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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Püttmann, Hermann Wilhelm (1840–1914)

by Leslie Bodi

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Hermann Wilhelm Püttmann is a minor entry in this article

Hermann Püttmann (1811-1874), journalist, writer and editor, was born on 12 August 1811 in Elberfeld, son of Anton Püttmann, merchant, and his wife Helene Maria, née Angermund. He became an apprentice in a commercial firm, then matriculated at the Elberfeld Gymnasium and studied briefly at Freiburg University. He settled in Barmen and married Fanny Maurenbrecher (1813-1893); they had eleven children, born between 1835 and 1852. He became editor of the Barmer Zeitung in 1839 and was active in the artistic life of the Rhine Province, writing art and travel books: Die Düsseldorfer Malerschule (1839); Der Kölner Dom (1842); Kunstschätze und Baudenkmäler am Rhein (1843); and a biography of Chatterton and a translation of his works in two volumes (1840).

Püttmann moved to Köln in 1842 and as editor of the Feuilleton of the Kölner Zeitung he was in close contact with some outstanding German writers. He became involved in radical social movements and was dismissed from his position in November 1844. He migrated to Switzerland, but was expelled from Zürich and settled in Kreuzlingen (Lake Constance). By publishing a number of radical anthologies he came into contact with Marx, Engels and Heine, and became a central figure of revolutionary socialist German literature: Deutsches Bürgerbuch, 2 volumes (1845-1846); Rheinische Jahrbücher zur Gesellschaftlichen Reform, 2 volumes (1845-1846); Prometheus. Organ zur Sozialen Reform (1846); Album. Originalpoesien von G. Weerth, … Freiligrath, Grün, Heine … (1847). Some of these were published uncensored, some immediately banned by the police. Püttmann's own articles as well as some of his volumes of poetry (Tscherkessenlieder, 1841; Dithmarschen-Lieder, 1844; Sociale Gedichte, 1845; Gedichte, 1846) show a merging of elements of revolutionary radicalism, utopian socialism, compassionate sentimentality and German nationalism; this 'True Socialism' was attacked and ridiculed by Marx and Engels in 1846-47.

After the outbreak of the 1848 revolution Püttmann returned to Elberfeld after a short stay in Berlin, but could publish only two issues of his new radical socialist weekly, Der Volksmann (1849). After the defeat of the revolution he probably left Germany for a time but later returned to Elberfeld, where he established a successful art gallery in 1852. To escape political persecution he fled to London where he was Prince Albert's assistant librarian at Buckingham Palace in 1854.

Püttmann arrived at Hobart Town with his family in May 1855, visited Sydney and finally settled in Melbourne. He was soon active in the literary life of the German immigrants by publishing the Sydney-based monthly Deutsche Monatschrift für Australien with J. Kruse in 1859, the weekly Melbourner Deutsche Zeitung in 1859-60 first edited with W. A. Brahe and J. Kruse and then by Püttmann alone, the Australische Monatzeitung in 1860-61 and the weekly Deutsche Zeitung in 1861-62.

Püttmann learned typesetting and his short-lived monthly Australische Monatzeitung für die Colonien und Deutschland in February-July 1862 was printed and published by H. Püttmann & Co. in Fitzroy. After an account of Burke's expedition (Geschichte der Victorianischen Expedition zur Erforschung Australien's unter Burke's Leitung, 1862) he published an anthology of German humorous writings (Demokritos: Bibliothek des Lachenden Weltweisen, 1862) and a Deutsches Liederbuch für Australien (1862) with popular and classical poetry, patriotic, drinking and Masonic songs, mainly intended for the use of the choir of the Melbourne German 'Turnverein' and of other German-Australian associations in which he was very active. A strange mixture of liberalism and German as well as Australian 'patriotism' is also evident in his well-documented Gedenkbuch an den Deutsch-Französischen Krieg, 1870-71 (1871) as well as in Püttmann's Australischer Kalender, published yearly from 1867 till 1894, and continued by his son after Püttmann died on 24 December 1874 at his house in Richmond. Occasional references to Püttmann appear in the works and letters of Droste-Hülshoff, Engels, Heine, Hess, Marx and Weerth. His extensive personal papers and correspondence were lost by flooding of the cellar of his granddaughter's house.

Püttmann was survived by three sons and five daughters. One of his sons, Carl, became a well-known musician in Adelaide. Püttmann's work as a German-Australian public figure, writer and journalist was mainly continued by his eldest son, Hermann Wilhelm (1840-1914), the founder of the Association for German Schools (Deutscher Schulverein) of Victoria. He published volumes of poetry in English (In Lengthening Shadows, 1902) and in German (In der Fremde: Dichtungen, 1907), which also contain translations from English into German and from German and French into English, demonstrating a genuine interest in fostering intercultural relationships. Under the pseudonym 'Wayfarer', he wrote a humorous sketch of Melbourne life in rhymed couplets, Pen and Pencil in Collins Street, 1891. In 1864 he married Annabella Thomson (1843-1910); they had ten children and were survived by several daughters and grandchildren.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Lodewyckx, Die Deutschen in Australien (Stuttgart, 1932)
  • M. Gilson and J. Zubrzycki, The Foreign-Language Press in Australia 1848-1964 (Canberra, 1967)
  • F. Kool and W. Krause (eds), Die Frühen Sozialisten (Olten Freiburg, 1967)
  • M. Vester (ed), Die Frühsozialisten, 1789-1848, vol 2 (Reinbek, 1971)
  • H. W. Püttmann, ‘Zur Erinnerung an Hermann Püttmann’, Püttmann's Australischer Kalender (Melb, 1876).

Citation details

Leslie Bodi, 'Püttmann, Hermann Wilhelm (1840–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 26 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

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