Plain, Fancy and Fancy-Plain: The Pennsylvania Dutch in the 21st Century

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Larkin, Rian


Harris, Alex

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In 1681, William Penn traveled to Europe’s Rhineland-Palatinate and invited Anabaptist and Protestant groups to live and worship freely in Pennsylvania. Over the next century, 111,000 German-speaking men and women sailed to America, many settling in southeastern Pennsylvania. During this period, English-speaking residents began to use the term, “Pennsylvania Dutch” to describe the new settlers who spoke Deitsch or Deutsch (German). Today, the term Pennsylvania Dutch conjures visions of bonnets, beards, suspenders and horse-drawn buggies. However, this imagery only applies to the Old Order Anabaptist sects, which constitute less than half of Pennsylvania’s total PA Dutch population. Therefore, this project will examine and document four Pennsylvania Dutch communities in order to present a more accurate cultural portrait and contextualize the Pennsylvania Dutch populace in the 21st century, from anachronistic traditionalists to groups that have fully integrated into modern society. The project documents the following religious communities: the Old Order Amish, Horning Mennonites, Moravians and Lutherans of southeastern Pennsylvania. Each section includes a historical overview, an interview with a community member and photographs taken on-location. I conclude that church-imposed restrictions and geographical location shaped each group’s distinctive character and impacted how the groups evolved in the modern world. In addition, I identify contemporary issues which may further impact the language, traditions and culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch communities. Finally, I present additional Pennsylvania Dutch groups in southeastern Pennsylvania and argue why further examination is necessary.





Larkin, Rian (2018). Plain, Fancy and Fancy-Plain: The Pennsylvania Dutch in the 21st Century. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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