Tuesday, September 18, 2018

170 years ago, events in Frankfurt, Germany impacted Tennessee history

By Will Thomas

Germany, as we know it today, did not exist as a unified country until after Prussia's victory in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Prior to that, what is now Germany was an amalgamation of quasi-independent territories forming the Holy Roman Empire (800-1806). Due to death and dynastic marriage, the number of these territories was constantly changing. In fact, they numbered over 300 at times during the 18th century. This period is referred to in German as Kleinstaaterei, literally "small-state-ism," or "balkanization" in modern English parlance.

Territories making up the Holy Roman Empire in 1789
Wikipedia Commons

After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, the Congress of Vienna created the German Confederation, which was an association of 39 independent (and often autocratic) states. When a wave of political revolutions swept across Europe in early 1848, German revolutionaries seized the opportunity to try to create a unified, democratic Germany. The civil unrest took most German rulers by surprise, and they quickly promised the revolutionaries numerous democratic reforms. One such concession was the creation of a National Assembly, which was duly convened in St. Paul's Church in Frankfurt am Main, in order to draft a constitution for a unified Germany.

However, the National Assembly had very little real power. It was also beset by factionalism, which made it extremely difficult to get much accomplished in a timely manner. The contentious issues involved in forming a unified German state engendered seemingly interminable debate. Would Germany be a republic or a monarchy? Would a unified Germany include Austria ("Greater Germany") or would it exclude Austria and allow Prussia to have the leading role ("Little Germany")? Would Germany have a strong central government or be a confederation of comparatively independent states (a topic that was also debated during the drafting of the U.S. constitution)?

A pivotal moment in the German revolution came when the National Assembly ratified the Malmö Treaty on September 16, 1848. The treaty brought an end to the First Schleswig War, which was fought between Prussia and Denmark over control of the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Under international pressure, Prussia yielded to most of Denmark’s demands, including ceding control of the duchies to Denmark. By ratifying the treaty, the National Assembly enraged many Germans who felt that the duchies should be part of Germany. (The duchies would be retaken by Prussia during the Second Schleswig War in 1864, the first of the three Wars of German Unification.) The simmering discontent over the treaty erupted into violence when street fighting broke out in Frankfurt on September 18. A letter in the William J. Burnette Collection of Ruoff Family Papers offers a firsthand account of this event.

Letter to James F. Ruoff describing the rioting in Frankfurt after the National Assembly ratified the Malmö Treaty, September 19, 1848.*
William J. Burnette Collection of Ruoff Family Papers

The debacle over the Malmö Treaty caused public support for the National Assembly to significantly erode. Emboldened by this, the German rulers began rescinding many of the concessions they had made in the early days of the revolution. When the National Assembly finally adopted a constitution for a unified Germany in March 1849, it voted to offer the imperial crown to Frederick William IV, King of Prussia. Frederick William, however, declined the honor, allegedly stating that he refused to accept a crown "from the gutter." Having ultimately failed in its goals, the National Assembly dissolved itself at the end of May 1849.

With the failure of the Revolution of 1848-1849, thousands of Germans who had supported and/or actively taken part in the revolution were forced to leave the German states. Many of them immigrated to the U.S., and several of them ended up in Tennessee. James F. Ruoff, the recipient of the aforementioned letter describing the events in Frankfurt on September 18, was one of the "48ers" who settled in Tennessee.

Ruoff was a founding member and longtime Secretary of the Munich Gymnastics Club. The gymnastics movement in Germany was started in 1811 by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn in response to the French occupation of German states during the Napoleonic Wars. The gymnastics associations (Turnverein) were intended to physically prepare German youth to defend the country and instill in them a sense of national pride. During this period, these gymnastics associations were as much political organizations as they were sports clubs, and many members actively took part in the Revolution of 1848-1849. For example, the aforementioned letter to Ruoff states, "The fighters were, as usual, workers and people from outside the city as well as many gymnasts." Given the gymnastics associations's involvement in the revolution, it is highly probable that Ruoff had to emigrate from Germany for political reasons.

Letter of recommendation for James F. Ruoff from the Munich Gymnastics Club, April 14, 1849. He went by Friedrich Ruoff in Germany, but used James F. Ruoff in the U.S.*
William J. Burnette Collection of Ruoff Family Papers

James F. Ruoff's Bavarian passport, March 1849.*
William J. Burnette Collection of Ruoff Family Papers

In 1850, Ruoff settled in Kingston, Tennessee, where he operated a lumber mill. During the Civil War, he served as a forage agent for the Union Quartermaster’s Office in Kingston, Tennessee. He was discharged from the position on January 25, 1865, and after the Civil War, he moved with his family to Chattanooga.

Two other Munich residents who came to Tennessee as a result of the Revolution of 1848-1849 were Dr. Augustin Gattinger and his brother-in-law, George Dury. Gattinger was a student at the University of Munich and attended a party in early 1849 to celebrate George Washington's birthday. Such public displays of democratic sentiments were frowned upon by the Royal Bavarian Court, and Gattinger was informed that he was expelled from the university and had seven days to leave the country. Dury, a painter to the Royal Bavarian Court, and his fiancé decided to accompany his sister and Gattinger to the U.S. Both couples married at Le Havre while en route and would settle in Tennessee.

Once in Tennessee, Gattinger became a prominent physician and botanist. He also served as State Librarian from 1864-1869. Dury settled in Nashville in 1850 and became a prominent artist. His portrait of Sarah Childress Polk still hangs in the White House. Dury's son opened one of Nashville's first photographic equipment supply stores in 1882, and Dury's would later sell the first Kodak camera bought in Nashville.

George Dury, ca. 1860-1870
Nell Savage Mahoney Papers

Portrait of Dr. Augustin Gattinger by George Dury[?], ca. 1870
Nell Savage Mahoney Papers


*Transcriptions/translations of documents pictured are available upon request.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Workshop Series: "Glorious Victory: Election Records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives"

As we approach another election cycle, it is a great time to learn about the election-related records that are held at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The Library and Archives has Record Groups directly relating to local, state and national elections, but did you know that there are also military election records from the early 1800s? We often use the 1891 Enumeration List as an alternate to the 1890 Tennessee census, but did you know that 1840 and 1850 lists also exist, and in a Record Group relating to elections?

In this next installment of the Tennessee State Library and Archives free workshop series, veteran genealogist Jim Long will explore those Record Groups, as well as printed and digital election-related materials held at the Library and Archives, and will show how newspapers can also be a rich source of information about elections.

Mr. Long is a lifetime member of the Montgomery County Historical Society and a volunteer at the Stewart County Archives. He has studied genealogy for more than 38 years and has published 14 books on Stewart County genealogical records. He currently serves on the Board of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society (MTGS) and is a Life member of the Montgomery County Historical Society. He also maintains the websites for the Tennessee State Library and Archives Friends, the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society and the TNGenWeb sites for Stewart and Montgomery counties. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Jim has recently retired from a career in IT, and now spends his time pursuing genealogical records and cousins willing to do DNA tests.

“Tennessee has a rich history of civic involvement,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “These historical election-related records speak to this history and serve to encourage all of us to redouble our own civic efforts and carry on the important legacy and example of good citizenship demonstrated by our ancestors.”

The workshop takes place on Saturday, Sept. 29th from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Although this workshop is free and open to the public, reservations are required due to limited seating in the auditorium. To make a reservation, visit: https://electionrecordstsla.eventbrite.com

Parking is available around the Tennessee State Library and Archives building.

For more information, call (615) 741-2764 or e-mail workshop.tsla@tn.gov.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Raise your ACT score with free ACT prep course and practice tests on TEL

By Andrea Zielke

ACT season is just gearing up. Before taking the ACT for the first time or improving your score, the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) has free resources to help you out if you live Tennessee.

Through Testing & Education Reference Center, students can take timed practice ACT tests, a self-paced online prep course (with more practice tests) or work their way through the ACT Prep Guide (even more practice tests!). All the following resources are available anytime and on any device for Tennessee residents.

ACT Online Course

The ACT Online Course starts with an initial diagnostic pretest to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Based on your results, interactive lessons with quizzes provide you the information you need to build your skills. The ACT Online Course contains three full-length practice tests.

ACT Practice Tests

Take one or all of the three timed full-length practice tests. For each question, you can review detailed answer explanations. Tests are divided into English, Science, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics, and Writing sections to mirror the real testing experience.

Peterson's ACT Prep Guide Ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering the ACT 2018

This ultimate guide includes a thorough review of all test sections: English, Science, Reading Comprehension, Mathematics, and Writing, featuring expert strategies, numerous practice questions with detailed answer explanations, and sample essays. This ebook includes four practice tests with detailed answer explanations.

Beyond the practice exams, there are flash cards and helpful articles that can help to demystify the ACT.

  1. Go to Testing & Education Reference Center
  2. Sign up for a free account
  3. Start practicing today!

TEL is made possible through funding provided by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. TEL is administered by the Tennessee State Library and Archives, a division of the Tennessee Department of State, Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett