Tuesday, June 2, 2015

8 Ways Moving to 1830s Texas was . . . Different

In 1834, a German immigrant to Texas named Detlef Thomas Friedrich Jordt, aka Detlef Dunt, published Reise nach Texas, an informative and entertaining little book that praised Texas as a land of opportunity for European immigrants. The first English translation, Journey to Texas, 1833, provides a vivid glimpse into pre-Revolutionary Texas life and when read in light of our experiences as contemporary Texans, is as illuminating as it is amusing.
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We've compiled a list of eight notable ways life in Texas has changed since 1833, or hasn't. You can read an excerpt from Journey to Texas in the May issue of Texas Co-op Power Magazine and on our website.

8 Ways 1830s Texas was . . . Different


There were no vegan dining options.

Detlef Dunt writes, "Meat, which, from every kind of animal, is much tastier than in Germany, is eaten fried in the morning at breakfast, as well as at noon and in the evening."

There's no telling what animals were fried up besides cattle and hogs, and Dunt doesn't elaborate, but we can be sure there were no processed foods!


International travel to the Austin area was a little less convenient.

Compare Detlef's advice for the best fare from Germany to America to modern transatlantic airline fares:

"Passage from Germany to New Orleans should not exceed forty-five dollars per person . . . personal belongings free." However, the journey to cross the Atlantic took seven weeks and he advises Europeans NOT to arrive between July and October because, you know, yellow fever.

Detlef also includes some very explicit advice about how to get your sea legs which we will not quote here out of consideration for sensitive stomachs.


Your fellow passengers did more than just hog the armrest.

". . . they find merit in out-doing the initial perpetrators when it comes to bad manners and vulgar conduct. When on top of this there is also gossip, tippling, and immoderate indulgence, then steerage assumes a veritable village mentality, and a wolf's lair is an Eden by comparison."

An etching illustrating steerage passengers


Immigration policies at the time were, well, different.

"But on the whole, as long as you are careful not to arouse any suspicion, new immigrants are not checked very closely."

When Dunt settled in what is now Central Texas, he was immigrating to the Mexican Republic. An 1830 Mexican law prohibited "admitting foreigners from the northern boundary [with America] without warrant of their good intention." The law also prohibited immigrants from importing slaves.


Gun-toting enthusiasm was alive and well.

Quite fittingly, the first sound Dunt recounts hearing after setting foot on American soil was "several salvos of fire from small rifles." It was in celebration of George Washington's birthday.


Texans were dog people. And cow people.

"It must sound just as wondrous to a German, when he first arrives, to hear dogs and every head of cattle addressed as 'Sir.'" Sounds like a great, if sexist, habit to revive, don't you think?


Americans weren't much fun. (Except for New Orleanians.)

"Generally there is more work than play, and popular amusements such as balls and dance parties are quite rare here. When it comes to community or group singing, Americans are also quite behind; their popular tunes actually sound barbarous."

Well, we all know which nation came out ahead in the end, music-wise.

"As in England, Sunday is entirely devoted to divine service; neither dancing nor working is permitted, and thus is it in all of the United States, except for New Orleans."


Whiskey was currency.

Wouldn't it be nice if your neighbors would jump at the chance to help out with yard work in exchange for a tin cup of whiskey? Well, Dunt writes, "clearing an acre of woodland only costs one dollar in liquor."

". . . whiskey is particularly high here, there being no distilleries as yet in the entire country. It might be said in passing that establishing one would certainly be very advantageous, the Americans being very fond of this drink."

The Kollmann store in Frelsburg originally belonged to the Jordt family. Kollmann bought the store before the Civil War. Courtesy of the Nesbitt Memorial Library Archives.

Here's a bonus quote dedicated to business-friendly former Governor Rick Perry: 

"Great are the opportunities that Texas offers to commerce, not merely through the mother country of Mexico, but also by way of the great neighboring country and, as a result of its own productivity, soon, one must hope, with Europe as well."

Get Journey to Texas, 1833 today to get a vivid picture of Texas and understand how we got to where we are today. Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

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