Back to School – 1918

Back to School cartoon
Cartoon from the Richmond Item September 8, 1918

It wasn’t until after Labor Day that Richmond’s students returned to the classroom in the fall of 1918, and this return was different than it had ever been before.

Richmond’s large German population had ensured the presence of German-speaking institutions, including churches, a newspaper, and a bank. Many German families wanted to make sure their children could read and speak the ancestral language, but enthusiasm for the language waned the longer the families were in America.  As early as 1885, the First English Lutheran Church formed for those who did not wish to attend services in German.  St. John’s and St. Paul’s Lutheran Churches and St. Andrew Catholic eventually added English services as well.  Die Volkszeitung newspaper existed from 1875 until 1906 when there were too few German speakers to support it.

Soon after America declared war on Germany in April 1917, anything German became frowned upon.  The same anti-German hysteria that had prompted East Germantown to try to change its name to Pershing, caused the German-American Trust and Savings Bank of Richmond to drop “German” from its name in December 1917.

Soon after, in January 1918, the school board to decided to stop teaching the German language, and that decision went into effect at the start of the next school year.

— Sue King

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