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U.S. Seal on Flag

Card with stamped envelope, issued in 1983,
to commemorate the first German settlers in America

The first German immigrants in America came seeking land and the promise of religious freedom. They had heard that both could be found in the newly chartered colony of Pennsylvania, which was governed by a Quaker, William Penn.

Francis Daniel Pastorius, an agent for a land purchasing company in the city of Frankfurt am Main, organized the original party of settlers. It was a group largely made up of German Quakers and Mennonites from the Rhineland.

Pastorius preceded the settlers to America, arriving in Philadelphia in mid-August, 1683. He negotiated with Penn for a tract of land northwest of Philadelphia on which to build a settlement, which was to become known as "Germantown." Six weeks later, on October 6, 1683, the ship Concord sailed into Philadelphia's harbor from Germany. On board were thirteen families.

The German settlers felt an immediate kinship to their new home, since Pennsylvania's rolling hills and fertile plains resembled the terrain of the land they had left behind. Their glowing accounts of life in the New World soon prompted other German immigrants to follow their lead. Settlers representing a variety of Protestant religious groups began descending on Germantown. By 1689, the settlement had grown so large that it had to be incorporated.

The spirit of the Germantown settlement was summed up by the words inscribed over the door of Pastorius' cottage. They promised "no words of welcome to the godless and profane." Germantown's citizens were pious, peaceful, industrious people, who quickly established southeastern Pennsylvania as a leading agricultural region.

Over the centuries, the community has continued to cling to the language and culture of its native land. Descendants of the first German immigrants are called Pennsylvania Dutch - an Anglicization of the word "deutsche" meaning "German."

The U.S. commemorative stamp on this First Day Cover, which honors the 300th anniversary of the arrival of the first German settlers in America, was designed by Richard Schlecht of Arlington, Virginia. The artist also designed the 1982 Wolf Trap Farm Park and Ponce de Leon commemorative stamps.

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U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany /Public Affairs/ Information Resource Centers 
Updated: August 2001