Muhlenberg, Frederick

Frederick Muhlenberg was one of the most influential Germans in colonial Pennsylvania and later the early United States. The second son of Lutheran patriarch Henry Melchior Muhlenberg and Anna Maria Weiser, Frederick was educated in Halle, Duchy of Magdeburg, but returned from Europe to become a Lutheran minister. However, he left the ministry to pursue a dual career in politics and business. During the 1780s he operated a general store adjacent to his house in Trappe. Following the death of his father-in-law – David Schaeffer Sr., a sugar refiner – Frederick went into the sugar refining business. Frederick amassed significant wealth, political influence, and social prominence. From 1790 to 1797, he was also president of the German Society of Pennsylvania. His untimely death in 1801, at the age of only fifty-one, was a severe loss to the Pennsylvania German community.

Nolte, Vincent

After coming to New Orleans as a result of the Hope-Baring Operation during the Napoleonic Wars, Vincent Nolte went on to become one of the largest cotton dealers in the city after the war ended. In the great financial crisis of 1825, his business failed for the first time, and in the next great financial crisis of 1837-1839, he went bankrupt a second time. Likewise, his effort to begin anew in Europe also failed. In his final years he turned to writing, leaving behind several economic texts, as well as an autobiography.

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.

Rapp, Johann Georg

In 1803, George Rapp left his native Württemberg for the United States of America in search of the Promised Land. Between 1804 and 1825, Rapp and his sectarians established three utopian communities in the United States, each housing as many as eight hundred people. In order to realize his goal of a perfect society, Rapp established an organizational model that clearly defined interactions between his society and the outside world and religious observances. His so-called Divine Economy enabled him to negotiate between the community’s practice of an inner-communal socialism, external capitalist entrepreneurship, and spiritual millennial beliefs. Moreover, by adhering to this model, Rapp and his followers transitioned successfully from self-sustaining agricultural work to frontier marketing, manufacturing, and global business activities.

Salomon, Haym

Haym Salomon, best known for his role in helping to finance the American Revolution, served as the broker to Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris from 1781 to 1784. He immigrated to colonial New York in the mid-1770s. His working knowledge of many European languages enabled him to broker bills of exchange from several countries, including France and Spain. The descendants of Haym Salomon, along with members of the American Jewish community, have used his legacy as “the financier of the American Revolution” to construct an American Jewish heritage with roots in the nation’s very beginning.

Trade, Family, and Religion: Forging Networks in the German Atlantic World

Network analysis offers a means for unpacking the relationships between Atlantic World inhabitants and the political-economic, social, and cultural linkages that developed during the colonial period and the era of revolutions/independence in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This essay will examine networks that helped to structure the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German Atlantic World. It will focus primarily on transport, capital, and communication networks, but will also address some of the ways in which ethnicity, marriage, and other social and cultural forces influenced the growth and development of these linkages. In particular, it will focus on German-American actors’ roles in shaping the topology of networks through their twin status as immigrants and entrepreneurs.