War Struggles, Family Struggles

In 1914, war erupted in Europe; dividing the European nations into allied factions. Great Britain and Germany would play a major role in leading rival allies against each other. War was expanding, the death toll was increasing, and food rations were decreasing. It would take three years for the U.S. to finally take official action in the Great War and ally forces with Great Britain. Once it did, however, anti-German sentiment infected the nation, affecting not only German immigrants but also German-Americans. German descendants were automatically seen as enemies (Wüstenbecker). According to Digital History, “approximately one-third of the nation (32 million people) were either foreign-born or the children of immigrants, and more than 10 million Americans were derived from the nations of the Central powers”; therefore America’s involvement in the Great War resulted in personal conflicts at home.

Because of Ellis Island, New York became the hub for immigrants arriving from Europe. Germans had a significant impact on the culture of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, St Louis, and Cincinnati; soon known as the “German triangle” (Wüstenbecker). Amongst many of the German immigrants, William Hauser and Frances Hauser migrated to Rochester, New York. Years later, Mrs. Hauser gave birth to her daughter Josephine in 1889 (Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007). Meanwhile, in the same city, English immigrants John D Wilson and Johanna Wilson came to the U.S. In 1887, they had their son, John Aloysius Wilson (1920 Census Record). At age of 21, Josephine married 23 year-old John Wilson in January 15th, 1910 (New York, County Marriages, 1847-1849; 1907-1936). Four years later, war was raging in Europe.

Germany, Austria-Hungary (now divided into Austria and Hungary), Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (also known as Turkey) became the Central Powers; Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, and Japan became the Allied Powers. Three years later, the U.S. would become a member of the Allied Powers (History.com). As soon as the U.S formed an alliance with the Allied Powers, anti-German sentiment started to spread throughout the country (Wüstenbecker). The German culture gained a negative aspect amongst Americans. The war did not only divide the people in Europe, but it also divided the people of this country. Anti-German sentiment was everywhere: Germans were called names, schools stopped teaching the German language, German newspapers were taken down, Lutheran churches refused to give services in German, musicians would not play Beethoven or Bach any more, and German dishes were renamed (Digital History).

Even though it was a strenuous time for immigrant families, such as the Wilson family, it did not stop them from building a family. In 1913, Mrs. Josephine and Mr. John Wilson had their son Floyd Elwood Lewis Wilson (New York, County Marriages, 1847-1849; 1907-1936). Four years after the war started, in 1918, the war ended; slowly, anti-German sentiment started to secede. German families started to see an improved future for their family. This was true until twenty years later, when The Second World War took place.