Teach PA History
"No Roasted Pigeons Are Going to Fly into Their Mouths": Evaluating Two Perspectives on Immigration and Work in 18th Century Pennsylvania.
Background Information for Teachers

Pennsylvania has long been the destination of choice for immigrants from around the world. During the first half of the eighteenth century, a great wave of European immigrants-primarily of English, Irish, Ulster Scots, and German origin-made Pennsylvania their new home. As thousands of immigrants flooded into Pennsylvania, relatives and friends back in Europe were naturally curious to know both how immigrants fared and whether or not they should join them in the New World. To answer these questions, several immigrants and notable American colonists published works describing life in Pennsylvania. Among these are the writings by German immigrant Gottlieb Mittelberger and American founding father Benjamin Franklin that are excerpted in this lesson.

As students will learn in this lesson, both of these men arrive at opposite conclusions regarding whether or not prospective immigrants should travel to Pennsylvania. Students will draw conclusions about factors that shaped each man's perspective. Additionally, they will compare and contrast the writings, then evaluate each writer's arguments based on the examples he cites, his personal experiences, and his credibility. After this, students will take on the persona of a mid-eighteenth century German immigrant who works as an indentured servant in Pennsylvania. From this imaginary perspective, students will write a letter to a cousin in Germany explaining which author is more convincing.

Further Reading

Fogleman, Aaron Spencer. Hopeful Journeys: German Immigration, Settlement, and Political Culture in Colonial America, 1717-1775. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, February 1996 .

Although written in language that is a bit scholarly, Fogleman contributes much to the study of eighteenth century German settlement in America. At one point in the book the author tracks the immigrants from a particular region located between Heidelberg and Heilbronn, along the Neckar River. This detailed information illuminates what was involved in the decision to go to the New World, in the trip getting there, and in beginning a new life in Pennsylvania. The book is heavily foot-noted, with an extensive bibliography and index. It is a good resource for further studies of the Pennsylvania German culture.

Franz, John B. "The Pennsylvania Germans: A Persistent Minority" in Der Reggeboge., 3-20. The Rainbow, 2001.

An excellent overview of the Pennsylvania Germans immigration, development, and persistence.

Galtfelter, Charles H. "The Pennsylvania Germans: A Brief Account of their Influence on Pennsylvania" in Pennsylvania History Studies. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania Historical Association, 1990.

Highlights the religion, craftsmanship, and schooling of German immigrants in Pennsylvania.

Pleij, Herman. Dreaming of Cockaigne: Medieval Fantasies of the Perfect Life. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, May 2001.

Pleij uses his knowledge of European art, folklore, and literature to describe the fantasy of Cockaigne in the Middle Ages and how they relate centrally to medieval life.

Rammel, Hal. Nowhere in America: The Big Rock Candy Mountain and Other Comic Utopias. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990.

Rammel explores the connection between ideas of "Lubberland" and "Cockaigne" with the origins of the song, "The Big Rock Candy Mountain."

Sheets, Georg R. and Blair Seitz. Pennsylvania Heritage: Diversity in Art, Dance, Food, Music, and Customs. Harrisburg, PA: RB Books, May 2001.

This book brings to life the stories of dozens of national groups that have immigrated to Pennsylvania and illustrates the wonderful cultural heritage they brought with them.

Web Sites

, Philadelphia Immigrant City

This resource, written by Fredric M. Miller, provides informative statistics on immigration in Philadelphia. Miller reports that a quarter of million immigrants came through Philadelphia before 1873, and he creates a table which compares numbers of immigrants that arrived in Philadelphia to the number of immigrants that arrived in the nation. This table includes data from 1820-1930.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The Balch Institute

The Balch Institute is known as an incredible resource for ethnic and immigrant study. Since merging with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the website also offers wonderful lesson plans and curricular supplements.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania, German Settlement in Colonial Pennsylvania

While intended for middle- or high-school level, this online lesson plan offers additional exciting primary resources for looking at the German immigrant experience.

Immigration Webquest

This webquest is geared for upper elementary students. It directs students through a variety of activities designed to help them understand the role immigrations has played in America's development. It focuses on Ellis Island, but immigrants from other eras are featured as well.

Library of Congress, Lesson Plans-Immigration-Themed Resources-For Teachers-Library of Congress

Lessons plans about immigration using the primary resource collection from the Library of Congress.

Scholastic Inc., Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today

This website offers a variety of resources related to immigration. It features an interactive tour of Ellis Island, true stories of present day immigrants, and tools to view and print graphs about immigration statistics.

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