Peter C. Merrill: German-American Fiction in Rudolf Lexow’s “New-Yorker Criminal-Zeitung”

Einleitung: Rudolf Lexow (1829-1909), a German immigrant journalist in New-York, was the founder and first editor of a weekly periodical which began publication in 1852 as the New-Yorker Criminal-Zeitung. With the issue of March 18, 1853 the magazine appeared under the title Belletristisches Journal und New-Yorker Criminal- Zeitung. Several later changes of title reflect the evolution of Lexow\s weekly from a magazine reporting on local criminal cases into what ultimately became a literary journal. The words Criminal-Zeitung were not, however, dropped from the title until 1864.

The magazine Lexow founded managed to last from 1852 to 1911, though Lexow retired from its management in 1881. During the period when he served as editor, Lexow was also one of the magazine’s most important contributors of both fiction and nonfiction pieces. In 1864 he acquired another magazine, Deutschamerikanische Monatshefte, which also promoted the publication of literary works by German immigrant authors. The last years of Lexow’s life were spent as a leader of the German-American community in Brooklyn. His Belletristisches Journal outlived him by two years.

I bis article will focus attention on the early years of the Criminal-Zeitung, the period from 1852 to 1859. The choice of dates was governed in part by what early issues of the magazine were available for study and it is felt that the survey begun here might be profitably extended to cover later issues. Although the content of the magazine will be characterized in a general way, particular attention will be devoted to what the magazine had to offer its readers in the way of prose fiction by German immigrant authors. Some of the works which will be discussed have been totally forgotten for more than a century, mainly because scholars interested in nineteenth-century German- American fiction have tended to base their investigations on works published in book form. One conclusion of the present study, however, is that some of these books can now be seen to have originally been published as serial novels in periodicals. By sifting through the contents of nineteenth-century literary periodicals, it is today becoming possible to see a number of German-American authors in a new light.2 Several other authors will come to our attention in the course of this article, but it is Rudolf Lexow himself who provides the most compelling example. …

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