In July 1683, a ship named Concord sailed from London to America. The 33 passengers aboard were members of 13 German families from the lower Rhine in search of religious freedom, a number of Mennonites and Quakers among them. When Concord landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that October, it was welcomed by William Penn himself.
Three hundred years later, in 1983, the voyage of Concord was commemorated by nearly identical postage stamps issued simultaneously in the United States (20 cents) and Germany (80 pfennings). Designed by an U.S. artist of German descent, the stamps depict the ship, but they are not identical. First, there is more color in the German stamp than the U.S. one. Upon closer examination, one can discover more ways in which they differ. The U.S. stamp is plain enough: “German Immigration Tricentennial.” Instead of printing any words, though,
Before the families
sailed from Germany, William Penn had granted them large tracts of land near Philadelphia so they could settle Germantown, at the time a two-hour walk from the city. The story of the immigrants’ early years in America is told by Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker, whose ancestors arrived in Germantown around 1730. In 1899, Pennypacker wrote The Settlement of Germantown Pennsylvania and the Beginning of German Immigration to North America. His book was published in the the ninth volume of the proceedings of the Pennsylvania-German Society of Lancaster, PA. (The name ”Pennypacker” is derived from the Dutch “Pannebecker,” which means “maker of building tiles.”)
The most illustrious and industrious intellectual aboard Concord was Francis Daniel Pastorius. While there is no reason to be skeptical of Pennypacker’s narrative in general, he is contradicted by Pastorius in reference to the voyage across the Atlantic. Pennypacker writes simply that “the pioneers had a pleasant voyage.” In a letter back to Holland that Pennypacker quotes, however, Pastorius writes: “We had on the whole way mostly unfavorable wind, much storm and tempest. Almost all the the passengers were seasick for several days. Our ship was made to tremble by the repeated attacks of a whale. The fare on board was very bad.”
It was Pastorius, too, who wrote an invocation, in Latin, in the book that recorded the conveyances of land from William Penn to the settlers. In 1872, John Greenleaf Whittier, the Quaker poet and abolitionist translated it into English:
Hail to posterity!
Hail, future men of Germanoplis!…
Farewell, dear Germany
Pennypacker concludes his study with a paean to Germantown: “No other settlement on this side of the Atlantic, certainly neither Jamestown, Plymouth nor Philadelphia, had so large a proportion of men who had won distinction abroad in literature and [religious] polemics. [They] looked to Pennsylvania not only as a haven, but as the only place in the world, with the possible exception of Holland, where their views might have an opportunity to bear fruitage.” Germantown settlers began weaving linen and cloth and manufacturing paper. The doctrines of the Anabaptists had carried through Holland to England to inspire the formation of the Quaker sect, and now Mennonite Anabaptists themselves came to to Pennsylvania, where all were welcome and permitted to cherish their own creeds. The burghers from the Rhine, far better than the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth (better even than the Quakers who established a city of brotherly love) stood for that spirit of universal toleration which found no abiding place save America.