Thomas Zimmerman

Last updated
Thomas C. Zimmerman
Born(1838-01-23)January 23, 1838
Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, United States
Died November 14, 1914(1914-11-14) (aged 76)
Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania
Occupation Writer, translator and newspaper editor

Thomas Cadwallader Zimmerman (January 23, 1838 November 13, 1914) was a Pennsylvania German writer and translator, notable for his translations of English language classics into the Pennsylvania German dialect. He was also the editor of the Reading Times newspaper in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsche), also referred to as the Pennsylvania Germans, are a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants. The word "Dutch" does not refer to the Dutch people or Dutch language, but to the German settlers, known as Deutsch and Deitsch. Most emigrated, in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the Americas from within the Holy Roman Empire, which included areas that were later to become Germany and Switzerland. Over time, the various dialects spoken by these immigrants fused into a unique dialect of German known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania "Dutch".

Pennsylvania German language variety of West Central German

Pennsylvania German is a variety of West Central German spoken by the Old Order Amish, Old Order Mennonites and other descendants of German immigrants in the United States and Canada, closely related to the Palatine dialects. There are possibly more than 300,000 native speakers in the United States and Canada. In Pennsylvania 29.9% of the population currently claim to have German ancestry.

Reading, Pennsylvania City in Pennsylvania, United States

Reading is a city in and the county seat of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States. With a population of 87,575, it is the fifth-largest city in Pennsylvania. Located in the southeastern part of the state, it is the principal city of the Greater Reading Area, and is furthermore included in the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden PA-NJ-DE-MD Combined Statistical Area.


Life and career

Zimmerman was born in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania in the United States in 1838. [1] There he attended public school until he was thirteen years old, and was apprenticed as a printer with the Lebanon Courier. [2] Upon completion of his apprenticeship, he went to Philadelphia to work at the Philadelphia Inquirer . [2] In 1856, he became a journeyman printer with the Berks and Schuylkill Journal. [2] He relocated to Columbia, South Carolina in 1859, and returned to the Reading area at the outset of the American Civil War, [2] where in 1863 he enlisted in Company C of the 42nd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. [3] Although he is sometimes referred to as "Colonel," he saw no active service during the war. [3] On June 11, 1867 he married Tamsie T. Kauffman of Reading. By 1897, he was the president of the Reading Times Publishing Company and editor of the Reading Times newspaper. [1] In 1903, a volume titled Olla Podrida was published of his translations. [1] In 1904, he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. [1] Zimmerman retired from his newspaper career in October, 1908. [4]

Lebanon County, Pennsylvania County in the United States

LebanonCounty is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 133,568. Its county seat is Lebanon. The county was formed from portions of Dauphin and Lancaster counties in 1813, with minor boundary revisions in 1814 and 1821. Lebanon County comprises the Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Harrisburg-York-Lebanon, Pennsylvania Combined Statistical Area. Lebanon is 72 miles northwest of Philadelphia, which is the nearest major city.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Columbia, South Carolina Capital of South Carolina

Columbia is the capital and second largest city of the U.S. state of South Carolina, with a population estimate of 134,309 as of 2016. The city serves as the county seat of Richland County, and a portion of the city extends into neighboring Lexington County. It is the center of the Columbia metropolitan statistical area, which had a population of 767,598 as of the 2010 United States Census, growing to 817,488 by July 1, 2016, according to 2015 U.S. Census estimates. The name Columbia is a poetic term used for the United States, originating from the name of Christopher Columbus.

Zimmerman was quite active in public life. He was trustee of the Board of the State Asylum at Wernersville, director of the Reading Free Public Library, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Superintendents and Trustees of Insane Asylums and vice-president of the Pennsylvania Chautauqua Association. [5] He was one of the founders of the Pennsylvania German Society, and of the Historical Society of Berks County. [3]

Founded in 1869, the Historical Society of Berks County (HSBC) operates the Berks History Center as a museum and library located in Reading, Pennsylvania. The Society's mission, as described on its website, is "to focus attention on the unique local history, the vast material culture, and the diverse cultural heritage of Berks County by preserving, archiving, and promoting this material to instill in our citizens of all ages and ethnic groups an awareness of this growing treasure trove of information. This allows the HSBC to be a major cultural magnet, drawing people to our community."

Zimmerman died in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1914. [1]


Zimmerman specialized in the translation of German poetry into English and of English language classics into the Pennsylvania German dialect, which, during his lifetime, was spoken by a significant percentage of the population in the area where he lived and worked. [6] Because of his association with the Reading Times, in which his translations were regularly published, he was able to reach a large number of readers in the Berks County region.

Berks County, Pennsylvania County in the United States

Berks County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 411,442. The county seat is Reading.

His most notable translations included Clement C. Moores' "Twas the Night Before Christmas", Martin Luther's "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress Is Our God)" and Friedrich Schiller's "Die Glocke" ("Song of the Bell").

Clement Clarke Moore American biblical scholar

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"A Visit from St. Nicholas", more commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who claimed authorship in 1837.

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Martin Luther, was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.


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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Rosenberger, p. 507.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Biography, p. 89.
  3. 1 2 3 Biography, p. 90.
  4. Proceedings, p. 12.
  5. Proceedings, p. 14.
  6. Biography, p. 91.