America in Global Context: German Entrepreneurs around the World

The United States was undoubtedly the most important, but by no means the only country of destination for German immigrant entrepreneurs. German industrialists, merchants, and other entrepreneurs could be found in virtually all world regions where international trade or local markets promised satisfactory returns. They were globally dispersed manifestations – and motors – of Germany’s expanding economy between unification in 1871 and the First World War.

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.

Heckscher, Charles August

Charles August Heckscher hailed from an influential, well-to-do, and sophisticated Jewish family of merchant-bankers in Altona and the nearby, independent city-state of Hamburg. In 1829 he emigrated from Hamburg to the United States to become a successful merchant and entrepreneur. He acquired wealth by opening a trading house in New York City and later used his personal capital to invest in anthracite coal mining and transportation operations in eastern Pennsylvania. By the time of his death shortly after the end of the Civil War, he was one of the leading colliery operators in the nation.

Jesselson, Ludwig

In the decades after 1945, Philipp Brothers grew to become the largest and most important metal trading company in the world. By the late 1970s, the company had become an international giant, dealing in over one hundred and fifty different industrial raw materials with representatives in virtually every country in the world possessing metals or minerals of commercial quality. During most of this period, Ludwig Jesselson, who had come to New York in 1937 to work for Philipp Brothers, was at the helm of the company. Jesselson led the company from a sizable private company to an international giant, in the process contributing to changing the markets for international commodities.