Der Vaterlandsfreund

From Ohio History Central

In response to the growing German immigrant population in Canton, Stark County, and other parts of eastern Ohio, Eduard Schäffer established Canton’s first German-language newspaper, the weekly Westliche Beobachter und Stark Caunty Anzeiger (“Western Observer and Stark County Advertiser”) around 1820. It underwent several name changes in its first years of publication, reflecting its distribution to neighboring counties of Columbiana, Tuscarawas, and Wayne, before, in 1827, then-owner Johann Sala shortened its name to Westliche Beobachter (“Western Observer”). Solomon Sala, the son of a German printer, joined the business in 1828, and the next year he changed the newspaper’s name to Vaterlandsfreund und Westliche Beobachter (“Fatherland’s Friend and Western Observer”). In 1831, Peter Kaufmann became editor and translator, obtaining full ownership of the Vaterlandsfreund by the end of the year.

Kaufmann was a German immigrant, philosopher, and writer influenced by German philosopher Georg W.F. Hegel. Prior to moving to Canton, he had helped establish the short-lived utopian community of Teutonia in eastern Ohio, which sought the “welfare and salvation of all humanity.” In addition to his work as a newspaper publisher, Kaufmann printed annual almanacs, featuring a calendar, weather forecasts, practical information, and philosophical essays, as well as booklets in German and English. He was active in local, state, and national politics, becoming postmaster of Canton in 1837 and attending the Democratic National Conventions of 1836, 1840, and 1844.

The Vaterlandsfreund reflected Kaufmann’s Jacksonian Democratic politics, Hegelian philosophy, and support for education reform (particularly, the right to use German in schools). Among the mottos adopted by the newspaper were “Our country must and shall be defended” (Andrew Jackson) and “Where liberty dwells, there is my country” (Benjamin Franklin). The masthead also featured lines adapted from the 18th century poem “Us and Them” by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, which reflected the tenets of the early German nationalist movement through its criticism of the Prussian aristocracy’s disdain for traditional German culture. The poem may also have been anti-British, aligning with the foreign policy of Andrew Jackson. The Vaterlandsfreund featured news from abroad; local, state, and national political news and editorials; legal notices; and advertisements for local and regional businesses and events.

During Kaufmann’s tenure, the Vaterlandsfreund changed titles several times: in 1836, back to Vaterlandsfreund und Westliche Beobachter; in 1837, to Vaterlandsfreund und Geist der Zeit (“Fatherland’s Friend and Spirit of the Times”); and in 1845, to Vaterlandsfreund again. The addition of two business partners, Heinrich Hawrecht and Karl J. Wink, in 1837 allowed Kaufmann to travel door to door to sell books, calendars, and newspaper subscriptions to local farmers, and his 1841 purchase of one of the first power presses in northeast Ohio allowed him to expand his publishing activities even further. Heinrich Joseph Nothnagel, Kaufmann’s son-in-law, took over the paper in 1842 (he had joined the business in 1841), allowing Kaufmann to focus on his philosophical and political writings and activities. The Vaterlandsfreund was suspended briefly that year, from March through December, until Nothnagal established the Ohio Staats-bote (“Ohio State-Messenger”). Under its new name, the paper continued to support Democratic politics, and also covered news, agriculture, entertainment, instruction, art, science, and trade.

The Staats-bote ceased publication in 1851 after Nothnagel became disillusioned with the political disunity of the Democratic Party and the influence of the Know-Nothing Party in Stark County. He moved to Cleveland in 1852 where he established the Cleveland Germania. Kaufmann, on the other hand, returned to the newspaper world in 1863 as editor of the Canton Der Deutsche in Ohio und Ohio Staatszeitung (“German in Ohio and Ohio State Newspaper”) where he worked until his death in 1869.

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