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


As in other traditional societies, the impact of religion was found in numerous aspects of the Pennsylvania Dutchman's everyday world. Religious prints for moral instruction could adorn his farmhouse walls – such as The Two Ways (to Heaven or Hell), or The Ages of Man. Adam and Eve prints provided a permitted glimpse of nude human bodies, a form of artistic expression usually frowned on by American puritans of all shapes, including the Pennsylvania Dutch. The prints illustrated here show the range of Pennsylvania Dutch religious art permitted by the Protestant Reformation, which used pictures not as holy icons to be venerated as in Catholicism, but as cues for moral living.


THE LIFE AND AGE OF MAN. One of the most popular pictorial prints in 19th-century Pennsylvania was "The Life and Age of Man," depicting the stages of life from birth to death, each symbolized by an accompanying animal. Meant for religious instruction, the print carried an acrostic poem offering moral and spiritual advice to the reader. The subtitle reads, "Stages of Human Life from the Cradle to the Grave; in which all Christians may recognize their weakness, in addition to the misery that accompanies a sinful life. . . Intended for the awakening and encouragement of true piety." This copy was printed by Gustav S. Peters, the leading ephemera printer of the time.


THE "TWO WAYS" OR "NEW JERUSALEM" PRINT. This woodcut, another of Peters's most popular, demonstrated the early Protestant concept of life and afterlife, rewards and punishments. Based on Matthew, the "Narrow Way," followed by the pious (shown here simply dressed and carrying crosses) led to life eternal. Those who followed the "Broad Way," here portrayed in fashionable dress, marched straight to Hell.


THE GOLDEN ABC. Based on a 16th-century Protestant hymn, this print gave ethical as well as spiritual advice to the reader. Used particularly in the German parochial schools of Pennsylvania's Protestant churches, it was a handy collection of Sprüche – sayings, mottos, aphorisms – containing devotional readings and practical advice on life. The second quatrain at the top left, for example, reads: "Watch out! Don’t curse here in my house / Or just go out the door / Else God from Heaven might chastise / You and me together."


THE CRUCIFIXION OF CHRIST. The Passion of Christ, including the crucifixion, has been the most widespread theme in Christian art from earliest times through the Middle Ages and down to the present day. This example, a hand-colored woodcut, was printed and sold by the Allentown firm of A. and W. Blumer, two sons of a Reformed pastor.


THE "UNJUST JUDGMENT" OR "THE UNJUST COURT." In this print, another by the versatile printer Gustav Peters, a suffering Jesus is judged by those on the left, who want him spared, and those on the right, who want to see him punished. (From the collection of Edward Rosenberry.)


EUROPEAN PRINT OF THE "UNJUST JUDGMENT." Later than the Peters print but derived from the same European prototypes, this example came from the presses of the Wentzel firm in Wissembourg (Weissenburg), Alsace.


ADAM AND EVE IN PARADISE. Printed and sold in Reading by Daniel Roths, this woodcut illustrates the story of Adam and Eve. A six-verse poem, sung to the hymn tune Herzlich thut mich verlangen, accompanies the image and recounts the Genesis story of the Creation and Fall with speeches by God, by the Snake, and by Adam and Eve.


THE SPIRITUAL MAZE. A typographical tour-de-force, the Geistlicher Irrgarten was a piece of orthodox evangelical theology in the form of a religious game. Newspaper publisher Enos Benner of Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, printed this broadside and sold it singly or by the dozen. The introduction reads, in part, "Spiritual Maze, with the Four Springs of Grace, through which will shortly be pointed out: First, the Four Rivers of Paradise, and the blissful state of mankind before the Fall. Second, through the inverted reading will be perceived the many and various afflictions and hardships of this life. Third, that the text begins and ends at the same place, shows: Just as all waters come from the ocean and flow into it again: So man, as soon as he is born into this world, hastens with his body back to his mother the earth. . . . Fourth, and finally, it will be pointed out, how man was through Satan enticed into sin and brought to Fall, through which man’s entire nature was corrupted. . ."

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)