Immigrant Entrepreneurship Panel at the 2013 Business History Conference, Columbus, Ohio

The Sweet Taste of Success: German-American Entrepreneurs and the Transition from Artisan to Industrial Confectionery, 1860-1950

Friday, March 22, 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.
This panel examines the shift from homemade to mass-produced candy and confectionery in the United States through an examination of the lives of four entrepreneurs. Throughout the 19th century France and French artisans were identified as the most prestigious producers of candy and chocolate products at the local scale. It was German and Swiss entrepreneurs, however, who took the lead in the development of techniques and machinery that enabled the industrialization of chocolate and candy production towards the end of the century. The three papers in this panel discuss the influence of cultural background on four German-American entrepreneurs who were pioneers in this transformation and spearheaded the creation of iconic products and brands as mass-produced candy became a ubiquitous American treat.
As attitudes towards Germany and German immigration changed over time, these entrepreneurs responded in a variety of ways, sometimes embracing, sometimes rejecting, and sometimes ignoring their ethnic heritage. Christina Bearden-White’s paper on Gustav Goelitz (candy corn) illustrates the more traditional pattern of immigrant entrepreneurship rooted in community identity. Leslie Goddard’s paper on Emil J. Brach (the eponymous Brach’s company) discusses an entrepreneur who focused on branding rather than community. Samantha Chmelik’s paper on Frederick Rueckheim (Cracker Jack) and Otto Schnering (Baby Ruth) describes the impact of World War I on business strategy for German-American-owned companies. The comment will be provided by Gabriella Petrick, whose research focuses on the history of taste and the application of industrial technology to food production.

  • Chair: Uwe Spiekermann, German Historical Institute
  • Christina Bearden-White (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale): “Gustav Goelitz: German-American Candy Maker”
  • Leslie Goddard (Graue Mill and Museum): “E. J. Brach: Confectionery Entrepreneur and Brand Pioneer”
  • Samantha Chmelik (Loyola University Chicago): “From Rueckheim to Schnering: Subsuming German Cultural Identities into All-American Marketing Images”
  • Discussant: Gabriella Petrick, George Mason University 

Please see the conference program for more information about the conference and details about the location.