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The Illinois Staats-Zeitung (ISZ) [LCCN sn 82014079] was a German-language immigrant newspaper that existed in various formats from 1848-1922. At first a weekly paper, it added a daily run (except Sunday) beginning in 1851; and published a daily evening edition, the Abendblatt [LCCN sn 83045003 and sn 83045004], from 1891-1899. The paper was founded by Forty-Eighters: Germans who supported unifying the disparate German states, creating a constitution, and guaranteeing human rights; but were forced to flee Germany and seek refuge elsewhere—including Chicago, where they quickly became the largest ethnic group. Forty-Eighters such as editor Georg Schneider brought these modern values to the paper, arguing against slavery, anti-immigrant discrimination, and liquor regulations. When the Republican party was formed in 1854, the ISZ became a firm supporter, and “the leading Republican paper of the Northwest”. Even though most German immigrants at the time were Democrats, the ISZ grew rapidly, and within a decade became the biggest German-language paper west of New York.
Anton C. Hesing bought the paper in 1867. He brought Hermann Raster, a well-known correspondent from the New Yorker Abend-Zeitung [LCCN sn 87067019], aboard as editor and the two of them began an effort to use the ISZ to convince German-Americans to support Republicans. The pair became major players in the Illinois Republican Party, especially Hesing—he became the political boss for Chicago Germans from the 1860s to 1875. The first German to hold an elected office in Illinois, Hesing leveraged his power to put Germans in city and county offices, combat nativism, and push Republicans towards repealing liquor laws. Alcohol control was an especially strong point of contention: in 1872, Hesing and Raster forced the Republican party to adopt an anti-Prohibition platform if they wanted the German vote. The resulting declaration of the “right to drink what one pleases” became known as the Raster resolution. Even after that resolution passed, Hesing and Raster—and the ISZ with them—temporarily split from the Republicans to form the People’s Party, a political party focused solely on combating alcohol prohibition. In 1873, the party succeeded in getting Harvey Doolittle Colvin elected as mayor of Chicago to replace Hesing’s friend-turned-rival Joseph Medill—an influential owner and editor of the Chicago Tribune [LCCN sn 83045111]. Though the People’s Party was only active until 1875, and the ISZ returned to the Republican fold afterwards, the mayoral election was a testament to the powerful influence of the ISZ and its editors over German-Americans
Subscription numbers continued to grow, but the ISZ’s political power faded as Colvin’s administration was rocked by scandal following the Great Chicago Fire on October 8, 1874. The fire burned the ISZ offices to the ground, and the paper relocated to Milwaukee for twenty days while a new building was constructed. Though the ISZ’s political influence was declining, it enjoyed steady growth throughout the end of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth. The paper reached its peak circulation in 1915 at 50,000 papers a day. Unfortunately, World War I and the resulting anti-German sentiment sent the ISZ into a massive downward spiral: within three years the paper lost 10,000 subscribers and most of its advertisers. Part of this was due to the ISZ favoring Germany in the war; former president Theodore Roosevelt attacked it as “German propaganda.” Though the paper rebuked this statement and later supported the United States, the financial damage was done, and the Staats-Zeitung Corporation suspended business in June 1918. In October, the ISZ was sold to a different company, and daily publication resumed for “government purposes” of reaching citizens who only spoke German. This revival was short-lived: from March-November 1921 it was suspended again and sold, and that December had its final death-knell. On December 13 editor Arthur Lorenz wrote an article harshly criticizing the American Legion; an association of WWI veterans; less than ten days later he had been arrested, charged with libel, and recommended for deportation. This was more than the ailing paper could stand. In 1922 the ISZ finally folded and was incorporated into the Deutsch-Amerikanische Bürger-Zeitung [LCCN sn 83045558].