Pennsylvania German Broadsides: Windows into an American Culture
Section I: Introduction Section II: The Broadside in Public Life Section III: The Broadside in Private Life Section IV: The Broadside Today
Section III: Religion in Print Section III: Protection of the House and Household Section III: From the Cradle to the Grave


One vital aspect of the Pennsylvania Dutchman's religious outlook was his desire to protect his family and household from natural and supernatural harm. House-blessings (Haussegen) and heaven-letters (Himmelsbriefe) offered this protection. House-blessings were normally framed and displayed as reminders of heavenly aid. Heaven-letters were also sometimes framed and displayed, although some were placed facing the wall, to avoid advertising their occult contents. But thousands were carried folded up in soldiers' uniforms in all of America's wars, to the present day. In these folk documents prayer and blessing were combined with ancient forms of magical protection.


THE ICONIUM HEAVEN-LETTER. Ascribed to the authorship of Jesus Himself, this English broadside offers one of several texts found in Heaven-Letters.


"SPIRITUAL HOUSE PROTECTION." In Catholic Europe, house-blessings were pictorial, unlike their Protestant counterparts, which were textual. In this example, Saints Rochus and Sebastian (left and center) offer protection from the plague, while St. Florian (right) protects against fire.


RITTER HOUSE-BLESSING. This handsome house-blessing was issued in the 1830s by the Ritter firm, which also published the Readinger Adler (now the Reading Eagle), Pennsylvania's longest-lasting upstate German newspaper. Asking God to "Bless this house and land / That our sowings and our food / Evermore may turn out well / That the livestock may increase. . ," it provides a vivid glimpse into the life and work of Pennsylvania Dutch farmers and their families. This particular blessing was also considered by its owner, Heinrich Barrin, a proper and holy venue on which to inscribe his marriage to Elizabeth Weil and the births of several of his children.

Contact Information: The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 - 215-546-3181, FAX 215-546-5167 Contact Wendy Woloson, Curator of Printed Books, for more information regarding this exhibition at . Illustration: Detail from Song of the War of 1812, (1814)