After several attempts to establish schools for German American children, a group of prominent, non-sectarian, liberal German Americans in Indianapolis founded the German-English School Society (Deutsch-Englischer Schulverein) in 1859. The main reasons for the founding of the society were the deplorable conditions of the public schools of the time, the perceived undesirable stress on religion in public and parochial schools, and the desire to provide instruction in the German language and culture as well as in English.

German-English Independent School of Indianapolis, ca. 1913
Credit: Internet Archive

The first meetings were held in February of that year. The German-English Independent School began operation toward the end of 1859 with Theodore Hielscher and Julius Schumm as teachers. Hielscher was also editor of the liberal German-language newspaper Die Freie Presse. Both he and Schumm had previously conducted private schools of their own. In May 1860, the school had 110 pupils. A three-story building on Maryland Street between Alabama and Delaware was designed by renowned architect Diedrich A. Bohlen, who also served as one of the school’s trustees.

The school enjoyed wide support from the German Community, and in 1871 there were 252 children attending. By 1882, however, most German Americans apparently believed that because the public schools had improved sufficiently and because German was now included in the curriculum it was no longer necessary to pay tuition for a separate school. Thus the bilingual school, which had educated well over a thousand children, ceased operations.

Revised February 2021

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