German-American Immigrant Entrepreneurs Discussed at the 40th Annual Symposium of the Society for German-American Studies in San Antonio, TX

San Antonio hosted the Society for German-American Studies’ 40th Annual Symposium, dedicated to the general topic “German Seed in Texas (and other) Soil: Weighing Location and Culture.” The place was well chosen: From the mid-19th century, today’s economic and cultural center of South Texas faced a large influx of German immigrants, who accounted for more than 10 percent of the local population in the 1890s. Among them were several significant entrepreneurs, most notable William A. Menger (1827-1871) and Carl H. Guenter (1826-1902). Their firms—the Menger hotel and the Lone Star Brewery resp. the Pioneer Flour Mill—still exist today and are landmarks in San Antonio’s business history.

The symposium took place in the former German-English School, a renovated structure, where in 1992 the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by U.S. President George H. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Mexican President Carlos Salinas. Eighteen panels dealt with German-American history and linguistics, one of them dedicated to “German-American Entrepreneurs.” One of the Immigrant Entrepreneurship project’s authors, Todd Barnett (University of Missouri), presented a paper on Adolphus Busch’s (1839-1913) career in Texas. Apart from beer, Busch heavily invested in real estate and hotels and became an important factor in local and state politics. General Editor Uwe Spiekermann (University of Göttingen) gave insights into his forthcoming article on Ernestine Schumann-Heink (1861-1936), famed as the world’s leading contralto of her time and one of the most successful female entrepreneurs in the music business in the early 20th century. Other panels also dealt with individuals represented on the Immigrant Entrepreneurship project’s website: Alison Efford (Marquette University) and Viktorija Bilic (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) are currently working on an edition of Mathilde Franziska Anneke’s correspondence in the U.S. Several papers discussed German migration to Latin America, analyzing the marketing of the historical heritage of these groups. They offered interesting comparative perspectives for the German-American case.