Hermann Raster

Hermann Raster (May 6, 1827 – July 24, 1891) was a German American Forty-Eighter, editor, abolitionist, and Republican political boss best known for his career as chief editor and part-owner of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung between 1867 and 1891 and his term as Collector of Internal Revenue for the 1st District of Illinois.[1][2] He returned to Europe in 1890 when his health began to fail him and died filling the role of American Consul General in Berlin.[3]

Hermann Raster
U.S. Consul General in Berlin
In office
Collector of Internal Revenue for the 1st District of Illinois
In office
December 1869 March 30, 1872
Preceded byEdmund Jüssen
Succeeded bySamuel A. Irvin
Secretary of the State Assembly of Dessau
In office
Personal details
BornMay 6, 1827
Zerbst, Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau
DiedJuly 24, 1891 (aged 64)
Bad Kudowa, Province of Silesia, German Empire
Resting placeGraceland Cemetery
Political partyFree Soil (1851-1854), Republican (1854-1891)
Spouse(s)Emilia Hahn
Margarethe Oppenheim
ChildrenMathilde, Anna, Edwin, Walther
Alma materUniversity of Leipzig, University of Berlin
ProfessionEditor, writer, political boss

Early life

Raster was born in Zerbst, Anhalt-Dessau on May 6, 1827 to a family of aristocrats. His father, statesman Christian Raster was the administrative officer and close friend of the Duke of Anhalt, Leopold IV. Hermann was one of eight children, his siblings in order being Luise, Alexander, Wilhelm, Gustav, (then Hermann) Askan, Wolfgang, and Sophie. Christian insisted young Hermann learned English and had a tutor brought from England to teach him.[4] By the time Hermann was an adult he was fluent in seven languages. He graduated from the University of Leipzig in 1846 and then the University of Berlin in 1848. In 1849 he took a job as the stenographer of the Anhalt Legislature. He was very involved with the German liberal political scene of the late 1840s and in 1848 was named Secretary of the State Assembly of Dessau. In 1851, he was forced to leave Germany or face trial for his actions.[5]

New York

Hermann arrived in New York City in July, 1851 and first found employment as a wood-chopper at a farm near Tioga, Pennsylvania.[6] He left for Buffalo in the spring of 1852, accepting the position of editor for the Buffalo Demokrat. His journalistic reputation grew quickly and in February 1853, Raster was made editor of the New York Abendzeitung, the most influential German-language paper of the time. He had a wife, Emilia Berta Hahn Raster, born in 1836, and a daughter, Mathilde, with her in 1857. While living in New York, he became an active member of the Republican Party. In 1856, he became an elector in the 1856 presidential election. Raster was influential in leading the German-American switch to the Republican Party in 1856, swaying German public opinion via his pro-union, anti-slavery articles in the German press, and promoting the personal liberty cause. He was a very strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln and helped convince the German and European communities to vote Republican. His wife, Emilia, died on October 14, 1861, at the age of 25, of an unknown cause. She is interred at Evergreens Cemetery in New York.[7] During the American Civil War, he was the primary American correspondent for the newspapers in Berlin, Bremen, Vienna, and other Central European cities, and was regarded as more effective in campaigning for the American cause in Germany than any politicians at the time.[8][9] He returned to Germany briefly during the war to drum up support for the Union and find investors for Union bonds.[10] Up until 1867 he was also the Wagonmaster of the United States Custom House in New York City.[11]

Chicago and later life

In 1867, Raster accepted A.C. Hesing's offer for the position as editor for the Illinois Staats-Zeitung in Chicago, a position he kept until his death. Raster was a delegate to the 1868 Republican National Convention, where he was chairman of the platform committee. [12] In 1869, he was appointed the Collector of Internal Revenue for the District of Chicago.[13] During the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Raster lost his home, and the newspaper building and all of its archives and contents were destroyed. Regardless of the extreme loss, the Staats-Zeitung (under Raster's administration) was the first newspaper in Chicago to print the news of the fire, having gathered enough supplies to resume printing less than 48 hours after the catastrophe.[14] In Later the same year, he was re-appointed the position as Collector of Internal Revenue by President Ulysses S. Grant.[15] In 1872, Raster resigned from the position as Collector of Internal Revenue to save more time for the paper and help campaign for Grant in the upcoming election. That same year at the National Republican Convention in Philadelphia inserted the "Raster Resolution" in its platform which greatly opposed the Temperance movement. Raster held so much influence over the German republican community he once threatened to leave the party if Prohibition was not made an issue and the resolution not passed and with him the entire German-American Republican community. During the Haymarket Affair, Raster was trying to delegate the rioters before he left the scene when he realized any hope for the situation was lost. Once the perpetrators were caught he wrote a letter to the Governor, John Peter Altgeld demanding that the prisoners be put to death.

He blamed the recent German "immigrant radicals" for the issues at hand and suggested immigration reforms be made, stating, "Unfortunately it is from the German Reich that these bloody scoundrels, these socialists, communists, and anarchists have come."[16]

Raster was an active member of the Chicago Intelligentsia of the late 19th century, and was on the first 9-member board of the Chicago Public Library in the 1870s.[17] He was also on the Chicago Board of Education for many years, and was on the board of trustees for the Field Museum of Natural History.[18]

Death and legacy

Hermann Raster died on July 24, 1891 in Kudowa-Zdrój, Silesia where he had traveled in June 1890 because of his poor health.[19] His body was brought back to the United States on board the SS Eider of the Norddeutscher Lloyd. On August 12 his funeral services were conducted at the German Press Club in Chicago, and speakers from as far away as New York and New Jersey attended.[20] The hall was decorated with hanging crepes and his casket, made of walnut and "heavily" mounted with silver, was "literally covered in floral emblems sent by various German-American press organizations." The German American Press Club of Philadelphia sent a large anchor, and the German Club of Hoboken, New Jersey gave a laurel wreath wrapped in the colors of the 1848 revolution, which Raster was a part of, that said, "To the German Hero from the German Club." His wife Margarethe refused to leave his casket and "sobbed violently" until the group convinced her to go to her carriage.[21] Honorary pallbearers at his funeral included Mayor Hempstead Washburne and Senator Charles B. Farwell.[22] On his death, the Chicago Tribune produced an article which said, "His writings during and after the Civil War did more to create understanding and appreciation of the American situation in Germany and to float U.S. bonds in Europe than the combined efforts of all the U.S. ministers and consuls."

His daughter Mathilde (1857-unknown) and his third wife Margarethe (1848-1908) and their three children, Anna Sophie Hercz (1874-1936), Edwin Otto Raster (1871-1926) and Walther Berthold Raster (1875-1944) survived him. Edwin was a successful businessman who owned and operated the Raster Carbon Rheostat Company of Chicago.[23] His other son Walther founded the Justrite Manufacturing Company, served on the Chicago Board of Education, and was an inventor with many mechanical patents under his belt. Hermann was interned at Graceland Cemetery on August 13, 1891, where his grave remains today.

In 1891, Raster's family and friends published a novel filled with his travel papers and biography, called "Reisebriefe von Hermann Raster".

Over 3,900 of his papers, correspondence, notes, and manuscripts were donated to the Newberry Library in 1893.[24]

On June 8, 1908 Hermann's wife Margarethe died after falling into shallow water at the North Shore Health Resort in Winnetka. She had been in the resort for nine weeks, as a result of her diagnosed Neurasthenia and Locomotor ataxia. Her attendant, Clare Ott, left her on the pier for a moment to retrieve a shawl from the building and when she returned Mrs. Raster was lying face down in the water, dead. At first, the death was thought to be a possible suicide and in order to prevent a scandal the suburban police were not notified until the attending physician wired Deputy Coroner Adolf Hoffman. Even on the wire, they refused to give the name of the deceased. Once the coroner investigated her death, he declared she died as a result of an attack of dizziness that forced her to fall into the water, from which she could not get up. Her son, Edwin, however, is quoted as having a different opinion, stating, "As a matter of private opinion I think she was not drowned, but died of heart disease. We thought she was getting better, and she was given up until the last day the best of care by the people here."[25]

In 1893 the Hermann Raster School was opened on 6937 Wood St in Chicago and had 200 students. In 1910, the larger Hermann Raster Elementary School was built at 6936 Hermitage Ave,[26] but the school has since changed names and hands, and is now the campus of The Montessori School of Englewood.

Raster's granddaughter Corrine was the wife of Chicago-based industrialist and horticulturist Bruce Krasberg.


  1. "Inventory of the Hermann Raster Papers". The Newberry Library.
  2. Blair, Francis P., John C. Rives, Franklin Rives, and George A. Bailey. The Congressional Globe. 1st ed. Vol. 66. Cambridge: Blair & Rives, 1872. Print. The Congressional Globe.
  3. “The City.” Chicago and Its Resources Twenty Years after, 1871-1891: a Commercial History Showing the Progress and Growth of Two Decades from the Great Fire to the Present Time, by Royal L La Touche, Chicago Times Company, 1892, pp. 30–31.
  4. Raster, Hermann. Reisebriefe von Hermann Raster: mit einer Biographie und einem Bildniss des Verfassers. Berlin: Buchdr. Gutenberg (F. Zillessen), 1891. Print.
  5. Knutson, Larry. "School's Name Honors Raster, Famed Editor." Chicago Tribune 13 May 1965, 2D sec.: 155. Print.
  6. Knutson, Larry. "School's Name Honors Raster, Famed Editor." Chicago Tribune 13 May 1965, 2D sec.: 155. Print.
  7. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949
  8. Illinois Historical Collections
  9. Knutson, Larry. "School's Name Honors Raster, Famed Editor." Chicago Tribune 13 May 1965, 2D sec.: 155. Print.
  10. Schrader, Frederick Franklin. The Germans in the Making of America Boston: Stratford 1924. Haskell House Publishers, 1972.
  11. "The Chicago Collectorship." Chicago Tribune 28 Mar. 1871: 4. Print.
  12. The American-German Review. Vol. 6, Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation, 1939.
  13. Moses, John, and Joseph Kirkland. History of Chicago, Illinois. Munsell & Co., 1895.
  14. Sawislak, Karen. Smoldering City: Chicagoans and the Great Fire, 1871-1874. University of Chicago Press, 1996.
  15. Grant, Ulysses S. The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant: 1873. N.p.: SIU, 1967. Print
  16. Hirsch, Eric L. Urban Revolt: Ethnic Politics in the Nineteenth-century Chicago Labor Movement. N.p.: University of California, 1990. Print.
  17. Moses, John. History of Chicago. 2nd ed., vol. 2, Munsell & Company, 1895.
  18. Seeger, Eugen. Chicago, the Wonder City. Nabu Press, 2010.
  19. Illinois Staats-Zeitung, July 25, 1891
  20. "Hermann Raster's Body Received." Chicago Tribune 11 Aug. 1891: 2. Print.
  21. "Honor Herman Raster." Chicago Tribune 12 Aug. 1891: 2. Print.
  22. Chicago Biographical Pamphlets: John P. Altgeld Memorial at the Garrick Theater, 1907
  23. Western Electrician. Vol. 23, Electrician Publishing Company, 1899.
  24. Knutson, Larry. "School's Name Honors Raster, Famed Editor." Chicago Tribune 13 May 1965, 2D sec.: 155. Print.
  25. "Patient Drowns at Shore of Lake." Chicago Tribune 09 June 1908: 5. Print.
  26. Knutson, Larry. "School's Name Honors Raster, Famed Editor." Chicago Tribune 13 May 1965, 2D sec.: 155. Print.
Preceded by
Edmund Jüssen
Collector of Internal Revenue for the 1st District of Illinois
December 1869 - March 30, 1872
Succeeded by
Samuel A. Irvin
Preceded by
Lorenzo Brentano
Editor in Chief of the Illinois Staats-Zeitung
Succeeded by
Wilhelm Rapp
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