8°: Manuscript, 190 ff. in pen, interspersed with 13 colour printed illustrations, bound in contemporary half calf with marbled boards, pastedown manuscript title to front cover (Very Good, some mild even toning and some light sporadic staining; binding with light marginal wear).
While much has been written about the experiences of German immigrants to America once they arrived in their new homeland, relatively little had been explored about the thoughts and aspirations of the same individuals before they left Germany. Just what motivated someone to leave everything they had ever known behind and to seek an entirely new life in a faraway, unfamiliar land? Indeed, it is this same spirit that created America, boldly exemplified by the great waves of early German immigration to Texas. The present curious work is the original manuscript ‘Liederbuch’ (Songbook) compiled in 1850 by Gustav Frasch, then a 16-year old living in Hessigheim, Germany. Four years later Frasch immigrated to America, where he became one the leading residents of San Antonio, Texas during the second half of the 19th Century.
The present work epitomizes the sense of wanderlust that Frasch and many other young Germans felt during this period, longing to leave a predictable life in Germany for adventure and excitement in America. In the present work, Frasch painstakingly copied out 455 songs and poems, many concerning diverse international subjects. His written text is interspersed with printed, coloured illustrations, some featuring portraits of foreign adventurers, such as Captain James Cook and Napoleon Bonaparte. Taken altogether, the work is the product of an insatiably curious and adventurous spirit, harnessing the mentality of those who dared to make the voyage across the high seas to America.
Gustav Frasch: Community Leader of San Antonio during the Second Half of the 19th Century
Gustav Frasch (1834 – 1917) was one of the most prominent citizens of San Antonio, Texas during the second half of the 19th Century. He was born in Hessigheim, near Heilbronn, in Württemberg, Germany, the son of a successful merchant. He received a good education in local schools, and for four years apprenticed as a merchant. However, as the present Liederbuch proves, Frasch was a highly and intelligent and restless young man who longed to escape the relatively comfortable, yet staid, existence of a small-town German trader for a life of adventure in a faraway land.
Like thousands of his countrymen before, Frasch was attracted to America, and in 1854, he sailed across the Atlantic aboard the St. Nicholas, landing at New York. He remained there for a year before moving to Cincinnati, where he joined the U.S. Army. He joined Company K, Second Cavalry, then one of only three cavalry regiments in America. He was posted to Fort Belknap (today in Young County), Texas, and in 1856 made his first visit to San Antonio.
In 1860, Frasch was discharged from the army and settled at the German colony at Fredericksburg (Gillespie County), Texas, where he married fellow German immigrant, Aliss Christina Schuessler. He took up ranching, but the Civil War suddenly interrupted his new endeavours. He soon found himself as a brigade quartermaster in the Confederate Army, serving in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 1864, Frasch moved to San Antonio, where he worked as a Confederate administrator based in the Alamo. He also served as a lieutenant in the Third Texas Frontier Battalion, protecting frontier settlers from marauders, while also being elected Chief Justice of Gillespie County. After the war, he served as a military administrator in the U.S. Army based in San Antonio.
In 1872, Frasch was elected city assessor of San Antonio, serving in that position for 23 years, until 1895. During his generation in the post, which oversaw all property development across the city, Frasch played major role in the rise of San Antonio which grew during his tenure from a town of 12,000 inhabitants to metropolitan centre of 65,000 residents. Frasch was also owned a highly lucrative notary public practice, and in 1879 he was able to build a grand family home at 901 Avenue C.
Writing in 1907, when Frasch was still alive, A Twentieth Century History of Southwest Texas opined that:
“Mr. Frasch is undoubtedly one of the best known residents of the City [San Antonio]. No higher testimonial of capable service could he given than his long continuance in a position in regard to which the public is apt to be extremely critical if there is the slightest chance to claim partiality or unjust discrimination. His political integrity, however, stands as an unquestioned fact in his career and he receives and merits the respect and confidence of all who know him.”
References: Cf. [Re: Frasch’s Biography:] A Twentieth Century History of Southwest Texas, volume 1 (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1907), pp. 179-182.