Cover image for Immigrant and Entrepreneur: The Atlantic World of Caspar Wistar, 1650–1750 By Rosalind Beiler

Immigrant and Entrepreneur

The Atlantic World of Caspar Wistar, 1650–1750

Rosalind Beiler


$70.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-03372-3

$30.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-03595-6

224 pages
6" × 9"
14 b&w illustrations/8 maps

Max Kade Research Institute: Germans Beyond Europe

Immigrant and Entrepreneur

The Atlantic World of Caspar Wistar, 1650–1750

Rosalind Beiler

Immigrant and Entrepreneur is a welcome addition to colonial and Atlantic history. It is impressively researched and provides an intriguing account of the process by which Caspar Wüstar, a forester from the Palatinate, became Caspar Wistar, one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest merchants and manufacturers.”


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Immigrant and Entrepreneur examines the life of German immigrant and successful businessman Caspar Wistar. Wistar arrived in Philadelphia in 1717 with nearly no money; at the time of his death in 1752, his wealth outstripped that of the contemporary elite more than threefold. Through this in-depth look at an immigrant’s path to achieving the American Dream, Beiler reevaluates the modern understanding of the entrepreneurial ideal and the immigrant experience in the colonial era.

The book follows Wistar’s life from his family’s German influences to the potential reasons behind his desire to emigrate and the networks he used to establish himself as a wealthy entrepreneur once he reached his adopted home. Beiler draws from Wistar’s compelling story to examine the greater processes at work in the Atlantic world of the eighteenth century. Wistar’s success exemplifies how European influence, patterns of adaptation, and an innovative cultivation of networks helped integrate immigrants into colonial America and the Atlantic world.

Immigrant and Entrepreneur is a welcome addition to colonial and Atlantic history. It is impressively researched and provides an intriguing account of the process by which Caspar Wüstar, a forester from the Palatinate, became Caspar Wistar, one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest merchants and manufacturers.”
“The author does a superb job as a detective in tracking down the complicated web of Wistar’s business and personal relationships. This is one of the most fascinating aspects of this monograph. . . . Perhaps this work should be mandatory reading for MBA students. . . . With Immigrant and Entrepreneur, Rosalind Beiler has provided an engrossing account of a man who had a significant influence on the development of the Pennsylvania economy and society.”
“This book has been much anticipated by scholars familiar with the author’s work and this field. It will be the prime exhibit for the growing community of Atlantic historians teaching early American or Atlantic history who are anxious to broaden the context of colonial America beyond the British and African connections.”

Rosalind Beiler is Associate Professor of History at the University of Central Florida.


List of Maps and Illustrations

List of Tables

Preface and Acknowledgments



Part I: Wistar’s Palatine World

1. Men in the Middle: Foresters and Hunters in the Early Modern Palatinate

2. Individual Pursuits Versus the Common Good: The Constraints of Village Life in Waldhilsbach

3. Contested Identities: Religious Affiliation and Diversity in the Palatinate

4. Leaving Home: The Decision to Emigrate

Part II: Wistar’s American World

5. Establishing Professional and Family Connections: New Beginnings in Pennsylvania

6. Securing a Legacy: Wistar’s Pennsylvania Land Speculation

7. Webs of Influence: Transatlantic Trade and Patronage

8. Creative Adaptations: The United Glass Company and Wistarburg, New Jersey



1. Genealogy of Andreas Wüster

2. Genealogy of Hans Caspar Wüster

3. Genealogy of Caspar Wistar

Selected Bibliography


Men in the Middle:

Foresters and Hunters in the Early Modern Palatinate

[My] fatherland and the place where I was born is as follows: where the biggest forest in the world is and remains, in the Palatinate, two hours from Heidelberg in the mountains. . . . My Parents their names were as follows: my father’s name was [Hans] Caspar Wistar, hunter there, and [he] was born in Mospacher Ambt, the place was called Neunkirchen and his father’s name was Andres Wüster, he was also a hunter there and my mother was born in [Wald]Hilspach and her name was Anna Catharina Miller and [she] has 2 brothers living there. . . . I worked as a hunter and fowler until I was 14 or 15 years old because my father was a hunter. After that I went to the chief hunter, Georg Michael Förster, at Bruchhausen, and served him for four years as a hunter’s apprentice.

—Caspar Wistar, “A Short Report”

Caspar Wistar opened his autobiography with the most salient image from his childhood: the forest. Virtually every aspect of his life in the Palatine was interwoven with his family’s position as hunters and foresters—government employees appointed to protect the ruling family’s natural resources. The heavily wooded hills provided revenue for Wistar’s village, and they supplied his family’s income and established its social standing within Amt Dilsberg (a government jurisdiction roughly equivalent in size and function to a colonial Pennsylvania county). Long after he had moved to America and became a button maker and a merchant, Wistar continued to identify his origins and early years with the forest.

The process through which Wistar adapted to his American environment began on the other side of the Atlantic. In his home region, as in America, forests were the primary source of commodities for everyday life. Timber provided the construction material for buildings, fences, tools, and ships. Wood also furnished heat for homes and energy for the industries that made soap, charcoal, potash, and glass—all enterprises that consumed significant amounts of timber. On both continents, people relied heavily on the forests’ natural resources.

Institutionalized conflicts over their use, however, distinguished Palatine forests from those in the British colonies. On one hand, the elector (the ruler of the territory) viewed forests as potential sources of income for the state. At the end of the Thirty Years’ War, the government’s financial resources were depleted. Consequently, state and local officials carefully defined the jurisdiction controlling each plot of woodland and drew precise boundaries to ensure efficient use of its commodities. The ruling family subsidized glass-making, charcoal-making, and iron-making enterprises on state-held lands to generate revenue for the realm. By the end of the seventeenth century, ruling electors had built extensive bureaucracies of foresters and hunters to police the well-organized tracts of land they were trying to monopolize.

On the other hand, villagers resisted encroaching state authority and sought to retain traditional rights to commonly held meadows and woods. Forests provided timber and grazing land for small hamlets in a world where capital and property increasingly determined wealth. Villagers could sell the timber from their woods or rent village meadows to fund community projects, pay tithes and taxes, or hire a cowherd or shepherd. For Palatine peasants, using local forests for the common interests of the village became even more pressing in the aftermath of the devastating wars at the end of the seventeenth century.

Caught between these competing interests was the class of foresters and hunters to which Wistar’s family belonged. As government officials, foresters depended on the state for their livelihoods and thus owed the elector their loyalty. But they also belonged to villages struggling to survive the effects of war and growing government bureaucracies.

This world of conflicted loyalties profoundly influenced the young Wistar in two important ways. First, he inherited from his father and grandfather an ability to maneuver between competing and disparate interest groups, as each group struggled for control of resources and commodities. Pennsylvania offered Wistar no career as a forester; in comparison to the Palatinate, the colony had virtually no bureaucracy. The Penns’ agents attempted to protect the family’s interests, but they did not have the financial and human means to do so. Nevertheless, Pennsylvanians still competed for control of the land. In his new home Wistar relied on the skills he learned in his father’s household and as a hunter’s apprentice—the skills of a mediator between local and government interests—to get ahead.

Second, the image of well-ordered Palatine forests filled with marketable commodities shaped Wistar’s American enterprises. He knew from his background and training the potential for profit that Pennsylvania’s “wilderness” offered. His investments in an iron furnace, a glass manufactory, and thousands of acres of “undeveloped” land all reflected his training as a forester. Each one fit the blueprint in his head for turning the “wilderness” into a mart. The world of the Palatine forester and hunter, therefore, furnishes the best starting point for understanding Wistar’s transatlantic experience.

In 1653, Andreas Wüster (1627–92), Caspar Wistar’s grandfather, applied to the elector of the Palatinate for the vacant position of forester for Neunkirchen. Most likely the son of a forester, Wüster had already served for one year at the elector’s hunting lodge in Bruchhausen as an arms bearer during the elector’s hunts. The twenty-six-year-old huntsman believed he had “carried himself in such a manner that [he] hoped in all truth no one could register a complaint against him.” Wüster was hired for the position and moved with his wife to Neunkirchen, where he began his career as a forester.

Wüster joined the forestry administration shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and as the Palatinate was beginning to recover from the Thirty Years’ War. Karl Ludwig (1648–80), the reigning elector, began instituting policies to repopulate devastated villages, foster manufacture and trade, and restore his family’s depleted revenues. Evolving ideas about the role of the state in economic growth encouraged an active promotion of trade and manufacturing. The resources of the forests were an important part of his program. By constructing fiscal policies that focused on necessity and economic development rather than creating a luxurious court, Karl Ludwig hoped to restore prosperity to the Palatinate. Simultaneously, the elector also tried to extend and increase his power. Like many other European political rulers, his response to the Thirty Years’ War was to engage in a process of state-building. To expand his political influence, Karl Ludwig increased the bureaucracy of government officials who were connected to him through a labyrinth of obligations and duties.

The bureaucracy Wüster joined, therefore, was expanding. Traditionally, the highest level of government officials in the Palatinate consisted of a few noble courtiers who advised the elector in legal and fiscal matters. The most important advisors were in residence in the castle at Heidelberg. They constituted three administrative bodies: the advisory council (Hofrat), the elector’s legal court (Hofgericht), and the exchequer’s court or treasury (Rechenkammer). A second tier of officials lived in the outlying villages and represented the elector’s interests within their local regions. They held positions in the forestry and hunting administration, the church consistory, and the war department, each of which was accountable to the exchequer’s court. In addition, small geographic regions were organized into local districts (Ämter), which were headed by a district administrator or district secretary. Drawn from among the elites and well-educated classes of Palatine society, government officials usually inherited their positions.

As a forester, Wüster operated at the bottom of the second level of government. In the mid-seventeenth century, the forestry department consisted of a master hunter, three master foresters (one for regions on each side of the Rhine and one for Amt Simmern), and a group of foresters, hunters, fowlers, and rabbit wardens. The department’s primary responsibility was to administer the Palatinate’s natural resources, a task that fell into two general categories: forestry and hunting. Foresters were to insure that the elector and his subjects had access to a continuous supply of timber. They also protected and supplied the game that furnished the elector’s kitchen and provided him and his court with a favorite form of leisure, hunting.

Wüster’s tasks as a forester brought him into daily contact with the forest itself. He, along with the rabbit wardens and fowlers, answered to a master forester and had a number of duties. First and foremost, Wüster had to insure that no one took timber without permission and that cleared tracts were replanted. Second, he was responsible for fencing in and protecting the deer within his jurisdiction and for reporting anyone caught poaching. And finally, like other officials in the forestry administration, he could be called upon to assist in the elector’s hunts. Consequently, he and other foresters often were referred to as “hunters” by their neighbors, though as part of his position Wüster swore not to take any wood or game for himself or to bargain with anyone for the same.

During Wüster’s tenure as the forester for Neunkirchen, Karl Ludwig’s economic reforms resulted in decreased salaries for government officials. Wüster was clearly affected by the elector’s policies. In 1669, when the department eliminated a vacant forester’s position to cut costs, Wüster and a colleague divided the former forester’s jurisdiction. For six years the two men received no reimbursement for their additional responsibilities. Only in 1675 was the salary of the former position split between Wüster and the other forester.

In spite of temporary setbacks, Wüster ultimately benefited from the changes begun under Karl Ludwig. The elector’s reforms soon began to yield positive economic results, and the region showed signs of recovery. As it did so, the elector added new layers of officials to assume the daily decisions of government, and higher positions became sinecures. One result of this policy was an increase in the number of officials who did not belong to the nobility. Jurists and lawyers began to replace noblemen as the elector’s primary advisors while commoners and people with specific qualifications filled lower-level offices. This new class of professional officials operated beside or in place of traditional aristocratic government servants.

Wüster belonged to the rising class of professional bureaucrats produced by the elector’s policies. In 1680, after sixteen years of service, he petitioned his employer for a raise in salary. Wüster claimed that during his tenure as a forester, he had delivered as much food to the court’s kitchen as five or six of his fellow foresters combined (he cited the kitchen’s accounts as proof). He also argued that he had been instrumental in improving the government’s stock of game. During the elector’s recent hunt, forty deer had been shot within Wüster’s region. He believed, however, that his success in balancing the contradictory demands of hunter and forester was being poorly rewarded. The law had recently changed, and Wüster was no longer permitted to supply his own household with meat from the forest. At the same time, fiscal reforms had eliminated the commission money that he previously received for the game he shot and from which he had maintained his family. Wüster, who had to feed and clothe six children and a servant on 18 Gulden (roughly £;2 sterling) and 12 Malters of wheat annually, could no longer support his household.

That same year, Wüster’s superior, Master Hunter Eberhard Friederich von Venningen, highly recommended him to the exchequer’s court; nevertheless, his petition languished. During the summer of 1680 Karl Ludwig died. The following year Wüster successfully petitioned the new elector for the position of chief forester (Oberförster). His promotion brought a significant raise in salary to match his new responsibilities. Von Venningen suggested that a salary of 60 Gulden (£;6 sterling), 20 Malters of wheat, 25 Malters of oats, 6 Ohm of wine, and traveling money was appropriate. Wüster was awarded even more; he received 90 Gulden (£;9 sterling) in addition to the recommended amount of wheat, oats, wine and traveling money.

Wüster’s promotion was indicative of the momentum with which Karl Ludwig’s successor, Karl (1680–85), expanded his government. In contrast to his father’s tight control over state finances, Karl nearly doubled the court’s expenditures from 70,000 to 130,000 Gulden. In spite of continued financial difficulties, he added new positions and levels to the government, increased salaries, maintained a standing army, and instituted a more elaborate court culture than his predecessor.

As a chief forester, Wüster gained considerable responsibility and prestige. He was commissioned to oversee the “woods, parks, game preserves, hunting grounds, fisheries, etc.” in the Dilsberg, Mosbach and Boxberg districts and to “direct and encourage” the foresters in his region to “justly protect, ride through, and frequent” the same. Wüster’s three districts were in the southernmost region of the Odenwald and the most heavily forested areas surrounding Heidelberg. The chief forester patrolled the forests frequently to note their condition and to insure that no one cut timber, hunted, or fished without the written permission of the forestry department or the exchequer’s court. Wüster’s administrative duties consisted of filing commission letters (letters patent or contracts) for the foresters in his district, submitting accounts of timber sold, and reporting any infringements on the elector’s realm from neighboring rulers. Finally, Wüster, in contrast to the other two chief foresters, kept the elector’s kitchen supplied with small and large game. This extra assignment most likely resulted from the proximity of his jurisdiction to the castle at Heidelberg. His added responsibilities brought him a higher annual salary than those of the other chief foresters in the department.

Wüster’s promotion was a part of the bureaucratic expansion and professionalization of Karl’s administration. As a chief forester (Oberförster), his tasks were interchangeable with those of a master forester (Forstmeister). Whereas three master foresters previously had overseen Palatine forests, now three new chief foresters joined them, carving the administrative regions into six smaller jurisdictions. Although their duties varied little, chief foresters were promoted from the ranks of foresters because of their special abilities and knowledge, while master foresters usually inherited their positions.

The addition of new professional positions to the forestry department signaled the government’s increasing attempts to raise revenue from its natural resources. Between 1680 and 1700, the electors of the Palatinate gradually assumed rights and privileges to personal and communal property that had previously belonged to individuals or villages. For example, the forestry law of 1687 stated that no individual was allowed to take lumber out of his own forests without the prior approval of the local government officials and the appraisal of a carpenter. Furthermore, village councils (Gemeinde) were required to obtain the approval of the forestry department before cutting timber from their communal forests.

Village leaders soon contested the government’s encroachments, and several court cases illustrate the kinds of disputes the new law created. In one instance, the forestry department sued the village of Gaiberg, a village in Wüster’s jurisdiction, for selling wood from its communal forest without proper authorization. Village leaders reported that they had received sufficient approval from the forester and his son. They also pleaded innocent to charges that they should have sought the permission of a master forester, arguing that the sale took place prior to the law of 1687. In another case, the chief hunter imposed fines against several villages for grazing cattle in newly seeded forests and hunting grounds.

In addition to usurping his subjects’ rights to the land, the elector monopolized the symbolic capital of the hunt. He began to eliminate traditional hunting privileges that had belonged to the nobility and government officials. Palatine electors had denied their subjects hunting privileges for generations. Nevertheless, many government officials belonged to noble families that had won special rights. When the elector began to encroach on their hunting privileges, they fought back. One official submitted an extensive defense to the local administration, arguing that he should be permitted to enjoy hunting rights.

By the end of the seventeenth century, hunting had evolved into elaborately staged events that required an entourage of assistants. Hunters drove large herds of wild game through a labyrinth of trails to a festively decorated spot where the elector and his company, often other dignitaries and visiting officials, shot at their prey. On such occasions, Wüster and his fellow foresters participated in the staged hunts. Only those with sufficient capital and personnel could prove their importance through these grand displays.

Foresters and hunters were caught in the middle of this contest for control of natural resources and symbolic capital. Men like Wüster, who owed their rise in status to the elector’s expanding authority, lived in villages with strong traditions of local autonomy and control. Like Wüster—who had moved from Crailsheim, a city in Württemberg, first to Bruchhausen and then to Neunkirchen—foresters were often outsiders who were trying to establish their reputations with their neighbors. At the same time, they owed their increased economic security, and thus some of their loyalty, to the elector’s government. At no time was their position in the middle more evident than during war, as forestry officials attempted to mediate between disparate interests in an environment of shrinking resources.

War brought wrenching changes to the Palatinate following the death of Elector Karl in 1685. Because Karl died without a male heir, Philipp Wilhelm (1685–90) of Neuburg, the Catholic duke of Jülich and Berg, succeeded him as the elector. In response to Philipp Wilhelm’s succession, Louis XIV of France claimed some of Karl’s property on behalf of the duchess of Orleans, Karl’s sister and Louis’s sister-in-law. French troops seized Phillipsburg in 1688 and raided towns in the Neckar Valley, including Eberbach, Dilsberg, Neckargemünd, Heidelberg, and Mannheim. The following year the Holy Roman Empire declared war on France prompting Louis to pull his troops out of the Neckar and Rhine valleys. In their retreat, the French destroyed whatever might have proven useful to their enemies; they bombed castles, burned towns, murdered villagers, and plundered livestock and crops. The war that followed devastated the region surrounding the Neckar Valley.

War had tremendous consequences for Wüster and the forestry department. Not only did French troops raze the government seat, the castle at Heidelberg, they also destroyed the forests. In the wake of their retreat, the Holy Roman Empire’s army further depleted the few remaining resources to supply its troops. In the forestry department, the war decreased the number of positions, lowered salaries, and increased demands for natural resources. Almost immediately hostilities threatened the jobs of foresters and hunters. The government consolidated positions, vacant slots remained empty, and the treasury withdrew both salaries and benefits. Soon after the war began, Wüster and the master forester from Heidelberg received orders to report any reduction in oats that the department could make without diminishing the foresters’ abilities to carry out their duties.

Shortages of revenue were not the only threat to the department. Preoccupation with war meant that the elector spent less time hunting. When Eberhard Friederich von Venningen, the chief master of the hunt, wanted to hire a new secretary, the exchequer’s court declined his request “because hunting is exercised so seldom now and it is necessary to reduce costs as much as possible because of the bad times.” Nevertheless, the department’s arms bearers still worked hard to protect the hunting grounds, increasingly “in danger to their bodies and lives.” Von Venningen confirmed that they had faced great difficulty “protecting the hunting grounds from total destruction, not only because of the French troubles but also because of the daily increase in soldiers [in the region]” He warned that if the elector wanted to enjoy “some recreation” when he arrived, he should, “as encouragement,” give several of the hunters some money, wine, or provisions from their lapsed salaries.

A lack of funds frequently left foresters without pay and increased temptations to embezzle government funds. One chief forester, who had not received his salary for four years, petitioned to receive 60 Gulden (£;6 sterling). The exchequer’s court ruled in his favor since he had delivered 281 Gulden in forest taxes to the military garrison. Court officials feared that “if he sees that he will not be permitted to flourish on his salary, he will dip into the taxes himself and pay himself from them.”

The war also increased the strain on natural resources. Since early modern Palatines used timber in every aspect of daily life, the tensions between extracting and preserving trees increased in periods of conflict. Wüster was particularly active in one special use of wood during the war—building palisades or stockades. In 1689, French troops besieged the castle at Heidelberg and then withdrew down the Neckar, plundering and burning eleven villages as they went. They returned later that year, attacking Heidelberg once again. The following year the elector’s defenses managed to withstand another French attack, but in 1693 the Heidelberg castle and the city were destroyed. Because of his region’s proximity to Heidelberg, Wüster frequently floated lumber for building fortifications up the Neckar River. With the war’s destruction, however, he claimed his region was one of the few with remaining stands of timber. By 1690 he knew of “no other place nearby where one could find [timber for] stockades because the woods in the Neckar Valley had been so ruined through cutting palisades.” Nevertheless, Wüster continued to deliver wood for stockades for several more years.

Wüster’s actions were at the heart of the competing interests within the elector’s government. Wüster insisted that he did not know where to find any more wood for stockades. The chief hunter, who previously had argued that charcoal burners were destroying timber in the elector’s hunting grounds, suggested that a ban on charcoal-making in Heidelberg would yield more than enough wood for buildings and fortifications. Charcoal, however, was critical for the region’s glass- and iron-making industries, from which the government also gained revenues. The elector’s advisors thought “that all kinds of artisans, who need charcoal for their work, would be greatly hindered” by a ban. Consequently, the exchequer’s court ordered Wüster and other foresters to police the woods more diligently and to insure the charcoal burners cut only legal timber.

Increased demands for timber during war also placed Wüster and other foresters at the center of conflicts between the elector’s government and villagers. Village councils frequently sold timber to fund community projects. In the mid-seventeenth century, wood merchants from Holland began to purchase timber in the Rhine and Neckar valleys for building ships; by 1690, the market was entering its peak period. Wüster and other chief foresters oversaw these sales. With permission from the exchequer’s court, they determined whether or not wood should be cut, decided which trees to fell, and collected taxes and fees on timber sales.

During the war, competition for communal timber heightened. In 1692, for example, the exchequer’s court refused to allow Schrießheim to sell wood to a Dutch wood merchant “because the government needed lumber in the near future for its own building projects.” When the master forester reported that the oak trees the village wanted to sell were inappropriate for building, however, the exchequer’s court relented because Schrießheim would “receive the help that money from the sale will bring.” Since foresters received commission money for each stand of wood they sold, the master forester was serving his own interests (as well as the villagers’) when he convinced the exchequer’s court to approve the sale.

Villages also paid the elector a tax from each sale of timber, which helped to fund the foresters’ salaries. In June 1692, Wüster submitted receipts for 480 Gulden, 57 Kreuzer; 94 Malters of buckwheat; 62 Malters of wheat; and 9 Malters of field oats in taxes paid on wood sales. The exchequer’s court ordered that the foresters’ “lapsed salaries” should be paid from the collected taxes. Thus Wüster and other foresters negotiated a fine balance between their own interests, those of the villages in their jurisdiction, and the elector’s.

Poaching disputes also placed foresters and hunters in the middle of competing interests. In July 1689, Hans Mosselbach, one of Wüster’s former foresters, was arrested and questioned on charges of poaching after a search through his house revealed preserved venison. In 1688 and 1689, when the French seized and then plundered and burned villages south of the Neckar, villagers sought shelter in the woods. Upon questioning, Mosselbach readily admitted that “during the last French commotion, he shot a deer.” He claimed, however, that he had done so “at the bidding of the current forester [from Gaiberg].” Mosselbach also killed another small deer “out of need and poverty, for the enemy recently had plundered [his property] completely and [he] had nothing with which to feed himself and his children.”

In spite of the fact that it was made a capital offence in 1687, poaching had become widespread throughout the region as a result of war. Mosselbach “heard shots everywhere, morning and evening.” Villagers from the Kirchheimer and Leimen districts shot wild game for food, as did those from Waldhilsbach and the Kohlwald. In fact, Mosselbach claimed, the villagers in Gauangelloch “even hunted with their dogs.” Villagers elsewhere echoed Mosselbach, admitting to shooting “wild swine at different times out of necessity and so that the people there could live.” Throughout Amt Dilsberg peasants turned poachers as they struggled to survive during the French invasion.

The combination of war and harsher punishments for poaching placed the foresters in a difficult position. On one hand, they represented the elector and his interests; their first loyalties were to him. Their contracts obliged them to uphold the law that made poaching a capital offence. On the other hand, they, along with their neighbors, suffered hunger, which could push them to endorse poaching. One forester allegedly argued that “it would be no sin [to kill one deer], for then we would receive something to eat.” When faced with the starvation of the people around them, foresters were forced to confront their divided loyalties.

The conflicts surrounding poaching during the war illustrate the kinds of problems that arose as the elector attempted to consolidate his power. Such centralization of control required the loyalty of a growing bureaucracy, but the very nature of the bureaucracy—professionalized commoners with newly raised economic status—constantly threatened that process as the bureaucrats continued to identify with their friends and neighbors.

In July 1692, a few years before Wistar the immigrant was born, his grandfather, Andreas Wüster, died. The elder Wüster had taken advantage of the expanded bureaucracy fostered by a long period of recovery. He had advanced to a higher rank because of his knowledge and proven ability rather than because of his birth and education. By demonstrating his loyalty to the elector, he had achieved an economic status that was equivalent to that of the traditional master forester.

Just as Wüster’s promotion to chief forester for Neunkirchen reflects the professionalization and upward mobility of government officials with specific knowledge and skills, so too the circumstances surrounding his death illustrate the tenuous nature of advancement. Wüster died in the midst of war, when funds were short. When Anna Wüster, his wife, applied for a widow’s pension, the elector’s advisors claimed that “the widow’s pension is not generally granted to such servants but is reserved for the elector’s councilors.” They added, however, that “some money has been granted through a special dispensation to a few foresters’ widows, whose husbands have served a long time and who have carried themselves well.” Wüster’s service earned his widow and children 5 Reichstaler and 2 Malters of wheat as a one-time dispensation.

When Anna Wüster received the reward for her husband’s service, she most likely lost all rights to her husband’s position. As a chief forester, Wüster did not automatically receive the privilege of passing his job on to his children. Upon his death, the exchequer’s court investigated whether Wüster’s son, Hans Caspar Wüster, or his son-in-law were prepared to serve as a forester for Neunkirchen. Neither stayed in Neunkirchen, however. His son-in-law became the forester of Sinsheim; his oldest son, Hans Caspar Wüster, moved to Gaiberg, where he replaced a forester who had recently died. The younger Wüster’s experience as a forester and his constant struggle to affirm his social status, as we shall see, illustrate the tenuous position of foresters as the Palatinate’s government attempted once again to recover from war.

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