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Letters, 1988.

1 folder

Walter Angst was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1919, the son of a waitress and of a stonemason who was active in the union movement.  Much of his childhood was spent in children's homes and hospitals, as he was sickly.

As a teenager Angst worked on farms tending the animals.  Originally hoping to be an artist, he was apprenticed to two cabinet makers and then a furrier.  He became active in a local Socialist youth group, and at seventeen ran away to join the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.  He was apprehended, brought before the Juvenile Board, and placed in a home for delinquent youths which was administered by the State of Zurich; here he was once again apprenticed to a cabinet maker.  He succeeded in obtaining his release from the detention home after one year, and returned to Zurich to an apprenticeship with master cabinetmaker Willi Klink.  He became acquainted with writer and political activist Mira Munkh.

He was drafted into the Swiss Army in 1939, but appendicitis and acute pleurisy forced his discharge and another stay in a sanitarium.  After his release in 1941 he returned to Zurich and worked at a series of menial jobs, including dishwashing, ushering in a movie theater, and general secretarial work.  In 1943 he obtained a job with the Zurich branch of the "Therma" company, and worked in various positions for eight years.

In 1945 he married Inge Mannheimer, a Swiss from Mannheim, Germany.  The couple had two children, Silvia and Gabriella.  Angst became active in his union and frequently spoke at meetings and political rallies.

In 1951 Angst emigrated to the United States with his wife and daughters.  Upon arrival in New York, they were detained on Ellis Island, apparently because of a mix-up in regard to Angst's medical records, and the family was separated.  There Angst made contact with a wide variety of immigrants and refugees.

The family was detained for a week; they were released with the help of Inge's sister Marga, already a resident of Washington, D.C.  The Angst family stayed in Washington.  Angst's limited English precluded employment in an office, so he worked at a series of carpenter and woodworking jobs.  Angst joined the Brotherhood of Joiners and Carpenters, whose practices he criticized sharply.  He settled into a job as a cabinet maker for an antique dealer, where he worked for fifteen years fabricating antiques and small new pieces of furniture.

In 1959 Angst became a citizen, having taken eight years to decide to renounce his Swiss citizenship.

In 1968 Angst obtained a job at the Smithsonian as a specialist in restoration work.  Here he worked at various aspects of object conservation at the Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) and the National Collection of the Fine Arts (now the National Museum of American Art).  Angst is retired.

This collection consists of three letters written by Angst in 1988 to David Sutton, then archivist of the Balch Institute.  The letters were intended to provide supplementary information to autobiographical sketches published by Angst in the June 1988 issue of The Swiss American Historical Society Newsletter.  The letters contain brief commentaries on U.S. immigration policy in the post--World War II period, and some information on Angst's experience in being detained with his family on Ellis Island.  The letters are best read in conjunction with the autobiographical essay in the SAHS Newsletter.  These materials were received from Walter Angst through David Sutton in 1989.


Document, 1958.

1 item

This passport was issued in the township of Lutzelfeld, district of Trachtenwald, Canton of Bern, Switzerland.  In German.


Documents, 1821.

2 items

Hunsicker was born in Oberkulm in the Canton of Aargau in Switzerland and emigrated from Midey, Holland to Philadelphia in 1817.  The collection consists of his declaration of intention to become a United States citizen, signed 13 January 1821, in Berks County, Pennsylvania.  In English.


Historical Materials, 1970-1988 and n.d.

1 folder

This collection is an assemblage of photocopied materials relating to Swiss settlement in Minnesota; the history of New Schwanden, a Swiss-American community; and the genealogy of the Blesi family which settled there.

Included are a brief history in both German and English of New Schwanden written by Wayne C. Blesi, selfappointed historian of the community; a genealogy of the Blesi family together with photocopies of several family documents and a number of family and church photographs; several articles by Blesi on Swiss organizations and customs; and ephemera from Swiss heritage festivals in New Schwanden and nearby Berne.  Also present are photocopies of book excerpts concerning Swiss settlement in Minnesota and of two newspaper articles concerning Blesi and his work on the history of New Schwanden.

Photographs have been removed to Photo Group 281.  The materials were donated by Wayne C. Blesi in 1988.


Papers, 1883-1886.

1 folder

Selma Salathe was a Swiss-German immigrant who came to the United States in 1898.  The Salathe collection is composed of the following: a handwritten collection of bible verses in German, ca. 1883-1884; a contract with the Zwilchenbart Swiss Immigration Society, c. 1886; a health inspection card from the Red Star Line showing the health of the immigrant, 1898; and an undated calling card.  Donated by Jacqueline M. Hughes in 1986.


Records, 1905-1986.

2 folders

The Swiss Benevolent Society was founded in 1855; in 1859 it changed its name to the Swiss Society of New Orleans.  It is one of the oldest Swiss organizations in the United States.  In addition to its benevolent functions, its purpose includes the promotion of social events and the preservation of "typical Swiss customs."

The bulk of the collection dates from 1973 to 1986 and consists of flyers for organization events including meetings, receptions, and picnics.  Also included are a charter and rules and regulations (in German), a 1961 copy of the revised statues of the Society, a society history, a list of burials in the society tomb, and a paper on the Swiss in New Orleans by member John Geiser III.  For related materials see SPC.  This collection was donated by John Geiser III in 1987.