Mixology Monday Pennsylvania Dutch

This week I am sharing another color that Kim Cushing challenged some of the California CeCe Caldwell’s Paints Retailers and myself with last month. My appreciation and thanks goes out to Kim for creating the colors and to the Retailers for naming them.   That makes my job much easier; I just have to come up with content for the blog. This week’s color is sure to please those of you who like Haint Blue. It may be just a little deep to be considered a light blue, but is definitely in the Haint color family.

Photo Credit: http://www.welcome-to-lancaster-county.com


I started doing my research on “Pennsylvania Dutch” knowing only that the “Dutch” were actually Germans. I thought it was a play on the word Duetsch.   When I Googled “Pennsylvania Dutch” I was surprised to see the image of a recipe booklet, with that name, appear on the landing page. The booklet is one I have had in my collection for decades.


The most interesting thing I discovered is that there is a unique “Pennsylvania Dutch” language. I had believed it primarily referred to an area in Pennsylvania that was settled by German immigrants. While that is partially true, there is much more encompassed when one speaks of “Pennsylvania Dutch”.

So, what is “Pennsylvania Dutch”? After my due diligence on the matter I think it is a blend of three different segments: language, heritage and region.

For about 100 years, from the late 17th century till the late 18th century a group of German-speaking immigrants settled in Pennsylvania. The settling group was comprised of people from what today is southwestern Germany and Switzerland as well as some French Huguenots and inhabitants of the Alsatian areas. Just as the United States has strong dialects dispersed across its borders which varies drastically from other English speaking areas, the same was true of those coming from the various immigrants from Germanic speaking regions of Europe. (I experience the consequences of such often having a ‘southern drawl’ while living in Arizona.) The language spoken by the descendants of the settlers is a unique blend of various Germanic dialects; many of today’s scholars no longer refer to it as Pennsylvania Dutch but as Pennsylvania German to properly convey its actual heritage.

Well, if it is really Pennsylvania German, why on earth do we call it “Pennsylvania Dutch”? While it is widely believed that the “Dutch” is a mistranslated form of the word Deitsch or Deutsch, this is not correct. (What… I was wrong?)   It seems in the early forms of English, both American and English, both words: “German” and “Dutch” could refer to people who spoke what is today known only as German! (Yes, I was wrong. Was I in good company?) It seems Dutch was the less formal of the two words. The new inhabitants of the rural areas Pennsylvania were of a modest social structure. When speaking English, they would refer to themselves as “Dutch” instead of German. The Pennsylvania Dutch maintained numerous religious affiliations, with the greatest number being Lutheran or Reformed, as well as Anabaptists. The Anabaptist religions promoted a simple lifestyle and their adherents were known as Plain people or Plain Dutch. This contrasted the culture of the Fancy Dutch, who assimilated more easily into the American mainstream. They wanted to be recognized as a different segment from earlier settlers and immigrants coming to America from more northern regions of Germany. This blended culture came to view themselves as a distinctly dissimilar group to those known as the Deitschlenner (“European Germans’ and the “American Germans”). History now presents them as the “Pennsylvania Dutch”. I think they would be pleased that they secured a separate (and better known?) place in history.

Their language or dialect has a primary basis in the Palatinate (Voerderpfhaltz) region of Germany with a dash of English tossed in to round it out. The dialect’s core-structure (both sound-systems and grammar) was found in the area south/south-west of Mannheim (southeast) Germany. Interestingly, the word “Deitsch” in the Pennsylvania Dutch language is translated as “German” or “Pennsylvania Dutch”. Over time, the various dialects spoken by these immigrants fused into a unique language known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania “Dutch” (Deutsch). At one time, more than one-third of Pennsylvania’s population spoke this language, which also had an effect on the local dialect of English.

PA Dutch Furniture Style

Antique Chest Painted in the Typical Style of the PA Dutch

The “Pennsylvania Dutch” (Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch] settled into the current day Pennsylvania counties of Chester, Lancaster, York, Adams, Franklin, Dauphin, Lebanon, Berks, Montgomery, Bucks, Northampton, Lehigh, Schuylkill, Snyder, Union, Juniata, Mifflin, Huntingdon, Northumberland, and Centre as well as Washington, Garrett and Frederick counties in Maryland. The area was almost entirely rural and agricultural, based on the immigrants’ dream of bettering their selves through the ownership of their own farms. The area had rich and fertile soil similar to what they had farmed in Europe. The non-farming residents included the tradesmen necessary to a rural economy, such as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, millers, and storekeepers. The Pennsylvania Dutch comprised nearly half the population of Pennsylvania at one time.

Pennsylvania Dutch: 1 part Thomasville Teal : 1 part Johnston Daffodil