When the editor of the South Carolina Gazette wanted to describe the “join or die”  snake then in use in newspapers in Pennsylvania, he had to improvise because he didn’t have a printing block with the image cut on it. The result was something that would have made Lawrence Sterne happy: the use of text […]

Brandt Schuyler writing to Robert Livingston in New York in 1682. The English had taken over New York just 18 years beforehand, and both English and Dutch languages competed for control of the Hudson Valley. Here, Brandt writes “Liffingston” for “Livingston” and in the second line uses the English word “opportunity”  [oppertunietyt].    

Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865, and died of his wounds the next morning. News of his death spread widely and quickly, particularly because of the spread of the telegraph and the first transatlantic cable, laid in 1858. Here is a telegram I once found in the Dutch national archives. King Netherlands Hague […]

Mike Maxwell is reader of this blog and a fellow historian who sent me a copy of his new book. The general message of the book is that history education, specifically at the high school level, is a mess. The first 55 pages of the book diagnose the problem, which is that history education does […]

In my previous post, I presented a selection of a text from Ray Nies, writing in about 1939 or 1940, recalling one of Holland, Michigan’s storied characters, a perpetually drunk but kind-hearted horse doctor named Piet Ver Liere. I discovered in a newspaper search that his actual name was Peter Van Liere, and that the […]

The following was written in 1939/1940 by Holland, Michigan’s Ray Nies. I have a lot more to say about Nies, but I will save that til later. The text below demonstrates Nies’ skill as a writer. In fact, if the Dutch of West Michigan ever had a Mark Twain, Nies was it. Although Nies was […]

Since writing my first book, Veneklasen Brick, in 2004, I never did any additional research on the topic of the Veneklasen family, their brickyards, and the Dutch American building tradition using their bricks. Mostly this was because I felt that by the time the book was published in 2005, I had learned just about everything […]

In 1850, the Sheboygan Nieuwsbode was the only Dutch language newspaper in the United States.  The editor, Jacob Quintus, was proud of his new nation, its history and freedoms. To educate the Dutch immigrants about their country, he published a Dutch translation of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  Unfortunately, this seems not to have been […]

Yankee Dutch can refer to a number of hybrid English-Dutch varieties. I’m particularly interested in the Midwestern variety at the beginning of the 20th century. One form, Grand Rapids Yankee Dutch, was popularized through  Dirk Nieland’s ‘N Fonnie Bisnis.  Nieland’s Yankee Dutch was always meant to be comical, an exaggeration of how Dutch Americans spoke. […]

The search database on Delpher.nl continues to be a great source for the history of Dutch Americans. The database includes the Sioux Center Nieuwsblad of Iowa.  For years, the Nieuwsblad had correspondents in Dutch-American hamlets who gave monthly reports.  One of these correspondents lived in Randolph, Wisconsin, where my great-grandfather Renze Douma, and his brother […]