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  • The Material Culture of German Texans by Kenneth Hafertepe
  • Stephen Fox (bio)
Kenneth Hafertepe The Material Culture of German Texans College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2016 416 pages, 308 color photos, 68 black-and-white photos ISBN: 9781623493820, $50 HB, $9.99 EB

Kenneth Hafertepe The Material Culture of German Texans College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2016 416 pages, 308 color photos, 68 black-and-white photos ISBN: 9781623493820, $50 HB, $9.99 EB

In The Material Culture of German Texans, architecture and design historian Kenneth Hafertepe examines the ways that nineteenthcentury German immigrants to the state of Texas built a new future by drawing on familiar cultural forms while also responding to en vironmental settings and circumstances of material production that differed greatly from practices prevailing in the German-speaking lands of Europe. Hafertepe's accomplishment is to survey what previous scholars have tended to consider in isolation—buildings, furnishings, graveyards—in order to produce a comprehensive account of German-Texan cultural production, its regional variations within the state, and how patterns changed over time as the American-born children of the immigrant generations assimilated to mainstream industrial production. Hafertepe's treatment is encyclopedic. The book is structured to provide ready references for scholars of nineteenth-century American material culture, whether to compare to German immigrant communities in different parts of the United States or to contrast with the cultural production of other immigrant communities or of native-born communities.

In his introduction, Hafertepe outlines issues that the book addresses, beginning with the problematic categories "ethnicity" and "authenticity," with which scholars as recently as the 1970s sought to distinguish the cultural production of German immigrants in Texas from dominant practices. Hafertepe treats adaptation to new circumstances as innovative rather than a dilution of the purity of received practices. Addressing "ethnicity" historically, he notes that German-speaking immigrants, many of whom arrived as part of an organized immigration scheme in the second half of the 1840s, represented different regional origins, religious affiliations, and material cultural practices: thus there was not a single German culture. He likewise observes that Texas, by the mid-nineteenth century, contained a culturally mixed population: indigenous communities (with whom the German interacted amicably), long established Mexican communities, Anglo-American and African American newcomers, as well as other European immigrants: Alsatians, Moravians, Norwegians, Poles. Hafertepe notes the geographic and climatic differences between areas of concentrated German settlement in Texas: the Gulf coast ports of Galveston and Indianola; the coastal forests and plains northwest of Houston; the rolling prairies of the Colorado River valley west of Houston; San Antonio; and the Texas Hill Country north and northwest of San Antonio with its major communities, New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. Differences in building material—wood, brick, and stone in various combinations—derived from the natural resources available in different geographic locations.

Hafertepe systematically examines German material cultural production in Texas chapter by chapter, starting with the Grundriss, the spatial organization of houses, in chapter 1. He compares houses built by German immigrants in Texas prior to the 1880s with those constructed in German settlements in Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century and in Missouri in the mid-nineteenth century to discuss the persistence of such plan types as the Flurkuchenhaus (hall-andkitchen house) type. Hafertepe identifies five plan types most characteristic of German-Texan houses: a single front room with single back room under a shed roof; side-by-side front rooms, each with a front door; side-by-side rooms with a single front door; dogtrot (translated as Durchgang: "passage"); and an enclosed central passage flanked by rooms. Hafertepe notes similarities between some of these and Southern regional vernacular house types as well as the emergence in the 1880s of houses designed by architects for second generation Texan-German clients that moved beyond vernacular spatial practices.

The book's second, third, and fourth chapters examine the building materials and construction techniques of what Hafertepe describes as the German-Texan Log House (chapter 2), the German-Texan Fachwerk House (chapter 3), and the German-Texan Rock House (chapter 4). Hafertepe disputes the assertion that log houses were considered merely expedient constructions, abandoned as soon as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-6832
Print ISSN
1936-0886
Pages
pp. 134-136
Launched on MUSE
2021-07-08
Open Access
No
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