Click the image to learn more. In August 1980, Usinger's Famous Sausage celebrated its 100th year of business with a block party.

“Gemütlichkeit” is a term mostly untranslated by contemporary U.S. American observers,[1] although it is sometimes interpreted as “geniality.”[2] It is a character trait that Germans and in particular German-Americans defined as specific to themselves. “Gemütlichkeit” can include any number of activities, generally revolving around having fun: relaxing, enjoying beer and (German) food, music, and dance in the company of friends, family, and compatriots; having animated conversations; exhibiting humor and emotions; singing traditional folk songs; and being merry and easy-going while still maintaining order and good-naturedness. “Gemütlichkeit” often occurred in German-American festivals (e.g. “ein Gemüthliches Bairisches Volksfest”[3]) and in the summer in outdoor settings like beer gardens or parks. “Gemütlichkeit” could take place with the whole family but also in male-only gatherings. German-Americans in Milwaukee—and elsewhere—saw German “Gemütlichkeit” as part of their ethnicity and proudly contrasted it to what they saw as American materialism and, in a slightly anti-modern thrust, unfeeling intellect.[4] They considered “Gemütlichkeit”—if it did not become excessive—as a trait that could enrich the United States.

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^ See, for example, Bayrd Still, Milwaukee: The History of a City (Madison, WI: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1948), 129, 224, and 491.
  2. ^ Ann Bakamijian Reagan, “Art Music in Milwaukee in the Late Nineteenth Century, 1850-1900,” (Ph.D. diss. University of Wisconsin, 1980), 117.
  3. ^ Germania und Abend-Post, June 13, 1898.
  4. ^ Martin Arndt, “Max Weber und die ‘deutsche Gemütlichkeit’: Amerika, Du hast es besser… (Goethe, 1827),” Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 59, no. 2 (2007): 121-141.

For Further Reading

Bungert, Heike. “Demonstrating the Values of ‘Gemüthlichkeit’ and ‘Cultur’: The Festivals of German-Americans in Milwaukee, 1870-1910.” In Celebrating Ethnicity and Nation: American Festive Culture from the Revolution to the Early Twentieth Century, edited by Geneviève Fabre, Jürgen Heideking and Kai Dreisbach, 175-193. New York, NY: Berghahn, 2001.

Brenner, Peter J. Reisen in die Neue Welt: Die Erfahrung Nordamerikas in deutschen Reise- und Auswandererberichten des 19. Jahrhunderts. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1991.

Conzen, Kathleen Neils. “Patterns of German-American History.” In Germans in America: Retrospect and Prospect: Tricentennial Lectures Delivered at the German Society of Pennsylvania in 1983, edited by Randall M. Miller, 14-36. Philadelphia, PA: German Society of Pennsylvania, 1984.

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