The Pennsylvania Dutch

Author/book links

From Migration to Acculturation

An invitation to the “Land of Milk and Honey” by William Penn led to waves of immigration, various religions, and ethnicities in created a free world religious Utopia, void of persecution. Most obvious were the Plain Pennsylvania Dutch practicing freedom of religion, and including the Moravians who settled Bethlehem. The port of Philadelphia (Germantown) was the benefactor of their skills at printing, and those upstate Rhineland farmers soon flooded the port city with a quantity of grain, flour, foodstuffs, and industrial exports. Historians trace this Rhineland immigration to 1683, when the first waves of Rhenish immigrants, speaking a German Dialect, arrived in Pennsylvania.

Although the immigrants that made up this 1683 Germantown settlement in the city of Philadelphia were German-speaking Dutch, German, and Swiss immigrants, most of them were Dutch. Germantown became the Colonial printing center for German language Bibles and religious imprints for the entire Pennsylvania Dutch community and for many decades that followed. The Pennsylvania Dutch, as other diversified ethnic immigrants who founded America, are to this day very proud of their ethnic heritage, as Germanic acculturation has taken place in American Civilization. However, most often forgotten is that among our German-speaking forefathers were non-German nationals from other Rhineland Countries who spoke the German Dialect in these early Colonial frontier years. Most prominent of these other German-speaking nationals were Holland Dutch, Swiss, and French Huguenots, etc., who collectively comprise today’s Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Richard L.T. Orth, a longtime native of Berks County, namely of his hometown Fleetwood and historic Kutztown where he earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees and worked for the American Folklife Institute for past 23 years. Kutztown considered by Orth and other scholars like Dr. Alfred L. Shoemaker the epicenter of our historic and colorful Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs and elaborately decorated barns, but also currently home to several hundred old order horse and buggy Mennonites who continue to flourish and expand in the fertile East Penn Valley.
Richard has had nearly 300 articles published on our rich Pennsylvania Dutch culture: it's heritage, history, folk religion, folklore, architecture, folklife, folk art, and cuisine through several magazines, journals, and is current "A Look Back in History" and "Everything Pennsylvania Dutch" columnist for both the Berks-Mont Newspapers and South Schuylkill News, where his weekly articles can be read online or in newspaper through the Kutztown Patriot, Oley Valley Sentinel, Boyertown Times, Hamburg Item, Southwest Berks News, among others. 

Orth's past book titles include Oley Valley Heritage: The Federal Years (1776-1862) & Folk Religion of the Pennsylvania Dutch: Witchcraft and Related Practices. He is currently working on a (tentative) title of Architecture of the Pennsylvania Dutch: True Grit German Builders of Exquisite English Design, and plans for a 2019 release through Sunbury Press. Richard L.T. Orth started with the American Folklife Institute in May 1995 with close friend and Mentor, Richard H. Shaner to revamp Shaner's popular 1970s American Folklife Society. Both consider themselves part of the Dr. Alfred Shoemaker lineage tree and 9th and 10th generation Pennsylvania Dutchmen, respectively.

For more information, please visit: 

Folk Religion of the Pennsylvania Dutch
Witchcraft, Faith Healing and Related Practices

By Richard L.T. Orth

Print ISBN: 978-1-4766-7226-7
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-3074-8
ca. 90 photos, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Softcover, 260+ pps. (6 x 9) 2018

Price: $39.95
ReleasedFeb., 2018

About the Book
For almost three centuries, the “Pennsylvania Dutch”—descended from German immigrants—have practiced white magic, known in their dialect as Braucherei (from the German “brauchen,” to use) or Powwowing. The tradition was brought by immigrants from the Rhineland and Switzerland in the 17th and 18th Centuries, when they settled in Pennsylvania and in other areas of what is now the eastern United States and Canada.

Practitioners draw on folklore and tradition dating to the turn of the 19th century, when healers like Mountain Mary—canonized as a saint for her powers—arrived in the New World. The author, a member of the Pennsylvania Dutch community, describes in detail the practices, culture and history of faith healers and witches.

About the Author
Richard L.T. Orth grew up in Berks County, PA, and resided for over forty years, 22+ of which spent working as an assistant all the way to Interim Director of the American Folklife Institute. His lifelong admiration and study of Pennsylvania Dutch culture includes many publications, curating museum collections, appraising, lecturing, and extensive field research and writing. Locally, he remains a columnist for the Berks-Mont newspapers and South Schuylkill News but now resides in Vermont where he continues his research.
Oley Valley Heritage:
The Federal Years 1776-1862
"Many wise Oley Valley Pennsylvanish Deitsch farmwomen saved their valuable 'wheat' flour to be baked into bread they sold at town markets like Philadelphia for the hard cash it would bring to sustain their families. The pioneer immigrant Haus Frau (housewife) used her less-valuable rye flour to bake hearth bread, which was consumed by her own family, indentured servants, and hired hands, in order to sell the more valuable wheat bread products at town markets. Baking day in the Oley Valley, as elsewhere in the 'PA Dutch Country,' was on Friday (except for Good Friday) and the entire week's supply of bread was often baked in an outdoor, Colonial stone and brick bake oven."
HARDCOVER, 2015. $40.00.
SHIPPING/PAYMENT: Shipping and handling included in price. For bulk ordering (at a discounted rate) or to pay by check or money order, please contact [email protected] . 

Publications For Sale

PA Folklife Index 1949-1986  by Judith Fryer

Index organizing 37 years of the Pennsylvania Folklife Magazine, including the Kutztown Folk Festival issue both by author and subject matter. $35.00 for set
45th Special Commemorative Issue
American Folklife Volume VI: A journal dedicated to field research of United States folk culture, architecture, and antiques recorded in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country,  the Greater Delaware & East Penn Valleys.  Our area of expertise is Americana achievements and agrarian life, past and present, 37 pages, $10.00.