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Luxembourgers in America

Luxembourgers in America: A Chronology

Entrance to the town, Luxembourg. [between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.


The earliest Luxembourgers to arrive in America came with the Dutch to New Amsterdam (New York), although the first Luxembourger is thought to be Philippe de la Noye (de Lannoy), who arrived on the Mayflower's sister ship, Fortune, and who was a distant relative of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


The number of Protestant fugitives escaping from the Catholic-ruled Low Countries resulted in legal sanctions. A 1669 edict by Louis XIV of France forbade the emigration of his subjects (including Luxembourgers) to foreign colonies. A document by Spanish authorities published in Mons in 1709 specifically forbade inhabitants of the Province of Luxembourg to emigrate to "The Island of Carolina in America."


Father Raphael de Luxembourg arrived in Louisiana on board the French ship La Galathée with two other priests. Father Raphael had been chosen by the king of France to represent the interests of France in the colony of Louisiana. Among his accomplishments in this capacity, he enforced just pay for Indians and Blacks, established a seminary for Indians, founded the colony's first school for children, and was responsible for the construction of the church of St. Louis, which later became a cathedral.


Le Chevalier Count of Vrecourt, an engineer and artillery officer from Luxembourg, was commissioned a colonel of engineers by Congress.


The period from the 1830s to the mid-1840s is considered the first period of Luxembourger immigration to the United States. A few hundred Luxembourgers had tried their luck in Brazil, Guatemala, and Argentina in the 1820s, but as these areas proved more difficult to settle than anticipated, the immigrants' attention turned to more northern regions. Points of entry were Louisiana, New York, and Maryland. Luxembourgers were known to have settled in Chicago in the early 1840s. The expansion of the railroad network made it easier for the Luxembourgers to move beyond their ports of entry.


Inexpensive farmland was the attraction for the second wave of Luxembourger immigrants, the majority of whom came through the offices of the Derulle-Wigreux and Sons agency in Luxembourg. An example of a settlement of this period is Aurora, Illinois, whose first Luxembourger settler, Phillip Jungels, arrived with his wife Margaret, and baby William, from Waldbillig in 1850. He soon increased his initial eight acres of land to over one hundred acres. It has been estimated that 70,000 to 72,000 Luxembourgers emigrated to the New World between 1840 and 1900. (Hatz)


Dominik Welter immigrated to Ohio at the age of eleven. He tried his luck in the gold rush, but did not strike it rich, so upon his return to Ohio, he enlisted in the 4th Ohio Cavalry in 1861 and was subsequently promoted to the rank of captain. He was soon captured at Chickamauga and released finally in 1865, when he returned to Chicago. In 1877, he was given the command of a cavalry unit in Chicago. Eventually was hired as Secretary of Police, with the rank of inspector. Welter and another Luxembourger police inspector in Chicago, Michael Schaack, led the Luxembourg Independent Club of Chicago. The club started as a political organization, but soon became purely social.


Peter Stoos came to Rollingstone, Winona County, Minnesota, directly from Luxembourg, to farm the ten acres of land he had bought from the United States government. Other Luxembourgers joined him in the 1850s. A Catholic mass was celebrated in Stoos' log cabin in 1857 by a Benedictine priest. Stoos later donated land for the site of Holy Trinity Church.


During this third period of Luxembourger immigration, which peaked in the 1880s, Luxembourger cultural and social life flourished. The Luxemburger Unterstützungsverein (Luxembourger Benefit Society) was founded in 1870, the Létzebûrger Kranken-Ennerstétzongs Verein (Luxembourger Sick Benefit Society) in 1871, and the Luxemburger Bruderbund (Luxembourger Brotherhood) in 1887. Immigration was made easier by existing community networks and by steamships such as those of the famous Red Star Line, operating out of Antwerp.


The Luxemburger Gazette, one of the premier Luxembourger newspapers in America, was published in Dubuque, Iowa by the Deutsche-Katholische Druck-Gesellschaft. Luxembourger-Americans wanted their own German-language newspaper that was free of pro-Prussian sentiment.


Nicholas Gonner, an author and journalist who settled in Dubuque, Iowa, became the editor of the Luxemburger Gazette. In 1889 he published Die Luxemburger in der Neuen Welt (Luxembourgers in the New World), a valuable resource for historians detailing Luxembourger lives and settlements in the United States.


Nicholas Muller was the first Luxembourger-American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served three times as Representative from New York State: 1877-81, 1883-1887, and 1899-1902. Muller had also been a member of the New York State Legislature and a founder and officer of the Germania Bank.


Two brothers, Johann Druecker from Chicago and Joseph Druecker from Ozaukee County,Wisconsin, obtained a patent for their gas lime-kiln. This invention further improved their already thriving lime business.


The Luxemburger Zeitung, later known as the Luxembourg Weekly, began publication in Chicago in 1899, with national subscription by mail beginning in 1902. It is still published, under the name Luxembourg News of America.


Eduard Conzemius emigrated to the United States to join his older brother. When his brother became a logger on the Canadian border, Conzemius moved to Chicago, where he worked at the Sherman House Hotel. He learned English and Spanish, and was employed as an accountant both in Chicago and New Orleans. In 1916, he left for Honduras and Nicaragua, where he studied the Miskito, Rama, and Sumu Indians. His work on their languages, Ethnographical Survey of the Miskito and Sumu Indians of Honduras and Nicaragua, was published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1932.


The Luxembourg Brotherhood pledged support for the U.S. war effort against Germany in a memorandum addressed to President Woodrow Wilson.


Jean Noerdinger, a young artist, emigrated from Diekirch to the Chicago area. In Luxembourg, Noerdinger had organized a group of artists that broke with the Luxemburger Kunstverein, the official art arbiter, and introduced modern art to the Grand Duchy. In America, he participated in the 1933-34 Century of Progress exhibition, painted portraits, and worked in advertising for a time.


Between 1937 and 1940, 200 to 300 Luxembourger Jews fled to the United States to escape Nazi persecution, adding their number to the approximately 50,000 Luxembourgers who had settled in the United States during the previous century.


Actress Loretta Young, a descendant of Luxembourger emigrants, won Emmy awards for Best Actress in a Dramatic Series in 1954, 1956, and 1958. Her real name, Gretchen Michaela Young, and her charm are part of her Luxembourger inheritance.


Well-known photographer Edward Steichen produced the noted 1955 "Family of Man" exhibit and the best-selling book of the same name. Steichen and his mentor, Alfred Stieglitz, were influential in getting photography recognized as a valid art form. During both world wars, Steichen directed U.S. Army and Navy aerial photography. Steichen was director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art between 1947 and 1962.


Despite the Americanization of Luxembourgers in the United States, they have continued in their desire to celebrate their Luxembourger heritage: the Luxembourg Jewish Society was established in New York in 1958, the Luxembourg-American Social Club was founded in Chicago in 1960, and the American-Luxembourg Society was established in Luxembourg in 1963. Prominent Luxembourger-Americans include biologist Francois Mergen and historian Arno J. Mayer.


The Luxembourg American Chamber of Commerce was founded in New York City, with the support of Crown Prince Henri of Luxembourg to foster trade between Luxembourg and the United States.


Chris Evert, of Luxembourger extraction, was unanimously elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She won six U.S. Opens, seven French Opens, three Wimbledons, and two Australian Opens. During her professional career, her international ranking was always in the top four.


The Luxembourg American Cultural Society, Inc. was founded in 2004, in the town of Belgium, Wisconsin. It is supported by descendants of the Luxembourger families who settled in Ozaukee County during the 19th century.