by Drew Walker
The small country of Luxembourg, also known as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is contained within some 998 square miles, or 2,586 square kilometers of land in western Europe. Luxembourg is surrounded by Belgium to its north and west, France to its south and Germany to its east. The history and culture of Luxembourg have been significantly affected by this geographical location. Since Luxembourg has fused the traditions of the surrounding countries and is the product of various immigration movements throughout its history, the population of Luxembourg (some 410,000) is ethnically diverse. Because of its location and history, it is referred to as one of Europe's most important crossroads. Along its border with Belgium are the Ardennes Mountains, forming a plateau between 1,300 and 1,600 feet (400 to 490 meters). This area is known as the Oesling. To the south of the Ardennes is an area known as Gutland or Bon Pays (literally "good land"), which contains various contours of fertile farmland.
In early ancient times the land of Luxembourg was inhabited by two Belgic tribes named the Medioatrici and the Teveri. In the fifth century A.D. the Franks began to occupy the area. In the following centuries, the people began to convert to Christianity. Under the domination of the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne, the area was first a section of the Kingdom of Austrasia and then the Kingdom of Lotharinga. From an exchange of land in 963 by Siegfried, the Count of Ardennes, the Kingdom of Luxembourg became an independent land. Involved in this exchange was Siegfried's acquisition of a Roman castle on the Alzette River. The present name of Luxembourg was derived from the name of the castle "Lucilinburhuc," or "Little Fortress." After the death of Siegfried, he was succeeded by a long line of his descendants. Near the year 1060 one of these descendants, Conrad, became the first Luxembourger ruler to take the title of the "Count of Luxembourg." In 1354, Luxembourg was made a duchy by Holy Roman emperor Charles IV.
Perhaps the greatest point in the history of Luxembourg in this era came in 1443, when the then Duchess of Luxembourg, Elizabeth of Görlitz, gave up the throne to the duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good (Philip III). When all of Burgundy and its lands passed into the hands of the Hapsburg rulers in 1477, so did the Duchy of Luxembourg. In 1556, through a series of changes brought about by the abdication of Hapsburg emperor Charles V, Luxembourg became a property of Spain and part of what were known as "The Spanish Netherlands." Through the two turbulent centuries that followed, Luxembourg often found itself at the geographic and political center of wars and disputes; when these conflicts ended, Luxembourg, along with Belgium, passed from the Spanish into the hands of the Austrian Hapsburgs.
Austrian rule continued until 1795 when the French took over the duchy. Following this occupation by French revolutionary forces, a modern state bureaucracy was installed in Luxembourg resembling the French system at the time. In their zeal to institute these reforms, along with their disempowerment of the clergy and the call for mandatory military service by the Luxmebourgers, the French created dissent. This dissent eventually led to a rebellion against French rule in 1798, which in turn was brutally put down.
With the fall of Napoleon in 1814 and the end of French rule came the decision of the Allied Powers in 1815 to cede parts of the duchy to Prussia and to give the rest to William I, King of the Netherlands, and to elevate it to the status of a grand duchy. This resulted in confusion over Luxembourg's identity. While owned by William I of the Netherlands, it was also a member of the German Confederation and had close ties with Prussia. In addition, it was, technically, an independent state as well. What ensued in the decades immediately following the possession of Luxembourg by the Netherlands was a struggle against this rule, which was undertaken in cooperation with the Belgians. In a revolution against Dutch rule, the Belgians also declared Luxembourg to be a part of Belgium against the claim of the Netherlands. The series of international reactions that followed led in 1831 to a decision by the "Great Powers" of France, Prussia, Russia, and Britain. Despite Belgium's claim, Luxembourg was to remain the possession, albeit in altered form, of William I and was also to remain a part of the German Confederation. Dividing Luxembourg once again, the French-speaking part of Luxembourg was given to Belgium while the Netherlands retained the parts that spoke the native Luxembourger language. After a series of disputes on this decision between the Netherlands and Belgium, it eventually came to be accepted, and the Netherlands ruled this area alone from 1839 until 1867.
While William I and his successor William II made several moves on behalf of the Luxembourg-Netherlands union, including making Luxembourg a part of the Customs Union directed by Prussia, dissent against this and other decisions continued to grow among the Luxembourgers. The constitution of 1841 given by the Netherlands was met with hostility, which led to a series of constitutional changes thought to be more just. When the German Confederation was dissolved in 1866, Luxembourg became a sovereign nation. In the years that followed, however, a series of disputes between the Great Powers regarding the status of Luxembougian independence led to the decision in 1867 that Luxembourg be deemed an independent nation with perpetual neutrality. While still a part of the Dutch house of Nassau, which had been ruled by the royal family of the Netherlands for generations, Luxembourg at that time was controlled by William III , who remained ruler until his death in 1890. At that time the grand duchy passed into the hands of Adolf, Duke of Nassau
Following the death of Adolf in 1905, his son William ruled for seven years before dying in 1912. Led by William's daughter, the Grand Duchess Marie Adélaïde, the grand duchy cooperated with the Germans in their unlawful violation of Luxembourg's neutrality during World War I (1914-1918). Disliked by her people and severely criticized by the victorious Allied Powers in 1919, Marie Adélaïde was forced to abdicate in favor of her sister Charlotte. Shortly afterward the people of Luxembourg voted to retain Charlotte as grand duchess and not to turn Luxembourg into a republic.
In the following decades, Luxembourg established and pursued an economic union with Belgium with mixed results. When the German army invaded and occupied Luxembourg again in May 1940, Grand Duchess Charlotte went into exile with her family. When Luxembourg was liberated in the late summer of 1944, Charlotte returned and the country formed an economic union with both Belgium and the Netherlands. In 1948 Luxembourg abandoned its perpetual neutrality by taking part in forming the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Upon the death of Grand Duchess Charlotte in 1964, her son Prince Jean assumed the throne as the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
The earliest Luxembourgers to emigrate to America came in 1630 with the Dutch to New York City (then New Amsterdam). The first Luxembourger is thought to be Philip de la Noye (or de Lannoy), who arrived on the ship Fortune, the sister-ship of the Mayflower. Another notable figure from the early years in of Luxembourgers in North America was Father Raphael de Luxembourg who arrived in Louisiana in 1723. Chosen by the King of France to represent the King's interests in the then French colony of Louisiana, Father Raphael also became a leading figure in the Christianization of Native Americans. Noted for his work to provide just pay for Native Americans and blacks, he founded a seminary for Native Americans and the first primary school in the colony.
The greatest influx of Luxembourgers into the United States, however, was during the mid- and late nineteenth century. Between 1841 and 1891, an estimated 45,000 Luxembourgers emigrated to the United States. In the 1830s and 1840s the Luxembourgers arrived in such areas as Maryland, New York and Louisiana. The greatest attraction of the Midwest, where most of them eventually settled, was the availability of fertile and inexpensive farmland. By the 1880s community networks among the settled Luxembourger Americans made further Luxemburger immigration easier and less costly. During this time many came on board ships of the Red Star Line, which sailed from Antwerp, Belgium.
The first significant wave of immigration took place between 1830 and the mid-1840s. These immigrants settled in western New York state, in towns such as Sheldon, in Wyoming County, and New Oregon, in Erie County. Significant numbers of settlers also settled in Ohio in such places as Alvada, in Seneca County and New Riegel and Kirby, in Wyandot County.
The second important wave between 1846 and 1860 led to a great expansion in the population of Luxembourger Americans. Moving westward, they settled in Illinois. A large number settled in Chicago while smaller, yet significant, numbers settled in Rogers Park, Rosehill, Evanston, Aurora, and what is now Skokie. Further settlements were in eastern Wisconsin's Ozaukee County, including such towns as Port Washington, Belgium, Lake Church, Holy Cross, and Dacada. In the Mississippi Valley there were settlements in Winona County, Minnesota, in the towns of Elba, Rollingstone, and Oak Ridge. There were also settlements in Wabasha County, Minnesota, in such towns as Wabasha and Minnieska. In western Wisconsin settlements were made in La Crosse County in places like St. Joseph and La Crosse. In Eastern Iowa's Jackson County there were settlements in St. Donatus, Springbrook, Bellevue, and St. Catherine, and in Dubuque County settlements were made in Dubuque, Luxemburg, Holy Cross, Cascade, and Worthington.
The third major wave of immigration took place between 1860 and 1900. During the American Civil War (1861-1865) this movement slowed but slowly rose to an all-time high in the 1880s. Following the general trend of earlier settlement patterns, many of these people made their homes in the midwestern states. Those who settled in northern and southeastern Minnesota concentrated in towns like Hastings and Vermillion in Dakota County; Belchester and Luxemburg in Stearns County; and Caledonia in Houston County. Moving into South Dakota, settlers in this wave chose places like Alexandria, Hanson County, and White Lake. In western Iowa the towns of St. Joseph and Algona in Kossuth County were settled, as well as the town of Gilbertville. Moving further south and west, the settlers established the towns of Bellwood, David City, Juniata and Roseland, Nebraska. A smaller influx of Luxembourgers took place between 1937 and 1940, when 200 to 300 Luxembourger Jews fleeing Nazi persecution settled in the United States.
Like many long-settled groups in the United States, very few Luxembourger Americans can speak the language of their ancestors. Despite this, however, a considerable number still practice traditions handed down through the generations. Even though they have been interacting for over a century with German Americans, many of these people continue to identify themselves as being Luxembourger.
Luxembourgers are fond of sayings that mark important moments in their history and the formation of national identity. One such saying is Et get fir de glaf! or "Here goes for faith," a saying that was used in the Kloppelkrieg rebellion against the French during the reign of Napoleon. This motto was used by peasants when they rose up and by their captured leaders before they were executed.
Among the indigenous Luxembourger foods found in Luxembourger American settlement areas, two stand out. The first is traïpen ( moustraipen ), a sausage consisting of hog's head, pork blood, cabbage, and spices. It is similar to black pudding. Included in a tradition in which a large meal with traïpen would be served after midnight mass on Christmas day, traïpen was a winter food, produced at a time when pigs would be butchered to be made into smoked ham and other foods. A second popular food is known as stärzelen ( sterchelen ), buckwheat dumplings with lard greaves.
A number of traditional forms of music and dance were a part of holiday celebrations. In Luxembourg, people would travel to towns such as Echternach, to take part in well-known national festivals. Although there is little information on the exact forms of dance and music carried through the generations of Luxembourger-Americans, bands with horns and tubas were likely included. In places like New York and Chicago, military bands were made up of Luxembourger-Americans whose repertoire included tunes from the homeland. Among the variety of songs brought to the United States by Luxembourgers, perhaps the most well known would have been the national song called the "Wilhelmus." Other well known Luxembourger songs included " De Feierwon, D' Fëscher an d' Jëer, " " De Kueb an de Fuuss, " " Den Éim Steffen, " " De Schmatt, " " D' Pierle vum Da, " " Léiwer Härgottsblieschen, " " Marsch vun der Iechternacher Sprangprëssessioun, " " Ons Hemecht " (the national hymn), " Rommelpott, " " Schuebermëss, " "' Tass Fréijor, " and " Wéi meng Mamm nach huet gesponnen. " For more information on the dance of Echternach one can check the website http://www.restena.lu/primaire/consdorf/luxmidi/luxmidi.html . Songs and audio can be found at http://www.restena.lu/primaire/consdorf/luxmidi/luxmidi.html .
In Luxembourg, around sunset on the first Sunday of Lent, fires are lit in every community. This tradition, called Burgbrennen, is one of the four times of the year when such fires are lit. The other times are Easter, the summer solstice, and in the late fall. According to the popular "solar theory" of such festivals found throughout Europe and elsewhere, it is thought that the fires are in some sense a magical imitation of the sun. These fires are lit in the hopes that its imitation might make the sun cooperate in the coming months. Besides the desire for practical results, a strong element of revelry and excess is also displayed at such festivals. A great sacrifice to the spirits of the dead, ancestors, and nature is symbolized in the massive destruction of such bonfires. Often accompanied by feasting and carnivalesque behavior, these bonfires are important elements in communal sentiment and the preservation of tradition.
Burgbrennen began with a form of trick-or-treat. Village youngsters go from house to house begging for wood and kindling for the fire. Carrying these materials up the hill to the site of the fire, the boys hold the stack of wood and kindling while a large pole with a wooden cross is hoisted and planted into the ground. As the cross is secured, the youngsters heap the combustible material around the pole, and it is set ablaze by the man to last marry in the village. Other variations of this ritual involved affixing a large wheel and streamers to the top of the pole, which would in turn be set ablaze and spun.
Burgbrennen has not remained a strong custom among Luxembourger Americans. While many communities in the United States have retained bonfire-like festivals, usually in the late fall, the tradition of fires at Lent seems to have greatly faded. In Vermillion, Minnesota, however, memories remain of its existence earlier in this century. One account was told by a village elder: " Bjork Sonntag was the First Sunday of Lent and the last day of drinking alcohol during Lent. They had a very unusual custom in this area during the evening of Bjork Sonntag. Many of the farmers would erect a pole on the highest point of the farm, put rags on top of the pole or put a wheel on top of the pole and cover that with old rags, pour oil on the rags and start the rags/wheel and pole on fire. As to the reason for the fire on Bjork Sonntag, at this time I cannot find out. The people who remember these fires, just remember that this was a custom from the old county that their grandfathers and fathers took part in."
In late August and early September of every year there is a festival called the Schueberfouer, or "Shepherd's Fair." This festival was founded by then ruler John the Blind in 1340. Lasting 18 days (except every fifth year when it lasts 25 days), the Schueberfouer began as a livestock fair. In addition to livestock and pottery, cloth and woolen articles were also displayed and sold. Craftsmen and weavers were originally the organizers and directors of the fair, giving way to a broader sponsorship and direction in the late eighteenth century. Traditionally, each Schueberfouer began with the marching of a flock of sheep called the Hämmelsmarsch. A shepherd and his sheep were followed by a band playing the Hämmelsmarsch tune. During this procession a door to door collection was made. The origin of the tune for the Hämmelsmarsch is unknown. It is known, however, that the carillon of the cathedral was said to have played it in the eighteenth century. The Schueberfouer was brought to the United States by Luxembourgers in the nineteenth century.
There is a noted observance of the Schueberfouer near the end of the Civil War. An immigrant publication named the Luxemburger Gazette, published on September 20, 1917, reported that there had been a northern army military unit founded in 1865 in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, New York, which was referred to as the Lëtzebörger Gard. When the 80 members of this unit met for a reunion after the war, they decided to organize a yearly gathering on the first Monday of September and to organize this event as a Schueberfouer as they had known it in Luxembourg. This event, like the festival in the old country, included a parade, games, dance, and target shooting.
As a result of this reunion and annual Schueberfouers, a united group of Luxembourger-Americans was formed. By 1871 this veterans' group had grown and changed into a new organization called the "Luxembourger Mutual Aid Society." The growth of this organization was not, however, unique among Luxembourger Americans across the country. Several organizations grew out of organized Schueberfouers, in this way, including Chicago's "Luxembourger Brotherhood of America," which was founded on the occasion of its annual Schueberfouer in 1904. Despite the growth of Schueberfouers and similar organizations, the twentieth century has seen a gradual decline in their presence in traditionally Luxembourger communities, including Chicago, Rollingstone, Minnesota, and Remsen, Iowa.
Among Luxembourger-Americans Santa Claus is not a Christmas figure. Rather, a special day was marked early in December to celebrate a "St. Nicholas Day." It is the custom one week before this day for children to put their slippers in front of their bedroom doors so that they might be filled with a small gift by St. Nicholas while they slept. On the eve of December 6 it is also a tradition for children to place plates on dining room or kitchen tables to be filled overnight with sweets and gifts from St. Nicholas.
Many Luxembourger-Americans continue to follow Christmas traditions handed down from the old country. Many celebrate Christmas Eve with family and friends after attending midnight mass. It is not uncommon for local clubs and association to organize nativity plays with children as actors and to arrange concerts to be given later on Christmas day. Many families of Luxembourger descent today also include traditions from the more mainstream Anglo- and German-American cultures.
The native language of the majority of Luxembourgers is Letzebuergesch or Luxembourgisch. This language descends from a Frankish dialect spoken by people who moved into this area between the fourth and sixth centuries A.D. The closest relatives to this language are Flemish, Dutch, and the Plattdeutsch dialects still spoken Germany's Rhineland. Only a few words derive from Celtic tongues exist in Letzebuergesch today. Perhaps the most important retention of Celtic influences are those in the very name of the country and language itself. The presence of French words and phrases is evident in the modern usage of Letzebuergesch, yet French has not had the influence on this language that might have been expected over so many years. Since the year 1830 the two legal languages of Luxembourg have been German and French. It was not until 1984 that Letzebuergesch was actually named the official language of the country. Very little Letzebuergesch has ever been taught in schools, as the language has been mainly learned at home. Although German has been a more popular language within the media, a great many Luxembourgers are wholly conversant in French as well.
In Luxembourgisch the following are equivalent expressions used in daily life: "Good morning/hello" is Moien; "Goodbye" is Äddi or a'voir; "Thank you (very much)" is Merci ( villmols ); "Sorry" is "Pardon;" "Excuse me" is Entschëllegt; and "Please" is Wannechglift. The national motto, found everywhere in Luxembourg, is Mir Wöelle Bleiwe Wat Mir Sin, or "We want to remain what we are."
In Luxembourger communities of the Midwest, people interacted with one another in several ways. The first was the sharing of farm work. Luxembourger immigrants who were farmers often came to possess land in America ten times or more in size than that of their forebears in the old country. So much land created a great need to organize labor at crucial times of the planting, growing and harvesting seasons. In these crucial times farmers of an area would band together to share in each others' labor. It was thought of as one's responsibility not only to one's neighbor, but to one's family, to offer aid and participate in such communal work. These times of year would provide opportunities for people to come together and share their lives, often holding feasts, dances and other events when the seasonal work was finished. The second important factor in family and community dynamics was the church. Whether providing a time for meeting or providing religious services, the local parish was the focus of community pride. The third major factor was the everyday socializing that took place in towns and farm communities. Among these activities were card playing and quilt making. In town during the summer, people would also go for walks and visit neighbors, often inspecting each other's gardens and discussing their growth, variety, and arrangements.
In many settlement towns, Luxembourger American education went hand-in-hand with religion. Many of the schools were Catholic and largely staffed by priests, nuns, and lay persons of the Catholic faith. Thus religious and academic instruction were given together, with moral education having great priority. Lessons related to the Catholic rite of catechism were always a part of the school curricula. In the country far from towns, Luxembourger American immigrants often had a one-room schoolhouse education not affiliated with the Catholic church. Despite their isolation from Catholic school instruction in towns, many children were sent to towns to receive weeks of religious education to prepare them for the rite of confirmation or to receive first communion. In some towns there also were literary societies that aided in the advancement of education within their communities by raising funds and establishing libraries.
The role of women among Luxembourger immigrants was varied. In towns, women worked in shops and other businesses, raised families, and did the great share of domestic chores. They also took part in church activities involving education, community awareness, and minor fundraising for projects. In the country, women were responsible for much of the overall work of the business of the farms, often relying on one another for mutual support in the tasks of child-raising, health care, education, and household economizing.
In Luxembourger American communities, there were many opportunities for courtship between persons of all ages. Going to church, dances, and school and community events provided a means for socializing. Most persons were allowed to choose whom they wished to court or be courted by, although issues of class, ethnicity and faith often acted as barriers to courting outside of one's own group as defined by parents or other family members.
Marriages are traditionally performed along with a Catholic mass. After the marriage a great feast is held, sometimes lasting days, during which gifts are given, traditional dishes are served, songs are sung, and games are played.
The rites of funerals in Luxembourger American communities are detailed and depend upon many circumstances, including family choice. Luxembourger Americans have changed many of the nineteenth-century customs that followed them from the old country. All funerals, however did share and continue to share common symbolic meanings of the Catholic faith. The funeral is a time for the affirmation of one's own faith and a time to pray for the Christian salvation of the deceased.
In Luxembourger-American communities, there has traditionally been a close alliance and kinship of custom with German-Americans. Many Luxembourgers spoke German and shared many customs, songs, cuisine and morals with Germans. Although this helped forge a bond between the two groups, religious differences between many Protestant Germans and Catholic Luxembourgers could still result in friction. Politics from the homeland also came to influence relations between older Luxembourgers and Germans as seen in the many anti-Prussian sentiments expressed by this group around the turn of the twentieth century, in places like Chicago, Milwaukee, and New York City. In time, however, German and Luxembougian-Americans overcame most of their differences in opinion and have since assimilated to a much greater degree. In relation to other groups Luxembourgers living in towns were often taken for Germans and were sometimes embroiled in anti-German sentiments that arose during World War I.
Throughout their history, the vast majority of Luxembourgers and Luxembourger-Americans have been Catholic. The country of Luxembourg is covered by one diocese that contains 13 deaneries and 265 parishes in total. Luxembourg has also traditionally been the home of a great number of convents and religious orders, a number that has dwindled since the last century. A small number of Protestants and Jews have also been active for centuries in Luxembourg.
Among Luxembourger-Americans, Catholic churches have served important roles in preserving their heritage. As is common with many immigrant groups, religious practices maintain certain continuities and ties to the homeland. In the beginning of their settlement in the midwestern states there were very few, if any, established churches or assigned priests to minister to the settlers. The building of a church or the establishment of membership to one nearby was often a top priority. Often many of the community's resources went into the establishment of such local religious institutions. In the year 1877, 92 priests of Luxembourg extraction were ministering to these communities.
A great of number of saints popularly venerated in Luxembourg also serve as patron saints of churches in those areas settled by Luxembourger immigrants. In Jackson County, Iowa, for example, one finds a parish dedicated to St. Donatas, the martyr who is thought to protect against storms and lightning, two threats to farmers. Another example is St. Henry's parish, founded in the Luxembourger settlement area north of Chicago and named after a saint who was closely related to Siegfried, the first count of Luxembourg. Symbols of Luxembourg, including the Luxembourg crest, are often found in such shrines dedicated to Luxembourger saints.
Among the many traditions that center on the church, perhaps the most prominent is the one called the Kiirmes. This term, which is a contraction of the words kirch (church) and messe (mass) signifies the mass that is performed when a church is consecrated This celebration traditionally took place on the Sunday following the feast day of the patron saint of the consecrated church. The more secular aspects of this event and celebration in Luxembourger culture involved the gathering of families during the anniversaries of such church consecration masses. At such times, usually between April and November, and most in late fall, very special meals were prepared, and the celebration would last for days.
In America Kiirmes took a different form. It was not the consecration of their own churches that was celebrated, but rather the day in which Kiirmes had been celebrated in the village in Luxembourg from which they came. Kiirmes was, then, an occasion for reunions of families and old country family friends. As those born in Luxembourg grew older and died, this tradition faded, along with the memories of ancestral villages and parishes from where they came.
Luxembourger-Americans did not shy away from politics or government in their new home. Many were active proponents of political causes and a several held elected and non-elected positions in public service. Among their group's notable political sentiments was anti-Prussianism, a position that reflected both concerns with the government of the Luxembourg and Luxembourgers' place in relation to German-Americans in many parts of the United States. Another notable moment in Luxembourger-American political history occurred when the United Staes entered the war against Germany in 1914. At this time Luxembourger-Americans came out in numbers strongly for the United States effort and against Germany.
One example of a Luxembourger who found success through the military was Dominik Welter. At the age of 11, Welter came from Luxembourg to settle with his family in Ohio. As a young man Welter struck out and traveled west to seek a fortune in the Gold Rush but eventually returned to his family in Ohio without having had success. In 1861, at the advent of the Civil War, Welter joined the Fourth Ohio Cavalry and worked his way up the ranks to become a captain. Captured at the battle of Chickamunga, he was detained in a prisoner of war camp until the war's end in 1865. After the war in 1877, still a member of the army he traveled to Chicago were he was given the command of a cavalry unit. After resigning from the army Welter was hired as Secretary of Police for Chicago and given the rank of inspector. In the following years he, along with a fellow Luxembourger named Michael Schaack, were the leaders of a political and social organization named the Luxembourg Independent Club of Chicago.
Throughout the nineteenth century contacts between the Luxembourgers in the United States and in Luxembourg were maintained in various ways. It was not uncommon for visitors from either land to stay awhile and work, often to return with news from either side of the Atlantic. These visitors, some from one's extended family, were not the only conduits on information, however. The Catholic church itself provided many forms of exchange between the two countries as well. It was not uncommon for Luxembourg bishops to keep contact with their emigrated countrymen. One bishop named Koppes made two trips from Luxembourg to America, one in 1901 and one in 1910. Much later, in 1965, another bishop named Lommel is noted for having made a trip to America to invite Luxembourger-Americans to the bicentennial of the Marial festivities in Luxembourg. Another bishop, Jean Hengen, made a trip to Carey, Ohio, in 1975 to participate in the centennial celebration in honor of the founding of the pilgrimage to that community's Our Lady of Consolation shrine.
The importation and circulation of religious objects and figures have also helped to maintain contacts. For example, a church in St. Donatus, Iowa, received a pieta sculpture of Luxembourg artist Victor Thibeau for its pietal chapel. Another of Thibeau's creations was also donated to a church in Schewebsange, Luxembourg.
In addition to these religious and artistic realms, several organizations are dedicated to issues concerning Luxembourger-Americans, including the Luxembourg Jewish Society, begun in 1958 in New York, the Luxembourg-American Social Club established in Chicago in 1960, and the American Luxembourg Society, founded in 1963.
While Luxembourger Americans have been a relatively small group in population with only some 50,000 total immigrants, they have made a great many contributions to American society.
Eduard Conzemius gained acclaim in the earlier part of this century as one of the foremost ethnographers of Central American peoples. Emigrating from Luxembourg to the United States to join his brother, Conzemius moved to Chicago and was first employed by the Sherman House Hotel. In the following years he studied English and Spanish while making money as an accountant in Chicago and New Orleans. In 1916 he decided to pursue his dream to study Central American Indians. Leaving the US, he spent time in Honduras and Nicaragua living with the Miskito, Sumu and Rama Indians. In 1932 the Smithsonian Institution published the results of his work on the native languages of these people in a monograph entitled Ethnological Survey of the Miskito and Sumu Indians of Honduras and Nicaragua.
Jean Noerdinger, a prominent modernist artist and proponent of modernism emigrated from Diekirch, Luxembourg to the Chicago area in 1925. While in Luxembourg, Noerdinger had been an outspoken critic of the Luxemburg Artists Union, whose power in support of conservative art he opposed, along with a group of artists he led. While in America he continued to exhibit his art and paint portraits.
Perhaps the greatest star of Luxembourger-American descent was the actress Loretta Young. Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, in January 1913, Young received her first part when she was four through her uncle, who was working as an assistant director in Hollywood. In 1927 she had another small part in the film Naughty, But Nice. From this point into the early thirties, Young was acting in six to nine films each year. In the mid-1930s Young joined the Fox studios and by then had become one of Hollywood's most prominent leading ladies. In 1947 she was awarded the Academy Award for best actress in The Farmer's Daughter, a film about a girl from a rural area who works her way into the U.S. House of Representatives as a congresswoman. In 1949 she was nominated again for an Academy Award. In 1953 Young began her television career with her series The Loretta Young Show. This show gained Young Emmy Awards in 1954, 1956, and 1958. After 1962 Young did not appear before the camera until 1986, when she starred in a made-for-television film called Lady in the Corner. In 1996 she was retired and living happily in Palm Springs, California.
Nicholas Gonner is chiefly known as the author of an authoritative study of the emigration of Luxembourgers into the New World entitled Die Luxemburger in der neuen Welt: Beiträge zur Geschichte der Luxemburger (Luxembourgers in the New World: Contributions to the History of the Luxembourgers). This work was written for and published by the Luxembourger Gazette, published in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1889 and was meant to be not only a chronicle of Luxembourger success in the New World, but also to be read in Europe as a testament to the success in "the land of opportunity," as the United States imagined itself.
Although Luxembourg itself has been home to a great many writers in French, Luxembourgisch and German, Luxembourger-Americans have yet to make conspicuous inroads into American literature.
Among prominent scientists of Luxembourger descent are Johann and Joseph Druecker, two brothers from Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. In 1884, the Drueckers invented a gas lime-kiln that greatly improved their own business and the lime industry overall. Also notable is biologist Francois Mergen.
The first Luxembourger-American to serve in the United States Congress was Nicholas Muller. Born in Luxembourg on November 15, 1836, he attended common schools in the city of Metz and thereafter attended the Luxembourg Athenaeum. Upon immigrating to the United States, the family settled in New York City. Muller was employed as a railroad ticket agent for over 20 years, during which time he was one of the promoters and directors of the Germania Bank in New York. From 1875 to 1876 Muller served as a member of the State Assembly of New York and was also a member of the State Central Committee. In 1876 Muller was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-fifth and then re-elected to the Forty-sixth Congress, serving from March 4, 1877, to March 3, 1881. Losing his seat after an unsuccessful re-election bid in late 1880, Muller regained it in 1882, serving another five years until 1887. In 1888, Muller was appointed president of the New York City Police Board and to one other minor office until he was again elected to the U.S. Congress, where he served until his resignation on December 1, 1902. After holding and attempting to hold other minor offices, Muller died in New York City, December 12, 1917.
Another addition to the history of Luxembourger-Americans was the thirty-second President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt is said to be descendant of Philip de la Noye (or de Lannoy), who arrived on the ship Fortune. De la Noye is thought to be the first Luxembourger to emigrate to North America. Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York, and served as President from 1933 until his death on April 12, 1945.
Perhaps the most famous athlete of Luxembourger-American descent is tennis star Chris Evert. Born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 21, 1954, Evert came to dominate the sport of tennis throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s and continued to win many important matches into the late 1980s. In 1970, at the age of 15, Evert made her first mark in an important match, beating top-ranked Margaret Court in a small tournament. Having become a professional on her eighteenth birthday in 1972, by the time of her retirement in the late 1980s she had earned nearly $9,000,000. Evert won the U.S. Open women's singles title from 1975-1978, as well in the years 1980 and 1982. She won the Wimbledon singles title in 1974, 1976, and 1981, the French Open singles title in 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985, and 1986, and the Australian Open singles title in 1982 and 1984. Her World Tennis Association singles titles number 157. In 1995 Evert was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1985, she was named Greatest Woman Athlete of the last 25 years by the Women's Sports Foundation.
Edward Steichen, one of the most prominent American figures in the art of photography, was born in Luxembourg on March 27, 1879. In 1882 his parents moved from Luxembourg to settle in Hancock, Michigan. By the age of 21, Steichen had achieved a moderate degree of success as a photographer, having had his pictures shown in Chicago and Philadelphia. His photographs portrayed a distinctive soft and fuzzy quality. In his day these photographs were considered highly innovative. In the following decades, Steichen became one of the most sought after and lauded photographers in the United States, showing his photos in many of the major shows of this era. During his service in the First World War Steichen's artistic philosophy and direction changed profoundly. Returning home after the war, he loudly proclaimed his rejection of impressionism and the other elements of style he had made famous and strongly supported a stark form of realism. Steichen then burned all his paintings in a bonfire and took up commercial photography in a studio that he operated from 1923 to 1938. During this time he photographed literary and artistic personalities as well as members of the elite of New York City, and he became the chief photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines. With the outbreak of World War II, Steichen, then 62 years of age, was commissioned by the U.S. Navy to photograph the war at sea. During and after the war Steichen continued to have major shows and became the director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in 1947, a post that he held until 1962. He worked until his death on March 25, 1973.
Luxembourg News of America.
This monthly publication is meant to serve as a medium of communication for Luxembourgers living in the United States and also for their descendants and friends. It contains news of Luxembourg societies and anything of interest in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
Address: 496 North Northwest Highway, Park Ridge, Illinois 60629.
Telephone: (312) 394-8253.
Although there are no other well known papers, or radio or television programs that address Luxembourger-American cultural issues today, the various organizations and associations that concern themselves with Luxembourger-American issues have a wealth of printed and printable, audio and visual materials, accessible by phone, fax or the internet.
Both of the following sites contain many helpful links to more information about Luxembourger American culture and heritage.
Michaelus Luxembourg Links.
Shelby County, Iowa, Genealogy.
Stearns History Museum.
Address: 235 33rd Avenue South, St. Cloud, Minnesota 56301.
Telephone: (320) 253-8424.
Fax: (320) 253-2172.
Online: http://www.stearns-museum.org .
American Luxembourg Society 1882-1982. Luxembourg: Imprimerie Saint-Paul, 1991.
Klein, Frank W., and Suzanne L. Bunkers Good Earth, Black Soil. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's College Press, 1981.
Lies, Joseph J. Luxemburger Immigrants to Aurora. Aurora, IL: Aurora Historical Society, 1976.
Nilles, Mary E. Dann. Singen Wir' Victoria! Luxemburger Immigration to America. 1848-1872: A Selective Bibliography. Brussels: Center for American Studies, 1979.
——. Rollingstone. A Luxembourgisch Village in Minnesota. Luxembourg: Editions Guy Binsfeld, 1983.