Adolphus Sterne
Historical Figure
Nationality: France (1801-1815)
Prussia (1815-1817)
United States (1817-1826; 1845-1852)
(Republic of Texas (1836-1845)
Date of Birth: 1801
Date of Death: 1852
Cause of Death: Natural causes
Religion: Deist Jew (officially Catholic after about 1830)
Occupation: Mercantilist, Lawyer, Judge, Revolutionary, Soldier
Parents: Emmanuel and Helen Sterne
Spouse: Eva Catherine Rosine Ruff
Children: Seven
Political Office(s): Representative for Nacogdoches to the Texas House of Representatives (1847-1851)

Senator for the Texas State Sentate (1851-1852)

Fictional Appearances:
"Hail! Hail!"
POD: December 15, 1826
Type of Appearance: Direct

Nicholas Adolphus Sterne (April 5, 1801 – March 27, 1852) was a German-American politician and revolutionary. Born in Cologne (part of France at the time) to a Jewish father and a Lutheran mother, Sterne immigrated to the United States in 1817, living in Louisiana for ten years.

In 1826, he moved to Nacogdoches, Texas, where he operated a mercantile. In short order, he became involved in the Fredonian Rebellion, smuggling weapons for the colonists who wished to rebel against Mexico over the course of 1826 until the final uprising began in December 1826. When the Mexican military put the rebellion down in January 1827, Sterne was captured and sentenced to death. However, his status as a Freemason helped save him. He was released after promising to never take arms up against Mexico again.

Sterne married fellow German Eva Ruff in 1828. Despite his pledge, he became part of the Texas Revolution after the formation of the provisional government in 1835. He used his resources to finance two companies of volunteers from New Orleans, and served in the government of the Texas Republic after independence. After Texas was annexed by the U.S., he served three terms in the state House of Representatives and one term in the state Senate.

Adolphus Sterne in "Hail! Hail!"[]

Adolphus Sterne was the first person to meet and get to know the Marx Brothers after they arrived in Nacogdoches on December 15, 1826. He remained a relatively close acquaintance with them for their entire stay in the past, and made much of their knowledge of future, thereby insuring the success of the Republic of Fredonia.

Sterne had already smuggled several guns into Nacogdoches for Haden Edwards inside of barrels full of coffee beans, and the plan to launch the uprising was set for December 16, 1826.[1] When the four Marx Brothers appeared in a tavern on the night of December 15, Sterne noticed their odd clothes and manners as they purchased whiskey. However, when he heard them toast with "L'Chaim", he approached them and spoke Yiddish.[2]

The four introduced themselves as Leonard, Arthur, Julius, and Herbert Marx. Julius, who did most of the talking, asked Sterne for the date. Sterne, puzzled by the fact that they didn't know the year, revealed it was December 15, 1826. Arthur Marx seemed to recognize it's importance, and Julius, to Sterne's horror, sang out "Hail, hail, Freedonia, land of the brave and free".[3] Sterne was horrified, and demanded that the strangers tell him how they knew about "Fredonia", but Julius was evasive with his answer. Nervous, Sterne invited the four to his home for supper. They accepted the invitation.[4]

Dinner was a stew prepared by Sterne's slave, Lemuel, with whom Sterne conversed in Yiddish. After they ate (Julius couldn't help but notice that Lemuel was served last), Sterne sent Lemuel to the tavern, and then pulled a flintlock pistol on the Marx Brothers and demanded to know what they knew about Fredonia.[5]

Julius, again speaking for the group, quickly calmed Sterne down by pointing out that the flintlock only had one shot, and that there were four brothers. Julius further astonished Sterne with the knowledge that Sterne had already smuggled in guns for Haden Edwards and the rebellion in barrels of coffee beans. When Sterne once again insisted that if these strangers knew, then the local Mexican political leaders would almost certainly find out. Julius gave Sterne a fifty-cent piece with the date of 1928. Sterne initially protested that the date was an error, but Julius assured him it was correct, and that he and his brothers were from 1934. After some thinking, Sterne decided to believe them.[6]

Julius confirmed that the the Fredonian Republic was doomed, although he couldn't recall Sterne's fate. The idealistic Sterne was outraged. He argued that since the four knew how it failed, they could help the Fredonia Rebellion succeed. Despite having only the most limited knowledge of Fredonia, Julius, seeing no other options, agreed, much to the horror of his brothers.[7]

The next day, Sterne and the Marx Brothers began trying to figure out how to help the Fredonian cause. First, Sterne confirmed that Haden Edwards and his men were coming to town that day to seize the Old Stone Fort. Sterne and the rebel leaders expected that the local Cherokee and other American settlers would aid the rebellion. Julius informed Sterne that, in his history, the Cherokee did nothing and the other settlers backed the Mexican government. Leonard argued that the best course of action was to convince all sides that Haden Edwards was actually stronger than he was. To that end, Arthur suggested that if they got the Cherokee to like them, the Cherokee might then trust and support the rebellion. Naturally he suggested comedy. At that, he and Julius went into routine mirrored one another to prove their point. Both Sterne and Lemuel were amused, and Sterne admitted that the scheme wouldn't hurt.[8]

Just then, Haden Edwards and his men arrived. The group went out to watch them seize the Old Stone Fort after a short gun battle. Sterne was enthusiastic about the victory, and the future republic it would create; Julius was more cautious.[9] Not long after, Sterne brought the brothers to Edwards and told him who they were. Julius promised to help Fredonia as much as possible, and told Edwards what happened in the future. Edwards accepted the Marx Brothers' offer of help, promising them that they'd never want for anything if they succeeded, and promising to murder each of them with his bare hand if they deceived him.[10]

Sterne and the brothers rode out to meet with Cherokee leaders Richard Fields and John Dunn Hunter. Fields had very little Cherokee blood, and Hunter had none at all. But both were well integrated into Cherokee culture and the white man's ways, and so the Cherokee followed them. Fields greeted them when they arrived, and Sterne explained who the Marx Brothers were and why they were there to meet. Fields agreed to listen and summoned Hunter.[11]

The group ate a supper of grits and armadillo before talks began. Once again, Julius explained that he and his brothers were from 1934 and offered coins to prove it. A full-blooded Cherokee named Eightkiller also looked at the coins. All saw dates from the 1920s, and Eightkiller observed the "clock" on Julius' wrist as being far more advanced than anything he'd ever seen. Based on this, the Cherokee were tentatively convinced the Marx Brothers were telling the truth. Julius then explained that in the Marx Brother's historical record, the Mexicans convinced the Cherokee not to back Fredonia, and the rebellion failed. He further explained that, despite the Cherokees' change of heart, the Mexican government still mistrusted them, and that Fields and Hunter were hanged in the spring of 1827 as a result. Julius withheld the fact that the Cherokee people themselves did the hanging. Fields reasoned that if they threw in with Fredonia, they had to go all the way. Eightkiller pointed out that they could also just flat out refuse to help now, as well. The Cherokee began discussing in their own language their next course of action.[12]

In order to sway the Cherokee, Sterne explained the white and red strips of the Fredonia flag symbolized whites and Indians working together. In response, the Marx Brothers sang the Freedonia anthem they'd sung to Sterne. The Cherokee weren't wholly receptive to these idealistic exclamations. When Eightkiller asked what the best course of action was, Julius simply stated that sitting back as they had in the original timeline didn't work, but he made no guarantees as to what would happen if they backed Fredonia all the way. While the Cherokee had reservations about trusting Haden Edwards, the realized that the didn't really trust the Mexicans either, and so opted to back Fredonia, even chanting "Hail! Hail! Fredonia!" along with Sterne[13]

The group stayed with the Cherokee for the next several days. Warriors started joining the band. On Christmas Day (a day even the Jewish Marx brothers wistfully observed), word came that the Mexican envoy, Peter Ellis Bean was on his way to convince the Cherokee to stay away from Fredonia. Fields reiterated his resolve to ignore Bean given his and Hunter's fate. Sterne explained to the Marx brothers that Bean was an American filibuster who was now a Mexican citizen, with a wife on either side of the border.[14]

Bean arrived on December 27. He'd received information about the Marx brothers, and was immediately dismissive of them. Julius began goading Bean in response, reciting the playground song "Beans, Beans, the Musical Fruit". While it didn't exist in 1826 yet, every English-speaker quickly understood the gist and began laughing, Sterne included. For good measure, Eightkiller even translated for some of the Cherokee warriors present. One made a fart-noise with his mouth. Bean also understood Cherokee, and this act made him even angrier. However, Julius quickly took things too far by slapping Bean in the face. Bean immediately declared that Julius had challenged him to a duel. As the challenged party, Bean selected pistols, and declared the duel would be at sunup the next day.[15]

Sterne agreed to be Julius' second, and even provided him a pistol.[16] After a relatively sleepless night, Julius and Sterne went out to meet Bean. Sterne provided Julius the pistol, which he loaded and prime with great care. Bean and Julius agreed to the final rules of ten paces, and one shot only. As the sun came up, Sterne confirmed that Bean's honor could not be satisfied any other way, and the duel commenced.[17]

Luck was on Julius' side, although Sterne's care with the pistol probably helped. Bean turned and aimed faster, but his gun misfired. Julius took aim at Bean's chest and fired. His gun discharged, hitting Bean in the chest. The wound was not immediately fatal, and Bean took an hour and a half to die. While Sterne congratulated Julius, Julius was vomited in horror, having never killed a man before. Over the course of Bean's slow death, Julius was able to come to grips with the duel to some extent.[18] Bean's death insured that the Cherokee would stay in the Fredonian camp, as the Mexican government would not believe that the Cherokee were blameless. Richard Fields announced that the warriors would head to Nacogdoches after they buried Bean.[19].

With the Cherokee secured and Bean dead, Sterne and the Marx brothers realized they now needed to get Stephen F. Austin's support. In mid-January, the five rode to San Antonio to meet with him. On the ride, Julius told Sterne broadly that anti-Semitism was still present in 1934, although not as in the U.S., and that things in Germany were not so good for the Jews, a revelation that puzzled Sterne. Julius also told Sterne that slavery was outlawed in the future, in part because of technology (as Sterne guessed) and in part for simple ethics. Sterne agreed in the abstract, but wondered about the "stupid" people, the "lazy" people, and the "inherently inferior" people, such as blacks. When Julius pointed out the Jews were also deemed as inferior, Sterne brushed the notion aside, as Jews were still white. Julius, remembering when and where he was, let it go at that.[20]

They were about half-way to San Antonio when they ran into the Mexican-Texan army encampment. Sterne decided to go into the camp, confident that he could convince Austin to meet with them. He slipped off, and the Marx brothers waited in the dark. Hours later, Sterne returned,and cheerfully informed them that Austin had heard about the Marx brothers, and did want to meet them. Austin was also more inclined towards Fredonia than Sterne had expected.[21]

The next morning, with a simple disguise of a period-appropriate hat, and a simple act of looking like stragglers, they were able to find Austin. He was particularly interested in Julius since he had killed Bean. When he asked for more proof of the Marx brothers' identity, Julius showed Austin his wristwatch, and Austin agreed to listen to what Julius had to say. Julius admitted he didn't know what would happen if Austin sided with Fredonia, but that because he didn't in the world that the Marx brothers came from, Fredonia failed. Julius further described the coming Texas Revolution in 1835, the American Civil War, and the end of slavery. Austin was sickened by the prospect of "nigger equality" . Austin decided that the future Julius described should not come to pass, and so decided to back Fredonia, even though he had little use for Haden Edwards. Sterne was quite adamant that Edwards was a true patriot and man of vision, but Austin still maintained a low opinion of him.[22]

At Julius' suggestion, Austin decided to wait until the night to attack the Mexicans. While The Texans outnumbered the Mexicans, the Mexicans had more canons and gunpowder. Austin realized that a night attack would removed the Mexicans' advantage. For the rest of the day, Austin met with his fellow Texans and planned the attack. Sterne and the Marx brothers had no role in the planning[23] or the attack itself. The attack was a complete success. Austin was informed that the Texans had captured Lt. Colonel Mateo Ahumada. He and Ahumada briefly had words, with Ahumada plainly disappointed in Austin's treachery. However, Ahumada gave his parole to Austin, as did the remaining Mexican soldiers, and Austin sent them home.[24]

Austin's men, Sterne and the Marx brothers headed to Nacogdoches. Sterne confirmed that both Austin and Haden Edwards wanted U.S. involvement in Texas.[25]

The Marx brothers lived near Sterne for the remainder of their time in the past.


  1. "Hail! Hail!", loc. 336, ebook.
  2. Ibid., loc. 235-268.
  3. Ibid., loc. 278-304.
  4. Ibid., loc. 313.
  5. Ibid., loc. 322-348.
  6. Ibid., loc. 348-374.
  7. Ibid., loc. 374-391.
  8. Ibid., loc. 393-444
  9. Ibid., loc. 444-492.
  10. Ibid., loc. 492-523.
  11. Ibid., loc. 523-583.
  12. Ibid., loc. 583-666.
  13. Ibid., loc. 666-696.
  14. Ibid., loc. 689-739.
  15. Ibid., loc. 739-782.
  16. Ibid., loc. 782.
  17. Ibid., loc. 803-847.
  18. Ibid., loc 847-867.
  19. Ibid., loc. 867-877.
  20. Ibid., loc. 877-929.
  21. Ibid., loc. 929-981.
  22. Ibid., loc. 991-1032
  23. Ibid., loc. 1032-1042.
  24. Ibid., loc. 1042-1113.
  25. Ibid., loc. 1133-1192.