Helping Shape America

By Darlene Fuchs on Email

German-Americans in the US Congress from 1789 to the Present.

The German American Heritage Museum, in conjunction with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, has created a series of exhibits on the contributions of German Americans to the history of the United States Congress. The first of two planned exhibits, tells the story of two of the first three German Americans in the First Congress, Frederick and Peter Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania (1789-1791), to the members of German ancestry who serve in the current 112th Congress (2011-2013).  There is also information on American Presidents honoring German immigration, the Congressional Study Group on Germany, the German-American Caucus, and current members of Congress with German ancestry.

Fred Schwengel in the Capitol's rotunda, c. 1980s, with USCHS' first publication, a guidebook to the Capitol.

German American Caucus founders, Congressman Charles Dent, Congressman Jim Gerlach and Congressman Tim Holden, feel the purpose of this first exhibition in the Cannon House Office Building Rotunda in Washington, D.C. is to draw attention to the contributions of millions of German immigrants to American society.  It is not only to celebrate heritage but more importantly to foster our transatlantic relationship, share technology, and promote job growth in a global economy.

The initial 14-panel exhibit opened on October 4, 2011, in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building. A second exhibit will follow in 2012, focusing on German Americans in the United States Congress in the 19th and 20th centuries. Both exhibits are designed to travel in Germany and throughout the United States.

Like most immigrants to the United States, those from Germany came here seeking economic opportunity, religious freedom, and political liberty.

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society and the German American Heritage Museum gratefully acknowledge the donors who made this exhibit possible: Atlantik-Brücke E.V.; Deutsche Post DHL; Deutsche Welle; Draeger-Stiftung; Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Washington, D.C.; United States Diplomatic Mission to Germany.

Rüdiger Lenz, the head of the German-American Heritage Museum in Washington, put it this way:

These exhibits are intended to expand the public’s awareness of the service and contributions of German Americans in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate and their integral role in reflecting America’s diverse history and culture within the nation’s political structure.

Rüdiger Lenz and Bill Fuchs (former president of DANK National) with Presidential Candidate, Congressman Ron Paul at the exhibit in the Cannon House in DC

A web version of the exhibit will soon be posted on and in the meantime, there are two blog posts by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society on their site… German American Exhibit Open in Russell Building and German Americans in Congress: An Interview with USCHS Founder Fred Schwengel.

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Darlene Fuchs