Volume 2

Altman, Benjamin
Benjamin Altman founder of B. Altman & Company. Continue Reading »
Anheuser, Eberhard
Today Eberhard Anheuser’s name is synonymous with beer and the brewing industry. However, Anheuser became a brewer just as changes in American consumer behavior sparked massive growth in beer consumption. Over the course of Anheuser’s career, the American brewing industry began a transition from being mostly small-scale in production, locally based in market, and limited in its competitive nature into an industry known for its acute competitiveness, rapidly expanding production capacity, and internationally expanding market. Continue Reading »
Anneke, Mathilde Franziska (née Giesler)
Mathilde Franziska Anneke was an entrepreneur, lecturer, educator, journalist, writer, and a newspaper editor. She was well educated and a free and independent thinker, interested in political and social reform on behalf of women in both the German lands and the United States. Continue Reading »
Bausch, John
Credited as the entrepreneur behind Bausch & Lomb, John Jacob Bausch ranks among the pioneers who paved the way for the birth of the American optical industry. He transformed a small store for eyeglasses into a large-scale manufacturing enterprise for optical goods in Rochester, New York. Continue Reading »
Beringer, Jacob
Jacob Beringer, along with his older sibling Frederick, founded Beringer Brothers Winery in St. Helena, California (Napa County) in 1875. Continue Reading »
Berliner, Emile
Although he has been overshadowed in the public imagination by contemporaries Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, German-American inventor and entrepreneur Emile Berliner actually improved two inventions associated closely with those other men, the telephone and the talking machine. Continue Reading »
Berlitz, Maximilian D
German-Jewish immigrant Maximilian D. Berlitz founded the first Berlitz School of Languages in the United States in 1878. He went on to create a company that made his name synonymous with foreign-language instruction in the United States and throughout the world. Continue Reading »
Bolter, Andrew
Andrew Bolter started A. Bolter Co. in 1856 and became one of Chicago’s leading iron founders. After rebuilding his business following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Bolter garnered attention for the artistic steel designs produced by his renamed Illinois Iron Works while also gathering one of the country’s largest and most complete collections of exotic and North American insects. Continue Reading »
Bromme, Traugott
Traugott Bromme sought to further German immigration to the United States both as a public advocate and as an entrepreneurial author and book seller. Realizing that there was a market for guides that German immigrants could use to help orient themselves in their adopted land, he leveraged the first-hand knowledge that he had acquired living and traveling throughout North America, and his general knowledge of the region acquired through other sources, to provide a valuable service to Germans who were trying to escape poor economic or political circumstances in their homeland. Continue Reading »
Busch, Adolphus
Adolphus Busch arrived in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1857 as an unknown immigrant from German-speaking Europe. After partnering with Eberhard Anheuser in an existing brewery in 1865, Busch transformed the operation, eventually known as the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association, into the largest brewery in the world within a quarter of a century. Continue Reading »
Business of Migration since 1815
Millions of American immigrants, who worked in business or started new businesses of their own, also used businesses in order to reach America in the first place. Before the mid nineteenth century advent of the telegraph, railroad and steamship, this migration usually relied on the services of multiple businesses and intermediaries in order to carry out long multi-stage journeys across land and ocean. In the modern “global village,” interconnected by widely available fast air travel, key services needed by international migrants are also generally dispersed across multiple businesses, often related mainly to surmounting and adapting to legal restrictions. In between, during late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the business of migration was concentrated mainly on the crossing of the North Atlantic. Mass transatlantic migration then became the core segment of the world’s first major intercontinental travel industry, a business in which large German shipping lines played a leading role. Within a longer term context, this essay emphasizes that middle epoch of commercially-provided physical relocation from Europe to the United States, and also includes a sub-focus on entrepreneurship of German origin. Continue Reading »
Dohrmann, Frederick William
Frederick Dohrmann began his merchandizing career in San Francisco in 1868 as a partner with Bernhard Nathan in a crockery business. Over the next thirty-seven years, he expanded the business to create the Dohrmann Commercial Company, specializing in wholesale and retail sales of china, crystal, flatware, lamps, and fine “art goods.” F.W. Dohrmann also worked tirelessly for the betterment of San Francisco through German and non-German philanthropic boards and associations, and was one of the founders of the Merchants Association of San Francisco. Continue Reading »
Fink, Albert
After emigrating to America in 1849, Albert Fink got his start as an engineer at two successful railroads, the Baltimore & Ohio and the Louisville & Nashville. However, it was his role in the creation of two major railway pools the Southern Railway and Steamship Association and later the New York-based Trunk Line Association where he truly made his mark as an "organizational entrepreneur." Continue Reading »
Gemünder, George
August and George Gemünder pioneered high-quality violin making and trading in the United States and were responsible for establishing violin making as a respected craft in the U.S. and also for facilitating the flow of classical violins into the country. Continue Reading »
German Component to American Industrialization
The era from 1840 to 1893 was a momentous one both for German-American immigration and for U.S. industrialization, so it bears examining to what extent the two developments were interrelated. This essay will first sketch out the contours of German immigration and American industrialization in this era. It then identifies areas of the U.S. economy where Germans were particularly concentrated, and examines the industrial and geographic niches where transatlantic connections were of greatest consequence. Shifting focus from global to individual patterns, it then explores what was German and what was American about German-American entrepreneurship in the mid- and late nineteenth century. Continue Reading »
German Corporate Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth Century America
Many of the Germans who came to the United States in the nineteenth century were entrepreneurs, some in the more mundane sense of owning their own businesses, others in the more exciting sense of being innovators within various business sectors. Germans also appear to have been more likely to engage in entrepreneurial activities on a scale large enough to require the formation of corporations. That hypothesis stems from the analysis of a database of the names of several hundred thousand incorporators, people (mostly men) who helped for-profit businesses to receive special charters granted by state legislatures across the United States between 1790 and 1861. Continue Reading »
German Immigrants in the United States Brewing Industry
Immigrant groups in the United States sometimes find an economic niche that allows them to become dominant in a particular business, or, at the very least, to become associated with that niche in the public mind. For the German-American community before nationwide Prohibition (1920–1933), domination of the American brewing industry was both a cliché and a reality. Continue Reading »
German Jews and Peddling in America
Peddling helped launch the Jewish migration out of Germany and its predecessor states. The knowledge that thousands of young single men could come to America and get on the road, laden with a jumble of goods on their backs, and reasonably hope to end up a married proprietor of a thriving business, propelled them. The fact that they could fulfill the aims of their migration, settle down, and succeed in business, also helped change the face of the Jewish world for decades to come. Continue Reading »
German Social Entrepreneurs and the First Kindergartens in Nineteenth Century America
Two German women, Caroline Louisa Frankenberg and Margarethe Meyer Schurz, are credited with bringing the kindergarten movement to the nineteenth-century United States by opening kindergartens that served children of German immigrants. They conducted classes in the German language and were social entrepreneurs in that they made an innovative, long-term, social impact on the American educational system. Their primary interest was not personal financial gain, but rather the humanistic, social, and educational development of children. As word spread of their efforts, Anglo-American educators took note and grew the movement, establishing English-language kindergartens and kindergarten training schools for teachers. The creation of kindergartens fundamentally changed how Americans thought about the ideal environment for beginning a child’s education. Continue Reading »
Goelitz, Gustav
Jelly Belly traces its roots to the entrepreneurial efforts of Gustav Goelitz, who came to the United States in 1866 and with his younger brothers, Albert and George, built a successful confectionery business, Gustav Goelitz Candy, in Belleville, Illinois, and later Goelitz Brothers' Candy in St. Louis, Missouri. Continue Reading »
Goldman, Marcus
Marcus Goldman immigrated to the United States in 1848. After twenty-one years working as an itinerant peddler and a shopkeeper, he carved out a niche for himself in commercial promissory notes forming what would eventually become Goldman, Sachs & Co. Continue Reading »
Guenther, Carl Hilmar
Carl Hilmar Guenther established a mill on the Texas frontier in 1851 that grew into one of the largest food processing companies in the nation, producing well-known flour brands such as Pioneer and White Wings, home baking products under the Morrison Mills name, and Sun-Bird and Williams prepared foods. Guenther originally came to America in 1848, seeking greater political freedom and hoping for economic opportunity. Continue Reading »
Hackfeld, Heinrich
Heinrich (Henry) Hackfeld was born in Almsloh, a village in the parish of Ganderkesee, in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. He eventually became part of the Bremish mercantile elite, but was atypical in that he came from a humble background. His firm, H. Hackfeld & Co. of Honolulu, was one of a number of German mercantile businesses founded in Melanesia and Polynesia during the nineteenth century. Initially the main focus of the firm’s business was both indirect and direct involvement in the North Pacific whaling industry. After the demise of this industry, at the beginning of the 1870s, the firm shifted its focus to another part of its business, the provision of factoring services to the Hawaiian sugar industry. By the time of the incorporation of Hawaii as a United States Territory in 1900 the firm was one of a small group of sugar factors that dominated the islands’ economy. Continue Reading »
Hammer, Adam
Adam Hammer was a German physician who immigrated to St. Louis, after having participated in the uprising in Baden. Soon after his arrival in the United States he became aware of the deficiencies in the American medical education system. He determined that the most effective remedy for the situation would be to carry out a comprehensive reform of the medical sector using the educational and medical practices of Germany as a model. Hammer’s entrepreneurial significance is found in his contributions to society as a social entrepreneur in the worlds of academia and public health, rather than as a profitable commercial entrepreneur. Continue Reading »
Hihn, Frederick Augustus
German immigrant Frederick A. Hihn arrived in San Francisco as part of the Gold Rush and later amassed vast landholdings in Santa Cruz County. He spent much of his life developing property around existing towns and creating new vacation communities along Monterey Bay. Continue Reading »
Kempner, Herschell
Entrepreneurs Harris and Ike Kempner were heavily involved in mercantile ventures and the cotton and sugar trade in Galveston, Texas, and the surrounding area. The father and son were also active in local politics; local, regional, and national charities; and the local Jewish Temple. Between Harris and his son, the Kempner family was active in, created new elements of, and even directed the Galveston commercial sector for nearly a century. Continue Reading »
Krug, August and Joseph Schlitz
Brewing is surely the business most closely associated with German-American immigrant entrepreneurs, and the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company was one of the most prominent and best known examples. This biographical case study, however, stresses that the success of immigrant entrepreneurs was not only related to a new type of (lager) beer and an intense knowledge transfer from Germany to the United States. The Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company was the result of the work of three different families, closely connected by regional origins, marriage, and kinship. When Georg August Krug opened a saloon and a small brewery in Milwaukee in 1848–1849, he offered a service like that provided by hundreds of other German immigrants. Upon Krug’s death, in 1856, Joseph Schlitz, his bookkeeper, took over the business and eventually married Krug’s widow Anna Maria. Schlitz built the brewery into one of the larger local and regional players over the years before his accidental death in 1875, when it was taken over by his nephews, the Uihlein brothers. Continue Reading »
Lehman, Mayer
Founded first by immigrant Henry Lehman as a mercantile store in Montgomery Alabama, Lehman Bros. underwent a series of reinventions with the help of his brothers Mayer and Emanuel to become first an important commodity brokerage and eventually an investment bank in New York. Continue Reading »
Living the American Dream? The Challenge of Writing Biographies of German-American Immigrant Entrepreneurs
Biographies of businesspeople offer a new integrative perspective not only to trace the lives, careers, and business ventures of significant immigrants but to answer core questions of American, business, and migration history in a new way. The Immigrant Entrepreneurship project aims to explore hundreds of biographies; the sheer amount of this material has made clear that biographies can be used not only to analyze individual lives but also to address general questions in the history of capitalism and modernity. Continue Reading »
Mandelbaum, Fredericka
Fredericka Mandelbaum was born on March 25, 1825, in the central German city of Kassel. She settled in New York City in 1850 during the large, midcentury wave of German and Irish immigration to the United States. Mandelbaum arrived poor and, starting as a peddler, built a successful business as a criminal entrepreneur, the most noted “fence,” or receiver of stolen property, of her time, achieving success and fame from the 1860s through the early 1880s. Continue Reading »
Martin, Christian Frederick
C.F. Martin and Company closely resembles a classic German Mittelstand enterprise set down in Pennsylvania’s lush and rolling Lehigh Valley. Founded in 1833 by German immigrant Christian Frederick Martin, today the acoustic guitar manufacturer is run by the the sixth generation of his family. Continue Reading »
Menger, William
William A. Menger, the son of a master miller in Hanau, Electorate of Hesse, came to prominence as one of the most successful business owners in the frontier state of Texas in the 1860s and 1870s. His Menger hotel, a tourist staple in San Antonio to this day, was a vital and elegant dwelling that catered to military and civilian travelers alike, and housed the largest brewery in the state of Texas for decades. Continue Reading »
Miller, Henry
Henry Miller immigrated to the United States in 1847. After building up a thriving butcher business in San Francisco, he engaged in cattle rearing and farming, invested heavily in irrigation systems, and formed a partnership with fellow German immigrant Charles Lux in 1858. By the end of the nineteenth century Miller & Lux had become America’s largest integrated cattle and meatpacking enterprise, owning close to 1.3 million acres of land in California, Nevada, and Oregon. Continue Reading »
Ochs, Adolph
Adolph S. Ochs was the foremost newspaper publisher of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. He resurrected the New York Times after purchasing it in 1896, and brought his own rigorous editorial standards to the Times and the field of American journalism. Continue Reading »
Pabst, Frederick
In 1844, Phillip Best, together with his father and three brothers, opened the Jacob Best & Sons Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Twenty years later, Phillip’s son-in-law Frederick Pabst joined the company and helped to transform it into the nation’s leading beer producer – first in 1874 and then again in 1879, a position that was maintained until the turn of the twentieth century. As the company’s president, he led the firm through a remarkable period of growth and the Pabst Brewing Company became the epitome of a successful national shipping brewery. Continue Reading »
Pfizer, Charles
Together with his cousin Charles Erhart, Charles Pfizer founded Charles Pfizer & Company, initially compounding a pharmaceutical product sold to retailers. The company soon shifted to the production of specialty fine chemicals, which were produced in relatively small quantities and sold for relatively high prices. Pfizer & Company expanded steadily to become one of the largest specialty chemical manufacturers in the United States by the beginning of the twentieth century, and Charles Pfizer retired a wealthy and successful entrepreneur. Continue Reading »
Project Introduction
Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present
A GHI research project Continue Reading »
Rauh, Frederick
Frederick Rauh was one of the leading German-Jewish insurance magnates in nineteenth-century America. His firm, Frederick Rauh & Co, founded in 1872, was among the oldest general insurance companies in the United States before its purchase by Acordia in 1994. Continue Reading »
Ridder, Herman
Herman Ridder, the eldest son of German immigrants to New York. Largely self-educated, he entered the field of journalism as a young man, founding first a German-language Catholic newspaper and then the English-language Catholic News. In 1890 he bought into the New Yorker Staatszeitung, a distinguished daily of national – as well as local – renown. Influenced by the paper’s owner and editor, Oswald Ottendorfer, he became an entrepreneur in business, politics, and print technology. Continue Reading »
Roebling, John A.
John Augustus Roebling was the foremost designer and builder of suspension bridges in the nineteenth century. Continue Reading »
Sanger, Isaac
Isaac and Lehman Sanger arrived in Texas six years after the Republic joined the Union. By the end of the nineteenth century, their firm, Sanger Bros., had become the largest department store in Texas and perhaps in the Southwest. Continue Reading »
Scheffer, Albert
The life and career of Albert Scheffer, a St. Paul, Minnesota, businessman, is entwined with the financial development of the Upper American Midwest in the latter nineteenth century. He founded numerous banks and companies with great hope but eventually closed them with much sorrow. However, Scheffer was more than just a businessman. During his long career, he also became deeply involved in civic affairs in St. Paul, in local and state politics, in the fraternal affairs of Civil War veterans, and in caring for his extended family. Continue Reading »
Schell, August
August Schell immigrated to the United States as a young man in the aftermath of the failed revolutions of 1848. After first settling in Cincinnati, Schell became one of the founding fathers of New Ulm, Minnesota, where he founded his eponymous brewery in 1860. Today, the brewery is the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the United States. Continue Reading »
Schoch, Andrew
Andrew Schoch was a pioneer in the grocery trade, owning and operating one of the largest independent firms in the Midwest, with goods delivered to customers as far away as Africa and the Philippines. Continue Reading »
Schoellkopf, Jacob Frederick
Jacob Frederick Schoellkopf immigrated to the United States in 1842 and through a combination of thoughtful, strategic decision-making and a fair dose of luck, built a family empire in and around Buffalo, New York, that he passed down to his son and grandsons. Trained in Württemberg as a tanner, he took major risks in the U.S. by venturing into commercial sectors in which he had no knowledge or experience. Yet, by working closely with native-born Americans who were experts in these fields and by sending his children back to Germany for further education, he found himself on the cutting edge of a number of fields including hydroelectric power generation and aniline dye production. Continue Reading »
Seligman, Joseph
Joseph Seligman, along with his brothers, founded J. & W. Seligman & Co., which became the premier investment banking house raising money for the Union government, repaying the national debt necessitated by the war, and channeling European funds into the construction of American railroads and other industries. Continue Reading »
Singer, Isaac Merritt
The son of a German immigrant, Isaac Merritt Singer was the man behind one of the sewing machine patents that succeeded within an extremely competitive market in the mid-1850s. Since the eighteenth century, inventors had designed sewing machines to serve the needs of tailors and for various industrial purposes. However, inventors had struggled to develop a machine appropriate for domestic use. Singer contributed to the sewing machine trade with important technological advancements and also with the development of a marketing system capable of selling sewing machines around the world. Continue Reading »
Spreckels, Claus
Born in Lamstedt, Claus Spreckels settled in California and built a sugar empire that expanded into a multitude of sectors, including: transport, gas and electricity, real estate, newspapers, banks, and breweries. Continue Reading »
Steinway, Heinrich Engelhard
At the time Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg and his family left the Duchy of Brunswick for the United States in 1850, he was an independent craftsman of modest means, similar in many ways to others leaving the German states during that era. Within less than twenty years, the woodworker-turned-piano maker from the Harz Mountains in northern Germany established the Steinway firm, together with his sons, as one of the leading piano brands in the world. Continue Reading »
Straus, Isidor
Isidor Straus is best known as an owner and manager of the R.H. Macy department store in New York City. During his lifetime he was equally well known as an owner and manager of the Straus family’s large china and glassware importing business, L. Straus & Sons, also located in New York City. Continue Reading »

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