Kessel, Adam

Born in Brooklyn of a mother who emigrated from Bavaria and a father who was the son of German immigrants, Adam Kessel (sometimes “Ad” or “Addison”) would grow up to be a leading pioneer in the production and distribution of motion pictures in the early years of the film business. In time, he would employ many of the leading figures of the industry, including Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith. Kessel’s power was most in evidence during the 1910s, as the film business organized itself around the twin axes of West Coast production and East Coast financing.

Kleberg, Robert Justus II

An icon of American frontier life, King Ranch harkens back to a mythical age when the Wild West was tamed and settled. Its success is a testimony to the hard work and vision of second-generation German immigrant Robert Kleberg II. During his long tenure as ranch manager, Kleberg made key improvements in the areas of livestock and health, pasture management, and ranching facilities. His story, though, would be incomplete if one failed to mention the significant contributions he made to the urban and economic development of South Texas as a whole.

Ludwig, Christopher

Christopher Ludwig was one of the most successful German immigrant entrepreneurs in the British North American colonies and later the United States during the late eighteenth century. Following his arrival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1754, Ludwig converted his savings and culinary skills into a bakery and confectionary shop in the Letitia Court district. The enterprise thrived, which allowed Ludwig to expand his bakeshop and branch out into other business endeavors. Within two decades Ludwig had amassed significant wealth that included ownership of numerous properties in the region.

Miller, Henrich

A printer, journalist, bookseller, and translator who had traveled much of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world before beginning his publishing business in Philadelphia in the early 1760s, Henrich Miller counteracted ethnic isolationism among German immigrants and ensured their investment and enfranchisement in the emerging public sphere of early national America. From his ardent rejection of the Stamp Act to his enthusiastic support of American Independence, Miller did not merely witness and report the momentous political, civic, and cultural changes occurring in North America, but he actively shaped and participated in these events.

Netzer, Joseph

Joseph Netzer, a German immigrant, was an entrepreneur of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Along with many others, he journeyed to the US-Mexico border region in the late nineteenth century, attracted by new economic opportunities created by the construction of railroads that connected the industrializing areas of the U.S. with emerging capitalist centers in Mexico, including Monterrey and San Luis Potosi. Netzer, a hardware store owner and plumber by training, rose fairly rapidly to prominence in Laredo business and social circles. He became part of a cosmopolitan business class consisting of ethnic Mexicans, immigrants from western, southern and eastern Europe, from the Ottoman Empire, and from the northeastern and midwestern United States. His life illuminates the role of entrepreneurs who helped to integrate the U.S. and Mexican economies in that era.

Parish, David

Born into a rich Scottish merchant family based in Hamburg and in the neighboring formerly-Danish village of Nienstedten, David Parish was a merchant, financier, and entrepreneur who acquired riches, fame, and professional success in Europe and the United States between 1802 and 1823. Parish embodied the possibilities of his era: He used his personal abilities and social networks to become one of the most influential players in the international financial community; he was honored by his peers as well as by politicians like Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, Friedrich von Gentz, and President James Madison. His downfall, however, resulted from a mixture of hubris, miscalculations, and general problems connected with the banking crisis of 1826.

Pfister, Charles F

Thought extraordinarily successful, Charles Pfister was in many ways typical for a second generation German-American immigrant entrepreneur in the period between the gilded age and the progressive era: He managed technological and organizational innovations, continued in old branches and developed new ones, had to face the challenges of a political mass market and found himself in a contested situation by a general public, which celebrated successful entrepreneurs as titans and accused them as selfish and heartless forces of wealth.

Rath, John Washington

John Washington Rath, a founder of the Rath Packing Company in Waterloo, Iowa, played a major role in the American meatpacking business for more than fifty years. Rath served as president of the family business from 1898 to 1943, and then as chairman of the board until 1950. John Washington Rath and the Rath Packing Company also played a critical role in Waterloo’s development as a center of industry during the first half of the twentieth century. The Rath brand was a force in the American meat industry for years until faltering sales and labor struggles led to the company’s decline.

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.