|In 1789, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Surgeon general at the time of the Revolution, published "An Account
of the Manners of the German Inhabitants of Pennsylvania":
"In settling a tract of land they always provide large and suitable accommodations for their horses
and cattle, before they lay out much money in building a house for themselves. The first house is
small and built of logs. It generally lasts through the lifetime of the first settler and hence, they have a
saying, that a son should always begin his improvements, where his father left off.
They always prefer good land, or that land on which there are great meadows. By giving attention to
the cultivation of grass, they often in a few years double the value of an old farm, and grow rich on
farms, on which their predecessors, of whom they purchased them, had nearly starved. In clearing
new land they do not simply girdle or belt the trees, and leave them to perish in the ground, as is the
custom of their English or Irish neighbors; they generally cut them down and burn them. Underbrush
and bushes they pull out by the roots. The advantage is that the land is fit for cultivation the second
They feed their horses and cows well, thereby practicing economy, for such animals perform twice
the labor or yield twice the amount of the less well fed. A German horse is known in every part of
the state. The German farmers are also great wood-economists. They do not waste it in large
fire-places, but burn it in stoves, using about one-fourth to one-fifth as much. Their houses are made
very comfortable by these stoves, around which the family can get more equal chance than when
burning their faces and freezing their backs before open fire-places.
The Germans live frugally in regard to diet, furniture and dress. They eat sparingly of boiled meat,
but use large quantities of all kinds of vegetables. They use few distilled spirits (whiskey and rum),
preferring cider, beer, wine, and simple water. In their homespun garments they are likewise
When they use European articles of dress, they prefer those of best quality and highest price. They
are afraid to get into debt, and seldom purchase anything without paying cash for it. Kitchen
gardening the Germans introduced altogether. Their gardens contain useful vegetables at every
season of the year. Pennsylvania is indebted to the Germans for the principal part of her knowledge
of horticulture. The work of the gardens is generally done by the women of the family. Hired help is
procured only in harvest time.
The favorable influence of agriculture, as conducted by the Germans, in extending the most
happiness, is manifested by the joy expressed at the birth of a child. No dread of poverty or distrust
of Providence from an increasing family depress the spirits of this industrious and frugal people. In
their children they produce not only the habits of labor but a love of it.
When a young man asks the consent of his father to marry the girl of his choice he does not inquire
so much whether she be rich or poor, or whether she possess personal or mental accomplishments,
but whether she be industrious, and acquainted with the duties of a good housewife.
They are no strangers to the virtue of hospitality. The hungry or benighted traveller is always sure to
find a hearty welcome under their roofs. They are extremely kind and friendly as neighbors."