• Tourist Information
Tourismus Zentrale Saarland GmbH
Franz Josef Röder Straße 9
66119 Saarbrücken

Pho: +49 6 81/9 27 20-0
Fax: +49 6 81/9 27 20-40

  • Early Industrialization, Migrant Workers and Changing Territories
Aside from the city-states of Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin, Saarland is Germany's smallest state. Saarland, takes its name from the River Saar, which separates this state from neighboring France and Luxembourg. Saarland has always been at the crossroads of European history. The national status of the state has changed no less than eight times within the past 200 years. Some early medieval  territories, such as the Duchies of Palatinate-Zweibrücken and Lorraine, the Electorate of Trier and the Earldom of Nassau Saarbrücken are still represented in its coat of arms. Following the French Revolution, local rulers were expelled and the area was annexed by France. After the Congress of Vienna, Saarland came under Prussian and Bavarian rule. The Grand Duchy of Oldenburg also held a small land-claim in Saarland. Only after the turbulent 19th and 20th century struggles between France and the German Empire had subsided, did Saarland finally become part of the newly formed German Republic in January of 1957.  The French Franc was, however, still an accepted currency in Saarland as late as 1959. 

The ongoing changes in its territorial status make it quite complicated for researchers to keep track of the documentation of emigrants from this region. As a basic rule, most of the Saarland emigrants left the country as subjects of the Kingdom of Prussia or Bavaria.  Regardless of any historic specifications, the area is prominently referred to as part of the Palatinate, i.e. in the case of the Dukedom of Zweibrücken. The French Royal Deux Ponts regiment that fought in the American Revolution on American side was recruited from this Duchy. Saarland and Palatinate soldiers, furthermore, were influential in the capitulation of British forces at Yorktown. 

The history and culture of Saarland have always been influenced by its coal mines and its iron and steel industries. Early industrialization, from the 1840's onwards, attracted many poor farmers from surrounding areas. Many of these people would be considered today as migrant workers. Some of them had to walk up to 15 miles from their hometowns to the industrial sites where they were employed. They soon became known as "Hartfüßler" or literally, those with hardened feet. Seasonal migration happened to be a part of their daily lives, before many of them made their final decision to go to America. Between 1840 and 1850, 7,500 emigrants left the rural areas around Merzig, St. Wendel and Saarlouis.

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Soldier of the Royal Deux Ponts Regiment