The Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, a trilingual newspaper, was founded in 1899 by J. A. Proske and W. C. Vogel. The first number of volume one, October 1, 1899, was preceded by a sample issue on September 12. Although most articles were in German, the paper often included stories in English and occasionally a short item in Wendish (Sorbian). The Volksblatt sought to serve the entire German-speaking community and especially the Wends scattered around the state. In the early years Proske also printed a small supplement in Wendish.
Proske, a Wend who immigrated from Lusatia in 1870, edited the paper with the assistance of Vogel, Zikes Panek, Max Tieling, and Gotthilf Rapp. The Volksblatt office was originally located on the Proske farm near Giddings and moved to town in 1901. The entire Proske family was involved in the production, especially daughter Marie, who assisted with the laborious job of hand-setting the type. In 1927 the Volksblatt purchased a Linotype machine, and in 1930 it acquired an electric motor to power the platen press.
The paper was published weekly and circulated by mail. It normally contained eight pages and issued supplements on special occasions. Subscriptions peaked at 1,200 in the 1920s but fell to 400 in 1949. The Volksblatt shop also did custom work and was the printer of the Lutheran synodical newspaper, Der Texas Distriktsbote. It was the only shop in the United States able to print in Wendish, a unique Slavic language that requires the use of special characters in combination with the German Fraktur type.
One of Proske's principal concerns was to maintain the use of the German language, and he published many editorials and poems admonishing the readers to be proud of their heritage. The Volksblatt published local, state, and international news; local and national advertising; and serialized novels, cartoons, and household hints. Correspondence from readers was routinely included. Activities of the Missouri Lutheran Synod in Texas and the history of its mother church, the Wendish church founded in 1854 at Serbin, were given special attention. Many articles were reprinted from synodical publications.
The Volksblatt professed to be independent when it was founded; it became Democratic in later years. The paper addressed all current issues-local, national, and international-and took a strong stand against prohibition. It survived the two world wars, but added a slogan to the masthead in 1918: "This is not a German paper, but an American newspaper in the German language."
In 1938, at the age of eighty-one, Proske retired and sold the paper to Theodore Preusser, who became the editor, and Albert Miertschin, who had been the printer since 1925. Preusser and Miertschin discontinued the Volksblatt in 1949 and merged the subscriptions with their English-language Giddings Star. Today the two main repositories of the rare Volksblatt are the Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Room of the Houston Public Library.