Question of the Week

Christopher Sower printed and published the first American edition of which book?

Monday, 6/9/14

Answer: The Bible

Between 1727 and 1775, approximately 65,000 Germans landed in Philadelphia and settled in the region while some German immigrants landed in other ports and moved to Pennsylvania. There are many reasons why many Germans left their homeland to make the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to America, primarily the Thirty Years War and the subsequent wars that followed. Christopher Sower was just one of thousands of early German immigrants to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. Born in 1693 in Laasphe, Geremany, as Johann Christoph Sauer, he went on to study medicine at the University of Halle. Sower and his family, his wife and at least one son, immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1724.  Shortly thereafter the family moved to Ephrata, Lancaster County. In 1731, the Sowers returned to Philadelphia and took up permanent residence in Germantown. Sower lived on Germantown Avenue, at what is now the site of Trinity Lutheran Church, and worked as a pharmacist. Despite his career in this field, Sower became best known for his printing activities, which he began in the late 1730s after receiving printing machinery from Germany. He began printing works in German for other local German immigrants. He produced the nation's first German-language Bible in 1743 and would print its first German newspaper as well. He printed and published over two hundred works in German and English before his death in 1758. His son, also named Christopher, took over the family's printing activities. The family's work eventually evolved into the Christopher Sower and Company, a well-known Philadelphia publishing house.

HSP has many resources on German immigration, both published and unpublished. In addition to prints of Sower's broadsides, there are also reference to him in the Abraham H. Cassel collection (#1610).

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