The Age of the World Wars, 1918-1945

Boeing, William Edward

William E. Boeing, the founder of one of the United States’ most high-profile corporations, was active in several different economic sectors both before and after establishing the aircraft manufacturing company that bears his name. The son of a wealthy Michigan lumber magnate, Boeing inherited a fortune from his father as a child and went on to an elite education at a Swiss boarding school and at Yale. Leaving college before graduating, he moved to Washington state and used his inheritance to begin investing in the timber industry. He soon became fascinated by the early airplane industry and organized one of the first major airplane manufacturers.

Business of Migration since 1815

Millions of American immigrants, who worked in business or started new businesses of their own, also used businesses in order to reach America in the first place. Before the mid nineteenth century advent of the telegraph, railroad and steamship, this migration usually relied on the services of multiple businesses and intermediaries in order to carry out long multi-stage journeys across land and ocean. In the modern “global village,” interconnected by widely available fast air travel, key services needed by international migrants are also generally dispersed across multiple businesses, often related mainly to surmounting and adapting to legal restrictions. In between, during late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the business of migration was concentrated mainly on the crossing of the North Atlantic. Mass transatlantic migration then became the core segment of the world’s first major intercontinental travel industry, a business in which large German shipping lines played a leading role. Within a longer term context, this essay emphasizes that middle epoch of commercially-provided physical relocation from Europe to the United States, and also includes a sub-focus on entrepreneurship of German origin.

Expulsion – Plunder – Flight: Businessmen and Emigration from Nazi Germany

A defining feature of political and social developments under National Socialist rule between 1933 and 1945 was the forced emigration of tens of thousands of Germans. After being deprived of their rights and dispossessed, they tried to escape persecution and annihilation by fleeing from the Third Reich. While the origins and circumstances of emigration from the Reich after 1933 are among the most intensively researched questions in German history, the fate of businessmen in the context of this emigration has received relatively little attention.

Herrmann, August

Between the end of the Gilded Age and the beginning of the Progressive Era, the name August “Garry” Herrmann was known throughout the United States. Herrmann was a man who had a humble beginning; he made millions of dollars during his lifetime through his political involvement and partial ownership of the Cincinnati Reds. As a local politician he served as the right-hand man to one of the most powerful political bosses of his era, George B. Cox of Cincinnati. As president of the Cincinnati Reds and chairman of baseball’s National Commission, he helped to usher in the modern World Series and is one of the most important early major league baseball executives.

Hohner, Hans

In 1857, Matthias Hohner established a harmonica workshop that would become the world-leading producer of this small musical instrument. Founded in Trossingen, a small town in rural southwest Germany, the company soon expanded into the American market through Matthias Hohner's son Hans, who was partially educated in the United States and supervised the first foreign branch of the company, founded in New York in 1901. Hans' nephew, Matthias (Matthew) Hohner, later took over the American branch from Hans in 1927.

Hollerith, Herman

Herman Hollerith was the inventor of the first patented mechanized punched-card system, the technological foundation for the computing industry. He established a company to pursue the innovation based on census processing in the United States and several foreign countries, including Russia, Norway, and France. He licensed the technology to other firms in Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, and Germany. Hollerith revolutionized the technology used for general statistics and accounts processing by private businesses as well. He eventually sold his company to a conglomerate in 1911 which eventually renamed itself the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 1924. Hollerith’s inventions and innovations provided the business foundation for IBM’s prosperity throughout its early years.

Kaiser, Henry J.

Henry Kaiser’s importance in the creation of the modern American West cannot be overstated. Bridges and roads, river regulation projects and dams, pipelines and public transportation facilities, the supply of drinking water and cheap energy, the creation of steel production on the West Coast, and, finally, the building of houses and apartments—Henry J. Kaiser’s entrepreneurial activities played a crucial part in creating the preconditions for decades of prosperity throughout the region.

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.

Klein, William

The entrepreneurial careers of William “Bill” Klein and his brother Frederick began in the shadows of Milton Hershey’s burgeoning chocolate empire on the streets of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After working at Hershey's Chocolate Company, the brothers relocated to Elizabethtown and founded their own company. The Klein Chocolate Company was hugely successful and remained in family hands throughout its existence, at times providing employment for brothers and sisters and financial security for the entire immigrant family.