Wanderer

Wanderer

Der Wanderer (St. Paul, Minn.) 1867-1957  Browse the title

The Wanderer (St. Paul, Minn.) 1931-current  Browse the title
Issues from this title can only be accessed from the Gale Family Library at the Minnesota History Center.

Der Wanderer, St. Paul’s long-lived German Catholic weekly, took shape at a meeting held in a local Catholic bookstore by Father Clemens Staub, O.S.B., and members of his German-speaking Assumption parish. With its November 16, 1867 inaugural issue, it joined almost a dozen other German-language Catholic papers that emerged in American cities following Cincinnati’s Der Wahrheitsfreund in 1837. Like its confreres, and their European counterparts, Der Wanderer was never purely a religious paper. Church-state conflicts over the role of Catholicism in public life were endemic in 19th century Europe, and anti-Catholicism was a fact of 19th century American life as well. America’s German-language press, including both of St. Paul’s existing German papers (Minnesota Volksblatt and Minnesota Staats-Zeitung), was strongly anti-clerical, while English-language Catholic papers like St. Paul’s Northwestern Chronicle failed to satisfy German linguistic and cultural needs. Thus, from the beginning, Der Wanderer provided not only religious edification and instruction but also a Catholic slant on foreign and American news, state and local coverage, a Catholic editorial voice on public affairs, wholesome fiction and poetry, and practical advice on health, farming, housekeeping, and the like. It even contained a humor page and, importantly for its survival, numerous business ads.

Der Wanderer probably adopted from a popular Viennese journal both its title and its masthead depiction of a cloaked wanderer with staff and bag collecting and distributing news through the countryside. The paper debuted as a five-column, eight-page, 12x20 inch Saturday weekly, growing to 16x23 with six columns in 1872, and by 1888 to 32x46 with seven columns, 16 pages, and a new masthead replacing its wanderer logo by a cross-pierced crown. Circulation grew apace, from roughly 3,000 in 1875, to 6,500 in 1886, and peaked at 11,540 in 1895. Its 1873 subscribers were probably representative of its reach: 20% from the Twin Cities, 60% from the rest of Minnesota, and the remainder mainly from neighboring states.

While Der Wanderer enjoyed episcopal and clerical endorsement, and Father Clemens remained an important influence during its initial decade, it was always lay-owned and edited. Its first publisher was druggist J.N. Schroeder, and its first editor was Eugen L. Ehrhardt. Ehrhardt’s fondness for Bavarian dialect and his chatty “Gossiping, Grumbling, and Debating Chamber” column ensured accessibility, while essays on topics like pedagogical theory and Minnesota Catholic history added scholarly heft. Ehrhardt abruptly departed the paper in April 1868 and was briefly replaced by Theodore Müllenmeister. In the fall of 1869 editorship was assumed by experienced Swiss journalist Franz Fassbind, previously of the Wahrheitsfreund, who remained in the role for 14 years. In 1883 Hugo Klapproth became editor and an owner; he was succeeded in 1899 by his assistant and son-in-law, Joseph Matt, who remained one of America’s leading Catholic journalists until his death in 1966.

Der Wanderer provides crucial insight into the alternate voice that German Catholics injected into American political and religious discourse. But it is equally important for its extensive documentation of the diffusion of German-speaking communities across the northwest, with descriptive letters from laity and priests in almost every issue. This local coverage bound scattered families together across the region, encouraging the survival of a distinctive ethnic culture and the paper’s own longevity. Der Wanderer ceased publication only in 1957, when it was succeeded by its own English-language version, founded in 1931. The English-language Wanderer is still in publication and remains in Matt family hands as of 2019.