This article explores the significance of a chance encounter with a foreign culture during the early American republic. It examines the diaries, letters, essays, poems, reviews, and translations produced by John Quincy Adams during his four-year diplomatic appointment in Berlin (1797–1801). His transmission of German works and perspectives to America coincided with a growing American resistance to the legacy of English and French cultural influence. His contribution, while inspired by a curiosity about German culture, was primarily intended to provide Americans with a fresh way of viewing the United States. Adams’s accidental encounter with German society, ideas, and culture highlights key cultural concerns in the early republic and alerts us to the productive unpredictability of cultural transfer.