To the editor:
The report on the German Bohemian Heritage Society Picnic (Sept. 9, 2012) needs clarification. I was asked to speak for Dr. Gerhard Sollbach (retired history professor at Dortmund University in Germany) on his further thoughts on why Europeans emigrated to the Midwest in droves in the late 1800's. It was not to grow potatoes.
Potatoes were introduced to Europeans from South America and potatoes slowly became an accepted staple, due to the reluctance of many growers - (they were puzzled in that the edible potato itself would have to be placed in the earth in order to produce more potatoes) - and hundreds of years passed before potatoes became a widespread European food. Eventually the potato became the primary source of high energy food which allowed for ever larger families.
Earlier, due to malnutrition and other causes, families were small. Further, the interitance laws that existed in the 1800's in many areas of Europe, namely, that only the eldest son could inherit property, left the remaining children in want for opportunity and the rich farmlands of our Midwest were the attraction.
In a sense, it was the potato and its superior nutritional quality which extended life spans and thus over-population.