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April 24, 2017

Carl Wittke and Immigration History

“Every wave of immigrants has contributed to the cultural, social and intellectual growth of our country. Instead of trying to suppress the rich background of resources all groups possess, we should let them make their specific contributions. Americanization is a very slow process which should be left as a natural process.” Carl Wittke

The theme for the 2017 Cleveland Humanities Festival is immigration. In conjunction with that theme, the Archives is highlighting former faculty member, historian, and administrator, Carl F. Wittke - immigration historian.

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Carl F. Wittke

Carl Wittke was born 11/13/1892 in Columbus, Ohio. His father was a German immigrant and this influenced Wittke’s work. Carl’s first language at home was German before learning English which he spoke while attending school. He received his B.A. from Ohio State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1914 and 1921. In 1917 he had a son, Carl Francis, with his first wife. He married his second wife, Lillian Nippert, in 1921 and they remained married until his death in 1971.

Wittke served on the faculty of Ohio State 1916-1937, then moved to Oberlin College where he was Professor of History and Dean of the College 1937-1948. He came to Western Reserve University (WRU) in 1948 as Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of History. He also served as Elbert Jay Benton Professor of History and chair of the History Department, 1959-1963. In 1961 he was named Vice President of WRU. Wittke retired in June, 1963.

Wittke was author of 14 books and 80 articles. In 1939 his general history of immigrants, We Who Built America: the Saga of the Immigrant, was published by Prentice-Hall. This book stayed in print for over 20 years until a revised edition was published in 1964 by the WRU Press. He dedicated the book to his father’s memory, the immigrant who left his homeland and made a new life in America. “His deep-seated devotion to the basic ideals of our American life was born of a long and satisfying experience in the land of his choice. Out of such experiences, I venture to believe, the real Epic of America must eventually be written. I have attempted here to do no more than to suggest some of the broader outlines of that epic story. No one realizes better than I how much work remains to be done...” This book was selected for inclusion in the White House Library of Americana.

He also wrote histories which included The Irish in America (1956) and Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America (1952) as well as articles such as Immigration Policy Prior to World War I, Melting Pot Literature, and German Immigrants and Their Children. Wittke’s scholarly output included History of Canada (1928) and editor of the 6-volume work, The History of the State of Ohio (1944). For 15 years he was editor of the Prentice-Hall history series.

Wittke received numerous awards in the field of history as well as his work for civil liberties. His biography, Against the Current: The Life of Karl Heinzen, won the medal for the best book by an Ohio author in 1945. The Ohio Academy of History honored Wittke with a testimonial dinner praising him for his outstanding work as an author and his contributions to community relations and brotherhood. In 1963 he received the Cleveland Arts Prize for literature. In 1951 he was presented with the Cleveland B’nai B’rith Sol Fetterman Memorial Award for “outstanding achievements in promoting brotherhood and mutual understanding in this community.” In 1956 he received the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In 1961 the Cleveland Civil Liberties Union bestowed its first annual award to Wittke. In 1963 he was presented the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the West German consul for his contributions to understanding between the United States and Germany. He also received honorary doctorates from Ohio State University, Denison University, Lawrence College, Marietta College, Fenn College, Lake Erie College.

Among his professional associations, he was a member of the Council of the American Historical Association, Council of the American Association of University Professors chairing the Committee “A” on academic freedom and tenure for 3 years. Wittke served on the Senate of Phi Beta Kappa, was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the board of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, and was chair of the Ohio War Records Commission 1941-1947.

In 1964 Carl Wittke was presented with a festschrift published by Augustana College Library entitled In the Trek of the Immigrants, in connection with the annual meetings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association held April 30-May 2.

Wittke died 5/24/1971. His widow, Lillian, gave the funds for the reconstituted Carl F. Wittke Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching (originally awarded in 1964).

Posted by hxy2 at April 24, 2017 03:07 PM

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