Entries

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 »
Progressive Reform in a Transatlantic Age
This essay describes the main political, socioeconomic, and cultural dimensions of progressivism and, on this basis, explores the imprint of the Progressive Era on the modern United States. It pays particular attention to the transatlantic dimension of progressivism, suggesting that the reformers’ perceptions and translations of European social reform provided both inspiration and resources for the formulation of a new politics, economics, and culture in turn-of-the-century America, and arguing that the contributions of some German immigrant entrepreneurs need to be seen in this context. At the same time, the essay contends that the international dimension of progressivism highlighted the fissures, fault lines, and blind spots within the movement and within American culture and society as a whole. Continue Reading »
Prohibition
The long-term effect of Prohibition for the Americans at large was a degeneration of beer culture which has only cautiously been reversed since the first microbreweries opened in the 1980s. The Germans were among the immigrant groups that suffered most from the onslaught of the temperance movement and from the enactment of National Prohibition. Although the role of brewers of German descent in the self-inflicted saloon crises was considerable and their attempts to defend themselves clumsy and self-defeating, they had to sustain severe losses when the beer trade became illegal, driving a part of the brewery owners to the brink of illegality themselves—or beyond. Continue Reading »
Project Introduction
Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present
A GHI research project 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 »
Ried, Johannes
SEE Reed, John»
Ringling, Albert C.
The eldest of the seven Ringling brothers, Albert (Al) C. Ringling was the founder and leader of the Ringling Bros. Circus, which grew from a small overland show into the country’s largest and most celebrated touring circus. Continue Reading »
Ringling, Alfred
SEE Ringling, Albert C.»