What Wondrous Life
the World of George Husmann
An Interpretive Exhibit

Elizabeth Rozier Gallery
Union Hotel
Jefferson Landing
(1 Jefferson Street)
Jefferson City, Missouri

George Husmann, the "Father of the Missouri Grape Industry," immigrated with his family to Hermann, Missouri in 1838 and with only the education he received in his home village in Germany and in the Hermann Colony became a renowned scientist, educator and writer.

The 16-panel exhibit features historic photographs from the Husmann family collection, the private collection of Husmann biographer Linda Walker Stevens, private collections in Missouri, the collections of the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia, and the University of Missouri Western Historical Manuscripts Collection in Columbia. Artifacts relating to grape and wine culture in Missouri complement the photographic exhibit.

A.E. Schroeder, Professor Emeritus of German Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia, introduced an opening program at the Elizabeth Rozier Gallery in Jefferson City on Sunday, June 9, 2002, at 2 pm. Speakers included Linda Stevens, James Anderson of the Missouri Department of Agriculture Grape and Wine Program, and photographer Oliver Schuchard, who produced the photographs in the exhibit from the original prints. The exhibit travelled to the Missouri State Fair and the Napa Valley Museum in California. The State Historical Society of Missouri currently maintains it (through June 27, 2003), and it will move to the Gasconade Historical Society in October 2003.

The exhibit was sponsored by the Missouri Humanities Council in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the State of Missouri in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Division of State Parks Interpretation Program, and the Missouri State Museum. It will become part of the Missouri State Museum's Travelling Exhibits Program.

For further information, contact Molly O'Donnell, Director, Missouri State Museum, Room B-2 Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

Click here to visit the George Husmann Pavilion at Oak Glenn Winery, Hermann

Biographical note:
(from a brochure produced by the Misosuri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks interpretation Program and the Missouri State Museum; project directors A.E. Schroeder and Linda Walker Stevens)

George Husmann was born on November 4, 1827 in Meyenburg, a village near the North Sea in the Kingdom of Hanover. In 1837 he immigrated with his family to the United States, first to Pennsylvania, where relatives had settled, and then to Missouri. While still in Germany, Husmann's father, Martin, a teacher, had bought shares in the German Settlement Society of Philadelphia, which had been established in 1836 to found a colony in the "Far West" where German immigrants could preserve their language, traditions and values. Widely publicized throughout Germany and North America, the colony, named Hermann, drew many educated immigrants as well as gifted artisans, farmers and tradespeople.

Martin Husmann, with other early settlers, began to  experiment with grape culture in Hermann Colony, and in 1847 George Husmann planted his first vinyard on his father's farm. With only the education he received in Meyenburg and Hermann, Husmann was to become a renowned scientist, writer and educator, known today as the "Father of the Missouri Grape Industry."

After a trip to California during the Gold Rush, Husmann returned to Hermann to take care of his widowed sister's property and soon developed a model fruit farm. He served with the Union during the Civil War and, as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in January 1865, drafted "An Ordinance Abolishing Slavery in Missouri," the first to be enacted in the United States.

In 1866 he published his first book, The Cultivation of Native Grapes and Manufacture of American Wine, and in 1869 he established The American Grape Grower, the only journal on the subject in the United States at that time.

In 1870 he was appointed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and continued to work with grape growers in the state. During the 1870s Husmann and others shipped millions of grape cuttings to France, Germany and other countries devastated by the deadly phylloxera infestation*. Today two monuments still stand in Montpelier France, honoring Husmann and other Missouri grape growers credited with "saving the French wine industry."

In 1879 Hsmann was appointed first Professor of Pomology and Superintendent of Forestry at the University of Missouri, where he established a nursery, orchards, and vinyards where his son and two daughters studied agriculture and horticulture. In 1881 he accepted a position in California and contributed significantly to the development of the state's grape and wine industry.

Husmann died November 5, 1902, the day after his 75th birthday. This exhibit celebrates his life and achievement.

*"Starting in the 1860s, French vineyards were devastated by vine diseases that were probably accidentally imported from America. One of these was phylloxera, a tiny insect which, in one stage of its development, lives in the soil and destroys the vine roots. The Old World vines had no resistance at all. Wine production dropped 75 percent, a catastrophe. George Husmann, then Professor of Agriculture at the University of Missouri, suggested that they graft their vines onto Missouri vines. The wild Missouri vines were totally resistant to phylloxera. It worked. In the late 1880s Missouri exported ten million root stocks and literally saved the French vineyards. Husmann was given the Legion of Honor by the French government. Then, a few amateur viticulturists in France and Germany decided that grafting might not be necessary if they could cross their vines with ours and get what they called 'direct producers'." "In the early 1930s some of the resulting vines were imported. It was discovered that their American blood had given them the winter hardiness needed for eastern and Midwestern winters. So now, in Missouri, a region that has the summer climate and soils equal to the best wine-growing regions in Europe, we now have the vines for good wines. After nearly 100 years the French have unwittingly repaid us."

                                                            --Elbert Pirtle, Pirtle Wineries, Hermann

The directors gratefully acknowledge support from:
the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Chicago;
the Department of German and Russian Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia;
German American Heritage Society of St. Louis;
Max Kade Foundation, Inc., New York,
and the MU Alumni Association

With special thanks to:
James Anderson. Grape and Wine Program, Missouri Department of Agriculture;
Jennifer Arnold, Department of German and Russian Studies;
Terry Loehnig, Hermann;
Chris Montgomery, Stae Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia;
Claudia Powell, Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, University of Missouri-Columbia,
and Kathy Williams, Missouri State Museum.

Back to the Missouri Folklore Society