Biographies

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.

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.

Schoenhut, Albert Frederick

In 1872, six years after emigrating from Württemberg, Albert Schoenhut began manufacturing toy pianos in a workshop in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. By the turn of the twentieth century, the A. Schoenhut Company had become one of America’s leading toy producers – and one of the few to export to Europe. Today, the toy pianos, dolls, and novelty items produced during the company’s pre-World War I heyday are prized by connoisseurs, auctioneers, and aficionados.

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.

Spreckels, Walter

Walter Spreckels emigrated to the United States to become a clerk in his cousin’s sugar factory in Yonkers, New York. He started a family and made a fine career as a sugar business executive. World War I interrupted this steady improvement when Spreckels was deemed an “alien enemy” and barred from his position. However, he eventually rose to become president of the Syrup Products Company, a subsidiary of his former employer, the Federal Sugar Refining Company. After being pushed out of the company as a result of running afoul of Prohibition enforcement, he went on to become a labor negotiator for the National Recovery Agency and eventually a private industrial relations consultant in California.