Voyage of the Deutschland: New Maryland Historical Society Exhibit Highlights Tales of WWI Intrigue In Baltimore

Voyage of the Deutschland:
New Maryland Historical Society Exhibit
Highlights Tales of WWI Intrigue In Baltimore

Cross Section of Deutschland
A  cross-section of the Deutschland, MdHS, I2016-2-3
BALTIMORE, August 30, 2016 - Commemorating the centennial of the mysterious arrival of the Deutschland submarine to Baltimore's harbor and the United States' involvement in World War I, The Maryland Historical Society is launching a new exhibition, Voyage of the Deutschland, which opens on Thursday, September 29, 2016. This exhibit examines the remarkable voyage of the Deutschland, a commercial trading vessel that became a vehicle of war, the enthusiastic response from Baltimore's sizable German-American community, and related episodes of espionage, conducted in Baltimore, which wrought havoc on Britain's wartime effort. An opening reception, including a World War I panel discussion featuring historian Dr. Gary Weir and U.S. Naval Academy Professor Nicholas Lambert, and an Oktoberfest celebration will take place on September 29 beginning at 6pm. The exhibit is proudly sponsored by The German Society of Maryland and the Maryland Historical Society Maritime Committee.

About the Exhibition

Crew of Deutschland


Crew of the Deutschland, MdHS, Subject Vertical File
Objects include a model of the Deutschland submarine measuring five and a half feet long, which is said to be the most authentic replica in existence. Also on view are primary source documents and images from The Maryland Historical Society's collection related to Maryland's involvement in World War I - including two German Iron Crosses, original German Maritime uniforms, first edition copies of magazines from the era detailing the Deutschland's arrival and original documentation of the Deutschland's visit, including quarantine documents, a crew listing and photographs.
About the Voyage of the Deutschland
The backstory: On the eve of World War I in 1914, 94,000 Germans lived in Baltimore, and most maintained close cultural ties to their homeland. America initially steered clear of the war, and President Woodrow Wilson gained popularity using a platform to "keep America out." But on June 28, 1914, the assassination of Austria's Archduke Ferdinand became the spark that ignited World War I. By August 6, 1914, Germany and Austria were at war with England, France and Russia. England's massive navy blockaded the Central Powers, including Germany, and put a stranglehold on its economy.
Two years later, in the summer of 1916, the German-built Deutschland circumvented the blockade and embarked on a "merchant submarine" mission to deliver vibrant-hued dyes to Baltimore clothing manufacturers, which were highly sought after. In fact, two Baltimore businessmen, Henry and Paul Hilken of A. Schumacher and Company, achieved a monopoly on German-made dyestuffs, causing the value of these chemicals to skyrocket. They sold 163 tons of the chemicals for an unheard-of $6 million and earned themselves a massive profit.When the Deutschland visited Baltimore in August, 1916, life was still relatively normal for the city's German community. The submarine received a heroes' welcome, and its captain, Paul Lebrecht König, was treated like a celebrity. In fact, Paul Hilken escorted Captain König to some of the city's best restaurants, such as at the Hotel Belvedere and the Germania Club, where he also met Baltimore Mayor James Preston.  
"This was not only a German trade mission, it was a German propaganda mission, that put on show Germany's peaceful trading mission with America, the key world power that continued to remain neutral," says Director of Collections and Interpretation Alexandra Deutsch.
About the Evolution of Deutschland
With its low surface profile and the ability to submerge, the Deutschland could evade Allied warships and continue the import of essential war materiel. But England and France were not pleased with the Deutschland's arrival to Baltimore and considered the boat a warship by virtue of its construction alone. But to the Americans, the fact that the Deutschland possessed no guns was the single fact used to determine her status as a trade vessel. She brought German goods to America and carried home nickel and rubber, both critical to the German war effort.
The Aftermath
When America entered WWI in 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare was declared, and Germany's unarmed merchant submarine program abruptly ended. Deutschland became attack submarine U-155, now outfitted with deck cannon and torpedo tubes. Between May, 1917 and October, 1918 Deutschland/U-155 sank over 30 ships including several American vessels. The November 11, 1918 armistice ended a world war in which over 16 million civilians and soldiers died. Deutschland became a touring war trophy in the British Isles until public interest waned. Ultimately, Deutschland/U-155 met an inglorious end, sold for scrap and souvenirs in the spring of 1922.
Related Intrigues



Hansa Haus, MdHS, 1995-62-058
Not only was Paul Hilken a prominent businessman; some accounts state that he was also a spy. Hilken visited Germany on a business trip earlier in 1916, and it appeared that while there he was recruited by the German secret police to facilitate German sabotage cells in Baltimore, New York and New Orleans. These outfits had focused on bombing loaded cargo ships with small incendiary devices called, "cigars." One such attack was successfully carried out at the Black Tom pier in Jersey City, New Jersey, on July 30, 2016, killing 5 people. Reverberations could be felt as far away as Perryville, MD. It is thought that Hilken played an instrumental part in this attack. His headquarters in Baltimore was Hansa Haus, site of the present day FedEx-Kinko's store at the corner of Charles and Redwood Streets. After the explosion, Hilken fled to Connecticut and was never prosecuted.
About The Maryland Historical Society
Founded in 1844, The Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library occupies an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore. The society's mission is to "collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland's diverse cultural heritage." The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled "Maryland Historical Magazine." Visit