Title Reviewed:
Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience

Author Reviewed:
Robert M. Taylor, Jr.; Connie A. McBirney

La Vern J. Rippley


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 93, Issue 3, pp 281-284

Article Type:
Book Review

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Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience. Edited by Robert M. Taylor, Jr., and Connie A. McBirney. (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1996. Pp. xiii, 703. Illustrations, notes, maps, tables, figures, appendices, index. $39.95.)

In their preface to this volume, editors Robert M. Taylor, Jr., and Connie A. McBirney report that each contributor to Peopling Indiana was given a copy of They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State's Ethnic Groups (1981). In addition, they urged each writer to review the monumental HarvardEncyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (1980). Taylor and McBirney's selection of these top-drawer models yielded superb results. For the Indiana volume some thirty-four scholars supplied texts on thirty ethnic groups plus additional topics such as the overall ethnic history of the state and an appendix piece detailing ethnicity in what was once the Old Northwest. These articles are followed by tables and maps of the foreign born by ethnic group as a percentage of total population and ethnic group by county. Covering the decades from 1850 to 1990, these tables are arranged for easy access.

Writing in the Journal of Ethnic History some years after the conclusion of the Minnesota project, Carleton Qualey, initiator of They Chose Minnesota, noted that Minnesota was by popular myth but certainly not in reality the "Scandinavian" state. Minnesota was in the late 1800s and remained in the 1990 census overwhelmingly German, with over 2 million Germans compared to less than 1.5 million Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Finns, and Icelanders taken together. In Indiana as well, even filiopietistic writers like Albert Faust, in his German Element in the United States (1909), had largely skipped over Indiana's Germans. Peopling Indiana illustrates that through all decades from early settlement to the present the state was always heavily German, and in 1990 those of German ethnicity totaled over 2 million in a state whose population was 5.5 million. Thus the article by Giles R. Hoyt on the Germans is especially important for its material on this largest of the ethnic groups; it is also impressively capped by charts and pictures. A minor criticism is that the map for origins in Germany is contemporary and therefore does not include much of the former Reich territory from which the immigrants before



Indiana Historical Society Library, Indianapolis (Neg. no. C3156).

World War I arrived. A minority of Indiana's Germans were possibly Polish or speakers of other languages. This notation would also apply to many of the other maps.

Peopling Indiana is for everyone not just students of ethnicity. Indeed, nearly every entry includes the history of the region or nation from which the separate groups arrived; positions the emigrants in their religious, social, geographic, economic, and gender backgrounds; and repositions these new Americans who shaped Indiana's history. For example, in the chapter on Greek emigrants, the history of Greece is interwoven with an Orthodox, Ottoman, sometimes Moslem past, which in turn is intertwined with a discussion on the French vineyard diseases that created demand for Greek currants, a market that collapsed upon the recovery of viniculture in France and impelled thousands of male Greeks to emigrate to the United States for a better economic future. According to law and tradition, Greece bases citizenship on heredity from the father while the United States considers birth site the determining factor. Greece, then, claims double the Greek emigrants to America than does the United States. Many Greeks arrived from the greater Ottoman-Byzantine territories of the greater Balkan peninsula. As usual with all immigrant groups,



Photograph courtesy Mary Leuca.

the waxing and waning of political and cultural prominence at home was reflected in Greek communities of Indiana.

Equally rich are the chapters about the Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Hispanics, Poles, and others. Folklorist Linda Degh's essay on the Hungarians is enhanced by her anthropological perspective. Monsignor Joseph Semancik, in his article on the Slovaks, reveals his affection for his people and their religion when he deals with the problem of place of origin, nationality, and ethnicity and the fact that many Slovaks were called Hunkies because they emigrated from the region that had belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire. A comparable warmth for his subject matter characterizes William W. Giffin's entry about the Irish, the second largest Indiana immigrant group. Ophelia Georgiev Roop and Lilia Georgiev Judson deserve similar praise for their data on Bulgarians and Macedonians.

Americans who want to understand themselves must first understand the European complexities that impelled emigration to the United States. Readers are therefore urged not merely to sample Peopling Indiana but to read it all. The volume is truly a singular achievement.

LA VERN J. RIPPLEY specializes in German-American history in the German Department, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota. Two of his most recent works are German-Bohemians: The Quiet Immigrants (1995) and Noble Women, Restless Men (1996), a history of his own extended family of immigrants from central Europe.

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.