Biography

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. Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »
Oberlaender, Gustav
Gustav Oberlaender, a Rhinelander who spent his adult life in the United States, became a dominant figure in the full-fashioned hosiery industry. He and his partners, fellow immigrants Ferdinand Thun and Henry Janssen, used skills acquired in Germany to establish textile machinery and hosiery firms in the United States, undercutting their birth country’s exporters. Continue Reading »
Ochs, Adolph
Adolph S. Ochs was the foremost newspaper publisher of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. He resurrected the New York Times after purchasing it in 1896, and brought his own rigorous editorial standards to the Times and the field of American journalism. Continue Reading »
Oppenheimer, Henry
A successful retailer and wholesaler and longtime president of Hutzler Brothers Company, Henry Oppenheimer used family connections to establish and further his career in the United States after emigrating from Baden. Continue Reading »
Pabst, Frederick
In 1844, Phillip Best, together with his father and three brothers, opened the Jacob Best & Sons Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Twenty years later, Phillip’s son-in-law Frederick Pabst joined the company and helped to transform it into the nation’s leading beer producer – first in 1874 and then again in 1879, a position that was maintained until the turn of the twentieth century. As the company’s president, he led the firm through a remarkable period of growth and the Pabst Brewing Company became the epitome of a successful national shipping brewery. Continue Reading »
Paepcke, Walter Paul
The son of a Prussian immigrant, Walter Paepcke was the President of the Container Corporation of America (CCA) and founder of the Aspen Institute. Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »
Peter, Valentin Josef
Valentin Josef Peter emigrated with his family from Germany to the United States when he was fourteen years old. Peter had to work immediately to provide for his family, especially after the early death of his father George Peter. Despite—or perhaps driven by—these challenges—Peter rose from milking cows to running and owning one of the largest German-language newspaper empires in American history. Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »
Pfizer, Charles
Together with his cousin Charles Erhart, Charles Pfizer founded Charles Pfizer & Company, initially compounding a pharmaceutical product sold to retailers. The company soon shifted to the production of specialty fine chemicals, which were produced in relatively small quantities and sold for relatively high prices. Pfizer & Company expanded steadily to become one of the largest specialty chemical manufacturers in the United States by the beginning of the twentieth century, and Charles Pfizer retired a wealthy and successful entrepreneur. Continue Reading »
Potthast, Theodore
SEE Potthast, William A.»
Potthast, Vincent
SEE Potthast, William A.»
Potthast, William A.
William, Vincent, Theodore, and John Potthast, all of whom had trained as cabinetmakers in their native Germany, built up a successful Baltimore furniture company that specialized in producing replicas of eighteenth-century American furniture. Over time, the Potthast brothers established a reputation for putting Old World European craft skills to use in the manufacture of Colonial Revival pieces. Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »
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. Continue Reading »
Rauh, Frederick
Frederick Rauh was one of the leading German-Jewish insurance magnates in nineteenth-century America. His firm, Frederick Rauh & Co, founded in 1872, was among the oldest general insurance companies in the United States before its purchase by Acordia in 1994. Continue Reading »
Reed, John
John Reed, an illiterate Hessian deserter during the Revolutionary War, founded the first commercial gold mining operation in the United States around the year 1803. Continue Reading »
Remus, George
The life story of George Remus is a classic example of how the absurdities of the Volstead Act tempted a talented, very smart, and opportunistic German immigrant to deviate from the life of a respected trial attorney to one filled with a blind, lawless pursuit of abundant wealth and disregard for his enormous and gifted talent. Continue Reading »
Ridder, Herman
Herman Ridder, the eldest son of German immigrants to New York. Largely self-educated, he entered the field of journalism as a young man, founding first a German-language Catholic newspaper and then the English-language Catholic News. In 1890 he bought into the New Yorker Staatszeitung, a distinguished daily of national – as well as local – renown. Influenced by the paper’s owner and editor, Oswald Ottendorfer, he became an entrepreneur in business, politics, and print technology. Continue Reading »