these, Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung, ceased publication in German in the 1950s” (126).
In his essay “The Function of the German Literary Heritage,” published in German Culture in Texas, Hubert P. Heinen quotes the recollections of his grandfather, a German Texan born in 1872 who as a boy became an avid reader of the Freie Presse für Texas when he worked herding sheep:
The only reading I had access to was the Freie Presse für Texas, a German weekly published in San Antonio, which, besides current news and correspondence, carried one or more serials of novels (Romane); also volumes of German magazines, such as the Die Gartenlaube, in carefully preserved Jahrgänge (one-year volumes containing fascinating Romane and short novels) were passed from one family to the other, and, naturally, I fell for reading these stories. Having lots of time on hand, I acquired the habit of “slow-reading” (not overcome to this day), but absorbed all and lived with and through the whole story. Meanwhile, as I was thus absorbed in reading, the sheep would drift apart in all directions, and I had to spend hours trying to get them together again (169).
The sizeable newspaper collection at the DRT Library includes twenty-eight editions of the Freie Presse für Texas dating from 1871 to 1938. Additionally, the library has many books, vertical files, manuscript collections, and photographs documenting and exploring the experiences of German families, organizations, businesses, and communities throughout the history of San Antonio and Texas. Some of these materials will be featured in future blog postings. You can locate additional resources about German Texans at the DRT library by going to our online catalog, which can be accessed from the menu on the right side of this blog. Select “Power Search” and conduct a subject search for “Germans Texas” and “Germans Texas San Antonio.”