The German Society of Pennsylvania

Founded in 1764, The German Society of Pennsylvania is America’s oldest German organization. Its Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library, housed in a beautiful 19th century reading room, holds one of the largest private collections of German-language books in the U.S. The German American Collection contains a wealth of material documenting all aspects of German American life, beginning with the first settlers in Germantown in 1683. In addition to books, the library houses sizable collections of 19th century Philadelphia German newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets, and manuscripts. The online catalog can be viewed at:  For more information, please visit:  For finding aids to these collections, click here.

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Born in Aurich, county of Vaihingen, in what was then the Kingdom of Wurttemberg, John Ballier trained as a baker. In 1838 he emigrated with his wife to the United States. Upon settling in Philadelphia, he established a bakery. Later he joined the militia as a member of the Washington Light Infantry Company, with which he saw battle in Mexico in 1846-1847. After retiring from the baking business in 1852, Ballier served as Captain of the night-watch in the Philadelphia Mint from 1852 to 1861.

Upon the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Ballier formed the 21st Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers for three months' service, holding the rank of Colonel. When, at the expiration of that term, he was ordered to recruit a regiment for three years' service, he organized the 98th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. Fighting with the 98th in the Battle of Fort Stevens, Washington, D. C., 12 July 1864, he was wounded (for the second time in the war) and was visited afterwards by President Lincoln, who conferred upon him the rank of Brevet Brigadier General.  Ballier returned permanently to Philadelphia in December 1865, and purchased a hotel at 4th Street and Fairmount Avenue. Subsequently he served as Day Inspector of the Philadelphia Custom House, 1866-1867; as City Commissioner, 1867-1870; and as Colonel of the 3rd Regiment of the National Guard of Pennsylvania, from 1869 until his retirement in 1876.  Ballier was a co-founder of the Cannstatter Volksfest-Verein in 1873. He was also a member of the German Hospital of the City of Philadelphia, and the German Society of Pennsylvania.  Digitization:  scrapbook completed.