German Peasant Costumes for Genealogy Research

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German Peasant Costumes for Genealogy Research

German Peasant Costumes Silesia Tannhausen_

German Peasant Costumes – Silesia Tannhausen – Czarnowanz (near Oppeln) – (Courtesy Boston Public Library)

Illustrations of German peasant costumes by noted German-American artist Louis Prang can help illuminate your family history research in Germany, Prussia (now Poland), and Austria.

Records are few where my great-great-great grandmother Johanna Christiane Schott was born in Dammer, Schlesien, Prussia, (now Namysłów, Opole, Poland) on 25 Apr 1788.

Searching for more information on Silesia, I discovered German-American artist Louis Prang‘s series of German Peasant Costumes chromolithographs.

The Boston Public Library has digitized many plates of Prang’s German Peasant Costumes and made them available at Wikimedia Commons for downloads and unrestricted use. The plates were published c. 1861-1897, based on research Prang did when he returned to his native land.

To search for color lithographs of German Peasant Costumes for German genealogy research, click here.

About Louis Prang, from the finding aid to Prang’s papers at the Smithsonian:

Louis Prang (1824-1909) of Boston, Massachusetts, was a lithographer and wood engraver, famous for his chromolithographic reproductions of major works of art as well as for a series of publications used for art education in public schools. Because his company was first to make commercially printed greeting cards available to the public, Prang is often referred to as the “father of the American Christmas Card.”
Louis Prang was born on March 12, 1824 in Breslau in what is now Poland. He was the only son among the seven children of a French Huguenot father Jonas Louis Prang and a German mother, Rosina Silverman. Louis Prang learned to dye and print calico as an apprentice in his father’s shop. After traveling as a journeyman in Europe, he became involved in revolutionary activity against the Prussian government in 1848. Prang went to Switzerland, emigrated to the United States and settled in Boston in 1850, marrying Rosa Gerber in the following year.
German Peasant Costumes

German Peasant Costumes – Prussia – Spreewald (Courtesy Boston Public Library)

Between 1848 and 1856, Prang supported himself by making wood engravings to illustrate various publications. His “firm printed business cards, announcements and other forms of ephemera and soon branched into the production of maps of Civil War sites and novelty items including albums and sets of picture cards decorated with a wide variety of images that became popular collectibles.”

In 1864, Prang visited Europe to study the latest techniques in German lithography. He returned to Boston to create high quality reproductions of major works of art using a lithographic process he called “chromos.” In 1874, he began producing greeting cards for the popular market in England and began selling the Christmas card in the United States the next year, resulting in his being called the “father of the American Christmas card.” Also in 1874, Prang began publishing books for drawing and elementary art study for public schools. During this time, Prang shared his residence and his work with the family of his son-in-law, lithographer Karl K. Heinzen, who married Prang’s daughter Rosa.

To search for color lithographs of German Peasant Costumes for your area of research or other illustrations of Louis Prang’s work including the Civil War, click here.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine’s “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”

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