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–by Don Kennon

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society has joined with the German American Heritage Museum to create a new series of exhibits on the contributions of German Americans to the history of the United States Congress. The first of two planned exhibits tells the story of two of the first three German Americans in the First Congress—Frederick and Peter Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania—with information about the Congressional Study Group on Germany, the German-American Caucus, and current members of Congress with German ancestry.

The initial exhibit opens on October 4, 2011 in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building where it will be on view through Friday, October 7. A second exhibit will follow in 2012 focusing on German Americans in the United States Congress in the 19th and 20th centuries. Both exhibits will travel in Germany and throughout the United States.

German immigrants were among the first settlers in 1607; over the next four centuries more than 7 million Germans followed. Today, 50 million Americans claim German ancestry. Like most immigrants to the United States, those from Germany came here seeking economic opportunity, religious freedom, and political liberty.

"First Federal Congress, 1789", by Allyn Cox located in the Capitol (Architect of the Capitol)

From the remarkable Muhlenberg brothers who provided political and military leadership during the American Revolution and then served in the First Federal Congress (1789-1791) to the members of German ancestry who serve in the current 112th Congress (2011-2013), German Americans have provided distinguished service in the national legislature.

Meeting of German American Caucus founders (May 2011), L to R: Congressman Charles Dent, Congressman Jim Gerlach (co-Chairman), Congressman Tim Holden (co-Chairman)

This 14-panel exhibit will tell their story. The U.S. Capitol Historical Society and the German American Heritage Museum gratefully acknowledge the donors who made the exhibit possible: Atlantik-Brücke E.V.; Deutsche Post DHL; Deutsche Welle; Draeger-Stiftung; Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Washington, D.C.; United States Diplomatic Mission to Germany.

A web version of the exhibit will soon be posted on http://www.uschs.org, and our October theme on this blog will be German Americans in Congress.