Alina Zeller presents a working paper on ‚Trachtenvereine in the U.S.: Practices of Bavarian Customs Associations in the Negotiation of German-American Ethnicity, Culture and Tradition‘

At the beginning of my paper, I want to introduce the phenomenon Trachtenverein (Bavarian customs association) in general before going into more detail on my PhD project. Most importantly the Trachtenvereine are associations dedicated to preserve Tracht (ethnic alpine costume) through different practices. The clothing shows their attachment to their Heimat (homeland), which is a central element of their community. They encourage their members to wear their local or regional Tracht as often and as “original” as possible. I consider this their most important practice, because without the clothing you cannot be a Trachtler*in (member of such an association). But there are further practices through which those Vereine (associations) preserve seemingly old traditions and customs.

To gain insight in the variety of their activities I want to take a look at a newspaper clipping of the German-American weekly newspaper “Vorbote” from Chicago (Appendix I, p.12). On March 14, 1920, the weekly once more published an advertisement for the “Erstes großes Gerbirgstrachten und Alpenfest”. The Schuhplattler-Vereine“Edelweiß”promoted their first big festival themed around the Tracht and the Alps.

Through the analysis of the clipping, we see several of their practices. The Gebirgstracht (alpine costume), mentioned in the title, is not mentioned in the text itself. The committee of the event, most certainly members of the Verein, speaks directly to the German audience of Chicago. Certainly, they assume that their audience is aware of their clothing practices and does not further elaborate on it. Moreover, this advertisement shows, that the Verein was not only interested in Tracht. They point to their loved and well-known dance“Müllertanz (dance of the miller), which they incorporated in their program. Coming second after preservation of clothing, dance of the Schuhplattler and other Volkstänze is the most common activity practiced by the Trachtenvereine. The name of this dance already reveals a lot about the subject. Most dominantly the Vereine perform rural dances, reminding of former agricultural settings, in this case the mimicking of the process in a mill.

Furthermore, we get to know, that this Verein in Chicago was involved in the German-American festive culture. Not only did they organize their own event, but also create a network with other performers. They worked with a Schrammelkapelle (orchestra playing folk music from Vienna) and at least one other performer, who did a humoristic lecture. Unfortunately, the advertisement does not tell us, if the food and beverages of the event were prepared by the Verein itself.

So, this small advertisement gives us a first insight into the practices of the Trachtenverein or Schuhplattler-Verein “Edelweiß. This Verein is the ideal example for my project as it was the first association of the Trachtler*innen formed in the U.S.