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HISTORIC BACKGROUND OF THE TRAPP FAMILY

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historic background

Maria Augusta Kutschera

Maria Augusta Kutschera was born on a train on its way to Vienna on January 25th, 1905. Her mother died when she was about two years old and Maria grew up with a foster mother (an elderly cousin of her father) in a little house on the outskirts of Vienna. She underwent a very strict education without any other children around. She spent five years in a grade school followed by three years in a high school and four years in a State Teacher's College.

Raised as a socialist and atheist, her attitude changed dramatically when she, intending to hear a Bach concert, entered her college church. A well known priest, Father Kronseder, started to preach and Maria found herself overwhelmed by what he had to say. A meeting with this priest changed Maria's life and belief.

In 1924 Maria joined the Nonnberg Abbey in Salzburg to become a nun.

Georg Ritter von Trapp

Georg Ritter von Trapp was born on April 4th, 1880, in Zara (now Zadar), Croatia, then still part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. His father was a navy captain. He wanted to embark on a navy career as well and attended the Royal Naval Academy in Fiume (now Rijeka).

In 1910, he met Agathe Whitehead at a ball. It was love at the first sight and their marriage a society event. While still a young navy captain, the command of the submarine "U6" was assigned to him. During World War One, the French submarine "Leon Gambetta" was sunk by Trapp's mission. In 1916, he was promoted to lieutenant commander by Emperor Franz Josef I.

After the war, Austria no longer had a coast and did not need a navy, Captain Trapp not only lost his post, but also his wife. Lady Whitehead died in 1922 and left him alone with seven children to look after.

The Trapp family moves to Salzburg

The children and their father moved to Salzburg in 1925. In search of a tutor for his second oldest daughter, Maria, who was still recovering from scarlet fever and heart problems, Georg von Trapp met Maria Augusta Kutschera. The young woman was about to enter Salzburg's Nonnberg Abbey as a novice but the Mother Superior sent her to the von Trapps as a tutor. This is the point in the family's history where the movie begins.
After the first year, the children asked their father to do something to make their governess stay. They even suggested he should marry her. "I don't even know if she likes me!" was the captain's answer. So, the children went to ask for themselves. As Maria said "Yes I do", they were engaged. She never returned to the abbey and married the Captain on November 26th, 1927.

The turmoil of World War II

Two more daughters were born and the von Trapps were content with their lifes. In 1935, Father Wasner entered their lives. It was he who brought sophistication to their family hobby - music. The natural freshness and purity of their voices awarded them the first prize in a choral competition during the Salzburg Festival in 1935. The family, who had lost all its money during the depression, was invited to give concerts throughout Europe.

Emigration and international success

In 1938, Hitler entered Austria and the von Trapps decided to save their spiritual rather than their material wealth and left their large estate outside of Salzburg for the United States. As if going out for one of their usual family hikes with knapsacks on their backs and dressed in mountaineering clothes, they left their house and belongings behind. They took trains through the Austrian Alps, crossing the border to Italy and on through Switzerland, then France to London, and finally a boat to America.

In September 1938, they arrived in New York. There were nine children with a tenth on the way (Johannes, who was born in 1939), and they were accompanied by Father Wasner, who had become their family chaplain. Under his direction, singing turned into a profession and they became known as "The Trapp Family Singers". The family traveled throughout the United States on concert tours for eight months. After this period, their US-visa was expired and they were forced to leave the country. Thanks to concert invitations, however, they managed to get their visas for Scandinavian countries. When World War II broke out in September 1939, their American manager sent them tickets for the next crossing, so that they could fulfil their contracts with him.

Living in Vermont

The bus with "The Trapp Family Singers" painted on it was their only home during the first two years in the United States.

In 1941, the Trapp family bought a large farm in Stowe, Vermont, in a countryside very similar to the Austrian landscape near Salzburg that they missed. The house they live in was called "Cor Unum" which means "One heart".

After World War II, the Trapp Family started a musical charity organisation: "Trapp Family Austrian Relief Inc.". The family sent countless parcels of food and clothing back to their homeland Austria.

On May 30th, 1947, Georg Ritter von Trapp passed away. He is buried in the family cemetery in a meadow behind their home.

The family continued to go on concert tours in the USA until the mid 1950s. Maria Augusta Trapp died on March 28, 1987 in Morrisville at the age of 82.