Retail

Cone, Moses Herman

A second-generation German-American, Moses Cone began his career as a travelling salesman, or “drummer,” for his father’s Baltimore dry goods business. His customers included Southern mill owners who taught him much about the textile industry. Moses Cone eventually used this knowledge to break into the industry himself, first by securing ownerships stakes in various Southern mills, then by founding Cone Export & Commission Co., and finally by building his own mills in Greensboro, North Carolina. By 1908, the year of his death, Moses Cone and his brother Ceasar led the world in denim production.

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.

Filene, Edward Albert

Edward Albert Filene was a renowned department store magnate, civic reformer, and one of the earliest and most zealous champions of the credit union movement in the United States. Along with his younger brother Lincoln, Edward operated the famous Boston-based department store Filene’s, which they took over from their father, William, in 1891. During the first half of the twentieth century, Filene’s became one of the largest and most successful retail stores in the country, rivaling several of the premier retailers of the period, including Macy’s and Sears & Roebuck.

German Immigrants and J. P. Morgan’s Securities Underwriting Syndicates

The Immigrant Entrepreneurship project offers a transnational perspective on American history. Transaction records from the J. P. Morgan & Co. Syndicate Books help us understand how a transnational society of bankers networked funds around the world by forming syndicates to support the globalization process. Syndicate participation provided a way for many German immigrants and German-Americans to attain both economic success and social status in America.

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.

Goldman, Henry

Today, second generation German-Jewish immigrant Henry Goldman is primarily remembered for his role as an early partner in Goldman Sachs, the international investment bank that still bears his family’s name. His accomplishments stretched well beyond his own firm, however. In addition to revolutionizing Goldman Sachs, he helped change the American economy by shifting investment banking away from railroads and heavy industry and toward mass-retail establishments. He also pioneered an approach to capital valuation that focused not on physical assets, but on future earnings.

Levy, Hannah

Hannah Levy and her brother, Jack Levy, were born to Jewish parents in the town of Haigerloch in Southern Germany. As was the case with many German Jews, the story of the Levy family reflects the common immigrant phenomenon of chain migration and the importance of family ethnic networks. Pushed out of Germany by severe hyperinflation and economic depression, as well as rising anti-Semitism, Jack and Hannah both immigrated to America in the 1920s. The existence of a robust family network aided Jack and Hannah Levy’s integration into American life and played a crucial role in their later business success. Together, they founded and developed Fashion Bar, one of the more important regional chain store operations in the American West, and Hannah earned a national reputation as one of the most savvy women retailers in the United States.

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.