Karl Oscar Hugg papers
Held at: German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library [Contact Us]611 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19123
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Karl Oskar Hugg was born in the small town of Niefern Germany, near Karlsruhe, on October 31, 1894. At six years of age he began working in the fields next to his mother and helped out other people for a little money. At age 14, his father arranged for him to serve a four-year apprenticeship as a precision mechanic in the jewelry business. He wanted to be a singer but his father thought it was best for him to have a trade to fall back on. Before World War I started he began studying music and singing at the Conservatory at Karlsruhe, supported by a scholarship from the city. His study was interrupted in 1914 by the beginning of World War I. During the war he served as a pilot with the Artillerie Flieger Abteilung 211 where he reached the rank of non-commissioned officer and pilot and was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class. He was relieved of duty in 1917 after his only brother was killed on the Eastern Front.
After his service was finished Hugg went to work for Mercedes-Benz, which offered him a job because he was familiar with engines. He also went back to studying music and singing at the conservatory until late 1923, when he could no longer afford to continue. In the course of his studies as a singer he mastered a repertoire of 20 operas. Because of the economic difficulties he decided to immigrate to the United States. The diploma he earned from the apprenticeship as a precision mechanic helped him qualify for a visa. An aunt living in Philadelphia paid for his ticket.
In December 1923, Hugg left for New York City, arriving December 31, 1923. A few days later he arrived in Philadelphia. There he lived at his aunt’s house for a time, where he shared a bed with one of his cousins. He quickly found work in the optical business.
When he arrived in New York City he spoke no English and, eventually, returned there to attend English language classes at the New School. In August 1925, Hugg's future wife Frieda Johanna arrived in New York City. She had been a friend of his in Germany and had helped him prepare his parts in some of the operas he performed. The travel agency that sponsored her required them to get married right away in accordance with rules meant to prevent white slave trade. They settled in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and eventually bought a house at 457 Abbottsford Road, where they lived until the 1930s, when they had to give up the house during the Depression. In 1927 they had a daughter named Hadwig. On June 2, 1936 Karl Hugg became a naturalized citizen.
In the late 1920s, for a time, Hugg worked for the Brown Instrument Company in Philadelphia, but at some point he gained employment at the Atwater Kent Manufacturing Company, which manufactured radios. Because of the economic depression happening in the 1930s, Atwater Kent was forced to close in 1936. Hugg ended up employed back at the Brown Instrument Company, where he was a precision instrument maker. While working there he developed a mold for making and mass producing the first all-plastic harmonicas. These plastic harmonicas replaced wooden ones that were sent overseas to military personnel in the Pacific during World War II.
In 1942, while working as a tool maker at the Brown Instrument Company, Hugg's house was raided by the FBI after allegations were made against him that he was in communication with Germany by shortwave radio and supported Germany over the United Stated in the war. Denaturalization proceedings were started against him. After testimony showed that some of his outbursts in favor of Germany were caused by needling by co-workers, the judge cited that and upheld his citizenship on grounds of freedom of speech. However, by the time the trial was over he lost his job, since the company had depended on war work.
Eventually, with a partner, Hugg started a business that ultimately went bankrupt. Then he went into business by himself and had good success. After retiring Hugg moved to Livingston, New Jersey, where he died on April 24, 1992.
Karl Oskar Hugg was a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1923. This collection comprises biographical information, photographs, clippings, and concert programs that span his life.
The biographical information is in the form of a letter about Hugg from an acquaintance of his, received by the German Society of Pennsylvania library after his death. In the letter there are excerpts from a transcript of an autobiographical narrative that he tape-recorded for a friend, and there is also enclosed a copy of another letter from someone in Germany who knew him.
There is a collection of 187 photographs, including two of Hugg, that document his time as a pilot in the German military during World War I. Two post-war portrait photographs of him are included in the collection as well.
In 1942 to 1943 Hugg was taken to court by the United States government in a denaturalization trial for supposedly speaking out in favor of, and communicating by radio with, Nazi Germany. There are a number of newspaper clippings about the trial and its outcome.
Hugg trained as an opera singer in Germany before immigrating, and there are two concert programs, dated 1922 and 1923, for events that he sang at.
Presumably the gift of Karl Oskar Hugg. Some biographical information about Hugg and two photographs of him that are included in the collection were the gift of Mary Clarke Miley, in 1994.
- German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Brett Tobias
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from the Max Kade Foundation, as part of the grant project "Retrieval and Cataloging of the German-American Experience, 1918-1960."
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the German Society of Pennsylvania with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
Contains a letter from Mary Clarke Miley with biographical information about Hugg plus two photos of him
Black and white portrait of Hugg as a young man
Newspaper clippings about Hugg's trial
Newspaper clippings about Hugg's trial
One original concert program from 1922 and a photocopy of another from 1923 both of which Hugg sang at
Contains a book review, photocopy of a newspaper article with photo of Hugg and a meal ticket
The photograph album contains 187 photos taken in Europe during World War I. Some of the photographs have handwriting on the verso, and the unit number 211, which Hugg was a member of, is visible in several of the photos. The collection is arranged in groupings with consecutive numbering added by the archivist.
39.001-39.003 Karl Oscar Hugg 39.004-39.006 Crown Prince Wilhelm 39.007-39.043 Groups of Men 39.044 Nurses 39.045-39.047 French Prisoners of War 39.048-39.091 Airplanes 39.092-39.107 Crashed Airplanes 39.108-39.123 Aerial Photographs 39.124-39.134 Airports 39.135-39.146 Artillery 39.147-39.153 Village of Montfaucon, France 39.154-39.172 Various Villages 39.173-39.183 "French Estate" 39.184-39.185 Explosions 39.186-39.187 Oversize