Scherenschnitte, the Pennsylvania German form of papercutting, made its way to America in the late 1600’s. William Penn was an English Quaker that was offered a tract of land in the American colonies as payment for a debt that King Charles owed to Penn’s late father. This land was called “Penn’s Forest,” or Pennsylvania. You might have heard of it! 😀
William Penn had two goals for his colony… The first was to be a safe harbor for those facing religious persecution in Europe. He himself had been jailed several times for his Quaker beliefs. Because of that, Penn offered land to the Amish, Mennonites, Lutherans, and many other Protestant groups. Penn’s second goal was that his colony would be successful, and for that to happen, he would also need skilled laborers, so he invited blacksmiths, papermakers, carpenters, and other tradesmen to come to Pennsylvania. These people not only brought their devout religious beliefs and their trades and skills, but also their customs and folk arts. One of these folk arts was Scherenschnitte.
Paper cuttings were used as decoration… The Pennsylvania German people lined their shelves with pretty paper cut edges, brightened their walls with paper cuts, and they used paper cut stencils to decorate cakes. They cut beautiful Valentines and marriage proposals. Paper cutting was combined with fraktur, a form of German penmanship, to create house blessings, wedding certificates, birth & baptismal records, and rewards of merit for good students. Because of their love for color, they often added color to their paper cuts.