Posted by & filed under Grants, National Digital Newspaper Program, Texas Digital Newspaper Program.

Freie Presse fur TexasThis month we are highlighting another newspaper title digitized by the UNT Libraries’ Digital Newspaper Unit for Chronicling America, the Library of Congress’s repository of historic American newspapers. The UNT Libraries have received National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to work with the Library of Congress in building access to historic Texas newspapers. The 2016-2018 award cycle focused on non-English newspaper content. Freie Presse für Texas is also available on the Portal to Texas History as part of the Texas Digital Newspaper Program.

This essay was prepared by our Digital Newspaper Unit student assistant and recent UNT graduate, Tanya Spence, and Sarah Lynn Fisher, project coordinator for the NDNP Texas grant.

On July 15, 1865, August Siemering and Company published the first issue of Freie Presse für Texas in San Antonio, Texas. The company also founded the long-running English-language paper The San Antonio Express that same year. In 1851 Siemering emigrated from Germany and settled with roughly 100 other supporters of recent European revolutions in Sisterdale, Kendall County, Texas, where he was also involved in teaching and antislavery activism in addition to journalism (Gold 2016). The immigrants who settled in Sisterdale, known as Forty-Eighters, shared liberal political views, including support of abolition (Lich 2019). These principles were reflected in the Freie Presse’s reporting and editorials. The Freie Presse became a leading Republican paper in the Democratic South, endorsing Ulysses S. Grant for president in 1868. Along with advertisements for local San Antonio businesses, the paper covered a wide range of topics that increased its prominence and circulation, including national news, immigration concerns, and serializations of German novels and magazines. With issues printed almost entirely in German, the Freie Presse served the increasing number of German speakers in south Texas, especially San Antonio, after the Civil War (Donecker 2016).

Throughout its run, the newspaper was issued weekly, semi-weekly, tri-weekly and daily. While owned by Siemering and Company, the five-column, four-page tri-weekly paper sold for $7 per year, while the eight-page weekly paper sold for $3 with a peak circulation of 2,250 and 600, respectively, in 1876. In 1877, the Siemering sold the Express and ownership transferred to H. Schultz and Company. Seven years later, editor Robert Hanschke began managing the publishing company. In N. W. Ayer and Son’s 1893-1894 Newspaper Annual, Hanschke’s company campaigned for advertising space, claiming the Freie Presse to be “undoubtedly the largest circulation of all the German papers in the State and the best advertising medium.” In 1900, Hanschke became the President of the Texas Free Press Publishing Company and continued both the four-page daily and 16-page weekly editions of the newspaper. After a two-year suspension of publication, the daily edition was reinstated in 1916 at a cost of $6 per year. The newspaper claimed to be politically independent.

Robert G. Penniger, former cofounder of the Fredericksburg Publishing Company, bought the Texas Free Press Publishing Company in 1920 and merged the Freie Presse with the Lavaca County Nachrichten in December 1926 and the La Grange Deutsche Zeitung in June 1927 (Kohout 2019). Penniger edited the paper until his death in 1930, at which point editorial duties shifted to Gotthelf Frederick Neuhause. Due to anti-German sentiments during World War II, many German newspapers in Texas suspended publication. After a run of eighty years, the final issue of the Freie Presse was published on October 28, 1945 (Daughters of the Republic of Texas 2008).

For more information about the National Digital Newspaper Program, you can visit the NEH NDNP page.

logo_neh.48c59a21b35f logo_chron_top.701cd5eb0000 logo-loc.751b55e718c2



Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo. (2008, October 31). Germans in San Antonio: Freie Presse fur Texas. Retrieved from

Gold, E. (2016, May 6). SIEMERING, AUGUST. In Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved from

Lich, G. E. (2019, October 15). FORTY-EIGHTERS. In Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved from

Doecker, F. (2016, April 18). SAN ANTONIO FREIE PRESSE FUR TEXAS. In Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved from

Kohout, M. D. (2019, May 4). PENNIGER, ROBERT G. In Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved from


Posted by & filed under General, Texas Digital Newspaper Program.

The Digital Newspaper Unit’s own Sara McNiel worked hard all week to complete this blog post for you. Please enjoy!


After getting to see some famous faces, you start to like this new circus and grow even more eager to see what else it holds. You and your brothers navigate your way through the circus grounds, taking in every smell of the circus food and popcorn, every sound from the unfamiliar people laughing and cheering, and every sight of a new beautiful circus tent everywhere you turn. You might as well enjoy these exciting sights and adventures while you find your way back through the circus. What do you do?

  1. Decide to watch a mystery unfold?
  2. Watch a very special ballet?
  3. Go see the Queen of the ‘Hight’ Wire?




Choice 1 – Watch a mystery unfold

While you and your brothers head towards the animal exhibits, hoping to see some beautiful elephants, you notice that there are far fewer elephants than the newspapers said there should be. Next to the giant empty cages where the elephants would have been, you see a group of reporters, policemen, and detectives. What on earth is going on? Without drawing any attention to yourself, you inch closer to them, hoping to eavesdrop on their conversation. “The elephant murderer is on the loose. He’s already killed 10 elephants, who knows what he’ll do next,” you heard one of the detectives say. “We need to look for clues to find out who this guy is and catch him.” You run back to your brothers to fill them in on what you just overheard, telling them it’s exactly like what you’d heard happened in Atlanta. Intrigued by this mystery, you and your brothers decide to search the circus and catch him yourself. How cool would it be if you were able to find this mysterious elephant murderer and save the day?










Choice 2 – Watch a very special ballet!

As you and your brothers continue to walk through the circus searching for new attractions, you stumble across a giant poster posted on one of the circus tents. ‘Come see the magical performance, The Ballet of the Elephants!’ the poster read. Elephants performing ballet? You’ve never heard of such a thing! After convincing your brothers that this will be the only chance you have to see such unique and talented elephants, you all run inside the tent and wait for the show to start. A spotlight from above finally shines on the stage in the middle of the tent, revealing a large orchestra. You feel a little silly as you realize that the elephant ballet by George Balanchine doesn’t really have any elephants attired in pink tutus, and you silently try to figure out how to explain this to your brothers after the show ends.













Choice 3 – See the Queen of the ‘Hight’ Wire!


A tall green circus tent reaches high up into the blue sky above, towering over everything else in the circus. What could possibly be so tall that it requires a tent of such unbelievable height? You lead your brothers into this mysterious emerald green tent, not sure what to expect. Inside there seems to be nothing but a crowd of people oohing and aahing, all looking up towards the top of the tent. “It’s the Queen of the Hight Wire!” you hear someone in the crowd shout. When you look up to see what the commotion is about, you see a thin wire tied against two towering poles, stretching across the tent. On the wire balances a woman, dressed in a shiny green leotard, the same emerald shade as the tent. You watch in amazement as she balances, one foot in front of the other, making her way across the wire. Right as she reaches the end of the wire, she lifts up one foot and rises to her tippy-toes on the other. Spinning around on the wire, she puts her other foot back down and begins to walk back on the wire the other direction. With nothing to keep her from falling, you and your brothers are shocked to see someone so brave and talented to balance on such a high wire. “Wow,” you say out loud. “She really is the Queen of the Hight Wire.”






Posted by & filed under General, Texas Digital Newspaper Program.

Sara McNiel continues the story this week by taking our protagonists to even more places than they could have ever imagined. We hope you enjoy this story.

You’ve had the time of your life exploring the circus, and you just can’t stop seeing more. As you wander, you glimpse pointed red and yellow cloth, sticking up from the midst of the crowd. You approach and realize there stands an enormous tent, bigger than anything you’ve ever imagined possible. You’d heard about it from people in town–This is the largest circus tent ever brought to Texas, and you are about to discover what lies inside!

As you and your brothers enter, a door to a giant room catches your eye. There has to be something special in this room, and that must be why the tent is so big, you think. After carefully turning the doorknob and walking inside, a huge room, walls covered in blinking, multi-hued lights and inset buttons, awaits you. Suddenly the door slams shut behind you, and everything start spinning. You and your brothers to fall to the ground. Once you’re finally able to catch your balance, you run back out the door. But when you and your brothers walk back outside, you realize this was not the same circus you were just visiting. What on earth will you do now?

  1. Go back inside the tent to try to find your way back to where you came from
  2. Try to see what the other tents around you might hold
  3. Walk through the crowd to determine if anyone else is as confused as you are





Choice 1–You and your brothers go back inside the tent to try to find your way back to where you came from.

You and your brothers go back into the circus tent, but you realize this isn’t even the same tent you were just in. You notice a tiny glass room that looks only big enough for a small child. A sign pointing to the room reads, ‘Admiral Dot: The Famous Tiny Man’. This catches you in disbelief, and you must go investigate to see if it’s true. As you approach the glass room, you look in to find that there truly is, in fact a grown man standing only 48 inches tall. After seeing this man, you realize that anything is possible.










Choice 2–You and your brothers try to see what the other tents around you might hold, hoping you might find another way back to what you remember.

“Come one, come all! See Chang, the famous, the glorious, the amazing, tallest man in the world,” shouted a man standing next to another tent, this one large and striped in white. You and your brothers glance at each other and without another word start running into the tent, tacitly agreeing you must meet this man! Once you finally make it through the line to enter the tent, the largest man you’ve ever seen towers over everyone. He is draped in a long red robe, accented with golden thread. He is over 8 feet tall, and looks down to smile right at you as you approach. You feel a pang of guilt because Mama couldn’t join you. She’d have loved to meet this huge man with the gentle smile!












Choice 3–You and your brothers walk through the crowd to determine if anyone else is as confused as you are.


After stepping out of the tent, you and your brothers try to take in what’s different about the sights and sounds. While your brother chatters about what he sees, a stir and then a hush descend on the crowd as two people pass through.
“They’re really here! How can this be?”

They are dressed in far grander fashion than you and your brothers have ever seen before. The crushed velvet cloth on the girl’s dress is a rich purple color, lined with gold and silver thread, and the man’s suit is made from a silk so fine and shiny that it reflects light in seeming defiance of the sun’s glory. The pair pass you in their stately procession, and you cannot figure out how you wound up in the same place where these two grand people are visiting. Someone whispers to you, “It’s the Prince and Princess of Wales!”

Posted by & filed under Featured, Texas Digital Newspaper Program.

This week’s story was prepared by Sara McNiel, another undergraduate student assistant in the Digital Newspaper Unit. Sara studies Journalism at the Mayborn School of Journalism here at UNT, and she is minoring in Psychology. Sara will graduate in December of this year.
You’ve already seen a lot, even though you’ve only been at the circus for a short while. Now, with the sun peeking out from the clouds, the day becomes warmer, giving you an extra boost of energy. Despite everything that’s happened already, you still feel the possibilities for fun are boundless, as you and your brothers are surrounded by interesting sights, talented performers, and a plethora of exotic animals. How would you like to continue your adventure at the circus?

  1. Tour the sights!
  2. Watch a show under the big top!
  3. Wander around to see what you can see!






Choice 1–Tour the sights!


While walking through the crowds, you notice from a distance that the circus has its very own train! You and your brothers run up to it to get a closer look, but by the time you got there the train had gotten into a wreck. Everyone worries about how they’re going to get the cars back on the track, when suddenly an elephant walks up. With a little help from an elephant trainer, the elephant used its strong trunk to save the day and lift the cars back on the track. You all marvel at how such big creatures can be so kind and helpful.










Choice 2–Watch a show under the big top!


You and your brothers sit among the crowd waiting for the show to start. Suddenly, the lights start to dim and a spotlight is pointed up at a person standing on a tall ladder, towering over the crowd below. She grabs a swinging bar in front of her, and leaps into the air. While flying across the stage she flips herself around grabbing onto another swinging bar. But as she attempts to continue flipping through the air, her fingers slip on the bar and she misses! You remember what you’d read about back in the spring and warn your brothers, “THIS is why we don’t try trapeze at home!”












Choice 3–Wander around to see what you can see!

While you walk through the busy circus grounds, you notice that there seems to be a close gathering of people ahead. Not sure if something bad has happened or if there’s a new exciting attraction, you and your brothers decide to check it out. As you get closer, you see that the people were gathering around to watch a fight break out between some circus men and citizens. During the rush of all of this chaos, the lioness managed to escape. You and your brothers watch as the lioness runs away freely. This lioness will be difficult to catch, but hopefully she won’t be able to make her way into town! You tightly hold your brothers’ arms, despite Mark’s whining and Jed’s fidgeting.

Posted by & filed under Featured, Texas Digital Newspaper Program.

Calaine Maulden, a student assistant in the Digital Newspaper Unit, continues the story from last week. Last week, our protagonists had to decide whether to talk their parents into allowing them to go, or whether they should just sneak away. This week, Cal lets us find out what happens at . . .the Big Circus!

AT LAST, you’ve made it to Barnum’s Circus, your brothers in tow. The circus is amazing, representing an overwhelming influx of sights and smells. There’s so much to see, from the animals to the carnies–even the audience is a fascinating sight.

Where will you go, now that you’re finally here?

  1. Visit the giant who used to be a slave.
  2. Go see the animals.
  3. Watch the crowd.




Choice 1 – Visit the giant who used to be a slave

As you and your brothers traverse the extra-ordinary, one thing stands out, or rather, stands over. A giant–a literal giant!–is towering above a crowd around him. He is lifting logs taller than most people over his head and spinning in circles. Your brothers rush off to join the crowd, and it takes all your effort to try and keep track of them.

This is going to be a difficult trip.










Choice 2 – Go see the animals

Mark grabs Jed’s and your hands and yanks you both toward the animal cages. He bubbles with enthusiasm about seeing animals he’ll likely never see again. He decides to climb the cage. You and Jed try to stop him, but he’s on top of the cage in no time. You watch in horror and feel time slow around you as he sticks his hand into the cage. The lion notices, and suddenly Mark is short two fingers.

This will be hard to explain to Mama.













Choice 3 – Watch the crowd

You spend your time watching the crowd. The people are almost as colorful as the attractions. You people-watch as your brothers drag you around and chatter gleefully about the circus. Then you notice a shop with a dim light on inside. As you stare into the shop, you see someone with their face covered walking out the back with cash wadded in their hands. You’re fairly certain you’ve just witnessed a robbery, just like the one you’d read about from Mineola!

This is going to be a difficult situation.