For thousands of German immigrants moving to the city in the mid-19th century, the press became part of a support structure that included churches, schools, Vereins (clubs, societies), and, in part, ethnic neighborhoods. This combination provided a comforting cultural continuity and kept the German language alive. 

Between September 1848, when Julius Boetticher founded the weekly Indiana Volksblatt (Indiana Peoples Paper), and 1918, when the daily Telegraph Und Tribüne closed due to wartime anti-German sentiments, German-language publications were the only foreign-language press in the city. News coverage ranged from local to international, and they reflected the political and social diversity of the German community. The lighter side, with anecdotes, jokes, and installment novels, nurtured the cultural tradition. Advertising in both languages played its role, too.

The German-language newspapers were highly political in their focus. The conservative, Democratic-oriented Volksblatt (1848-1875) opposed the liberal 1848 revolution in the German states and criticized many recently emigrated leaders who sought to represent the local German community.

The Freie Presse (Free Press, 1853-1866), founded by Theodore Hielscher, a supporter of the German revolution, was an uncompromising human rights voice embracing free soil, abolition, and the new Republican Party. With key figures from the German American community as editors (Karl Beyschlag, Valentine Butsch, Konradin Homburg, Herman Lieber, and E. J. Metzger), it fought against the largely anti-German nativist and prohibitionist factions and for personal freedom.

Eventually, the original papers were absorbed by successors. The Democratic Taeglicher Telegraph (Daily Telegraph, 1865-1907) acquired the Volksblatt in 1875 and later merged with the Indiana Tribüne (1877-1907) to form the independent daily Telegraph And Tribüne (1907-June 1, 1918). The Gutenberg Company, which had published both the Huelfetelegraph and the Tribüne separately since 1903, reported that this last Indianapolis German daily had a circulation of 11,000 by 1915. Its Sunday edition, the Spottvogel (Mockingbird), begun in 1865-1866, reached 11,979.

The German community supported a variety of other publications. The religious press included the monthlies Bote (Messenger) and Huelfe (Help), and Die Glocke (The Bell, 1882 -1905), “the Catholic weekly for truth and justice” with a circulation of 3,600. Freethinkers enjoyed the radical treatises of German revolutionary Karl Heinzen, published by the Society for the Dissemination of Radical Principles and distributed locally by its president Herman Lieber. Gesundheits-Bote (Health Messenger) was a practical health journal (1886 -1899?). “Education! Progress! Freedom!” was the motto of the Die Zukunft (The Future), published by the Gutenberg Company for the North American Turners (1867-1882) (See Turners/Turnvereins).

Organizational and professional journals moved with their headquarters from city to city, including the German American Typographical Union’s semimonthly Buchdruckerzeitung (Printers Newspaper, 1873 -1926) and the monthly Carpenter (1881-1917) with its German section. Around 1900, anniversary observations of the Soziale Turnverein and the Maennerchor resulted in beautiful Festschrifts (festival publications) that are available in translation.

Revised June 2021

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