Originally posted on the ‘I am an Immigrant‘ Poster Campaign website, hosted by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).
We must thank a German immigrant named Rudolph Ackermann for leaving us with one of our greatest records of the life and times of nineteenth century London. As an immigrant to the city, he had an appreciation for its people and its architecture that too often went overlooked and was taken for granted by those who had lived in London all of their lives. To bring its beauty to their attention, and to preserve it for future generations, Ackermann hired some of the best artists of the day: Charles Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson. The pair were commissioned to draw life happening in the city’s famous institutions and streetscapes, from a boisterous debate at the House of Commons, to a trial at the Old Bailey courthouse, to the hustle and bustle of street-sellers at Billingsgate Market. The collection of 104 images was brought together and called ‘The Microcosm of London’ (1808-1810), and has become a treasure of British history. Like the tourists of today, Ackermann’s passion for his new home drove him to share that love with the British people through these beautiful images.
Ackermann lived the rest of his life in London, dying in 1834 with his German accent in tact. He married an Englishwoman named Martha Massey, and was survived by six British-born children, and by a print-selling business that would continue until 1992. He was one of Britain’s most important publishers of the nineteenth century, and an immigrant.
Contributed by Dr. Adam Crymble, Historian of Migration, University of Hertfordshire.