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M-346: Henry Boernstein Collection

Introduction: This collection contains French newspapers and pamphlets collected in Paris by Henry Boernstein before and during the 1848 Revolution.

Dates: February 20, 1848 to September 4, 1848

Collection Scope: This collection contains 440 issues of French newspapers and 71 pamphlets collected in Paris between February and September of 1848.

Access and Use: The newspapers and pamphlets are indexed in two excel files which users may use to view the items by date, title, publisher, etc.


Use Restrictions: Portions of the collection may be photocopied, digitally scanned, or photographed, depending on condition and restrictions.

Access Restrictions: Access to portions of this collection may be restricted depending on condition.  Please direct any questions regarding this collection to the Reading Room at the St. Louis Mercantile Library by contacting 314.516.7247.  In observance of security procedures, certain services may not be available shortly before the daily closing time.

Citation: When citing material from this collection, the preferred citation is: From the Special Collections of the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Biographical Note: Henry, or Heinrich, Boernstein (1805-1892) was the publisher of the Anzeiger des Westens in St. Louis, Missouri, the oldest German newspaper west of the Mississippi River. He was also a political activist, author, soldier, actor and stage manager. He played a major role in keeping Missouri in the Union at the start of the Civil War.

He was born in Hamburg, studied at the university of Lemberg and in Vienna, served in the Austrian army, and made a living in his younger years as a touring actor and theatrical entrepreneur in central Europe. In 1842, Boernstein joined a German opera company in Paris and there became friends with Franz Liszt, Alexandre Dumas Sr. and Giacomo Mayerbeer. He then managed an Italian opera company in Paris before starting a “translation factory” modifying French drama for performance in German.

In 1844 and 1845 he published the radical journal Vorwärts! Pariser Signale aus Kunst, Wissenschaft, Musik und geselligem Leben (Advance! Paris Signals from Art, Science, Music and Social Life), later Vorwärts! Pariser Deutsche Zeitschrift (Advance! Paris German Journal). It became the chief mouthpiece of Karl Marx and other Paris radicals of the time, including Friedrich Engels, Karl Ludwig Bernays, Arnold Ruge, and Henrich Heine. French authorities shut Vorwärts! down early in 1845, expelling or emprisoning most of those associated with the journal. Boernstein remained in Paris writing for various newspapers such as Horace Greeley’s Tribune of New York as well as for German journals in America such as the Deutsche Schnellpost of New York.

At the time of the 1848 revolution, Boernstein lived in Paris and used his position as president of the Société des Democrats Allemands and to help organize a military unit to aid the revolt in Baden, though he eventually withdrew from the movement due to internal disagreements. Throughout the 1848 Revolution Boernstein collected pamphlets and newspapers on the streets of Paris each day until leaving France in January of 1849 when Louis Napoléon was inaugurated as President of the Second Republic.

After moving to the United States, Boernstein was offered the editorship of the German-language newspaper Anzeiger des Westens (Western Reporter) in St. Louis in March of 1850. He soon became its publisher and proprietor. To promote circulation, he published many prominent European novelists and memoirists of the time as serials, and in 1850 he wrote a sensationalist anti-Jesuit novel, Die Geheimnisse von St. Louis (The Mysteries of St. Louis).  Boernstein introduced a sensational journalistic style in his Anzeiger, raising the ire of nativist mobs. The Anzeiger revived the political career of former US Senator Thomas Hart Benton, winning Benton one term in the House of Representatives on behalf of “Benton Democracy.” Boernstein also became an early supporter of the newly founded Republican Party, and he dramatized the fact that John Frémont was not on the ballot in Missouri in 1856 by having his followers vote for the Know-Nothing presidential candidate Millard Fillmore “under protest,” since the nativist position was incidentally in tune with his hostility to Catholicism.

In 1853, he deposited his French newspaper and pamplet collection with the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association (8th Annual Report, page 18)

Boernstein’s freewheeling methods earned him enemies within the German community as well as among English-speakers. In 1857 Die westliche Post was founded as a competitor for support from “progressive” Germans. At the start of the Civil War, Boernstein’s enterprises included a brewery, a hotel, and several saloons. In 1859 he leased the Variétés Theater in St. Louis and launched it as an opera house. It would close down when Boernstein went off to war in 1861.

Boernstein was elected colonel of the Second Missouri Volunteer Regiment (of four regiments). He participated in the arrest of the Missouri State Militia at Camp Jackson on May 10, 1861 and wrote a letter to Lincoln with a description of the subsequent shooting of civilians under riot conditions. Boernstein later commanded the force occupying the state capital at Jefferson City.

Boernstein was then appointed by President Lincoln to serve as US Consul in Bremen, Germany where he remained throughout the Civil War and was only replaced by President Andrew Johnson in 1866. Boernstein stayed in operating a theater in Vienna from 1869 to 1871. He also worked as a photographer. He retired in 1878 to Baden bei Wien to write his memoirs. They were published in the Illinois Staatszeitung of Chicago and as a two volume book in two editions, in 1881 and 1884. A street is named after him in the Strebersdorf district of Vienna. His grave in the Protestant cemetery of Vienna, Matzleinsdorfer Friedhof, was obliterated by authorities in 1941.

Acknowledgements:  Special thanks to Dr. Steven Rowan of the UM-St. Louis history department for his continued interest in and assistance with this collection.