Pennsylvania Dutch Country

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Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Deitscherei, Pennsylvania Deitschland
Region of Pennsylvania
Downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Flag of Pennsylvania Dutch Country
Map of Pennsylvania with the modern Pennsylvania Dutch Country highlighted in light red and the Greater Pennsylvania Dutch Country highlighted in maroon
Map of Pennsylvania with the modern Pennsylvania Dutch Country highlighted in light red and the Greater Pennsylvania Dutch Country highlighted in maroon
Location of Pennsylvania within the United States
Location of Pennsylvania within the United States
CountryUnited States
DemonymPennsylvania Dutchlander[1][2][3]

The Pennsylvania Dutch Country (Pennsylvania Dutch: Deitscherei "Dutchery"), also called Pennsylvania Dutchland (Pennsylvania Dutch: Pennsylvania Deitschland, German: Pennsylvania Deutschland),[4][5] simply Dutch Country or Dutchland (Pennsylvania Dutch: Deitschland),[1] and sometimes referred to as the Distelfink Country,[6] is an area spanning the Delaware Valley and South Central and Northeastern regions of Pennsylvania.

By the American Revolution in the 18th century, the region had a high percentage of Pennsylvania Dutch inhabitants. Religiously, they were predominantly Lutherans but also included German Reformed, Moravian, Amish, Mennonite, Schwarzenau Brethren, and other German Christian denominations. Catholics settled around early Jesuit missions in Conewago near Hanover and Goshenhoppen, now known as Bally. The term was used in the middle of the 20th century as a description of a region with a distinctive Pennsylvania Dutch culture, but in recent decades the composition of the population is changing and the phrase is used more now in a tourism context than any other.

The Greater Pennsylvania Dutch Country (Pennsylvania Dutch: Die Breet-Deitscherei (The Broad Dutchery) refers to this Pennsylvania region but also includes smaller enclaves of Pennsylvania Dutch-speaking areas in New York, Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Virginia, and the Canadian province of Ontario.[7][8][9]


A Pennsylvania Dutch windmill restaurant in Lancaster
A Pennsylvania Dutch woman on a Works Progress Administration tourism poster for the Dutch Country
A depiction of Dutchlanders

The continued use of the Pennsylvania Dutch language was strengthened in the 19th century as a way of distinguishing themselves from later (post 1830) waves of German immigrants to the United States, with the Pennsylvania Dutch referring to themselves as Deitsche and to Germans as Deitschlenner, (literally "Dutchlanders", compare German: Deutschländer), which translates to "Germany-Germans" whom they saw as a related but distinct group. These "Germany-Germans" came to Pennsylvania Dutch cities and assimilated into urban Pennsylvania Dutch society and came to prominence especially in matters of the church, newspapers, and urban business.[10][11]

The term "Dutchlander" came to refer specifically to the nationality of people from the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.[1][2][3]


Geographically the area referred to as Amish/Dutch country centers on the cities of Allentown, Hershey, Lancaster, Reading, and York. Pennsylvania Dutch Country encompasses the counties of Lancaster, York, Adams, Franklin, Dauphin, Cumberland, Lebanon, Berks, Northampton, Montgomery, Lehigh, Schuylkill, Snyder, Union, Juniata, Mifflin, Huntingdon, Northumberland, and Centre. Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants would spread from this area outwards outside the Pennsylvania borders between the mountains along river valleys into neighboring Maryland (Washington, Frederick, and Carroll counties), West Virginia, New Jersey (Warren and northern Hunterdon counties), Virginia (Shenandoah Valley), and North Carolina. The larger region has been historically referred to as Greater Pennsylvania. The historic Pennsylvania Dutch diaspora in Ontario, Canada, has been referred to as Little Pennsylvania.

The area lies in the Piedmont region of the Appalachian Mountains. The landscape is marked by rolling, wooded hills, deep stream valleys, and fertile soils. The Susquehanna River bisects the region and provides its drainage.


19th century[edit]

Contrary to popular belief, the word Dutch in Pennsylvania Dutch is not a mistranslation, but rather a variation of the Pennsylvania German endonym Deitsch, which means "Pennsylvania Dutch / German" or "German".[12][13][14][15] Ultimately, the terms Deitsch, Dutch, Diets and Deutsch are all cognates of the Proto-Germanic word *þiudiskaz meaning "popular" or "of the people".[16] The continued use of Pennsylvania Dutch to describe them was strengthened by the Pennsylvania Dutch in the 19th century as a way of distinguishing thems from the later (post-1830) waves of German immigrants to the U.S. Further, the Pennsylvania Dutch referred to themselves as Deitsche and to Germans as Deitschlenner (literally "Germany-ers", compare Deutschland-er) whom they saw as a related but distinct group.[10]

Many Pennsylvania Dutchlanders are descendants of Palatine refugees.[17] The German-speaking settlers came from a variety of countries and religious backgrounds, but most became assimilated to Anglo-American language and culture beginning in the second half of the 19th century with English-language evangelism efforts and the outlawing of German-language schooling.

20th century[edit]

The assimilation process continued soon after the turn of the 20th century with World War I, consolidated schools, and the advent of mandatory public education until the age of 16, with added pressures from increased mobility, the influence of English-language media, communications, and urbanization. Also, many German-Americans hid their ethnicity with the spread of anti-German sentiment and propaganda.

Originally, the economy of the region was almost entirely rural and agricultural, based on the immigrants' dream of bettering their lot through the ownership of their own farms. The small tradesmen indispensable to a rural economy, such as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, millers, and storekeepers, constituted the bulk of the non-farm economy. In the 19th century, a small educated class, comprising the Lutheran and Reformed ministers, began to emerge. The Pennsylvania seminaries educated them in High German so that they could preach to their flocks in a scholarly way.

The advent of the industrial revolution brought technologies based on coal, iron, canals, and railroads, but the Dutch, unversed in English, and lacking connections to the English-speaking establishment, were unable to engage in entrepreneurship on a large scale. Consequently, the large-scale enterprises which came to characterize the industrialized eastern half of the region, such as the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company (marketer of the coal branded "Old Company's Lehigh"), the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and the Bethlehem Iron Company (later known as Bethlehem Steel) were founded by English speaking residents from the Philadelphia and New York areas. The English-speakers (referred to by the Dutch as simply "the English") dominated the managerial and engineering positions of these companies, and the Dutch supplied the blue collar and supervisory workforce.

As technology advanced during the late 19th century, higher technology companies such as Mack Truck and New Jersey Zinc moved to the region as well. As the local industries expanded, immigrants from Middle Europe (primarily Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary) were recruited for the low-skilled positions, and the more established Dutch retained the skilled blue collar and supervisory positions. The Dutch influence on the shop floor was so great that some Slavic immigrants became bilingual in their native language and in Pennsylvania Dutch while they had not yet mastered English.

21st century[edit]

A young Amish woman from Lancaster
Barn with Hex signs in Pennsylvania Dutch Country in Berks County

In the 20th century, however, universal public education in English and relatively easy access to higher education erased many of the elements that made the Pennsylvania Dutch Country a distinctive region of the United States. The information age and globalization greatly reduced the dependence of the region on industrial jobs. The Eastern part of the region (Northampton, Lehigh, and Berks Counties) is now dominated by information-intensive white collar employment.

The western counties of the region experienced industrialization as well, with Hershey Foods being the most notable example, but it was less intensive, and agriculture retained a larger share of the economy. In the middle of the 20th century, both Amish and non-Amish entrepreneurs began to promote the area as a tourist destination. Though there are still plenty of Amish attempting to follow their traditional way of life, tourism and population growth have significantly changed the appearance and cultural flavor of the area. The region is within 50 miles of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Maryland, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and has not escaped the effects of being located on the western edge of the East Coast conurbation which stretches from Washington, D.C. to New York City.

The Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites, who have resisted these urbanization efforts most successfully, have retained aspects of their 18th century way of life, including the Deitsch dialect; however, these groups have changed significantly in the last two hundred years. Nevertheless, for the Old Order groups, change has come slower, and gradually they have become more and more distinctively different as the surrounding rural and urban population of Pennsylvania has changed.

See also[edit]

Notable locations[edit]

Nearby attractions[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Earl Francis Robacker (1965). Touch of the Dutchland. A.S. Barnes. pp. 200, 240.
  2. ^ a b Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center (1958). Pennsylvania Folklife, Volumes 9 to 10. A.S. Barnes. p. 28.
  3. ^ a b Timothy J. Orr (1965). Last to Leave the Field: The Life and Letters of First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward, 28th Pennsylvania Volunteers. Univ. of Tennessee Press. p. 28.
  4. ^ Pennsylvania-German Society (1891). Proceedings and Addresses, Volumes 1 to 2. Pennsylvania-German Society. p. 35.
  5. ^ Elmer Lewis Smith (1966). The Folk Art of Pennsylvania Dutchland. Applied Arts. p. 41.
  6. ^ Jordan, Mildred (1978). The Distelfink Country of the Pennsylvania Dutch. New York: Crown Publishers. OCLC 3517109.
    • "Pretzel Past and Present". Chicago Metro News. Chicago. April 12, 1980. p. 15. Lititz today is a town of 6,000 in the Pretzel Belt or 'Distilfink' [sic] section of the Quaker state.
    • "Distelfink Country Christmas Show" (PDF). Distelfink Crafters. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 14, 2020.
  7. ^ Steven M. Nolt (March 2008). Foreigners in their own land: Pennsylvania Germans in the early republic. p. 13. ISBN 9780271034447.
  8. ^ Mark L. Louden (2016). Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language. United States of America: JHU Press. p. 404.
  9. ^ Robert L. Schreiwer, Ammerili Eckhart (2012). A Dictionary of Urglaawe Terminology. United States of America: p. 12.
  10. ^ a b Mark L. Louden: Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language. JHU Press, 2006, p.3-4
  11. ^ Frank Trommler, Joseph McVeigh (2016). America and the Germans, Volume 1: An Assessment of a Three-Hundred Year History--Immigration, Language, Ethnicity. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 51.
  12. ^ Hughes Oliphant Old: The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 6: The Modern Age. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007, p. 606.
  13. ^ Mark L. Louden: Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language. JHU Press, 2006, p.2
  14. ^ Hostetler, John A. (1993), Amish Society, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, p. 241
  15. ^ Irwin Richman: The Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Arcadia Publishing, 2004, p.16.
  16. ^ W. Haubrichs, "Theodiscus, Deutsch und Germanisch – drei Ethnonyme, drei Forschungsbegriffe. Zur Frage der Instrumentalisierung und Wertbesetzung deutscher Sprach- und Volksbezeichnungen." In: H. Beck et al., Zur Geschichte der Gleichung "germanisch-deutsch" (2004), 199–228
  17. ^ "Chapter Two – The History Of The German Immigration To America – The Brobst Chronicles". Retrieved August 28, 2017.

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