MS - 055: The Papers of the German Literary Society

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MS-055: The Papers of the German Literary Society

(3 boxes, .81 cubic feet) 

Inclusive Dates: 1824-1941

Processed by: Keith Swaney

Translation Assistance: Drs. Arthur McCardle and Michael Ritterson, Department of German

May 2004

Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF


After disbanding in 1868, the German Literary Society bequeathed its papers to the faculty of Pennsylvania College.  Thereafter, the library of Pennsylvania College became the repository for these materials.

Agency Sketch

In 1836, a group of students at Pennsylvania College formed the German Literary Society: an association for “the cultivation of a practical knowledge of the German language and literature.”  This organization, which encouraged discussions, debates, orations, and readings of essays concerning the pertinent moral, political, and social issues of the time, conducted its meetings solely in German.  Both students and scholars attended the meetings, engaging in discussions about these issues and the literature which discussed them.

The longevity of this society was very brief, indeed.  German Professor C.E. Schaeffer reorganized it in 1856; for whatever reason, however, the Society lost its appeal and fizzled out by 1868, leaving its collection of 250 German volumes to the College.  Not until Professor of German Samuel G. Hefelbower organized the Deutsche Gesellschaft in 1903-04 did another German society emerge on campus.  Der Deutsche Verein, organized in 1906 under the leadership of Dr. Karl J. Grimm, was the third such society at Pennsylvania College

See Dr. Karl J. Grimm’s piece entitled “Sketch of the History of the German Verein in Gettysburg College” for the history of German societies at Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) College (Box 2 - Folder 2 of the Collection).

Scope and Content Notes

The Papers of the German Literary Society collection consists of three boxes of processed materials, approximately one cubic foot.  Most of the manuscripts originate from the proceedings of the Society from the 1830s to the 1860s.  However, sub-series A contains three manuscripts that were likely given to the Literary Society at some point during its existence.  See the following inventory for descriptions of these items.

Boxes one and two contain the constitution and minutes of the Literary Society from its first period of existence during the late-1830s.  In addition, researchers will find the organization’s minute book, dated 1856 to 1860, as well as the 1867 version of the Society’s constitution.  These manuscripts, along with the Society’s ledger book, allow one to understand the organization and proceedings of a college literary society that flourished during the mid-19th Century. 

In addition, researchers should consult the folder entitled “Manuscripts found in the Minutes Book” for an article written by Professor of German Karl J. Grimm that discusses the history of German societies at Pennsylvania College, ranging from the German Literary Society in 1836 to the German Verein in 1906.

Link to Full Finding Aid - PDF