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Recognizing German-American Heritage Month

The German immigrant story is a long one—a story of early beginnings, continual growth, and steadily spreading influence. Germans were aboard the first ships that came ashore at Jamestown, and were among those who built the rockets that took men to the moon. In the years in between, they moved into nearly every corner of the U.S., tried their hand at nearly every trade and pursuit, and helped shape some of the fundamental institutions of American life. Today, more than 40 million Americans (approximately 15 percent of U.S. population) claim German ancestry—more than any other group except the British.

German-American Day is a holiday in the United States, observed annually on October 6. It celebrates German-American heritage and commemorates the founding of Germantown, Pennsylvania (now part of Philadelphia) in 1683. Originally known under the rubric of “German Day”, the holiday was celebrated for the first time in Philadelphia in 1883, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the founding of Philadelphia. Similar celebrations developed later in other parts of the country. The custom died out during World War I as a result of the war, but the holiday was revived in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed October 6 as German-American Day to celebrate and honor the 300th anniversary of German immigration and culture in the United States. On August 6, 1987, Congress approved S.J. Resolution 108, designating October 6, 1987, as German-American Day. It became Pub. L. 100–104, 101 Stat. 721 when President Reagan signed it on August 18. A proclamation (#5719) to this effect was issued on October 2, 1987, by President Reagan in a formal ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, at which time the President called on Americans to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. Presidents since then have continued to make proclamations to observe German-American Day.