Sunday, January 8, 2012

Celebrating Sylvester?

Sylvester the Cat, courtesy of

After finishing my last blog post, I started reviewing a newspaper article that I thought might contain a reference to John Adolph Leistiko, a German immigrant from eastern Europe and first husband of my great-great-grandaunt Christine/Justine "Tina" Joseph, but wasn't sure if the Adolph Leistiko it mentioned was him. The article (more like a paragraph in the "Society Notes of the Week" section) was about a fraternity I'd never heard of called the Sons of Hermann, celebrating something called "Sylvester abend". The only Sylvester I know is a cat who says "thufferin' thuccotash." After a little internet research, I found that Sylvester is the German name for New Year's Eve, because that's the night of the feast of Saint Sylvester, a Catholic Pope who died on December 31, 335. Abend turned out to be German for 'evening', so Sylvester abend would be New Year's Eve night. That made sense, as the issue of the paper was dated 5 January 1902. So a German New Year's celebration sounded like a pretty good connection for Adolph Leistiko.
Tina Joseph and Adolph Leistiko
on their wedding day
Then I wanted to know more about the Sons of Hermann. A little internet searching led me to a great newsletter put out by the Indiana German Heritage Society that gives a whole history of the Sons of Hermann, with a detailed background on Hermann himself, a German hero from 2000 years ago who kept the Roman armies out of Europe (or something like that, I haven't finished reading the whole story yet). The Sons of Hermann, according to the IGHS newsletter, was started by some German immigrants in New York as a mutual support group, who chose Hermann as a symbol to unite them. They grew to be a nation-wide fraternity (hence the presence of a lodge in Montana), up until World War I, when membership started declining. Like a lot of other fraternities I've read about, they got into offering insurance, mostly life insurance, to their members.  But it was the German connection that really stood out to me. A German holiday, celebrated by a German fraternity, made up of German immigrants sounded like a really good fit. Not only that, they had a Mannerchoir (or m√§nnerchor, as it probably should have been spelled, meaning a male choir) that sang at the party. Could they get any more German?

Tina and Adolph Leistiko,
with their son Alfred
The only part that still kind of seemed out of place was the actual reference to Adolph. I have two pictures of him - one is from the day of his wedding to Tina, and the other is of the two of them years later with one of their children. In both of them Adolph looks very serious and somber. Contrast these images with the article, which says Adolph and another fraternity member named Charles Burg "sang comic songs." I guess the photographs may not represent his total personality, but I have a hard time picturing someone who can look so serious singing comic songs at a New Year's party. I guess even old Adolph could let his hair down (so to speak).

1 comment:

Gibson Family said...

Yeah, Adolph liked to tweet now and then. Haha