Sunday, July 31, 2016

"The 'Trouble' is in Existence": Philip Dietzgen of the Arkansas Staat Zeitung Wages War on the Arkansas Echo

The first years of the 1890s were rough for Phillip Dietzgen, the editor/owner of the Arkansas Staats Zeitung, a German-language newspaper in Little Rock. Not only did a new German-language newspaper, the Arkansas Echo, create competition for his paper, but the editor of the new paper slugged him during a confrontation in downtown Little Rock and later hit him with a cane inside a court room. Also, the Echo editor and co-owners sued him twice for slander, and they provided evidence that led the United State government to prosecute him for obscenity for a post card message he mailed to them.

But don’t feel too badly for Dietzgen. He probably deserved everything that happened to him.

This feisty man repeatedly provoked conflict with the Echo editor and co-owners. For example, he (or employees under his orders) likely, but not certainly, vandalized the offices of the Echo just before it published its first issue in December 1891. After that, he sued the Echo editor and owners for libel when the newspaper printed details of the break-in that implicated him as the culprit. Even worse, he swore a frivolous perjury complaint against the Echo owner, Carl Meurer, resulting in his arrest and trial.

Among his other provocative actions, Dietzgen accused Meurer of stealing jewels from a count and from his sister’s the grave. He claimed in his paper that one of the Echo co-owners, Andrew Rust, who taught at the St. Edward’s German Catholic School in Little Rock, had no experience as a teacher. He wrote postcards to a Catholic priest who co-owned the Echo, asserting that the Echo had implied in a wedding announcement that the couple had engaged in pre-marital sex. Also, he published a story in which one of the Echo’s co-owners, Adolph Arnold, was portrayed as a forger and a thief and in which he implied that Arnold’s wife was the keeper of a “house of ill-repute.”

Beyond the lawsuits and scurrilous accusations, Dietzgen also stirred the policy pot. According to Kathleen Condray in her recent article in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly on the Staats Zeitung - Echo (SZ-E) newspaper war, he opposed and undermined the Echo’s position on the fate of the St. Joseph Society, a social service organization for German immigrants, and on efforts to stop prohibition laws that interfered with German farmers selling wine at their farms.[1]  

With this record of jawing, slandering, suing, and making mischief against his opponents – all part of his tactics in the SZ-E newspaper war, it not too surprising that Dietzgen was detested and roughed by the Echo team. 

In Condray’s must-read article, she points out that full information about the SZ-E newspaper war is lacking because only a dozen or so issues of the Staats Zeitung, published from 1877 to 1917, still exist while all of the issues of its enemy newspaper, the Echo, published from 1891 to 1932, are available for reading. Perhaps the missing issues of the Staats Zeitung contain material that would correct an inaccurate, unfair portrayal of Dietzgen and his actions.

Probably not. The available evidence in English-language newspapers points directly to Dietzgen as the instigator of and main aggressor in Little Rock’s German-language newspaper war. That evidence is strengthen by what happened after Dietzgen left Little Rock to edit, then publish, a newspaper in Kansas City, Missouri. After he departed the city in late 1895 or early 1896, the two Little Rock newspapers quickly made peace while in Kansas City, Dietzgen just as quickly became enmeshed in lawsuits and was convicted in 1898 of disturbing the peace of a rival editor for falsely asserting that the editor had murdered his wife so he could marry a rich woman.

Phillip Dietzgen and German-Language Newspapers in Little Rock

According to Fred Allsopp in his 1922 book on the history of journalism in Arkansas, Philip Dietzgen started the Staats Zeitung in late 1877. Allsopp wrote that Dietzgen was “a man of considerable ability.”[2] 

While Allsopp may have been accurate in his description of Dietzgen, he may have been wrong about Dietzgen’s role with the Staats Zeitung during its first couple of years. According to three items in the Fort Smith New Era, Dietzgen was not the first editor of the paper and perhaps not its founder. The first item, published in the February 20, 1878 issue of New Era, noted the Ft. Smith visit of “Mr. Wm Fischer,” who was described as the editor of Little Rock’s Staats Zeitung. The article observed, “He is a practical printer and does most of the work of the paper himself.”

On December 11, 1878, the Ft Smith New Era observed that the Staats Zeitung in Little Rock had just entered its second year of publishing. This item said that Mr. Fischer, the proprietor of the paper, was “a hardworking man who relies upon no one but himself.”[3] Another story in the Ft. Smith New Era, this one published on January 22, 1879, reported that Mr. Fischer of the Staats Zeitung had visited the newspaper’s offices. The story said “Mr. Fischer is a live wire.”

While these stories raise questions about exactly when Dietzgen began work with the Staats Zeitung, there is no doubt that he was in Little Rock in 1880 working as a newspaper editor. The 1880 census shows that “Phillip Dutzgen,” born in Germany in 1838, was living in Little Rock employed as an editor. Living with him was his wife Elizabeth, also born about 1838. 

Dietzgen was first mentioned in the Arkansas Gazette in April, 1882 in a column on “local matters”:  “The Arkansas Staats-Zeitung published here by Ph. Dietzgen, and the only German newspaper in Arkansas, Mississippi, an Alabama, has increased its circulation since 1881 from 1,500 to 2,300.” (Likely both of these circulation figures were exaggerated. Its certified circulation in 1891 was 1,500.)

When the Staats Zeitung first appeared in late 1877, with or without Dietzgen’s involvement, its chances for survival were not very good. In the years that followed the end of the Civil War, four other German-language newspapers had been started in Little Rock; all had failed financially.  

The first effort had been undertaken in 1866 by A. Deutelmoster and Mr. Fischer [not William Fischer mentioned later by the Ft. Smith New Era], who briefly published a newspaper called the Staats Zeitung. The second came in October, 1868 when Kelian Bach of Indiana tried again to start a weekly German language newspaper in Little Rock, also called the Staats Zeitung. It lasted two-and-a-half years, folding in March 1871.[4]  

These two early efforts to maintain a German-language newspaper had been supported by Republicans who held power during the Reconstruction era from 1866 to 1874. They believed that such a newspaper could help attract German immigrants, whom they viewed as vital in developing the state.  Also, they wanted to support the German-speaking citizens of the state, especially those in Little Rock, who were active Republicans. Many German immigrants were part of the Black-Unionist-Carpetbagger coalition that ruled the state until 1874 and continued thereafter for many years to play a big role in Little Rock politics.[5]

The third post-war effort to publish a German language newspaper in Little Rock came in 1874, initiated by group of prominent German-speakers in the city. Its publisher was Oscar Halberlein. He put out the first issue of the Arkansas Freie Presse on October 1, 1874. The last issue was published on January 14, 1875.  The fourth attempt came when the Arkansas Freie Presse was revived by the Erb brothers (Newman and Jacob), lawyers in Little Rock, with issues starting on March 20, 1875 and ending in March 1876.[6] 

The failure of the previous German-language newspapers was evidence that at its start the third newspaper named Staats Zeitung faced an uphill battle for survival. In fact, as Allsopp wrote in 1922, about nine-tenths of the 150 newspaper started in Little Rock before that year were “financial failures.”[7]  Nevertheless, despite the great odds against it, the third Staats Zeitung found enough subscribers to survive its early years and, as the years passed, to thrive. The survival and success of the newspaper attests to Dietzgen’s abilities as a newspaper man.

Philip Dietzgen and His Famous Relatives

The man who would wage a newspaper war in Little Rock, Philip Dietzgen, was born in 1838 in Uckerath, Germany, a small town near Cologne.[8] His parents were Johann Gottfried Anno Dietzgen (1794 – 1887) and Anna Margaretha Lückerath Dietzgen (1808 – 1881). Johann was a tanner who was prosperous enough to send his three sons and two daughters to school; Anna Margaretha was, according to one of her grandsons, the brains and beauty of the family.[9]

Johann and Anna’s first son was Peter Joseph Dietzgen, born in 1827 when the family lived in Blankenberg. In 1838, the family moved to Uckerath, a village of about 400 residents, where Philip, his brother Cornell, and two sisters were born.[10] The city was a relay station on the postal route between Frankfurt and Cologne.

Because Joseph Dietzgen became an internationally known Marxist philosopher, many details of his life are known and they provide some facts about and insights into the life of his brother Philip. Joseph lived most of his life in Germany, but immigrated to the United States three times. He first came in 1849 after getting in trouble for a speech during the 1848 revolution. In his first stay in the United States, he traveled extensively, getting temporary jobs as a tanner, painter, and teacher. He returned to Germany in 1852.
East German Postage Stamp Honoring Josef Dietzgen, 1988
After working as a tanner and store owner in his home town for several years, he again immigrated to the U.S. in 1859 to set up a tanning business in Montgomery, Alabama. However, as an abolition supporter, he felt the need to leave Alabama as the civil war neared, and he went back to Germany in 1861 to resume work in his trade. In 1865, he was hired to manage a large tanning business in St. Petersburg, Russia. Returning to Germany in 1869, he ran the tanning business he inherited from his uncle in Siegburg and was active in politics as a socialist.

In June 1884, Joseph moved to the United States for a third time, bringing with him two daughters and a son. He found a job in New York City editing Der Sozialist, the “central organ” of the Socialist Labor Party of North America. In 1886, he moved to Chicago to live with his son Eugene. While there, he temporarily took over editorship of the Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung after its two editors, anarchists, had been arrested. He died there in 1888.[11]

While still young, Joseph Dietzgen did an apprenticeship as a tanner, but as he was doing that, he read widely and taught himself languages. He turned himself into a home-made intellectual and embraced communist philosophy. Over time, he became a famous Marxist philosopher, publishing a book titled The Nature of Human Brain Work: An Introduction to Dialectics in 1869. He was the first philosopher to use the phrase “dialectical materialism.” Impressed by Dietzgen book, Marx visited him at his home in Siegburg and praised his work, calling him in 1871 “the philosopher of the Socialist movement” and writing positive things about him in the 2nd edition of the first volume on Das Kapital.

In 1880, Joseph was facing financial difficulties because of some failed attempts to help friends in business and a declining income. He was supporting three daughters (one of whom was severely disabled) and two sons. He decided to immigrate again to the United States and take his children, except the disabled one, with him. Toward that end, he asked his oldest son, Eugene (born May 6, 1862), to go to the United States to prepare the way for the family.
Eugene arrived in June 1880. His struggles during his first three years in the United States are documented in a set of remarkable letters that he received from his father who provided advice, encouragement, and news from home. Although his first year was very difficult, Eugene, who was also a socialist, later achieved great success in business. Living in Chicago, he founded a company selling engineering, architectural, and artist equipment, supplies, and services that became nation-wide business with offices in many major cities. (The company was especially famous for its state-of-the-art slide rules; see ) The company, now named the Eugene Dietzgen Corporation, still exists as a division of Nashua Paper.[12]

In Joseph’s letters to his son, he often mentioned his brother Phillip, with whom he corresponded. For example, two months after Eugene arrived and was having difficulties with his job and life in America, Phillip offered to help him. Joseph wrote the following in a letter dated August 15, 1880:

Uncle Philipp also wrote today. He said that you are free to come to his place at any time. Food and drink would be free for you and as soon as you are somewhat finished with English he can easily find you a job; also it would be easy for him to get you a free ticket for the bulk of the trip.[13]
Through a few of Joseph Dietzgen letters to his son, discussed later, we learn some things about Phillip and his personality, as viewed by his brother, who discouraged his son from taking up Phillip’s offer of employment.

Dietzgen’s Life in Little Rock

The details of Phillip Deitzgen life before his arrival in Little Rock are largely undocumented. I have found no information about his education or his work before that time.[14]  In response to a 1920 census question, answered shortly before his death, Dietzgen said he arrived in the United States in 1875. His arrival is not documented in available ship arrival or immigration records. Also, I have found no documentation that he was ever became a United States citizen. 

Likely Dietzgen came to Little Rock from St. Louis or from Davenport, Iowa.  “Philip Dietzgen” was listed in the 1876 St. Louis city directory as living there at 1503 S. 7th Street. Also, a “Philip Dietzgen” was listed in the 1876 Davenport city directory, where he was a grocer.[15] His obituary, published in 1920, says he came to the United States in 1880 and began editing the Staats Zeitung in 1881.[Kansas City Star, March 8, 1920, p. 2]
Grave of Philip Dietzgen in Kansas City, Mo.
We can get a few snippets from Dietzgen’s life in Little Rock through stories in the Arkansas Gazette. In July, 1884, the Arkansas Gazette noted that Dietzgen had departed the city to spend a few weeks in New York, leaving Louis G. Fritz to manage the paper.[16]  Only a month later, the paper had a story about the death of his wife: 

The funeral of Mrs. Phil Dietzgen took place yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock from the residence, No. 1120 Cumberland Street. Bishop Fitzgerald officiated. The sympathy of many friends extended to the family in their bereavement. [Arkansas Gazette, August 10, 1884, p. 8]

This story does not mention the maiden name of Elizabeth, his wife. However, it does note that the head of the Little Rock Catholic Church, Bishop Edward Fitzgerald, conducted the funeral ceremony. That suggests that Elizabeth may have been a Catholic. Also, there is some evidence that Dietzgen had been a Catholic but had left the church.[17]

Dietzgen spent several months in New York in both 1884 and 1885. During this time, his brother Joseph was living in there, arriving in June 1884, about the time Dietzgen was departing to visit the city. Likely the opportunity to spend time with his older brother was one of the attractions of the city.   

A sentence in the Arkansas Gazette on April 19, 1885 indicated that Dietzgen re-married while he was in New York:  “Col. Phillip Dietzgen, editor of the Staats Zeitung, is in New York and will in a few days return with a fair and charming bride.” The identity and fate of his second wife (if, indeed, he did marry while in New York City) are not known. However, in 1877 a story in the Daily Arkansas Gazette told of the marriage of Dietzgen to the sister-in-law of one of Little Rock’s most prominent Republican politicians:

At 8 p.m. yesterday Mr. Philip Dietzgen, editor of the Arkansas Staats Zeitung, and Miss Sophia Reigler were married at the resident of Mr. John Reigler, Fourth and Louisiana streets, Rev. C. F. Obermayer officiating. Mr. Dietzgen is well known in the city, having successfully managed for several years the only German paper published in the city.

After a wedding supper was enjoyed, the groom and bride went to their home, corner of Twelfth and Cumberland. [Arkansas Gazette, February 18, 1887, p 5.]

The wedding ceremony was conducted by the minister of Little Rock’s German Lutheran Church at the home of John Reigler (April 5, 1833 – July 11, 1892). John Reigler was married to Katherine Barbara Reigler (Sept 16, 1850 – April 29,1930) the sister of the Dietgzen’s bride, Sophia (Sophie) Louise Reigler (June 19, 1861 – January 26, 1948).  (Note that both the family name and married name of Katherine Barbara was Reigler.)[18]

During the latter years of the 1880s, Dietzgen was active in community affairs. He was a member of the local Turnverein and served on the planning committee for its 1889 Turnfest, which brought Turners to the city from throughout the region.[Arkansas Gazette, March 8, 1888]  He was active in the Little Rock Press Association. Also, he also served as a commissioner of Street Grading District #7. He ran for county assessor in 1890, but lost.[Arkansas Gazette, Sept 6, 1890 p. 3.]
Saengerfest Post Card. From

In 1889, a Gazette article about a parade for a “Sangerfest” (a festival of singing conducted by the local German singing club) held in Little Rock in 1889, mentioned Dietzgen’s participation.  A parade was held in celebration of a visit by the Memphis “Maennerchor” in Little Rock. After being entertained at Geyer’s Hall by the city’s Zither Club during the evening of the arrival, the next day a parade went through the city’s “principal streets.” The parade was formed with members of the city’s police force in front, followed by the Memphis Mannerchor, a band, members of the Little Rock Singing club (Singerverein), the Turners (members of the Turnverein), and citizens in carriages.  According to the story, “The rear of the procession was admirably brought up by an open carriage occupied by those genial citizens Messr. F. Dietzgen and Julius Reichter, drawn by two mules.”[19]  

An 1886 anecdote told by Mayor Frederick Kramer, the German immigrant who served as mayor of Little Rock from 1872–74 and 1881–1888, to the Arkansas Gazette told something of Dietzgen peculiarities in this story, which likely contains several embellishments of the actual facts:

“I have got a splendid joke on Philip Dietzgen, editor of the Arkansas Staats-Zeitung,” said Mayor Kramer.

It occurred last year while I was stopping at a summer resort near Milwaukee. I had been at the hotel several days when who should come along but Dietzgen. Shortly after his arrival the proprietor of the hotel took me aside and inquired of me if I knew anything about the gentleman who had registered from Little Rock. He said that Dietzgen had no baggage with him and that the summer suit in which he was attired was not sufficient to permit of him allowing Dietzgen to remain at the hotel without paying his board in advance.

Of course, I agreed with the landlord, who immediately pounced on the editor for a small advance as a guarantee of good faith. The scene that followed cannot be described in either the German and English language. When the two men were exhausting their expletives on one another I happened on the scene and agreed to stand good for the editor, whereupon Mr. Dietzgen, with the true characteristic of a newspaper man, drew forth a large roll of bills and not only offered to pay my board and his own, but wanted to buy the hotel and pay cash for it.

The manner in which Mr. Diezgen offered to carry out his generous impulse struck the landlord so favorable that he insisted on Mr. Dietzgen accepting a half-interest in the hotel, which would cost him nothing. That hotel man has made over $100,000 since that incident occurred and now Dietzgen is kicking himself all over Little Rock because he didn’t accept the proposition. Why, he absolutely refused to eat turkey last Thanksgiving because he missed that great opportunity of something to be thankful for. [Arkansas Gazette, December 1, 1886, p 8.]

Little about Dietzgen’s life during his first decade in Little Rock, as documented in the local press, hinted at the nature of the man who would ignite a newspaper war in the early 1890s.  However, the letters that his brother Joseph wrote to his 18-year-old Eugene son in 1880 and 1881 provide some insight into his personality.[20]

As mentioned earlier, Philip made several offers for Joseph’s son to come to Little Rock to work for him. Eugene hated his situation in New York City, and was interested in Phillip’s offers. His father replied, “I am quite pleased that you want to go to Uncle Philipp, but I think it would be better if you stayed at your present job for another half year to figure out what prospects you have there.”[Letter dated March 30, 1881] 

Two weeks later, on April 14, he wrote to his son, “What Uncle Phillip can do for you now, he will be able to do better over time….Don’t be so easily misled by Uncle Ph., he is good, but unreliable.”[21]

Apparently about the time he wrote the April 14th letter, he received a post card from Eugene saying, “I am going to Arkansas.” (The message was written in English). Later, Joseph was relieved when he found out that his son had, in fact, not gone to Little Rock. He explained in a letter dated May 25, 1891 his reasons for suggesting that Eugene should not go to Little Rock:

If you don’t have other options, then Uncle Philipp is fine, otherwise I have to believe that working for people you don’t know is advantageous.  Uncle Ph. is very good natured, but he is much too concerned about moola, and I fear you will get along badly in the long run. But if his business progresses as it appears it might, then he will finally be in a position to be a good uncle for you.[22]

From Joseph’s letters to his son, it is clear that he liked his brother but also saw his shortcomings.

The Battles Begin

It is easy to suspect that Dietzgen started the newspaper war to try to eliminate the competition that a new German-language newspaper would bring. He had been able to increase the circulation of the Staats Zeitung to make it a profitable and sustainable enterprise.[23] Perhaps he feared that the competition would cut into that number and would reduce his “moola,” thereby threatening the existence of his newspaper. 

Whatever the underlying reason for his enmity, Dietzgen justified his first attacks on the editor and owners of the Echo as responses to their provocations. The skirmishing began before the Echo published its first issue in late December 1891. In 1890, Dietzgen wrote nasty accusations about the man who would later become editor of the Echo.  According to a libel suit filed by Meurer in March 1892, Dietzgen wrote a letter in 1890 to “Rev. Father Bonaventura” that said:  “I received a letter from a former courier [meaning Meurer] who has stolen several rings out of the trunk of Count Hohenohe at a certain time, who could not find the grave of his two sisters six weeks after they were dead, and who quarreled with his brother-in-law about the jewels of his dead sister at her coffin….”  The letter, in effect, accused Meurer of stealing jewels not only from the count but also from his dead sisters.[24]

In the September 5, 1891 issue of the Staats Zeitung, Dietzgen wrote that Andrew Rust, a teacher at St. Edward’s German Catholic School in Little Rock, “never had any experience as a teacher.” Also, according to Dietzgen, Rust had gone broke as owner/editor of a German language newspaper in Quincy, Illinois.

Rust countered Dietzgen’s charge with a libel suite and this reply:

“I … have taught from 1872 to 1882 in Germany, and I have diplomas showing my standing as a student…I have taught in the United States in parochial schools from 1883 to 1888. I was editor of the Germania, a German paper published in Quincy, Ill. During 1889, and was editor and publisher of the Quincy Press, also published in Qunicy, Ill. Till I came here in 1890….I have a teacher’s certificate, also from Cincinnati, O. and Newark, N.J.[25]

Rust also submitted a letter from the mayor of Quincy, Ill. to Father Bonaventura showing that Rust had sold his newspaper in Quincy to “Mr. Wulf” and had not gone out of business.[Ark. Gazette. Sept 6, 1891]

The Gazette article included speculation from Rust about the cause of the Dietzgen’s attack:

The Gazette understands that the brethren of the German Catholic Church of this city are about to begin the publication of a new paper, devoted to the interests of the German Catholic Church and the Democratic party, and that Mr. Rust is to be made editor. This, Mr. Rust thinks, is the basis for Mr. Dietzig’s (sic) attack upon him. [Ark. Gazette, Sept. 6, 1891)

I have found no information on the outcome of the $25,000 libel suit that Rust filed against Dietzgen. Rust did not become editor of the Echo, but was a co-owner.

Dietzgen replied to Rust’s speculation about the motive for his story about Rust with a letter to the Gazette stating that he wrote the story not because of plans for a new newspaper, but because Rust had written an article in the Anzeiger, a German-language newspaper that apparently was briefly published in 1891 in Logan County, Arkansas, in which he “made ugly attacks on my person…”[Ark. Gazette, Sept 8, 1891] In another letter to the Gazette published on November 10, 1892, Dietzgen claimed that in August 1891, an article appeared in the Anzeiger, written by Father Bonaventura, pastor of the Little Rock German Catholic church, that called him “an apostate of his faith and much more yet.”[26]  He continued, “Since that time the ‘trouble’ is in existence.”

The first major battle in the German-language newspaper war came when the Echo was about to print and distribute its first issue at the end of 1891. Before the issue was printed, a vandal or vandals broke into its offices to ransack the place, scattering type to make it impossible for the newspaper to publish the planned first issue. The Gazette reported the break-in on December 29, 1891 with this headline:  HE PIED THE OFFICE: Some Malicious Scoundrel Enters the Offices of the Arkansas Echo and Pies All the Forms and Scatters the Type on the Floor.”  Despite the destruction, the Echo managed to put out a short (half-page) issue on the last day of December.

Stories in the Echo provided some details about crime. One story described a trail of blood that was found going from the Echo office to the entry of the office of the Staats Zeitung (the two newspapers had offices in the same building). Apparently a vandal had cut himself when he was in the Echo office.
Another story reported that some of the type taken from the Echo office had been found along Commerce Street. The spot was near the house where Dietzgen lived with his wife and two daughters. 

Dietzgen denied being involved in the break in. He said that the stories published by the Echo had the purpose of suggesting the he had done the deed. He filed a law suit charging the Echo with “false, iniquitous and vindictive language in its columns,” seeking $10,000 in damages. The defendants included  Meurer, editor of the Echo, and co-owners John Kaufman, Andrew Rust, Adolph Arnold, Herman Lensing, Fred Hohenschutz, J.P. Moser, N. Werny, and P.B. Binzegger (aka. Father Bonaventura). Dietzgen was represented in the lawsuit by one of the city’s leading lawyers, Morris M. Cohen.  

The Echo denied that they had claimed Dietzgen was the culprit in the break-in, saying the paper had only published facts from the investigation of the crime. A couple of weeks after Dietzgen filed his suit against the Echo editor and owners, Meurer responded with his $20,000 libel suit claiming damage from the letters Dietzgen sent in 1890 to Binzegger (Father Bonaventura) saying Meurer had stolen jewels and from Dietzgen’s assertions that he [Meurer] was a “liar and a slanderer.”[27]

Dietzgen lost his lawsuit. Shortly after that, he settled Meurer’s lawsuit against him by agreeing to pay the court costs of the case.[28] 

Dietzgen Accused of Sending Indecent Material by Mail

As the Dietzgen and Meurer lawsuits were being litigated, Dietzgen found an excuse to taunt Binzegger (Father Bonaventura), a co-owner of the Echo.  On April 21, 1892, the Echo published a notice of the coming marriage of a prominent young German couple of this city.  The following issue of the newspaper had another announcement of the wedding to be held the following day. It read as follows:

Willie Forster has guided his Eva, who was named, formerly, Elizabeta Rast, into his paradise. The marriage takes place at the German Catholic Church.

The tense of the verb suggested that the couple had sexual relations before the wedding. Dietzgen seized on that mistake to send Binzegger a post card with the wedding announcement clipped to the top and this written message:  “Since when people goes into the marriage bed before they are wedded. What shall people think of such a style?”

The matter was made more interesting by a wedding “folder” published by the Echo Company celebrating the event. It was an illustrated hand-out with poems and other light matter to distribute at the marriage festival.  According to a story in the Gazette:

… when [Dietzgen] saw the festival number, with its picture of Cupid, with his arrows, floating through space on the backs of two doves, he indited (?) the following postal card to Father Bonaventura:

                Mr. Clergyman – The newest is the festival paper with its obscenities! Read? 
                ____ says she.
                ____ says he.
                Then the locals. The pointed instruments, too, wonderfully fine?
                Suitable to festival journal!
                O splendid is the work!

                Only indecencies
                Don’t the editors feel ashamed?

Although no issues of the “festival paper” still exist, it is easy to image the drawing of “Cupid, with his arrows” floating on the backs of two doves. Apparently Cupid’s arrows could be interpreted in different ways.

The president of the Arkansas Echo Company, John Kaufman, wrote a letter to the Gazette in which he defended the illustration in the “illustrated marriage festival number.”  He wrote

To any one of pure mind and morals, nothing in the least is at all apparent as obscene or improper. In Greek and Roman mythology we read of Cupid (Amor in German) as the “God of Love” who is represented as a little boy with wings, holding a bow and arrow in his hands, and all loving people’s hearts he wounds with his arrow. So much for the pointed instrument, which seems to be the center of attack by Mr. Dietzgen.[Arkansas Gazette, Nov. 8, 1894]

To this, Dietzgen replied in the Arkansas Gazette on November 10th:

As to the “pure mind” and “morals” of the aristocratic families – no matter whether in Europe or elsewhere – we only state this: Many a book, periodical etc. of an equivocal character (Paul de Cook) are circulating in these circles.”[29]

Likely, Dietzgen was surprised when his postcards got him indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on charges of sending indecent material through the mail.  The action was initiated when Binzegger showed the cards to Meurer, who complained to federal authorities. 

The trial was held on November 4, 1892. Dietzgen, defended by Col. W. G. Whipple, was acquitted of the charges. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the jury took only two minutes to return its decision. [Arkansas Gazette, Nov. 6, 1892, p. 4]

A Smacking

A few day after the U.S. District Court jury made its decision in the indecency case, Dietzgen and Meurer were again in the news.  Meurer attacked Dietzgen on a Little Rock sidewalk, near the building in which both had offices, smacking the older man around. The news of event was published in many newspapers across the United States.

This story about the encounter appeared in the Arkansas Gazette:

                C. Meurer and Phil Dietzgen, Two German Editors, Come to Blows

In front of the Arkansas Democrat office yesterday the two rival editors of the German papers of Little Rock, C. Meurer of the Echo and Phillip Dietzgen of the Staatszeitung had an altercation which resulted in Dietzgen being knocked down by Meurer. Friends interfered and prevented any further trouble. The altercations, said Mr. Meurer to Chief Sanders, grew out of the publication of a slanderous and libelous article by Dietzgen, which Meurer resented by knocking the former down.

                Meurer pleaded guilty to simple assault before ‘Squire Peay. [Arkansas Gaz., Nov. 8, 1892, p. 4]

Carl Meurer, Editor of Das Arkansas Echo
After this encounter, things apparently quieted down for some months; but more battle were to come. 

Dietzgen Sues Herman Lensing; Is Caned and Slugged in Circuit Court

Among the many lawsuits he filed in 1892 and 1893, Dietzgen sued Herman Lensing, a local grocer and co-owner of the Echo.[30] I have no information about the substance of the law suit. It came to trial on May 23, 1893 in the Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Among the witnesses summoned for the trial was Meuer, the Echo editor. He waited outside the court to be called for his testimony, but he was never asked to testify. After the trial ended, he obtained a “certification of attendance” that could be used to claim compensation as a witness. 

Lensing won the case, but the trial gave Dietzgen another avenue to attack his Echo enemies. Observing that Meurer had filed for a certification of attendance but had not testified, Dietzgen swore out a warrant against him for perjury. As a result, Meurer was brought to trial on June 3, 1893. Court officials testified that Meurer was entitled to compensation as a witness because he had responded to the summons even though he did not testify. He was acquitted of the charges. The Gazette described what happened next:

This prosecution so enraged Meurer that at the close of the trial he struck Dietzgen with his cane the latter warding off the blow with his own cane. A friend of Meurer’s, A. Arnold, then struck Deitzgen (sic) several blows in the face with his fist. All three were arrested and taken before Justice Wilson. Dietzgen was discharged, but Meurer was fined $10 and Arnold $5, which they paid.  Arkansas Gazette, June 4, 1893, p. 6

Adolph Arnold, the man who hit Dietzgen, was a co-owner of the Echo and, at the time, treasurer of the Echo Company. Dietzgen would make sure he paid a price for his attack.  

Threatening Mail; Another Accusation of Slander

The newspaper war heated up in early 1894 when Dietzgen was charged with sending threatening letters through the mail to members of the Echo team. The trial set for January 19th.  The Gazette observed, “It is but another chapter in the feud between Dietzgen and his rival brethren, adherents of the Arkansas Echo, the other German paper published in this city.”[31]

Before this trial took place, Dietzgen had bigger problem. He was prosecuted for criminal libel based on a complaint filed by Adoph Arnold (the Echo co-owner who had slugged Dietzgen at the Meurer trial in June 1883). The cause of the complaint was a story in the January 6, 1894 issue of Staats Zeitung entitled “The Noble Poles.”

According to the Gazette, “the heroes of [the story] were Adolph Arnold, a second hand dealer on Center between sixth and Seventh streets, and a man names Ackerman, who stays with him. The story would make racy reading in English.” (Like the Adolph Arnold in the story, the real Adolph Arnold was a dealer in second hand goods with a store on Center Street.) Arnold said the story accused him of “forgery while in Switzerland, theft, hypocrisy and other crimes and his wife of keeping “a house of ill-fame.”[Arkansas Gaz., Jan. 18, 1894, p. 6] 

The Gazette article about the first day of the two-day trial reported “several lively bouts between Arnold and Dietzgen,” but no serious trouble.  On the second day, the focus was on the meaning of a German compound word, Staupf-Schule. This word was used in the story to describe the “girl employee” of a second hand store kept by the wife of a character by the name of Adolph Arnold. The prosecution maintained that the word alluded to Arnold’s wife “keeping a house of bad character.” According to the Gazette,

A large number of intelligent German witnesses were put on the stand by both sides and asked to give their construction of the word, the witnesses for the defendant declaring it could mean only a “darning school.” Those for the prosecution declaring it might in the connection used be taken to mean something else reflecting on the parties mentioned in connection with it. (Ark. Gazette, January 19, 1894, p. 8.
In his testimony, Dietzgen explained that the article was the fourth canto of a story from life to contain ten cantos, which he was publishing in serial form in the paper and which would be published later in New York as a book. He said he intended no libelous attack on Mr. Arnold or his family.  The jury took the only a few minutes to find Dietzgen innocent of the charge. I can find no evidence that Dietzgen’s ten cantos were ever published as a book.

Dietzgen’s Retreat

After the January 1894 trial, no other major incidents between Dietzgen and his foes at the Arkansas Echo were reported in the local English-language newspapers. Perhaps the reason for the cease fire was that Dietzgen was planning his exit from Little Rock.

Sometime in the latter half of 1885 or in early 1886, he purchased the Kansas City Daily Post and Herald, a daily German-language newspaper in Kansas City, Mo. In late 1886 or early 1887, he bought another daily German-language newspaper, the Kansas City Presse (according to testimony in an 1898 court case, he bought Presse for $4,000). In 1887, he merged the two papers into the only daily German-language newspaper published in the area. The combined newspaper, Kansas City Presse, also published a weekly edition.  According to circulation figures for 1906, the Presse had a daily circulation of 8,250 and its weekly newspaper had a circulation of 4,960.[32]   

As he was preparing to move to Kansas City, Dietzgen sold the Staats Zeitung. A Gazette story on October 25, 1895, said, “Mr. A. von Landberg, for the past thirty years editor of the Syracuse Union at Syracuse, N. Y., has purchased the Arkansas Staats Zeitung of this city, and will establish his office at No. 211 West Markham Street.”[City News, Arkansas Gazette, Oct. 25, 1895, p. 3]  In December 1896, the newspaper was sold to a group of local citizens. The Gazette reported:

George Doerner, the well known newsdealer, and other prominent Germans have purchased the Arkansas Staats-Zeitung, the oldest German newspaper in the state [from] A. Von Landberg for $1800 and Mr. Doerner will be manager and editor. Arkansas Gazette, Dec. 23, 1896

The names of stockholders of the Arkansas Staats Zeitung were not listed in the story about its purchase, but later story about a meeting of the newspaper’s stock holders showed that its stock was held by some of the most prominent Germans in the city.  The Board of Directors of the Staats Zeitung stockholders included Nick Kupferle (president), E. C. Wehrfritz, Herman Kahn, George Reichardt (treasurer), Fred Rossner (vice-president), Fred Wolters, and George Doerner (secretary, editor, and manager).  Morris M. Cohn was the paper’s attorney. [Arkansas Gazette, Feb. 2, 1898 p. 5]

The new editor, George Doerner, had a temperament that differed greatly from Dietzgen’s, and he had some notable physical attributes.  Allsopp described him as follows: “Mr. Doerner will be remembered as a good-natured, hard-working, earnest and intelligent German, of immense physical proportions, standing over six feet in height and weighing more than 250 pounds. He had a remarkable peculiarity, in that he possessed five fingers and a thumb on each hand and is said to have had six toes on each foot.”[33] 

Before becoming editor of the Staats Zeitung, he ran a small book and stationery business on Main Street, which he continued to do after taking his new position.  Also, he as a popular orator, invited to make public addresses at important events held by local German organizations.[34]     

In April 1908, he was the victim of an unfortunate buggy accident that greatly hindered his work as editor of the Staats Zeitung.[35]  He died on November 9, 1912. The paper suspended publication from about May 1911 to the beginning of September. [Arkansas Gazette, August 11, 1911, p. 7]  When it resumed, Curt Ackermann was the editor. It continued publication until 1917 when the editor, who was a German citizen, was interned for the duration of the war.[36] 

Following Dietzgen’s exit to Kansas City, relations between the Echo and Staats Zeitung again became normal. The papers were still competitors, but apparently the editors and owners maintained civil relationships. Doerner and Meurer were members many of the same civic groups and even served together on some committees.

On the other hand, as the relations between the Staats Zeitung and Echo were repaired, Dietzgen quickly found new enemies in Kansas City and was again spending time in courts.

Dietzgen in Kansas City

It did not take long for Philip Dietzgen to make his mark on Kansas City, Missouri. By the middle of 1897, he was owner of the only daily German-language newspaper serving a large area with many German speakers. The Kansas City Presse was a much larger and more important newspaper than the Staats Zeitung. 

Also, within a year of his arrival, he was:

●Sued by Carl Wentrock, the solicitor for the Kansas City Presse, for $300 back salary. Wentrock's duties were to write campaign editorials for the Republican Party when not interviewing candidates and central committee members. He claimed Dietzgen did not pay him for his work.[37]

●Issued a restraining order and threatened with a charge of contempt of court. An article titled “Teutonic Journalists in Court” described the circumstances of these actions:

Several days ago Phillip Dietzgen, president of the United Presse Publication Company, was enjoined from interfering with Edward Deuss and A.O. Anderson, the two other directors of the company. The restraining order was made returnable yesterday, but when the case was called the plaintiffs asked leave to amend their petition, as they charged that Dietzgen was in contempt of court for ejecting Deuss from the offices of the company, after being enjoined from interfering. Judge Scarritt yesterday gave the plaintiffs till June 5 to amend their petition….The troubles in the directory of the United Presse have been aired considerably of late and culminated in the proceedings now pending in Judge Scarritt’s court. Lack of harmony on the part of the directors, who charge Dietzgen with running things too much to suit himself, is responsible for the trouble. Kansas City Journal, May 30, 1897.

●Sued for misusing a donation.  The story of this suit was in the Kansas City Journal:

“Another chapter of the litigation over the $720 contribution of the national Republican committee to Phillip Dietzgen, editor of the Kansas City Presse, was written yesterday when Maria and August Krueger brought suit against Dietzgen and city officials, to recover $500 damages. The plaintiffs were sureties on the bond of Mr. Dietzgen, and were compelled to pay a judgment for $197 secured by J. Casberg for services as solicitor for the Presse. They allege that the contributions from the national Republican committee went into the pockets of Mr. Dietzgen himself and not into the coffers of the Presse.”[Kansas City Journal, Nov. 27, 1897, p. 10]

These legal matters were trivial compared to a slander lawsuit that Joe Speyer, editor of Die Reform, a weekly German-language paper published in Kansas City, filed against Dietzgen in May 1898 and to the state charges brought against him in June 1898 for disturbing the peace of Joe Speyer. These legal matters flowed from a nasty newspaper war between Dietzgen and Speyer. This “war” was brief and brutish because, like Dietzgen, Speyer was also a take-no-prisoners newspaper warrior.  

When Dietzgen was arrested on May 30, 1898, based on Speyer’s charges that Dietzgen had libeled him, the Kansas City Journal explained:

The arrest of Dietzgen was the culmination of an altercation that has been going on for nearly a year. It was about a year ago that Philip Dietzgen obtained control of the Presse and a strong rivalry sprang up between this paper and the Reform. As time went on the rivalry grew more intense, and personalities exchanged between the two editors did not tend to allay the feelings.[38]

The slander charge stemmed from statements that Dietzgen allegedly made after the death of Speyer’s wife in December 1897. Speyer had remarried. His new wife, Mabel Haas, was “well known in Kansas City and the vicinity as a most successful singer and teacher of music.” According to Speyer’s charge against Dietzgen, he had stated before several people that Speyer has poisoned his first wife and cremated her in order to marry the richer woman.

After that, the two exchanged unkind words through their newspapers, but things got worse when Speyer tried to put Dietzgen out of business by buying a mortgage on the Kansas City Presse and demanding a payment that was due. When Dietzgen could not immediately make the payment of about $700, foreclosure was imminent. However, before the foreclosure could be carried out, a judge intervened to hear a challenge to it. It seems Dietzgen had bought a mortgage on Speyer’s paper, and Speyer owed Dietzgen even more than Dietzgen owed him.

Again, according to the Kansas City Journal, after Speyer had bought his mortgage,

Dietzgen was...filled with animosity, and his paper fairly scintillated with personalities, of which Speyer was the chief subject. In an issue of the Presse of May 16 he took up in detail the alleged treatment accorded the first Mrs. Speyer, citing one alleged instance where an occurrence “brought the enraged neighbors to the house.”

The Reform was not at all backward in replying and personalities were exchanged in German in each issue of the papers.

A Kansas City Journal reporter interviewed Speyer the day he filed his slander charge against Dietzgen. He was filled with outrage:

He is a bad man, an unusually bad man, this Dietzgen,” said Mr. Speyer last night. I did not care to get mixed up in a lawsuit with him, but matters came to such a point that I had to. I don’t like lawsuits, and especially with a man that has had so many as Dietzgen.”

Mr. Speyer began nervously pacing the floor of the studio. He was very much excited and yet very much in earnest.

“The people do not know what I have endured,” he broke forth: “nobody knows. You see this?” opening a desk and extracting a bunch of letters from a pigeonhole. “Well, this one is an anonymous letter that I received about a week ago. Read it. Read It. I want the people to know about it.”

                The letter was written in German style and read as follows:

                “I will tell Dietzgen all about your first wife, whom you poisoned and brought to St. Louis.”

“That letter was written by Dietzgen,” excitedly continued Mr. Speyer. “I know his writing, no matter how much he tried to disguise it. I showed it to my wife, to Mrs. Speyer, and we thought it best to keep it to ourselves. Ah what I suffered then! But, you see, I have others to think of beside myself. And then came that affair at Scharnagels’ when this villain, this Dietzgen, said openly to my friends that I had killed my wife in order to be at liberty to marry a rich woman, and other vile things that I do not care to repeat. Ah, that hurt. 


Did I tell you about the other letters I received? No? Well, there was a second letter of threats and only last night, while sitting out on the porch, a negro brought this,” and he opened a letter upon which in large letters were the words, “Vicht, Vicht,” This word is German word for poison.

                If I can get justice, all right. If I don’t I will kill him. Yes, kill him,” and he looked as if he meant it.”
                [Kansas City Journal, May 31, 1898, p. 10]

The reporter also interviewed Dietzgen, “a grey-bearded man”, who said he had only repeated what he had heard other says about Speyer and his deceased wife: “…I have plenty of witnesses to prove that I did not make the statements in the way that Speyer says I made them.”

Before the slander charge was brought before the court, Dietzgen was tried on June 22 on another charge. The state of Missouri charged Dietzgen with disturbing the peace of Joseph Speyer for going to Speyer’s house on May 26, 1898 and hurling “disgraceful words at him in a very loud voice” and for conducting “himself generally in a way that was not legal, and that greatly disturbed Speyer’s peace.”

According to Speyer’s testimony at the trial, he was sitting on the porch of his house with his wife, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law when he saw Dietzgen approach the house. 

As the defendant passed the house, Speyer testified, he cried out the words. “Gift, gift,” which is the German word for “poison.” As he passed the house on his way up Ninth Street, the witness said that Dietzgen threw over into the yard a paper containing the same words in large letters.   

His testimony was corroborated by the testimony of several neighbors who saw the occurrence. The jury found Dietzgen guilty of slander and fined him $1, plus court costs.  The newspaper story of the trial added this description of what then happened in the court:

A most exciting scene took place just as the jury was leaving the room, and serious trouble was avoided only through the interference of bystanders. During the entire trial, Speyer and Dietzgen had been eying each other with savage glances, and it was evident that only the surroundings prevented them from attacking each other personally….Speyer’s face was triumphant as Attorney Silverman finished his address to the jury, and as the crowd mingled, the editor of the Reform said in loud tones: He wrote those letters, and I can prove it.”

“You are a liar,” came the response from Dietzgen, and the two made at each other. They struggled madly to get together, but those present got between the belligerents and each was hurried out different doors.
                [Kansas City Journal, June 23, 1898, p. 10]

The slander case against Dietzgen was scheduled to be heard the day after the disturbing-the-peace trial, but was postponed. I found no information about the resolution of the case. 

Not long after he bought the Kansas City Presse, Dietzgen took on the role publisher, leaving the editor position to Henry J. Lampe. He remained in that position until he sold the newspaper in either 1914 or 1917. His obituary says he sold it in 1914, but other information suggests he may have sold it in 1917.[39]

Dietzgen died on March 7, 1920 at his home in Kansas City. He left a sizeable estate, estimated as about $24,000 in personal assets (mostly in the form of loans he made) and $10,000 real estate. The estate owed about $11,000.[40]  His surviving family included daughters Anna (b. 1887), Else (b. 1889), and Katherine (b. 1885) born in Little Rock and Ruth (b. 1898) born in Kansas City. His wife Sophia lived in Kansas City until her death in 1948.


The influx of German immigrants into Arkansas in the late 1870s and early 1880s brought a diverse group of people with different religions (primarily Catholic and Lutheran, with a few Jews), political beliefs, educations, occupations, and reasons for leaving their homeland. Of course, it also brought people with a wide range of personalities.

With so many differences among the people who wore the label “German immigrant,” it should not be surprising to find divisions among them or the formation of opposing factions. And some divisions and factions existed, manifested by where different immigrants chose to live, the churches to which they belonged, the political party (if any) with which they affiliated, and the social clubs and groups to which they belonged. However, the divisions were not sharp or deep. It seems that their mutual status as social outsiders – as people who spoke English with an accent, if they spoke it at all -- exerted a greater force for unity than the religious/social/ political/economic differences exerted to divide them.

With the unified face that the German immigrants presented to their American-born neighbors, the open conflict between the two German-language newspapers was an abnormality. It is tempting to ascribe the bad feelings between the two newspapers to religion (the Echo was Catholic-oriented and the Staats Zeitung was oriented toward the Lutheran Church, though both professed to be independent in both religion and politics) or some other social factor. However, the SZ – E newspaper war seems largely to have been the product of one strong personality who was riled up because of perceived insults and perhaps because of fear of monetary loss.

Whatever his motives, Philip Dietzgen attacked his “enemies” with verve and maybe a smidgen of craziness. He clearly was a headstrong man who nursed his grievances. Because of the central role of his personality in the fights that he picked with his competitors, the main lesson from Dietzgen’s life is that as a group, German immigrants had not only had its share of hard working and talented people, but also had in its midst difficult people, hot heads, and troublemakers. Dietzgen seems to have combined all of these good and bad characteristics.


[1] Kathleen Condray. 2015. Arkansas’s Bloody German-Language Newspaper War of 1892. Arkansas Historical Quarterly. Vol. LXXIV, no. 4, pp. 327-351.

[2] Allsopp, Fred William. 1922. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Parke-Harper Publishing Co., p. 363.

[3] The Staats Zeitung of Little Rock. Ft. Smith New Era. December 11, 1878, p. 2.  Another piece of evidence that William (or Wilhelm) Fischer was publisher of the Staats Zeitung in 1877, 1878 and 1879 comes from biographical information about Adolph Fischer, his brother, who was a typesetter for the paper during these years. Adolph moved to St. Louis in 1879. He later was executed in Chicago for his anarchist activities in conjunction bombings following with the Haymarket Riots in May 3, 1886. At the time, he a compositor at the Chicago Arbeiter-Zeitung. See

[4] See Allsopp.  Also, see Morning Republican March 7, 1870 and Morning Republican March 11, 1871. 

[5] Several proposals were made for the Arkansas state government to subsidize the fledgling Staats Zeitung in 1871. For example, legislation was introduced into the Arkansas legislature for the state government to purchase a fixed number of issues of the paper each week for two years. The proposal was never enacted. See Morning Republican, March 4, 1869 and March 29, 1870]

[6] Margaret Ross (ed.), Chronicles of Arkansas: A 19th Century Look at Arkansas’ Press. Arkansas Gazette. November 25, 1960, p. 4.

[7] Allsopp, p. 310.

[8] The year of birth is from Dietzgen’s tombstone in the Forest Hills Cemetery located in Kansas City.  He gave his birth year as March 1849 in the 1900 census. The information in the 1910 census noted that he was born in 1840, and the 1920 census gives “about” 1839 as his year of birth.  His grave stone has no month or day of birth.

[9] Information about the Dietzgen family is from a biographical sketch that Phillip’s nephew, Eugene, wrote about his father Peter Joseph.  See

[10]  Dietzgen’s obituary says that he was born in “Ukrad”, which seems to be a mistaken attempt to spell Uckerath. In Josef’s letters to his son Eugene (discussed later in this paper), he mentions three people whom he calls “Ohm” (an abbreviation for “uncle”): Philipp; Conrad, who was living near him in Germany’ and Ottersbach, who was also living close by in Germany. It is likely Ottersbach was his uncle while Philipp and Conrad were Eugene’s uncles.

In Germany, the name Phillip or Philip was spelled Philipp; Eugene was Eugen; and Joseph was Josef. I use the spelling common in the United States.

[11] For biographical information on Joseph Dietzgen, see the nicely written Wikipedia entry:

Many of his translated writings, translated into English, can be found at this site:

For a deeper biographical and intellectual sketch, go to this site:

For information on the Josef Dietzgen club in Siegberg , Germany, go to this site:  This site shows a bust of Dietzgen, plus a picture of a stamp bearing his image.

Among the Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung employees arrested was Adolph Fischer, a printer who had worked for the Arkansas Staats Zeitung in 1877 and 1878. See footnote 3.

[12] For information on the Dietzgen Corporation, see
A historical timeline of the company is found at this link:

[13]  The original German is as follows:  “Ohm Philipp hat auch heute geschrieben. Er meint, Du könntest jeder Zeit auf him los kommen. Essen and Trinken wäre Dir frei, u. sobald Du etwas fertig in Englischen seist, können er Dich leicht mit Verdienst underbringen; auch wäre  es ihm leicht, Dir für den grössten Teil der Reise ein Freibillet verschaffen.”

[14] A paragraph in one of Joseph Dietzgen’s letters to his sons provides a clue that Philip may have been a journalist or writer before he immigrated to the United States: 

Wegen einem Artikel in Zuericher war ich angeklagt die Klassen etc. gegeneinander aufgereizt zu haben. Von Richter deschalb hier vernommen, habe ich dreist gelogen; ich sei nicht der Verfasser, vielleicht mein Bruder Philipp u. erhalte gestern von Staatsanwalt die mitteilung, die Sach sei wegen Mangels an Beweise niedergelegt; den bösen Feind belügen and betrügen ist Gottesdienst.

Because of an article in Zurich I was charged with inciting the classes etc. against each other. Therefore in response to the judge, I lied brazenly; I was not the author, perhaps my Brother Philipp. And yesterday I received a message from the prosecutor that the matter has been closed for lack of evidence; to lie and deceive the evil enemy is to serve God.

[15] Dietzgen is a rare surname.  Searches for Philip Dietzgen on yield few results. The rarity of the name and its appearance in two city directories suggest that Dietzgen might, in fact, have lived in both St. Louis and Davenport Iowa during 1878. 

[16] Arkansas Gazette, July 28, 1884. Louis Fritz was a German-immigrant poet and teacher who the Arkansas Gazette described as “the popular young German professor”. Soon after his stint with the Staats Zeitung, he moved to Memphis to become editor of the Southern Post-Journal there.

[17] For more on Bishop Fitzgerald, see this entry in Wikipedia:

According to Dietzgen, Father Bonaventura Binzegger, a Catholic priest described him as an apostate in an article published in 1891 in a German language newspaper issued in Logan County, Arkansas.[Arkansas Gazette, November 10, 1892) 

[18] According to his obituary, Reigler (1833-1892) was born in Althansen in the Kingdom of Wurtenberg, Germany. He came to Little Rock in 1852.  He served as the elected treasurer of Pulaski County during the Reconstruction years, 1866 to 1874. After that he was an elected Justice of the Peace in Pulaski County for many years.[Arkansas Gazette, July 12, 1896, p. 6] He was also a leader of the local Republican Party.

It seems that as times passed, the spelling of his last name was sometimes Reigler and sometimes Riegler. While early newspaper stories that mentioned him referred to John Reigler, some used Reigler in one sentence and Riegler in another.  The last name on the tombstone of John and Katherine Barbara is Riegler. 

[19] The Sangerfest. Arkansas Gazette, September 17, 1889, p. 6.

[20] A website at the University of California- Santa Barbara contains biographical information about Eugene Dietzgen, including two long interviews of one of his daughters.  See

This site also has a link to the letters from Joseph to his son Eugene. The handwritten letters were typed by Eugene in 1904 to give to his sisters. They can be downloaded as a .pdf file at this link:

[21] In German:  “Was der Ohm Philipp da heute kann, wird er über Jahr u. Tag noch besser können…. Lass Dich durch Omn Ph. Nicht so leicht verleiten, er ist gut, aber unzuverlässig.” 

[22] In German:  “Wenn Du nichts anderes hast, dann ist der Ohm Philipp Schon gut, sonst sollte ich glauben, dass der Dienst unter Fremden vorzusiehen. Ohm Ph. Ist sehr gut von Gemüth; aber er ist gar zu arg auf die Moneten u. bin ich bange, dass ihr deshalb auf die Dauer schlecht auskommt. Wenn aber sein Geschäft so voran geht, wie es den Anschein hat, dann kommt er schliesslich in die Lage Dir ein guter Onkel sein zu können.” From a letter dated May 25, 1891

[23] The 1890 circulation of the Staats Zeitung was, according to the N.W. Ayer & Son Newspaper Annual (vol. 1), about 1,500. 

[24] This accusation is from a lawsuit that Meurer filed against Dietzgen. In it, he included charges that Dietzgen had later called him a “liar and slanderer.” See, A Libel Suit. Arkansas Gazette, March 4, 1892, p. 5. As mentioned elsewhere, “Father Bonaventura” was Bonaventura Binzegger, a Catholic priest. For more on the Arkansas Echo, see this link:;   

[25] See “A $25,000 Damage Suit.” Arkansas Gazette, September 8, 1891. According to Condray (p. 339), the Echo asserted that the Staats Zeitung’s “harassment” of Rust had caused him to become “physically ill due to stress.”

[26] Father Bonaventura Binzegger was a Catholic priest. He was a co-founder and holder of the largest number of shares of the Arkansas Echo. Also, according to Condray (p. 331), he was quite a volatile personality.  She quotes the author of a book on a Catholic mission in Subiaco as saying the priest was “obsessed with a controversial spirit.”

[27] Arkansas Gazette, March 4, 1892 p 5.  

[28] Information about the settlement of the suit was not in the Arkansas Gazette. See Condray (p. 335-336) who quotes the Arkansas Echo about the settlement.

[29] He is likely referring to Charles Paul de Kock, a French writer of risqué novels. See

[30] Herman Lensing (Feb. 1838 – January 1925) was a Little Rock grocer and active Catholic. His wife’s name was Marie (1851 – 1934). They both were born in Germany and married there. They traveled to New York City on the Belgenland, arriving on October 22, 1879 with four children; they listed St. Louis as their destination, but ended up in Little Rock. In all, the couple had 13 children, eight of whom were alive when the 1900 census was conducted. Herman became a naturalized citizen in November 1892. He died in Memphis, Tennessee on January 17, 1925. Both Herman and Marie Lensing are buried at Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock.

[31] According to Condray (p. 348), the Echo reported that Dietzgen had threatened “to insult and to kill” Binzegger, Meurer, and Fred Hohenschutz (another Echo co-owner) in February 1892; he was required by a county justice of the peace to post a $500 bond in the matter. Also, an Echo correspondent reported in a letter to the paper published on June 2, 1892 that he had heard Dietzgen threaten to bomb the Echo offices.

[32] The actual dates are unclear.  According to a book written in 1908, “In 1896, Dietzgen bought the Kansas City Presse. In 1897, it was combined with the Kansas City Post and Tribute.  Dietzgen was publisher. Henry J. Lampe was editor.”

The book had the following description of the newspaper:

This only German daily publication of Kansas City is the household paper of the 45,000 German-Americans of the twin cities on the mouth of the Kaw River. It is the organ of the 130 German, Austrian and Swiss societies, lodges, mutual aid and benevolent associations of Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas, and their 23,000 members, thousands of whom do not fully command the English language, or prefer a daily paper in their mother tongue.

Carrie Westlake Whitney, 1908. Kansas City Missouri: The History and People. S.J Clarke Publishing Co [accessed through Google Books]). 

The following information was in the Kansas City Journal, March 9, 1897 p 5: “Phillip Dietzgen, publisher of the German Post and Tribune, bought Kansas City Presse, and will hereafter publish a first-class German daily paper.”

[33] Allsopp, p. 363.

[34] Doerner – who was born in Wurtemburg, Germany in about 1859 – was a featured speaker for several years, starting in 1892, at the annual Maifest in Little Rock. Also he addressed a huge celebration of the opening of the Turnverein Building on October 20, 1892. His speech was published in the Arkansas Gazette on October 23, 1892.  He spoke at the 17th anniversary celebration of the Little Rock Turnverein in 1901.[Arkansas Democrat, March 9, 1902, p.7]  Also he spoke at various times to the Sons of German, the Schiller Lodge, and other civic organizations of the German-speaking community.

[35] Doerner was badly injured in 1907 when he was thrown from an out-of-control buggy and hit his head on the curb. [George Doerner Seriously Hurt: Editor of Staats Zeitung Perhaps Fatally Injured in Accident. Arkansas Gazette, April 15, 1907]   He recovered from the accident, but was never again in good health. He died on November 9, 1912, at the age of 53. [George Doerner Dies after Long Illness. Arkansas Gazette, November 10, 1912, p. 6]

[36] Curt Ackerman, the editor and publisher of the Staats Zeitung, was arrested in August 1917 on charges of obstructing enlistments and encouraging dissent. He was interned for the duration of the war. The Staats Zeitung ceased publication.[The Case of Ackerman. Arkansas Gazette, August 10, 1917, p. 4]

[37] Got a Verdict for $200. Kansas City Press, November 17, 1897, p. 10.

[38] Arrested for Slander. Kansas City Journal. May 31, 1898, p. 5.  Also see Lie Passed in Court. Kansas City Journal, June 23, 1898, p. 10.

[39] The Kansas City Presse was purchased in 1917 by Joseph Peter Valentin, who had, starting in the early years of the Twentieth Century, purchased German-language newspapers throughout the mid-West and had consolidated them. 

It is unclear if Dietzgen still owned the Kansas City Presse in 1917 or if he had sold it earlier. See