At first the large influx of German settlers antagonized the English, but they were gradually accepted, and during the Revolution they provided valuable assistance. Most of the settlers engaged in farming, at which they were extremely successful. For the most part they maintained their own language and customs; the family became the principal economic and social unit, and the church was next in importance.
The aim of the various religious denominations was to establish a Christian, democratic society; for many years they opposed public schooling, preferring to retain their own standards and manners, and they strongly resisted signs of progress and worldly living. Several of the churches are completely pacifistic, such as the Amish and the Mennonites. The Amish are particularly strict in the matter of dress, maintaining a simple but distinctive garb, and also have a strong aversion to automobiles, electric lights, and telephones. The Amish have continued to oppose public schooling, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that the Amish were exempt from state compulsory education laws. The Church of the Brethren, incorrectly but popularly known as the Dunkards or Dunkers from their manner of baptism, and the Schwenkfelders are two other denominations.
The Pennsylvania Dutch, or Pennsylvania German, language is a blend of several dialects, essentially Palatinate, with some admixture of standard German and English. A substantial Pennsylvania German literature, art, and architecture exists. Many written records were adorned with illuminated writing, and such articles as pottery, furniture, needlework, and barns made use of decorative motifs, often of a highly artistic nature. Their buildings are usually of heavy stone and timber construction, with steep roofs and small, irregular windows. Pennsylvania Germans have contributed much to the culture of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania German Society, organized in 1891, has published much material relative to the history and folklore of the Pennsylvania Dutch.
See J. F. Sachse, The German Sectarians of Pennsylvania, 1708-1800 (2 vol., 1889; repr. 1971); W. Beidelman, The Story of the Pennsylvania Germans (1898, repr. 1969), L. O. Kuhns, The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania (1901, repr. 1971); A. Long, The Pennsylvania German Family Farm (1972); J. J. Stoudt, Pennsylvania German Folk Art (rev. ed. 1966) and Sunbonnets and Shoofly Pies: Pennsylvania Dutch Cultural History (1973); E. C. Haag, A Pennsylvania German Anthology (1988).
Pennsylvania Dutch were historically speakers of the Pennsylvania German language. They are a people of various religious affiliations, most of them Lutheran or Reformed, but many Anabaptists as well. They live primarily in southeastern Pennsylvania in the area stretching in an arc from Bethlehem and Allentown through Reading, Lebanon, and Lancaster to York and Chambersburg. They can also be found down throughout the Shenandoah Valley (the modern Interstate 81 corridor) in the adjacent states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, and in the large Amish and Mennonite communities in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, in Ohio north and south of Youngstown and in Indiana around Elkhart. Their cultural traditions date back to the German immigrations to America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Only then did German immigration from various parts the southern Rhineland, Palatinate, the southern part of Hesse, Baden, Alsace and Switzerland gain momentum, and soon dominate the area. But the Pennsylvania Dutch language is ultimately a derivative of Palatinate German.
Recently due to loss of the Pennsylvania German language (among others)- in many communities, as well as to intermarriage and increased mobility, especially in the more secular communities, Pennsylvania Dutch ethnic consciousness is often very low, especially among younger Pennsylvania Dutch. Many young Pennsylvania Dutch consider themselves only descendants of Pennsylvania Dutch and it is not part of their personal identity. However many of those raised in the immediate area, or those who have close ties there, still hold those ties close even if their parents don't emphasize those ties. In some communities the Pennsylvania Dutch name is reserved only for members of the Amish and traditional Mennonite communities.