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Jacob Zenger was born near the town of Mannheim, in what is today Southwestern Germany. He's the son of a farmer, one of 13 siblings. (Seems like a lot by modern standards, but colonial families were large, and the sad truth is that only 4 of Jacob's brothers and sisters would survive to adulthood.)
Zenger's family was poor and his career prospects were limited in Mannheim. Following the promise of a better life, he signed up as a soldier. After several years in the service, he was shipped to New York - one of the Hessians sent to fight for the British in the Revolution.
Zenger - like many of the Hessian troops - left the service after coming overseas. Eager to get back to the country, Zenger bought a plot of land and left New York. However, after a series of crop failures, he was forced to move back to the city, taking up the only career that he could find to pay the bills - working as a bodyguard.