The Don Heinrich Tolzmann German-Americana Collection

By:  Kevin Rigsbee, ARB and History Department Intern

Tolzmann German Americana Turnfest PostcardThe University of Cincinnati Archives and Rare Books Library recently received the papers of Don Heinrich Tolzmann, a retired Senior Librarian at UC and the former director of German-American Studies.  He has served as president of the Society for German-American Studies and during his tenure of office, he helped commemorate the 1983 German-American Tricentennial to mark the establishment of the first German-American settlement at Germantown, Pennsylvania Tolzmann also led the 1987 campaign to establish October 6th as German-American Day in the United States.  He has also served on the boards of international and national organizations, including the Deutsches Auswandererhaus in Bremerhaven and the Friends of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. and he is currently president of the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati,

Dr. Tolzmann created the German-Americana Collection (also known as the Fick Collection because the initial bulk of the collection came from the library of noted Cincinnati educator and poet H.H. Fick) when he was on the University of Cincinnati Libraries faculty and built it into a world-renowned resource for research and teaching. This extensive collection contains materials from the nineteenth century to the present day, and ranges from periodicals and newspapers to personal letters, census records, and spelling books and almanacs.

Cincinnati TurnersMuch of this collection reflects Tolzmann’s own scholarship and research.  The texts contained in his materials are published in both German and English.  There are several sets of photographs of buildings, people, and landscapes, including a tourism guide to the United States.  Additionally among Tolzmann’s papers, there is a disc containing a petition for release of a German-American man from an internment camp during the Second World War.

Of particular note is the collection of material from the Cincinnati Turners.  The collection contains records and logbooks of the Turners from their founding and a number of texts on their history.  The majority of these books are in English and include a booklet celebrating the Turner’s 100th anniversary, photographs, and sheet music.

The Cincinnati Turners were founded in 1848 as the Cincinnati Turngemeinde, an offspring of the larger Turner Movement in Germany.  While it was a haven for German immigrants, it was only open to those who either were American citizens or intended to become citizens.  The Cincinnati Turners were the first Turner chapter in the United States, and laid the foundation for many more to follow across the country, emphasizing a fit body, a fit mind, and civic responsibility.  The Turners were key to the introduction of physical education in schools in the 19th century.  The Turners also have a proud record of military service.  In the American Civil War, the Cincinnati Turners formed the First, Second and Third Companies of the Ninth Ohio Regiment, which served with distinction.  Later generations of Turners eagerly served in both the First and Second World Wars.

Cover of George Wiedemann BookAnother noteworthy part of the collection is that it contains a number of books authored by Tolzmann. He has written, edited, or translated 370 works in 605 publications in both German and English.  Some of his recent works include Engelhardt Riemenschneider:  Memoirs of a German Methodist Pioneer and German Heritage Guide to the State of Ohio.  Dr. Tolzmann has done extensive research on the history of breweries in Cincinnati, and has written many books on the topic, several of which are contained in this collection, including John Hauck:  Cincinnati’s West End Beer Baron:  The Man and His Brewery; and George Wiedemann:  Northern Kentucky’s Beer Baron:  The Man and His Brewery.  In addition to Dr. Tolzmann’s books, this collection  includes similar literature on the history of Cincinnati and other communities, as well as books on German-American communities and figures.

To learn more about the Tolzmann acquisition or the German-Americana Collection in the Archives & Rare Books Library, please visit us on the 8th floor of Blegen Library, call us at 513.556.1959, email us at, check out our websites, and, or find us on Facebook at