From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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September 14, 1885

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German-born citizens composed over fifteen percent of the city's population in 1880 and as such they were the largest ethnic minority. They were concentrated in the Near North area and also in the northwest and southwest. Some achieved great wealth as owners of breweries or distilleries but most were skilled workers who fell neither in the highest nor the lowest economic levels. As with most ethnic groups the Germans maintained their identity through their language and customs, especially in their churches and social and mutual aid societies.

Arno Voss, the signatory of this document, was born in Prussia in 1821. He came to Chicago in 1848 and became the editor of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung, a German-language newspaper. He then practiced law and in 1852 and 1853 acted as the city's attorney. Voss was commissioned as a colonel during the Civil War and he commanded a cavalry regiment. From 1876 to 1878 he served in the Illinois General Assembly as a senator from Chicago.

Harlem is present-day Oak Park.

Points to Consider

What was an Altenheim?

What exactly was to have occurred at the festival addressed in this document?

Why were the mayor and city council invited to attend this activity?

Can you identify any German retirement homes today? Why?

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