California – Sacramento; Civilization — German influences; Ethnic neighborhoods; German Americans; Gold mines and mining; History; Minorities


American Studies | Cultural History | History | Social History | United States History


During the 1850s in Sacramento, German-born immigrants banded together in an ethnically based neighborhood where they created a sub-culture of "German-ness," practicing their own particular rituals and customs. At the same time, these foreign-born joined the Anglo-American majority to addresses the chaos and disorder brought on by the dramatic increase in Sacramento's population due to the discovery of gold in 1849. Contemporary accounts such as newspapers, directories, histories and unpublished manuscripts confirm the existence of this strong community and its attempts to duplicate institutions they remembered in Germany and ethnic settlements in America. Despite their small numbers, they influenced the dominant Anglo culture to adopt some its German traditions of joyful celebration. Consequently, the presence and impact of this German sub-culture demands that historians rethink the ethnic relationships and interactions in smaller California cities in the 1850s. Histories of California's gold rush era often focus on Hispanic-, Indian- and Chinese-Anglo relationships throughout the state, addressing ethnic minorities of foreign-born in only communities such as San Francisco where they were proportionally large, neglecting inter-relationships in the smaller towns and cities. The Germans' experience in Sacramento demonstrates that the white populations of the post-gold rush California towns were not necessarily homogenous—the presence of ethnic minorities helped create practices and rituals particular to each California community.