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.


Historians have adopted various schema for conceptualizing the political-economic, social, and cultural relationships among the producers, consumers, and various intermediaries in Europe, Africa, and the Americas during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries. As historian Carole Shammas notes, the most widely employed framework for discussing these relationships is mercantilism, the economic strategy by which European colonial powers sought to enrich themselves and maintain specie reserves through exclusive (or nearly exclusive) trade with their colonies in the Americas. Africa was a key locus in this system, as the slave trade served to enrich traders (both European and African) and investors while also providing a source of labor for the sugar plantations of the Caribbean and Brazil and, to a lesser extent, the tobacco and rice fields of tidewater British North America. The political-economic framework described by the concept of mercantilism is largely top-down in nature and focuses on the actions of political and economic actors in Europe and the consequences of European decision-making in Africa and the Americas. Such an analysis largely ignores the complex relationships that developed between actors on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, not to mention the connections that existed beyond the confines of the Atlantic World, such as trade links to the Indian subcontinent and Asia. Furthermore, the mercantilist frame largely denies the agency of actors outside of Europe and overlooks the ways in which local and regional markets developed that challenged or bypassed mercantilist trade restrictions. In recent decades, historians have sought to complicate – and to a certain extent transcend – the concept of mercantilism by moving away from a tight focus on the European agents of colonialism and their political-economic activities to a broader analysis of the relations between Atlantic basin inhabitants. This diverse group of actors – including merchants in centers of trade throughout the Atlantic, free and enslaved craftsmen and laborers in the colonies, consumers, and native peoples of the Americas and Africa – interacted with each other in complex and changing ways and spurred the development of multifaceted networks and systems.[1]

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. A network has its basis in a triadic link between actors, and each new actor added to the network expands its complexity and utility in a non-linear manner.[2] Political-economic and social networks often overlap and may be mutually reinforcing in nature. Historical analysis of these networks, as well as the agents and institutions involved in constructing and maintaining them, offers a valuable tool for better understanding the development and change over time of broad transnational systems and how these systems influenced specific processes such as the emergence of market economies, the growth of transatlantic migration from Europe, and the development of various forms of entrepreneurship in the Atlantic World.

It is important to recognize that entrepreneurship in the Early Modern Period is a very slippery concept. Attempts to apply modern definitions, such as Daniel Wadhwani and Christina Lubinski’s description of entrepreneurship as “the processes through which actors, individually and collectively, make sense of and pursue the development of future goods, services, and markets, thereby transforming markets, industries, and capitalism from within,” to political-economic and social interactions from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are fraught with difficulty. Certainly, some economic actors viewed their commercial activities as transformative and sought to develop new markets and industries. Others, though, pursued broader, non-commercial agendas and engaged in profitable economic interactions in order to further their religious and social missions. For the purposes of this study, entrepreneurship will be characterized very broadly as commercial activities pursued by an individual or collective that helped to alter the broader economic, social, or cultural status quo.[3]

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. The study will employ the collective biographies of German-American entrepreneurs as source material to analyze the evolution and persistence (or lack thereof) of specific networks from the beginning of German mass migration to the British North American colonies in the 1720s and 1730s through the period of peak pre-Civil War immigration to the United States in the 1840s and 1850s.[4] During this roughly century-long timespan, the American economy evolved and expanded dramatically, the United States acquired political independence from Great Britain, and technological changes brought about important advances in the speed of transportation and communication. Severe economic disruptions also occurred within the Atlantic World during the period of study due to political events such as the Seven Year’s War (1754-1763) the American War for Independence (1775-1783), the French Revolution and Napoleonic conflicts of the 1790s and early 1800s, and the War of 1812 (1812-1815). Nevertheless, family, ethnic, and religious connections continued to play an important role in perpetuating existing network topologies and facilitating the development of new networks. The actors within these networks may not have been fully conscious of the true extent of their influence, as they were acting primarily to further their own individual or family economic wellbeing, but their actions and behaviors provide a valuable point of reference for mapping the dimensions of these networks and the interactions between networks and network actors across the Atlantic basin.[5]

The Development and Persistence of German-American Network Topologies: Transport, Trade, and Capital

In many respects, transport networks were the most fundamental political-economic systems of the Early Modern Era, since shipping provided the only means for transporting goods, capital, people, and information across the vast and inhospitable Atlantic Ocean. Many entrepreneurs of the era were involved either directly in the shipping sector as ship owners or indirectly as merchants and traders. Information brokers such as printers and religious leaders also depended on transatlantic shipping to transport letters, newspapers, books, and other important materials between Europe and the Americas. Transport networks even influenced social relations, as entrepreneurs sought out advantageous marriage partners in order to join established mercantile families or to secure funds for establishing their own trading operations. Thus, access to transport networks represented a sine qua non for German-American entrepreneurs of the era.

In British North America, mercantile policies ostensibly structured transportation linkages and commercial interactions between the colonies and the mother country, as well as with other colonial powers in the Atlantic basin. The various navigation acts of the mid- to late seventeenth century prohibited American colonists from trading directly with other nations and their colonies. Colonial products had to be shipped to English ports before being reshipped to other destinations. Similarly, European products had to pass through English ports before they could be shipped to the American colonies. While the acts helped to protect British and American ship owners from competition, they also increased prices for European goods and encouraged a lively smuggling trade conducted by many colonial merchants outside officially sanctioned trade channels. Thus, entrepreneurial merchants in the American colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries operated in a market economy at one level (seeking out illicit commercial opportunities, arbitraging commodities and manufactured goods between different colonial markets, and using various credit instruments to fund their activities), while simultaneously benefitting from protectionist British mercantile policies, which ensured that British and colonial American hulls carried the vast majority of goods and people between Europe and British North America. The most successful colonial merchants and shippers of the era learned how to take advantage of market opportunities as they arose, while also adhering publicly to the spirit, if not to the letter, of British trade policies.

Immigrants from the German lands initially played a fairly minor role in Atlantic transport, trade, and capital networks during the first half of the eighteenth century. In the decades leading up to American independence, however, German and German-American merchants, including Heinrich Keppele, the Gratz brothers, and John Parish (born in Scotland but a resident of Hamburg) became deeply involved in trade between Great Britain and the American colonies, while also engaging in opportunistic intra-colonial and inter-Americas trade and investment ventures.

Heinrich (later Henry) Keppele arrived in the Pennsylvania Colony in 1738 at the age of twenty-two after migrating from Württemberg via Rotterdam.[6] He supported himself as a butcher and later as an innkeeper, but within two decades he had acquired enough capital to become a merchant and a major participant in the Atlantic World economy. Taking advantage of British mercantile trade networks in the Atlantic and regional markets in Pennsylvania, Keppele imported manufactured goods from Europe and commodities such as sugar and molasses from the British colonies of Barbados and Jamaica. In turn, he sold linseed oil that he may have acquired in trade from German immigrant farmers growing flax in the Philadelphia hinterland. Keppele’s success as a merchant provided additional capital that he invested in the local shipping industry. He had a financial stake in a dozen vessels between 1752 and 1775, and, with his son-in-law, John Steinmetz, played a major role in transporting German immigrants between Rotterdam and Philadelphia. The immigrant trade helped to support his other major source of income, land speculation outside Philadelphia. He acquired large plots, subdivided them, and shrewdly sold them to fellow German immigrants at reasonable terms that helped to encourage continued settlement in the area.

A generation younger than Keppele, Silesian-born Michael and Barnard Gratz participated in transatlantic, inter-colonial, and intra-colonial trading after they arrived in Philadelphia in 1754 and 1759, respectively.[7] Both brothers clerked for a member of the Franks family, which conducted business across the Atlantic through family members residing in key port communities such as London, New York, and Philadelphia, and later the siblings established their own mercantile connections in the 1760s. Despite uncertainly and risk due to the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763), they imported goods from Great Britain and exported colonial products to British possessions in the Caribbean. They also served as agents for other merchants and helped to facilitate links between Philadelphia, the Caribbean, and the Ohio River Valley. Regional trade for furs and pelts, conducted via intermediaries in Lancaster and western Pennsylvania, proved to be a lucrative commercial activity for the brothers and also led them to speculate on land in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. When political conditions hindered the interior trade in the late 1760s, they focused, briefly, on trade with fellow Jewish merchants in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island, as well as with co-religionists in Jamaica and Curaçao. Following independence, they resumed the interior trade and also continued speculating both in land and land certificates issued by the federal government to war veterans before turning over their commercial activities to the next generation.

Scotsman John Parish, whose father, George, had settled in the Hanseatic port of Hamburg when John was a young man, helped to forge important trade links between the American colonies and northern Europe on the eve of the American Revolution.[8] His son, David, would later play an important role in the United States as a merchant, financier, and land developer during the Early Republic. John Parish established a close personal and business connection with merchant and financier Robert Morris, who served in the Continental government during the War for Independence, and was eventually named American vice-consul in Hamburg. Parish helped to secure military goods for American merchants in late 1774 in exchange for colonial products, an act in clear violation of British mercantile policies, and interfered with efforts by the British consul in Hamburg, Emanuel Matthies, to end the illegal trade. Following the American declaration of independence, Parish and Morris worked closely to ensure that military supplies from northern Europe, such as Prussian textiles for uniforms and blankets, saddles, gunpowder, and other war materiel reached the rebels. Parish utilized established transatlantic trade networks to facilitate his activities and earned significant commissions that he later invested in land purchases.

Following independence, a new generation of German-American merchants and traders including Jacob Schieffelin, John Jacob Astor, David Parish, and Frederick W. Brune helped to expand existing Atlantic transport and trade connections, established new links to Asia and South America, and promoted the development of new networks with nodes in emerging trade ports such as Baltimore and New York City and the Hanseatic city-state of Bremen.

Philadelphia-born merchant Jacob Schieffelin, the son of immigrants from Württemberg, participated in transatlantic and North American trade networks as he came of age during the American Revolution. Jacob’s father established himself as a sutler for the British Army in Montreal following the Seven Years’ War. Jacob clerked for a local merchant during his teens and later joined the local loyalist militia to defend his community during the American invasion of Quebec in the winter of 1775-1776. He relocated west to the British military post of Detroit in the summer of 1776 and served as a merchant and trader until American forces captured him during a British military expedition into the Illinois Country in the winter of 1778-1779. He later escaped from a prisoner of war encampment near Williamsburg, Virginia, and made his way north to British-occupied New York City, arriving in July 1780. After marrying the daughter of a prominent local Quaker family, Hannah Lawrence, the couple returned to Detroit via Montreal. At war’s end, they settled in Montreal, where Jacob spent nearly a decade as a merchant and land speculator. In 1794, Schieffelin, encouraged by his wife’s extended family, returned to New York City to become a co-owner in a drug import and wholesaling business. He parlayed the venture into a larger commodity import operation by the early nineteenth century, conducting business with merchants in London and the Caribbean and taking advantage of New York City’s emergence as a major trade center at the beginning of the century. The Embargo Act of 1807 and the War of 1812 disrupted transatlantic trade networks and interrupted Schieffelin’s business activities. He eventually sold his stake in the import business and retired to manage the large tracts of property that he had purchased in the Ohio Country, Pennsylvania, and New York, which provided a steady source of income for his family through the end of his life.

Like Schieffelin, German immigrant John Jacob (originally Johann Jakob) Astor utilized transport and trade networks to acquire capital that he later invested in American real estate.[9] Astor left Baden via Rotterdam in 1780 and spent a few years living in London with his eldest brother, Georg Peter, before sailing for Baltimore in the fall of 1783, two months after British and American officials signed the Treaty of Paris, recognizing American independence. He settled with another brother, Henry (originally Heinrich), in New York City and began selling musical instruments procured by Georg Peter in London. A job preparing and selling pelts for fur trader Robert Bowne (himself a member of a prominent New York family, and one into which one of Jacob Schieffelin’s son’s married) introduced Astor to the fur trading profession and fur sales became an important part of the import business that he established in New York City. After procuring furs himself from upstate New York forests in the early 1790s, he began importing them from Montreal after Jay’s Treaty of 1794 loosened mercantile trade restrictions between British Canada and the United States. Astor profited from the North American fur trade and began to look for other outlets for his growing pelt supply. In 1800, he began shipping furs to China in trade for silk, tea, and other high-value Asian goods. The 1807 Embargo Act interrupted his overseas trading ventures, and Astor instead focused on forging intracontinental trade links with the west coast of North America. His American Fur Company, established in 1808, recruited trappers and traders to acquire furs from the Pacific Northwest and transport them to New Orleans via St. Louis, where they would be loaded on ships for New York City. Europe offered the largest market for North American furs, but the Embargo Act and War of 1812 interfered with the trade. The American Fur Company appeared to be on the brink of collapse, but peace in 1815 and pent-up demand in Europe offered it a new lease on life. After the federal government excluded foreign traders from operating in the nation’s western lands, Astor’s company established a monopoly over the fur trade. Aster gradually divested his financial stake in the company during the 1820s and used the capital to expand his property holdings in Manhattan. In all, he spent nearly two million dollars (approximately $62 million dollars in 2014$) on New York City land between the 1810s and his death in 1848, an investment that would continue to enrich future generations of the Astor family.[10]

Merchant and financier David Parish took advantage of the same transatlantic transport and capital networks that his father John had utilized in the eighteenth century when the younger Parish came of age at the beginning of the 1800s. He immigrated to the United States in 1805 to oversee financial transfers on behalf of Baring Brothers and Hope & Company, two important private banks that provided significant capital for transatlantic trade during the era, and later invested his wealth in land development in upstate New York. Like his father in the 1770s, David Parish played a role in ensuring the stability of the United States government during the Early Republic Period. The War of 1812 precipitated a financial crisis for the U.S. Treasury Department, as wartime expenditures nearly bankrupted the government. Parish, backed by a syndicate of American and British bankers, helped to secure the nation’s credit by underwriting a critical war bond issue. Fellow German immigrant John Jacob Astor and French immigrant Stephen Girard supported him in this financial endeavor. The men dipped into their personal fortunes to purchase the bonds (thus providing the federal government with a much-needed cash infusion) before reselling them at a profit overseas.

Bremen-born merchant Frederick William Brune played an important role in fostering new transport and trade networks as a member of the first generation of German merchants to establish commercial ties between the emerging port of Baltimore, Maryland, and the Hanseatic city-state of Bremen. Merchants in Hamburg, Bremen’s rival Hanseatic trade port, had dominated German trade with the American colonies prior to the American Revolution due to their close links with fellow merchants in the imperial city of London and their ability to work within British mercantile trade restrictions. Bremish merchants, on the other hand, began to seek out direct trade links with American ports as mercantile restrictions fell by the wayside following American independence.[11] Brune arrived in Baltimore in 1799 at the age of twenty-three after receiving training in business in the counting house of a member of the von Kapff family.[12] He originally planned to settle in New York City with a brother, but a crisis at Von Kapff & Anspach, a Bremish firm in Baltimore co-owned by the brother of his former employer, drew him to the southern port city. Henry Anspach, a partner in the mercantile house passed away suddenly while Bernard von Kapff was in Europe. The firm could not conduct any business since the local staff lacked authority to manage its commercial affairs. Partners from three other Baltimore firms reached out to Brune and asked him to come manage Von Kapff & Anspach until the legal situation could be resolved. Brune eventually joined the trading house, which was later renamed Von Kapff & Brune. Brune found business during the early years of the nineteenth century particularly challenging due to an economic crisis that caused commodities prices to collapse in Hamburg, Bremen, and other Atlantic ports. The firm specialized in linen imports from the German lands, but also dealt in manufactured and specialty goods. In return, it exported local commodities such as tobacco and grain, cotton from the southern states, and tropical goods including sugar and coffee. The firm also began investing in shipping and soon owned or co-owned a number of vessels. Trade restrictions due to the Napoleonic wars and the War of 1812 hurt the partner’s bottom line, but they recouped some of their loses by investing in privateering vessels and supplying Baltimore privateers with weapons and equipment. After the war, Brune sought out new opportunities in Central and South America, establishing trade relations with merchants in newly-independent former Spanish colonies. The firm also engaged in trade with mercantile houses located in India and China during the 1840s. One of Brune’s sons, John, later established a sugar refinery in Baltimore in 1852, after which molasses imports and sugar sales became a major source of revenue for the firm.

Capital networks shared many of the same actors as the transport and trade sectors, particularly in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The earliest transatlantic capital networks in which ethnic Germans and residents of the German lands participated were typically structured by religious affiliation. Port Jews established elaborate trade and capital networks that spanned the Atlantic basin. Both Iberian Sephardic and Central-European Ashkenazic Jewish families settled in the American colonies, particularly in northern ports such as New York, Newport, and Philadelphia and major southern cities including Charleston, New Orleans, and later Richmond. While these Sephardic and Ashkenazic families typically maintained separate networks of capital and trade, they did worship jointly, often in Sephardic synagogues, and gradually intermarried. Historian Johathan D. Sarna notes that “more Sephardic Jews married Ashkenazim than married Sephardim.”[13]

The Ashkenazic Gratz brothers utilized kinship and co-religionist connections to migrate from Silesia, via the Low Countries and London, to the colony of Pennsylvania. Bernard Gratz found employment with a member of the powerful Franks family, which dominated the Ashkenazic commercial scene in New York City, and he acquired first-hand experience in the mercantile sector. When his brother, Michael, arrived in Philadelphia, the two continued to take advantage of religious connections with their Jewish peers to further their commercial activates, while also conducting trade with German and English gentile associates in North America and the Caribbean.[14] The brothers further cemented their ties to prominent Jewish merchants and traders through marriage. Barnard married Richea Mears, daughter of New York merchant Samson Mears, who was also related by marriage to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, trader Joseph Simon. Michael married Simon’s daughter, Miriam, thus reinforcing a close connection between the two families that helped to foster and maintain trust, an essential element for far-flung capital and trade networks. Michael Gratz’s daughters, in turn, married Jewish business associates, further solidifying the network.

Likewise, Silesian-born, Jewish financier Haym Salomon benefitted from co-religionist and kinship connections as he sought to utilize capital networks for personal gain during the American Revolution. Salomon arrived in New York City in the early 1770s with little education and few resources, but he possessed a strong command of European languages. After establishing himself as a sutler for American and later British forces in New York in 1776, he married Rachel Franks, a member of the prestigious Ashkenazic Franks family, the following year. The marriage may have helped to strengthen his social and commercial standing in New York City, but he eventually fell afoul of the British occupation forces and fled to Philadelphia in 1778. In a memorial to the Continental Congress, he indicated that he had left a substantial amount of property and commercial debts owed to him behind in New York (along with his wife and newborn child). His family eventually joined him in Philadelphia, but he was forced start anew as a financial broker. If Salomon’s Congressional memorial is reliable, then it appears that his marriage into the Franks family must have provided him with significant financial benefits and offered him entrée into the Franks’ capital and trade networks. Otherwise, it is hard to conceive how he would have obtained such a significant personal fortune in such a short time period. The kinship connection may have also benefited him as he attempted to rebuild his commercial fortunes in Philadelphia, since the Gratz brothers and other local Pennsylvania merchants had familial and religious links to the Franks too.

German-Jewish merchant Charles August Heckscher of Hamburg and his brother, Edward, similarly utilized co-religionist capital networks in London operated by the Rothschild family, among others, as well as co-ethnic links to banking firms and mercantile houses including Parish & Co., to develop trade connections between New York and the Hanseatic city-states of Hamburg and Bremen. Heckscher traded in precious metals between Latin America and Europe and eventually joined the “China trade” in silks, tea, and gunpowder.[15]

As German immigration increased over the course of the nineteenth century, Ashkenazic Jewish came to predominate in the United States and founded numerous synagogues – such as Congregation Emanu-El in New York City – that adopted the Reform ideology identified closely with Rabbi Isaac M. Wise. New York Reform German-Jewish capital networks, in particular, were close-knit (on this topic see, for example, Stephen Birmingham’s Our Crowd) and linked traditional centers of Ashkenazic-Jewish capital in Frankfurt with other important Atlantic World business centers such as London, Paris, and Amsterdam.

Like religion, ethnicity itself played a role in shaping network topologies. German-born David Parish utilized ethnic networks in Hamburg and Great Britain to enter the high-stakes financial realm and participated in significant international monetary transactions including the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and the Hope-Baring Operation, which involved transfers of gold and silver from Mexico to Europe. Like Charles Heckscher, Parish conducted deals with the Baring and Rothschild families, who provided significant business capital through their private banks in London. He also funneled business to his brothers in Hamburg by convincing merchants in American port cities including Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York to take a risk by giving them brokerage business despite the British continental blockade from 1807 to 1814. Parish exploited his German ethnicity, but also his cosmopolitan, transnational upbringing, to move in and out of different financial and mercantile networks over the course of his career.

Merchant Vincent Nolte employed many of the same social and ethnic connections as Parish in his efforts to acquire a central role in the cotton trade between the southern United States and England. Born into a Hamburg mercantile family, Nolte participated with Parish in the Hope-Baring Operation on behalf of Hope & Co. and the Barings. The young merchant settled in New Orleans in 1806 to oversee the precious metals transfers from Mexico to Europe via the United States. A few years later, he returned to the city and established a commission business supported by the Barings that exported cotton to England and imported European goods. Twice bankrupted due to severe price corrections in the cotton market, Nolte employed his cosmopolitan upbringing to secure new employment with German, English, French, and Italian merchants and continued to view the U.S. as a land of opportunity despite spending his later European years in penury.[16]

Industrialist Peter Hasenclever similarly employed ethnic ties and political connections to secure favor in the courts of Frederick the Great and later George III. He used his political capital to secure financing and official government support for a venture to produce iron in the New Jersey colony for export back to Great Britain. Once he had assembled a group of investors, a cousin secretly recruited skilled German miners and ironworkers to immigrate to the British colony and work for Hasenclever’s firm. While his workers succeeded in producing pig iron, the poor state of colonial infrastructure doomed the venture since the cost of transporting the heavy iron pigs from the mountains of northern New Jersey to New York Harbor proved to be prohibitively expensive.[17]

In addition to serving as a major source of profit for German-American merchants in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the transport sector was of critical importance to the waves of Germans seeking to immigrate to British North America and later the United States. Prior to the 1840s, most German migrants embarked from ports in the Low Countries, France, and England, and traveled primarily in English (due to Navigation Act restrictions) and later American sailing vessels. Immigrants employed a host of strategies for financing such voyages, including purchasing tickets on credit and selling European goods in ports such as Philadelphia to pay off the cost of the voyage, or making arrangements with ship owners to travel as “redemptioners,” a strategy that involved negotiating a fixed-term labor contract with a buyer in the American colonies upon arrival for a price that would cover the cost of the journey.[18]

While German immigrants settled in Atlantic coast communities from New York to Savannah, the majority landed at the port of Philadelphia and settled in the Pennsylvania colony during the eighteenth century. German settlers favored Pennsylvania due to the low cost of good farmland in the interior, the colony’s support of religious freedom, and the Quaker proprietors’ generally laissez faire attitude regarding taxation and political participation. By the late 1730s, a fairly sophisticated transport network had emerged between Rotterdam and Philadelphia that provided a means of travel for tens of thousands of Germans, primarily from the Rhine watershed. Historian James Boyd argues that the network developed as a result of William Penn’s “arrangements with Benjamin Furly, a Quaker merchant in Rotterdam, to funnel co-religionists to his American colony.” Furley later provided security for the firm that pioneered the German redemptioner trade with Pennsylvania. The redemptioner system enabled poor residents to leave the German lands and establish themselves in the backcountry of Pennsylvania. In return, merchants in Philadelphia ensured a reliable flow of westbound traffic to fill the mostly empty hulls of their ships after they had transported colonial goods eastward to England. This particular network topology had great persistence, as the wars and trade disruptions of the latter half of the eighteenth century and the first two decades of the nineteenth century failed to dismantle it. During brief windows of peace in the 1790s and early 1800s, merchants (initially European and later American) revived dormant trade links that permitted migrants to leave the German lands via the Low Countries and arrive in the United States through the port of Philadelphia. The immigrant trade resumed after the end of the Napoleonic conflict in 1816 and continued until 1819.[19]

In the wake of American independence, a new transportation and trade network topology began to emerge. Westward-looking entrepreneurs began organizing firms to bridge rivers, bypass rapids and waterfalls, and construct all-weather turnpikes in the interior of the U.S. Taking advantage of corporate charters, German immigrants such as Jacob Schenck, Sydney Schenck, and Aaron Gulick organized joint-stock companies to construct bridges in New York, plank roads in New Jersey, and other forms of internal improvements. Some of these firms had remarkable longevity. Gulick’s Washington Bridge Company, chartered in 1831, continued to operate for over forty years until it was purchased by the Middlesex County government in 1877.[20] These interior improvements helped to expand existing regional transportation and trade networks in the eastern United States. All-weather turnpikes between Philadelphia and Lancaster improved commercial access to the interior of Pennsylvania, which benefitted merchants like tobacconist Christopher Demuth, and improvements along the Susquahanna River facilitated growing commercial ties between Lancaster, York, and Baltimore. Similarly, the development of canals, roads, and bridges in northeastern Pennsylvania and central New Jersey improved links between the Lehigh Valley and New York City and permitted specialized manufacturers such as luthier Christian Frederick Martin to obtain raw materials and ship finished products to the Atlantic seaboard.[21]

The Development and Persistence of German-American Network Topologies: Communication

Communication networks formed a critical web that helped to bind people throughout the Atlantic basin. As with transport, trade, and capital networks, these information and knowledge networks depended on the physical movement of people and products across the Atlantic by ship and throughout the American hinterland on horseback, wagon, and foot. Printers in the American colonies represented a critical node in these communication networks. The first printers in the colonies published primarily religious and secular pamphlets and book written by others. Such work was not particularly profitable. A few like William Bradford secured more lucrative official appointments to produce legal documents, paper currency, and other materials for colonial governments (Bradford also published a weekly newspaper in New York beginning in the 1720s, but it was likely not a major source of income for the publisher).[22] By the middle of the eighteenth century, however, the status of printers had evolved from skilled laborers to information brokers, and they began to play a more active role in shaping the public sphere, often while simultaneously serving as nodes in religious communication networks.[23]

Many of the communication networks linking the German lands with North America were based on religious affiliation and typically involved printers working directly or indirectly for religious sects. The Moravian religious communities in Pennsylvania and later North Carolina maintained close connections with their European home community of Herrnhut, Saxony. Printer Henry (originally Henrich) Miller’s chance encounter with Moravian Leader Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf influenced his decision to migrate to Pennsylvania in 1741. For nearly two decades, Miller served as a node in the Moravians’ transatlantic communication network, both in the Pennsylvania colony and also in Europe. After spending approximately six months working as a journeyman for Benjamin Franklin in the winter of 1741 and spring of 1742, and another ten months on a mission to the Delaware Indians, Miller returned to Europe to oversee the establishment of a Moravian print shop near Frankfurt am Main and also to enter into an arranged marriage with a wealthy Moravian widow, presumably to provide funds for the printing operation. Miller once again traveled to Pennsylvania in 1751, and participated in printing both secular newspapers and religious materials for the Moravians. After three years, he again returned to Europe at behest of the Moravians and worked as an itinerant printer until 1760. In that year, he made a final transatlantic voyage to Pennsylvania and set up a commercial, German-language newspaper, likely with the support of Benjamin Franklin. He continued printing religious materials for German protestant congregations in Pennsylvania, but focused increasingly on secular materials that engaged with political events of the day and educated German immigrants regarding the English legal system and political participation in colonial affairs. While Miller’s relationship with the Moravian church declined over time, his role in disseminating German-language information for the church through his printing activities on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as his repeated journeys between the German lands and Philadelphia in the 1740s and 1750s, helped to ensure that church members in the Old and New Worlds were well informed about current affairs and activities in which the church was engaged.[24]

Like Miller, Pennsylvania printer Johann Christoph Sauer’s publishing activities primarily served religious ends, while also educating his German-language audience about secular affairs both in the colony and in Europe. Unlike Miller, however, Sauer viewed the Anglo-colonial political sphere with unease and encouraged his readers to support pacifist Quakers in local elections in order to prevent the emergence of a militarized state and a return to the manorialism that many Germans had experienced in the German lands. Sauer’s pietist leanings influenced his outlook on the relationship between religion and the state and his affiliations with German Baptists and other sectarians in Pennsylvania and the German lands shaped the communication and business network that he developed after he immigrated in the 1720s. Nearly a decade before he established a printing press in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1738, Sauer was already corresponding with German sectarians in order to obtain German-language religious books and other materials for poor settlers in Pennsylvania. He eventually founded a print shop with no formal training using a set of Fraktur type he obtained from Pietists in Frankfurt am Main and a homebuilt printing press. Early print projects included hymnals, religious broadsides, and educational texts, primarily aimed at Anabaptist and Pietist sects in Pennsylvania. These were followed by an almanac and a newspaper in 1739. As Sauer biographer Hans Leaman notes, Sauer viewed the newspaper “largely as a public service to the German-speaking community” but “remained conflicted over the potential for the news business to be morally misleading.” During the 1740s and 1750s, he used his newspaper to campaign against efforts to call up a colonial militia to deal with conflicts between backcountry settlers and Native Americans, and also fought against a plan by Benjamin Franklin and his allies to organize “charity schools” to teach German children English, believing that such an effort was really a ploy by Lutheran and Reformed ministers affiliated with Anglo-colonial political leaders to indoctrinate sectarian children. While Sauer’s influence within the German immigrant community helped to defeat the school plan, he could not prevent the formation of a militia, particularly after attacks by native tribes on Pennsylvania settlements at the beginning of the French and Indian War. After Sauer’s death in 1758, Henry Miller emerged as the new public voice for a more militant German immigrant community who was increasingly willing to join with its Anglo neighbors in the defense of the colony and its political values.[25]

Communication networks in support of commerce were also present in the German Atlantic World. American publishers did not play a primary role in disseminating commercial news either in English or German during the colonial era. In contrast to their rigorous reporting on religious and political matters, colonial publishers rarely included detailed information about commodity prices, maritime insurance quotes, or going rates for bills of exchange in their newspapers. Instead, this information was contained in British commercial newspapers emanating from London, which were widely available in the coffee houses and merchants’ exchange halls of American port communities like Philadelphia and New York.[26] For German-American merchants, transatlantic commercial communication networks were based largely on epistolary and face-to-face exchanges of information, primarily in German or Yiddish at first, and later in English. Merchants and financiers such as the Gratz brothers, the Parish and Heckscher families, Vincent Nolte, Frederick Brune, and Haym Salomon corresponded frequently with family members and business contacts in major commercial centers such as London, Amsterdam, Paris, Hamburg, and Bremen. They also risked the sometimes dangerous conditions aboard ship to travel frequently between these locations in order to transact business face-to-face. Later in the nineteenth century, German-American immigrant families such as the Lehmans and the Seligmans, emulating earlier generations of merchants such as the Franks and Rothschilds, established branch offices in major American and European cities staffed by brothers, cousins, and in-laws. Such family-based commercial communication networks lowered transaction and informational costs and the risks associated with conducting business across great distances.

The Development and Persistence of German-American Network Topologies: Kinship and Religion

As previously noted, social and cultural factors influenced the formation and persistence of various Atlantic World networks. Kinship and religion, in particular, helped to shape and define the topology of trade, capital, and information flows during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Prominent German merchant families established family networks throughout the Atlantic basin with siblings and cousins serving as agents in major port cities. Marriages between families helped to cement both social and economic bonds. For outsiders, marriage offered entrée into key commercial networks and often provided capital for developing or expanding business operations. Similarly, religion provided a source of collective identity and support for German migrants. Religious organizations such as the Moravians, pietist Lutheran sects, and the Rappites of the early nineteenth century also engaged in commercial activities in the American colonies and later the United States to support their religious aims and willingly participated in various trade, capital, and communication networks of the era. Thus, family and religious bonds helped to shape important nodes within the overlapping networks of the Atlantic World.

The Parish and Heckscher families of Hamburg utilized a broad, multigenerational network of family to conduct business in Europe and North America. David Parish’s father, John, worked closely with fellow Scotman John Ross during the American Revolution as he helped to supply Ross with military goods for the American colonies. The Ross and Parish family lines later intertwined when David Parish’s daughter, Henriete, married Hercules Ross. Parish also helped to drum up business for his brothers in Hamburg during the U.S. trade embargo with Europe. Following Parish’s 1826 suicide, his brother, George, took over his business ventures in the U.S. Members of the Heckscher family conducted business from Hamburg, New York City, and later Paris. A few years after he immigrated to the United States, Charles August Heckscher married into a prosperous Dutch family in New York City and benefitted from the new doors that his wife, Georgiana Louisa Coster, and her family opened for him, along with the $200,000 (approximately $5.5 million dollars in 2014$) dowry that she brought into the marriage. The capital and family connections helped him to grow his American mercantile house, Ch. A. & E. Heckscher Company, as well as expand into new markets.

John Jacob Astor also married into an established New York City family. While his wife’s $300 (approximately $7,500 in 2014$) dowry was nearly three orders of magnitude smaller than the sum that Charles Heckscher’s wife brought into their marriage, it permitted Astor to establish a small retail operation to sell imported luxury goods, which he would later expand into a full-fledged mercantile house. Astor depended on family connections when he migrated to the U.S. He settled in New York since his brother, Henry, had already set up residence there and planned to retail goods sourced by his older brother in London. Bremish merchant Frederick Brune initially immigrated to New York City, too, since he too had a brother there, but circumstances led him to settle in Baltimore instead. Like Heckscher and Astor, Brune married into a prominent local family of merchants. His marriage to Anne Clarke, whose family hailed from Ireland, helped him to assimilate into Baltimore’s upper-class, Anglo-southern society and he joined the prestigious St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, in which his in-laws worshipped, around the same time that he married Clarke. Finally, merchant and financier Haym Salomon’s marriage into the elite Franks family of New York provided him with opportunities that would have been otherwise unavailable to the poor migrant from the Polish-Prussian lands.

Religious bonds, like marriage and kinship ties, offered security, familial connections, and economic opportunities for German immigrants. A number of prominent eighteenth and early nineteenth-century German-American entrepreneurs of the era including Henry Miller, Christopher Demuth, Jacob Dickert, and potters Gotfried Aust and Rudolph Christ were members of the Moravian Church, a pietist protestant denomination originating in Bohemia that emphasized missionary outreach. Operating out of the church headquarters in the small community of Herrnhut, Saxony, Moravians established a number of missionary settlements in British North America during the eighteenth century including Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and the Wachovia tract in North Carolina. Moravian settlements prior to 1762 were communal in nature and men and women of different ages and marriage status lived in different group houses, called “choirs.” Members of the community performed various types of work, some skilled and some unskilled, and any profits realized by the work, or through trade with outsiders, benefitted the community as a whole. After the transition from a communal to a market economy, the Moravian leadership continued to oversee craftsmen working in Moravian settlements and played a role in directing their work, determining their wages, and providing retail opportunities for their goods.

Henry Miller, one of the most prominent printers of the Revolutionary Era, had a close relationship with the Moravian Church for many years and worked as an official church printer off and on for nearly two decades before establishing an independent press in Philadelphia during the early 1760s. Moravian leader Nicholas von Zinzendorf encouraged Miller to migrate, and he worked briefly with Benjamin Franklin before joining Zinzendorf on a mission to the Delaware Indians. Miller returned to Europe to marry a Moravian widow in order to obtain funds to further his printing operation for the church. He returned to the Pennsylvania colony a second time in 1751 and resumed printing activities, but refused to resettle in Bethlehem after his wife relocated there. He developed an increasingly fraught relationship with the church due to his desire to obtain commercial success, which ran contrary to the Moravians emphasis on spiritual rather than temporal riches. After a second brief sojourn in Europe as an itinerant printer, Miller returned to Pennsylvania in 1760 and began printing the Pennsylvanisher Staatsbote as a secular newspaper that would report on public and religious matters equally. He continued to print religious material for German Protestants in Pennsylvania, not just the Moravians, but did so primarily as a source of additional income given the rapid expansion of a German readership in the colony.[27]

German-born gunsmith Jacob Dickert identified himself in his early years as a member of the Reformed Church, but later joined a Moravian congregation in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after he settled in the community in the 1760s. As a Moravian, he likely interacted with other Moravian gunsmiths of the period as their paths crossed at church gatherings and various religious events. Such interactions led to exchanges of ideas and likely helped Dickert in his efforts to improve American rifle design and eventually produce the quintessential Pennsylvania long rifle. Dickert also depended on Moravian craftsmen in eastern Pennsylvania to provide him with gun parts that he needed to manufacture muskets commissioned by the local Committee of Observation during the American Revolution. He later opened a general goods store in Lancaster with his son-in-law, who had worked in the Moravian settlement of Emmaus prior to resettling in Lancaster.[28]

Unlike Miller and Dickert, who lived outside established Moravian communities and dealt with the church as congregants rather than participants in its communal lifestyle, future Lancaster, Pennsylvania, tobacconist Christopher Demuth came of age in the settlement of Bethlehem during its transition from communitarianism to a market economy. Demuth’s mother settled in Bethlehem after her husband’s death in 1744. The German couple had served as missionaries for the church and had originally settled in an outpost in Georgia before relocating to Germantown, Pennsylvania. As a widow without a source of income, Regina Demuth made the reasonable decision to move to Bethlehem with her two young children and join the community for support. Christopher Demuth trained as a cabinetmaker and carpenter, but grew frustrated with the stringent economic and social conditions imposed by the community. In 1766, when Demuth was in his late twenties, he fled the community following a dispute over wages. A year later, he had a change of heart and petitioned for forgiveness. The church elders welcomed him back and permitted him to join the Moravian congregation in Lancaster, the town in which he had resettled. Demuth remained in the Lancaster congregation, the same one in which Jacob Dickert worshipped, for the rest of his life as he developed a profitable tobacco manufacturing and retail business in the community.[29]

Potter Gottfried Aust and his apprentice Rudolph Christ both prospered within the Moravian communities of Bethabara and Salem, located the Wachovia tract in the piedmont region of the North Carolina Colony.[30] The Silesian-born Aust settled in the community in 1755 and quickly set to work building a kiln to produce pottery for the Moravian community, as well as outsiders from the backcountry who traveled to Bethabara to trade for the pots, pans, plates, and other goods that Aust fashioned. Aust incorporated artistic flourishes into his utilitarian pottery and gained a reputation as skilled craftsman. His apprentice, Rudolph Christ, who was born in Württemberg, eventually took over from Aust after his death in 1788 and continued to expand the range of good produced by the Salem pottery. In addition to utilitarian goods, he introduced slip-molded figurines that were largely intended as decorative objects. These new items helped the Moravians to maintain a competitive edge in a local marketplace that had begun to fill up with potters unaffiliated with the church. Christ’s assistant, John Holland, continued to operate the pottery facility in Salem after Christ retired in 1821 but he closed the business 1829 due to declining profits. The church reopened the facility a few years later after recruiting a new potter from the Rhineland and it remained open until late in the nineteenth century. Unlike Demuth, both Aust and Christ were willing to work within the commercial and social framework established by the Moravian Church. While the church imposed limits on what they could produce and how much they could earn from their work, it also offered a safety net by ensuring that the artisans would not face competition from other church members and would have a protected market for their goods within the local Moravian community.

German-born entrepreneurs also were active in other pietist sects. Swabian Lutheran John Henry Keppele supported the Lutheran congregation actively in Philadelphia. He hosted minister Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg when he arrived in the city and may have communicated with fellow pietists in the German city of Halle via Muhlenberg. In 1743, Keppele assisted with the purchase of land for the German Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, only later acquiring real estate for himself and his family. Printer Christoph Sauer joined the radical pietist movement known as the Bretheren during his time in Wittgenstein. When the autodidact decided to establish his own print shop a decade after he migrated to the Pennsylvania Colony in 1724, he utilized pietist connections in Europe to obtain a set of Fraktur type from a foundry in Frankfurt am Main. He mainly produced publications for the German pietist community in Pennsylvania prior to starting a German-language newspaper in 1739. He also printed a bible based on the pietist Halle Bible. Sauer’s pietist connections greatly influenced his political leanings and he advocated for religious freedom, pacifism, and separation from the colony’s English political establishment in his newspaper. Sauer’s sons continued his actions by printing pietist theological and devotional tracts for Germans in Pennsylvania.

The followers of separatist communitarian socialist George Rapp constituted a third entrepreneurial group that depended on religious networks in order to further their commercial activities. Rapp and his German followers settled in the Pennsylvania community of Harmonie in 1805 and practiced a collective economy based on producing agricultural goods for use by the community and for sale to the general population. The Rappites were quite successful and they gradually diversified into whiskey distilling, brewing, milling, tanning, and textile production in Pennsylvania and later Indiana. Members of the Harmonist society lived a closed lifestyle, much like the Moravians in Bethlehem, and acted corporately in their commercial ventures. By 1827, they had returned to Pennsylvania and established the town of Economy, which was their base of operations until 1903, when members of the movement sold the settlement for $2.5 million dollars (approximately $69.4 million in 2014$). By then, the Rappites had diversified into oil production, manufacturing, and transportation. Rapp and his followers became incredibly prosperous by utilizing commercial and transportation networks that expanded westward in the decades following American independence. By acting collectively, they multiplied the resources available to them and shared in the profits from their many entrepreneurial ventures.[31]

In all, German-American participation in Atlantic World political-economic, social, and cultural networks is readily apparent from a prosopographic review of biographical sources. German immigrant entrepreneurs such as shippers, merchants, and publishers acted as critical nodes within each network and ensured the flow of people, goods, capital, and information throughout the Atlantic basin. However, it is important to recognize that these individuals, families, and ethnic groups were not necessarily working in concert. The conflicting political advocacy of publishers Sauer and Miller, for instance, promoted information flows and contributed to the evolution of the German-American public sphere, even though the two men’s ideas about how best to serve the interests of the German-American community in Pennsylvania differed considerably. Similarly, German-American merchants in American ports such as Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore competed against each other for business and often sought to funnel trade to either Hamburg or Bremen in order to support merchant houses in which they had familial or commercial ties. The sum total of their activities, however, benefitted the formation and maintenance of commercial and transport networks throughout the German Atlantic World.


Historians’ attitudes regarding entrepreneurship and approaches to the study of business and enterprise have shifted significantly over the past few generations. A Chandlerian top-down emphasis on business organization and structure has given way to more nuanced approaches that seeks to, in the words of Robert D. Cuff, understand “entrepreneurship as individual behavior,” and situate entrepreneurs and their business activities within broader social, cultural, and political-economic frameworks.[32] The German Historical Institute’s Immigrant Entrepreneurship Project takes this approach in its study of German immigrants’ entrepreneurial activities and the impact of these activities on the American economy.[33] A prosopographic survey of its entrepreneurial biographies provides a clearer understanding of the development and persistence of different types of networks and the actions of individual network actors. Describing the structure of German-American networks during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and identifying key actors within these networks, offers meaningful insights about entrepreneurial practices of the period and the historically-contingent frameworks that helped to structure the professional and personal lives of network actors.

The persistence of certain types of networks over time is quite remarkable. Four generations of merchants engaged in immigrant transport between the southwest German lands, the Low Countries, and Philadelphia between the 1730s and 1810s. Those engaged in the trade quickly reestablished network connections decades after they were disrupted by land wars and naval blockades. The persistence of a specific network across time and space and network actors’ ability to reconstitute the major nodes of the network rapidly reflects a critical form of entrepreneurial knowledge and information transfer between different generations of merchants on both sides of the Atlantic. Such transfers were facilitated by kinship connections and long-standing business relationships between merchants, but also seem to have resulted from a general mercantile knowledge of trade networks in the Atlantic World.

Similarly, German-American capital networks adapted to wars and trade disruptions in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. During the American Revolution and the early years of independence, German-American network actors shifted the focus of their business activities from British imperial entrepôts to ports in the Caribbean and northern Europe, as well as to inland locations in the American hinterland such as Pittsburgh. Later trade disruptions related to the Napoleonic conflicts once again forced merchants to restructure mercantile networks in order to make profits both licitly and illicitly. Merchants deemphasized transatlantic networks in favor of interior trade networks. They also turned to other forms of commercial activity, such as land speculation. Again, such dramatic shifts required knowledge and information transfers between entrepreneurial merchants and a flexibility to adapt business practices to take advantage of changed circumstances.

Religion and ideology played a role in structuring various network topologies and influencing the activities of network actors. The Rappites migrated from Württemberg, a region that had experienced significant emigration in the eighteenth century, to the United States via the Low Countries and the ports of Philadelphia and Baltimore in 1803. They utilized both commercial and personal links established by German-American merchants between their western German communities and Philadelphia in the previous century to facilitate their religious mass migration. Once in the U.S., they again drew on these connections in order to establish for-profit communes in Pennsylvania and Indiana.[34] Similarly, German-Jewish religious connections, supported by kinship and marriage ties, helped to structure capital networks across the Atlantic basin and link the major economic centers of Europe with the Americas, particularly New York City and Philadelphia by the early nineteenth century. Pietist groups such as the Moravians employed similar religious networks to support local and regional commercial activities in interior parts of Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Ultimately, identifying important nodes in the networks of the Atlantic World, the actors who helped to shape the networks, and the forces that influenced these agents – as well as tracing the linkages between nodes and actors – can help scholars better understand historical processes of entrepreneurship. Ethnicity, religion, education, social outlook, and other factors – in addition to broader economic, social, and political conditions – influence entrepreneurs’ business decisions, and understanding the interplay between these factors in the lives of entrepreneurs helps to reveal the individual agency at work in broader processes of business and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, it highlights the contingent nature of business success and failure throughout the early modern era as wars, natural disasters, and other unanticipated factors undermined the best laid plans of businessmen, while also providing new opportunities for entrepreneurs willing and able to adapt to changed circumstances. Thus, network topology represents a useful analytical tool for studying entrepreneurship and making sense of the many factors that influenced the individual actions of entrepreneurs acting within the German Atlantic World.


[1] Shammas also emphasizes the critical importance of including Asian trade systems and commodities in the broader analysis of Atlantic World economic activity in her article. Carole Shammas, “America, the Atlantic, and Global Consumer Demand, 1500-1800,” OAH Magazine of History 19, no. 1 (January 2005): 59-64, here 59-60.

[2] See Stanley Wasserman and Katherine Faust, Social Network Analysis. Methods and Applications (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994), 1-27. Historians Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Peterson offer three criteria that define a social network. These include (1) “social interaction[s] between more than two people”; (2) the interactions must have “longevity”; (3) and the interactions must be reinforced by various institutions. Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Peterson, Globalization: A Short History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 21-27, cited in Lars Maischak, German Merchants in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 5 fn. 17.

[3] See R.D. Wadhwani and C. Lubinski, “Toward the ‘New Entrepreneurial History,’” Working paper presented at the Historical Approaches to Entrepreneurship Research Workshop, BHC/EBHA Annual Conference, Miami, FL, 2015.

[4] The biographies will be drawn from the first and second volumes of the German Historical Institute’s multi-year research project Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present.

[5] For a useful example of a historian using networks to study entrepreneurship in Latin American from a transatlantic perspective, see Aurora Gómez-Galvarriato, “Networks and Entrepreneurship: The Modernization of the Textile Business in Profirian Mexico,” The Business History Review 82, no. 3 (Autumn 2008): 475-502. For a recent study of group biography as a tool for researching business history, see Susanna Fellman, “Prosopographic studies of business leaders for understanding industrial and corporate change,” Business History 56, no. 1 (2014): 5-21.

[6] Birte Pfleger, “John Henry Keppele (1716-1797),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/13/2015).

[7] Toni Pitock, “Michael Gratz (1739-1811),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 11/26/14).

[8] Claudia Schnurmann, “His Father’s Favored Son: David Parish (1778-1826),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/13/2015).

[9] Alexander Emmerich, “John Jacob Astor (1763-1848),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/14/2014).

[10] All inflation calculations based on Consumer Price Index data obtained through Samuel H. Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to Present,” MeasuringWorth (accessed December 2015).

[11] Lars Maischak, German Merchants in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013), 22.

[12] Stephen McCoy, “Frederick W. Brune (1776-1860),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/14/2015).

[13] Johathan D. Sarna, “Port Jews in the Atlantic: Further Thoughts,” Jewish History 20, no. 2 (2006): 213-219, here 214-215.

[14] Pitock, “Michael Gratz (1739-1811).”

[15] Claudia Schnurmann, “Charles August Heckscher: A Model Self-Made Man and Merchant in the Atlantic world in the First-Half of the Nineteenth Century (1806-1866),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 11/26/14).

[16] Margrit Schulte Beerbühl, “Vincent Nolte: Global Player and Bankrupt Entrepreneur (1779-1856),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/13/2015).

[17] Marc Levinson, “Peter Hasenclever (1716-1793),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 12/15/14).

[18] See James Boyd, “Merchants of Migration: Keeping the German Atlantic Connected in America’s Early National Period,” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 03/10/2015).

[19] Boyd, “Merchants of Migration.” A survey of entrepreneurs profiled in the first volume of Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present illustrates the extent of migration from the western German lands to Pennsylvania during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A majority of the migrants arriving between 1750 and 1820 came from states along the Rhine River watershed including Württemberg, Baden, Hesse, and the Palatine. Few migrated from other German states such as Prussia. Philadelphia, Lancaster, and the Lehigh Valley were the most common points of settlement for Germans migrants in the survey, especially Moravians and German-Jews. New York City was the second most significant point of settlement. Other points of concentration included Baltimore and the piedmont region of North Carolina, which saw significant settlement in the years leading up to the American Revolution.

[20] Robert Wright, “German Corporate Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth Century America (1800-1899),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 11/25/14).

[21] See Diane Wenger, “Christopher Demuth (1738-1818),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/15/2015) and Andrew Popp, “Christian Frederick Martin (1796-1873),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (forthcoming).

[22] Ann Keene, “John Peter Zenger,” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 11/26/14).

[23] Ralph Frasca, “To Rescue the Germans out of Sauer’s Hands”: Benjamin Franklin’s German-Language Printing Partnerships,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 121, no. 4 (October 1997): 329-350, here 330-331.

[24] Patrick Erben, “Henrich Miller (1702-1782),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 12/02/14).

[25] Hans Leaman, “Johann Christoph Sauer (1695-1758),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 12/02/14) and Frasca, 349-350. Frasca goes into great detail about Benjamin Franklin’s antipathy towards Sauer and his role in supporting German-language printers with alternative viewpoints. Franklin’s projects to create a countervailing voice in the German-American public sphere failed due to his clumsy and tone-deaf efforts to appeal to the German immigrant community. Only Miller emerged as an authentic voice for Pennsylvania Germans dissatisfied with Pietist and Quaker influence over social and political affairs.

[26] John J. McCusker, “The Demise of Distance: The Business Press and the Origins of the Information Revolution in the Early Modern Atlantic World,” The American Historical Review 110, no. 2 (April 2005): 295-321, here 312-313.

[27] Erben, “Henrich Miller (1702-1782).”

[28] Scott Gordon, “Jacob Dickert (1740-1822),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/16/2014).

[29] Wenger, “Christopher Demuth (1738-1818).”

[30] Johanna M. Brown, “Gottfried Aust (1722-1788),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/16/2014).

[31] Silvia Rode, “Johann Georg Rapp (1757-1847),” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 07/13/2015).

[32] Robert D. Cuff, “Notes for a Panel on Entrepreneurship in Business History,” The Business History Review 76, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 123-132, here 131.

[33] Hartmut Berghoff and Uwe Spiekermann, “Background,” Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present (accessed 12/02/14).

[34] Rode, “Johann Georg Rapp (1757-1847)” and Boyd, “Merchants of Migration.”

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Trade, Family, and Religion: Forging Networks in the German Atlantic World
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
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  • Access Date July 17, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018