Family Story

Nineteenth Century White Dress

Map of Braunschweig from English Wikipedia

Discrepancies among historical records in regard to Anna’s name indicate that there was less emphasis on documenting the lives of women in nineteenth-century Germany than there was on documenting men. For instance, on four different birth records for Anna, she is given four different names: Anna Margaretha Davin (, Margrete Davin (FamilySearch), Margarett David (FamilySearch) and Annie Davin ( Perhaps some of these different forms of her name came from different sources. For instance, Annie, a diminutive of Anna, could have been documented by someone close to her who only referred to her by a nickname. Other inconsistencies with her documentation can be attributed to simple human error by census takers or even a lack of diligence by government clerks.

Anna was born in Braunschweig, a northern German center of industrialization that drew many immigrants from neighboring countries. Davin, Anna’s surname, is a name of Irish origin, originally written in Gaelic as O Daimhin, meaning either “an ox” or “a stag” (Robb 87). The origins of her surname as well as her birthplace in an immigrant hub of Germany suggest that Anna’s family might have family roots in Ireland. Religiously, early nineteenth-century Germany was separated geographically with Catholics in the south and Lutherans in the north (“Germany-History”). Regardless of this, it is suspected that Anna’s family practiced Catholicism, most likely due to her Irish Roman Catholic heritage.

Because of the ownership of such a gown, Anna’s family would have been roughly middle to upper-middle class. In Catholic tradition, inheritance was based on a primogeniture system meaning the eldest son receives all of the family’s inheritance. But all of the children-except the girls-would have received the same level of education (“Partible Inheritance”). If Anna’s father was the eldest son then his wealth and ability to afford such an exorbitant dress for Anna fits. This would explain why Anna’s eldest son had the most prosperous and wealthy lifestyle out of all of her children as a merchant. This also explains why he kept Anna’s family heirloom: her white muslin dress.

Regardless of Davin’s chosen faith, there was a strong Lutheran presence in Braunschweig with church officials, from church organists to clergymen, serving in the schools. Due to a 1763 mandate by Frederick the Great of Prussia, all children ages five through fourteen were required to have a public education, a mandate that was still in effect during Anna’s youth (Schulze). This shows that Anna would have had some formal education even as a woman in a male-dominated time period. However, as a woman, Anna would have been considered inferior to men. The “3 K’s ‘Kinder, Kuche, Kirche’” meaning “children, kitchen, church” became prevalent when discussing women and their roles in society (Oergel). This saying essentially put women in their “rightful place” in the home according to nineteenth-century male standards. Men mainly used this argument to combat women’s fight for rights, stating that a woman could not provide for her family if she was not at home to do so. Historically speaking, Anna would have received a more domestic education from her mother-learning how to cook, clean, sew and maintain a proper household. Thus, she would be more apt and prepared to find a husband to support her.


Nineteenth Century White Dress

Map of Minier Illinois from English Wikipedia

In 1840, Anna married Stephen Henry Peine, who was also from Braunschweig, but whose family had originated in England ( Together the couple had four children: Henry Adam (1844-1917), Hettie (1850-?), Stephen Phillip (1853-1926) and George Edward (1857-1941). Their eldest child, Henry, was born while the family was still in Germany, but shortly after his second birthday in 1846, the family immigrated to the United States settling in Minier, Tazewell, Illinois where the other three children were born ( Minier is a small farming village located in north-central Illinois founded by a minister named George Washington Minier in October 1867 (Graber 3).

Most German immigrants travelled through Holland to the French port of Le Havre in order to board a ship across the Atlantic (Huber). From 1830-1880 Germans made up almost 25 percent of the immigrants traveling to America (“Germany-History”). The motivation for most Germans was economic. The early industrialization of the late 1830s caused a structural crisis of urban trades. Bad harvests led to poor sales and insufficient funds for farmers, thus they were forced to look elsewhere for employment and monetary opportunities, which the United States readily provided. Once in America, immigrants were employed mainly as skilled laborers and farmers.

 According to a 1850s census, Stephen was documented as a working farmer in Minier (“United States Census, 1850”). Though he probably had not worked as a farmer in Germany, farming provided one of the most available job sources in Illinois at this time, so Stephen would have had to adapt to provide for his wife and children. As a farmer, Stephen would have been considered middle class, not among the wealthiest of men, but also not destitute as some unfortunate immigrants became. Both Stephen Phillip and George were farmers alongside their father. Henry, however, became a successful merchant and his brothers did the same years later ( Henry worked as the manager of a dry goods store known as “Old Reliable” while in Minier, which was sold to his brother George in 1882. After retiring in 1903, Henry passed down management to his son William W. Peine (Graber 12). This choice of employment allowed Henry to elevate his branch of the family’s economic status, provide for his family of six children, and send them off for formal higher education.

Peine Legacy at Kansas State University


Nineteenth Century White Dress

Peine Gate on the corner of 17th St. and Anderson Ave at Kansas State University

While records of Anna are vague at best, the records for Anna’s children and grandchildren are rich in detail and illuminate their influence on society, most specifically in the educational realm. In 1915, Arthur Frederick Peine (Anna’s grandson) moved his branch of the family to Manhattan, Kansas, thus beginning a lasting legacy of the Peine family at Kansas State University (Reagan). Arthur Frederick became an active member within educated society when he became a professor of History at Kansas State College in 1916 until 1926 and then became the first director of the Endowment Association from 1953 to 1956 (Reagan). In his lifetime, Peine was a supporter of the arts as well as the general city of Manhattan. He was active in many organizations, including, but not limited to, the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Riley County Roll Call, Community Chest, Kansas Poultry Institute, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Reagan). The Peine family has given generously to the city of Manhattan and Kansas State University. Not only did they donate their family’s heirlooms, such as Anna’s dress, to the Historic Costume and Textile Museum, but they also donated funds to the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art and Danforth Chapel.

Arthur’s daughter, Caroline Frances Peine, also became a household name at Kansas State. Caroline helped create the Caroline Peine Charitable Foundation: The Manhattan Fund to “improve the quality of life in the City of Manhattan, Kansas, to benefit the KONZA Prairie and to provide for recreational development in the town of Keats, Kansas” (“Manhattan Fund”). Arthur’s son, Perry C. Peine, the biosecurity chair for Kansas State, and Caroline donated the Peine Gate to Kansas State University in honor of their family on November 8, 2002. This gate marks the southwest entrance to campus on the corner of 17th Street and Anderson Avenue and bears the words “Kansas State University, Founded 1863.” This gate has become a staple photo spot for graduating seniors in their cap and gowns. The influence of the Peine family is all over the Kansas State campus whether students realize it or not, quietly memorializing Anna and Stephen’s legacy.

From humble German beginnings, the Peine family became one of the most influential families in Eastern Kansas. The tale of one family making its journey to the United States has an impact that expands far beyond the campus of Kansas State University. From the history of Anna Davin Peine, and the donations made by her family, a reverence for documenting the past is made apparent. Through the donation of their family heirlooms, there is an indication of the Peine’s dedication to, not only documenting their own family history, but also the history of Kansas. Through the preservation of this dress, a better understanding is created of the type of people who make up what is considered the “everyday” American. 

Family Story