Buffalo and its German Community

Part II, Chapter 3

Buffalo's German Press

The mirror image of the social, cultural, ethical and political interests of a community are reflected in the newspapers which they read. The press isn't just giving the public something to read. In order to remain useful, the press must give the public what it needs. To this end newspapers generate their form and their content. To a serious minded community a superficial newspaper is not useful. With a sensation-loving public the sensational presses find rich, fruitbearing ground.

We can say these things about the German press as it developed here in this country - The strengths of the German Press are none other than proof of a vital interest in the German language and German customs. Secondly when a large German community can not get a German newspaper, it loses the memory of its tradition, its ancestry, its youth and its vitality. With its strong German population one cannot say that about Buffalo even if the current outlook for the German Press is generally not rosy.

Just as the German people and their spirituality take many rich forms, so too has a rich journalistic tradition evolved over time. It's many-sided, like the Germans themselves. It's contentious, just like the community. It delves into deeper problems, for this is the German way.

Caption under picture reads Delaware Avenue

Caption under picture reads the Library Building

One may say that today's Buffalo no longer needs a German Press. There are serious and recognizable indicators that the German language is rapidly declining in the United States. There is much truth in this statement. In order to approach the history of the German Press, let the following be made known.

The first German newspaper in Buffalo saw the light of day on December 2, 1837. Its name was Der Weltbürger (The World Citizen)and it echoed the sentiments of the German community, which cast off the old fatherland in its wish to become a knowledgeable citizen of the New World. The paper was democratic in nature. Its first editor and owner was Georg Zahm from Zweibrücken. In 1840 Der Volksfreund (The People's Friend) appeared. It was a Whig paper under the direction of W. A. Meyers. Despite the victory of the Whig Party the paper didn't make it past the election. The Whig Party bought the press and the supplies. Meyers later bought it back and in 1842 started the weekly paper Der Freimütige und West New Yorker Anzeiger (The Herald and Western New York Reporter), with Alexander E. Krause as editor. The voice of the Herald was not to remain for long. Ernst Osten bought the newspaper and it was subsumed by Das Buffalo Tageblatt (The Buffalo Daily News) in 1845. The Herald remained a weekly supplement. In August of the same year the Daily News ended. Der Telegraph (The Telegraph) took its place. Its first publisher was H.B. Miller and Adolph Heilmann was its editor. In 1848 Der Freie Demokrat (The Free Democrat) appeared with Karl Esslinger as publisher. It was an organ of the Free Soil Movement. In 1850 Jakob Knapp and Carl de Haas bought the Free Democrat and changed the name to Der Buffalo Demokrat (The Buffalo Democrat). In November of the same year Knapp sold his portion to Friedrich Held. The Buffalo Democrat appeared daily. On April 18, 1853 "The World Citizen" and "The Free Democrat" merged under the firm of Brunck, Held and Company. "The World Citizen" became a weekly paper and "The Democrat" stayed as it was. In 1859 Carl de Haas left the partnership. Brunck left in 1875, leaving Friedrich Held sole owner. His son, Frank C.B. Held, maintains the traditional and democratic spirit of "The Buffalo Democrat" today.

On May 3, 1853 "The Telegraph", a weekly publication, became Der Buffalo Telegraph (The Buffalo Telegraph), a daily paper. This was an aggressive Republican newspaper which had a morning and an evening edition during the Civil War. By 1850 there was a religious newspaper called Der Lügenfeind (The Enemy of Lies), an organ of the Free Christian Fellowship. In 1853 it became Morgenröte (The Dawning Light). Once the light faded, it returned to life as the Lichtfreund (The Light's Friend), only to die shortly thereafter. Aurora, the Latin word for dawning light, enjoyed a better fate than it's German counterpart. It was a Catholic weekly established in 1853 by C. Wickmann, who was its editor until his death in 1898. His son D. Wickmann then became editor. Todays' Buffaloer Freie Presse (Buffalo Free Press) had two predecessors. First was the Humoristischer Volksfreund (The Humorous People's Friend) published in 1853 by Friedrich Reinecke which was then followed in 1856 by Buffalo Allgemeine Zeitung (The Buffalo General News). Finally came "The Buffalo Free Press", a daily paper, in 1860 under Friedrich Reinecke and Michael Wiedrich. This was a Republican newspaper which was published by the Firm of Reinecke and Zesch as of 1872. The fledgling paper, the Buffalo Union, lasted for two days in 1864. The Amerikanischer Beobachter (The American Observer), started by the the German contingent of the American Party of Erie County at the time of Millard Fillmore's election, disappeared suddenly in 1856. In 1857 the Buffalo Patriot lived a short life.

In 1863 the Buffalo Journal merged with "The Buffalo Telegraph" after its first month. Another Catholic weekly, the Central-Zeitung (The Central Newspaper) appeared in 1867 under the direction of Joseph Hoag. Four years later he moved the paper to New York to keep it from dying. For the large number of German Catholics, the Buffalo Volksfreund (The Buffalo People's Friend) came into being in 1868.

To the credit of the German Catholic Orphanage the Christliche Woche (The Christian Weekly) appeared in 1875. Today "The Christian Weekly" is merged with the Aurora under the title Aurora und Christliche Woche (The Aurora and Christian Weekly). In the same year the Sonntags-Herald (The Sunday Herald) appeared. It was the first Sunday German newspaper. It disappeared after 8 months. Following a split in the Republican Party in 1875 the Tägliche Republikaner (The Daily Republican) appeared. In 1876 a second Sunday paper, called Die Buffalo Tribüne (The Buffalo Tribune) appeared. In 1877 the Tägliche Tribüne (The Daily Tribune) was established as an organ of the Worker's Party. Like "The Buffalo Tribune", it was a Sunday paper. Both papers were acquired by the German Republican Association in 1878. "The Daily Tribune" ceased to exist and "The Buffalo Tribune" became a Sunday supplement of "The Daily Republican". By November of 1878 the German Republican Printing Association sold its newspaper to the company of Reinecke and Zesch. This firm suspended the Daily Republican and changed the Buffalo Tribune to a Sunday paper for "The Buffalo Free Press". In 1877 the weekly publication, the Evangelisch Gemeinde Zeitung (The Evangelical Congregation News), became the daily independent paper Volksblatt für Stadt und Land (The City and County People's Report). "The Daily Tribune" disappeared in 1877 and the last "People's Report" was 1880. The only daily papers left were "The Buffalo Democrat", "The Buffalo Free Press", and "The Buffalo People's Friend". There were various other publications which lasted a short time, such as the Arbeitstimme am Erie (The Worker's Voice on Erie) which existed from May to November of 1878; Die Laterne (The Lantern) of 1880 later became the Banner, an organ of the Greenback Party until 1883; the Buffalo Wecker (The Buffalo Awakener) was a weekly paper which appeared in 1880 and lasted for 7 weeks; In 1891 the Sonntags-Post (The Sunday Post),a humorous Sunday paper, existed until its owner, Hermann Hoffmann, died; Niagara was a Catholic Sunday paper of 1898 which only lasted a short time. The Arbeiter-Zeitung (The Worker's News), a socialist newspaper, appeared in 1887. It represented the interests of German workers.

May the current German newspapers in Buffalo always be aware of their cultural mission. As German newspapers, they are called upon to preserve our mother tongue in our new land. May the Germans of our city be aware that it is their duty to support the German Press.

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Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Revised June 20, 2005