Pieces of Our Past
March 31, 2012
Artifact: C. F. W. Walther’s 1860 U.S. Passport
Date: 30 January 1860
Significance: C. F. W. Walther traveled to Germany in 1860 to recuperate from a severe throat ailment and a breakdown from his hectic schedule as seminary professor, pastor of the Saint Louis congregation and an active participant in numerous inter-Lutheran meetings. Synodical President F. C. D. Wyneken and Professor A. F. Craemer of the practical seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, had encouraged him to take the time off, and his congregation agreed to cover his expenses. He left Saint Louis on 6 February 1860 accompanied by his son Constantin and his nephew, Stephanus Keyl, traveling via New Orleans. He returned to America via New York on 20 August and reached Saint Louis on 28 August “healed of his bodily infirmity”; and rejuvenated to continue his ministry. New stresses faced him as the nation headed toward Civil War, and by April 1861 Walther found himself in the midst of significant turmoil and strife in Saint Louis.
Compare Walther’s passport to a current U. S. passport
The size is much different; this 1860 passport is roughly the size of two letter-sized pieces of paper. The creases from where the document was folded are still visible. It was folded in half and then in thirds, making it easier to carry, perhaps in a coat pocket. Also note how, in a time before photography was common, officials could verify the identity of a person. Instead of a photograph, there is a description of a person, noting what might be expected: age, height (stature), hair color and eye color; but also including descriptions of a person’s forehead, nose and complexion, to name a few. Judge for yourself whether his passport accurately depicts him.
To learn more about C. F. W. Walther, including his breakdown and trip to Germany in 1860, see August R. Suelflow, Servant of the Word (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2000), and Matthew C. Harrison, At Home in the House of My Fathers (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), p. 142-45.
We also encourage you to visit CHI’s Walther Bicentennial exhibit, To God Alone the Glory: The Life of C. F. W. Walther, at our facility on the campus of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis.