Ohio History Journal

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The German Book Trade

In Ohio Before 1848





In the summer of 1796 Jonathan Zane and his brothers, as part payment for lands

received from the United States Government, began to hew a pack trail from the

Ohio River at Wheeling to the later site of New Lancaster, Ohio, through to Chilli-

cothe and on to a point opposite Maysville, Kentucky on the Ohio River. For a long

while this trail, called Zane's Trace, was the only route connecting Kentucky with

the East; along it trod many German farming families on their way from Pennsyl-

vania, Virginia, and Maryland to Lancaster (the "New" was soon dropped) and sur-

rounding Fairfield County. Some Germans were drawn to Cincinnati and Hamilton

County, but until the 1830's their numbers were not large. The first organized settle-

ment of Germans in Ohio, and one of the earliest white settlements in the Miami

Valley, dates back to 1798 when Christian Waldsmith (Waldschmidt), from Gen-

genbach in the Black Forest region, led a small group of German pietists to the

banks of the Little Miami some twenty miles from Cincinnati. In 1810 Waldsmith

built the second paper mill in Ohio.1

As the rest of Ohio was opened for settlement, thousands of Germans made their

homes in the so-called backbone counties, especially Columbiana, Stark, Wayne,

Tuscarawas, and Holmes. Place names that evoked the Old Country abounded:

Berlin, Wirtemberg, Saxon, Hanover, Dresden, Osnaburg, Frankfurt, Spires, and

Potsdam. Singly and in groups the German emigrants ventured westward. Some

German communitarian colonies were also founded, notably those at Zoar in Tus-

carawas County, in 1817, and the now forgotten Teutonia whose guiding spirit was

Peter Kaufmann. Both were directly inspired by Father Rapp's successful experi-

ments at Harmony, New Harmony, and Economy.

The early German settlers remained within the orbit of the Pennsylvania-German

book trade obtaining needed books from peddlers, itinerant ministers, and by sub-

scription. Perusal of contemporary subscription lists does bring such a general-

ization alive. A Reading, Pennsylvania, printing of Gerhard Tersteegen's Geistliche

Brosamen dating from 1807 contains the names of twelve subscribers residing in

Pleasant, Fairfield County near Lancaster. In 1819, Johann Baer of Lancaster,




1. Dard Hunter, Papermaking in Pioneer America (Philadelphia, 1952), 110-116.


Mr. Cazden is Associate Professor, College of Library Science, University of Kentucky.