Hamburg-America-Line – a lot of history!

Last year, with the support of US Consul General Rick Yoneoka, The American Club invited Prof. Dr. Claudia Schnurmann to give a fascinating account of the historical link between Hamburg and the USA. Her entire speech has been memorialized in a pamphlet, edited by Dr. Heiko Herold of the US Consulate General in Hamburg. You can find it here.

The Professor began by outlining how The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and its folk played an important role in the founding of the United States of America, testimonial to George Washington’s subsequent diplomatic appointment of a Vice-Consul to the Hanseatic City in 1790. She recounted the captivating details of soon-to-be Consul John Parish and his cat-and-mouse game with the British Consul Mathias, who was busy organizing Hessian mercenaries to fight alongside the British in the Revolutionary War. Parish and other merchants were cleverly supported by Count von Schimmelmann to supply Washington’s Continental Army with much needed arms and munitions. Without these important contributions organized in Hamburg, the Revolutionary War might have had a different outcome.

Consul Parish’s son, David Parish, also played an important role in securing finances for the American government during the War of 1812. He contributed his own money and involved American bankers such as Stephen Girard and German tycoon Johann Jakob Astor. And, helping to establish Hamburg as the gateway to the world, the enlightened Pfeffersäcke, such as Edmund Siemers, referred to as Hamburg’s Carnegie, creating their own Hamburg-America lines of trading. Anyone who has spent time in Hamburg will recognize many people mentioned in her speech, who have been immortalized as street names, such as Sieveking and Caspar Voght. Other household names woven into her accounts include: Berenberg, Oppenheimer, Haller, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and the Marquis de Lafayette.

Prof. Schnurmann is recipient of the Organization of American Historians Prize for the world’s best non-English speaking study of North American history, and is Chair of North American, Atlantic and Caribbean Modern History at the University of Hamburg.