Germany had been trying to rid its territories of Gypsies since their arrival there in the early 15th century (Hancock, 1980a), and found a convenient dumping ground in their colony in Pennsylvania. Shoemaker (1926) wrote of the havoc caused by the Thirty Years War which devastated the Rhineland, and which resulted in a wave of Palatine migration: individuals who 'sold' themselves to redemptioners for the price of their fare to America. "This species of servitude, and the selling of emigrants for their passage had not a few of the features about it, of involuntary chattel slavery, and it was characterized at the time as the'German slave trade"' (Beidelman, 1894:584, and discussed in detail in Mühlenberg, 1741). Wright (1927:212) refers to their also being brought to Pennsylvania by Dutch slave traders, possibly a misinterpretation of Shoemaker, op. cit., upon whose work his own essay was based. Shoemaker indicated that numbers of Gypsies from Germany were indentured and shipped out during this same period, although they were not allowed to obtain passports, which would presumably have given them the legal means to return to Europe - a tactic most recently employed by the Polish government in 1981 (Michalewicz, 1982:7).
In the same article, Shoemaker described the circumstances of an attempted passage to America:
On a number of occasions Gipsy bands endeavored to charter whole ships at Rotterdam, but as they were watched with the same argus-eyed authority as are bootleggers today, their efforts were always at the last minute frustrated. It is related that one ship, the 'Stein-Awdler', giving it its Pennsylvania Dutch pronunciation, got away under cover of darkness, but during an unfavorable tide, it still lay in the harbor at daybreak, when the papers were scrutinized and declared invalid by the port authorities. Several boat loads of port wardens went in pursuit, but the boats were not to carry the unfortunate Chi-kener back to dry land, but to order them off the ship - they were driven overboard, men, women and children, like a plague of rats, and had to jump out in the mud up to their waists, and get ashore as best they could, leaving their possessions behind, which were seized as a fine levied against them as a body. On shore, the mud-saturated refugees were attacked by a mob armed with boat hooks and soundly beaten, and probably quite a few died of their wounds and exposure afterwards (1924:4-5).
He also said that of those "hundreds of Romanies" who were able to sell themselves in return for passage, "most of the Chi-kener families were broken up ... as some were dumped on the inhospitable New England coast, others in New Jersey and still others in the Far South, instead of at the ports along the Delaware" (1925:4).
A letter published in the National Gazette on May 19th, 1834, tells of the indiscriminate flogging of Gypsies, called "Yansers," in neighboring New York state, apparently as a means of sport for whoever could afford it:
There is yet another tribe, at or near Schenectady, called Yansers, although their patriarchal name is Kaiser. A gentleman appointed some years ago to some town office there, states that he found a charge of four pound ten shillings for whipping Yansers; the amount, being small, was allowed. A similar charge being brought the next year, he asked what in the name of goodness it meant? Behold, it was for chastizing Gypsies whenever occasion presented, which was done with impunity and for some profit ... it is supposed by the best informed of my neighbors, that they came over with the early settlers in the German Valley ... they are everywhere manufacturers of baskets, brooms and other wooden wares.
Legislation against Gypsies in this part of the country dates from at least this time, and continues sporadically to be enforced. In 1976 "a band of gypsies ... was arrested on entering Washington County from neighboring Pennsylvania. Since one of the gypsies was suspected of stealing 'a few hundred dollars' from a Pennsylvania gas station, all the band's property was confiscated and sold" (Logan, 1976), even though the charge was never proved.
[Illustration with caption]
Public notice dated November 22nd, 1726, stating that any Gypsies coming into the Lordship of Overyssel (in northern Holland) would be put to death