The German Component to American Industrialization (1840-1893)

The era from 1840 to 1893 was a momentous one both for German-American immigration and for U.S. industrialization, so it bears examining to what extent the two developments were interrelated. This essay will first sketch out the contours of German immigration and American industrialization in this era. It then identifies areas of the U.S. economy where Germans were particularly concentrated, and examines the industrial and geographic niches where transatlantic connections were of greatest consequence. Shifting focus from global to individual patterns, it then explores what was German and what was American about German-American entrepreneurship in the mid- and late nineteenth century.

Updated: July 30, 2015

The era from 1840 to 1893 was a momentous one both for German-American immigration and for U.S. industrialization, so it bears examining to what extent the two developments were interrelated. This essay will first sketch out the contours of German immigration and American industrialization in this era. It then identifies areas of the U.S. economy where Germans were particularly concentrated, and examines the industrial and geographic niches where transatlantic connections were of greatest consequence. Shifting focus from global to individual patterns, it then explores what was German and what was American about German-American entrepreneurship in the mid- and late nineteenth century.

After a hiatus of a generation, German immigration revived in the 1830s and took on mass proportions with the famine years of the 1840s. Germany was second only to Ireland as a source of immigrants in the 1840s, then took the lead by the Civil War, accounting for over one-third of the total U.S. immigration in the 1860s and 1870s, and at least 27 percent in every decade from the 1840s through the 1880s. By the 1890s, however, Germany fell to second place, accounting for less than sixteen percent of the total. The year 1893 marked a turning point; the economic panic and ensuing depression discouraged immigration across the board, but even after the American economy recovered, Germans (in contrast to other nationalities) no longer came in large numbers. Rising demand for industrial labor in Germany made emigration unnecessary. During the previous half century German industrialization had largely caught up with Britain, but both were overshadowed by the stupendous growth of the American economy.

Already in 1830, the United States was ahead of France and the German states in manufacturing production per capita, though it still lagged considerably behind Britain in both measures. By 1860, American cotton spinning, though barely one-third of British production, was double that of France and five times that of the German states. American coal and iron production, still far behind Britain, was roughly equal that of the German states and clearly ahead of France. Even then, Americans used more steam power that any European country –and more than half of Europe’s combined total; their lead in railroad building was especially impressive. As late as 1880, overall U.S. industrial production was only two-thirds that of Britain, but thereafter the United Kingdom rapidly lost ground. By 1893, the Americans had probably taken the lead, for at the dawn of the twentieth century, U.S. output surpassed that of Britain by more than one-quarter. The British fell increasingly behind, being passed by Germany before 1913, but the surge in American productivity continued. On the eve of World War I, the United States accounted for nearly one-third of the world’s industrial production, almost as much as Germany, Britain and France combined.[1]

The German Role in American Industrialization

During the period from 1840 through 1893, some 4.5 million Germans immigrated to the United States, raising the question of how much these newcomers contributed to U.S. industrial progress. The question is more difficult than it might appear, especially when applied beyond the rank and file to the top echelons of American industry. One thing is clear: despite their image as capable farmers, German immigrants were underrepresented in agriculture, though they did gain some ground over the course of time. But they were most heavily overrepresented in the U.S. manufacturing sector (Table 1). The census occupational categories are somewhat inconsistent, but the patterns that emerge are very consistent: whether female occupations are included or excluded, whether mining is grouped with manufacturing or with agriculture, whether the incongruous categories of personal and professional services are combined or split apart, German immigrants were most heavily concentrated, in both absolute and relative terms, in the manufacturing sector. In all three decades, more than 35 percent of all Germans were employed in manufacturing and mechanical trades, where they exceeded their “quota” relative to the overall occupational structure by 50 percent or more. That is to say, Germans were half again as likely to be employed in manufacturing as the average American. But the question still remains just where in the manufacturing sector Germans were concentrated and at which level.

Table 1. Occupational Sector Concentrations of Germans in the United States (all counts in 1,000s)

Agriculture Mfg. &
Trade &
Prof. & Personal Services Total
1870 All
Germans Count 225 308 112 191 836

Row % 26.9 45.4 13.4 22.8 100

Index 57
Total Count 5,922

Row % 47.3
1880 Males
Germans Count 291

Row % 30.5

Index 64
Total Count 7,076 3,205

Row % 48
1890 Males Prof. Services Personal Services
Germans Count 400

Row % 29.9

Index 71
Total Count 7,882
3,569 5,334

Row % 45.7

Source: Derived or calculated from E.P. Hutchinson, Immigrants and their Children, 1850-1950 (New York, 1956), 79-81, 98-99, 121-22. The calculating formula for the Index (of Representation) is: Germans row %/Total row % * 100. See Hutchinson, p. 302-303.

With the help of the North Atlantic Population Project (NAPP) full enumeration data set of the 1880 U.S. manuscript census, one can identify German concentrations in individual occupations, and include the second generation, born in America of immigrant parents, in the tallies.[2] The results, shown in Table 2, confirm some ethnic stereotypes. Men of German birth or parentage made up less than eleven percent of the male labor force, yet they dominated some occupational specialties to the near exclusion of everyone else. Over 80 percent of all brewers in the country were German, a feat all the more impressive given the large number of workers in the branch, over fifteen thousand. More than three-fourths of all pork butchers and sausage makers in the country were German, bringing to mind Cincinnati’s early nickname of “Porkopolis,” though the numbers involved here were rather small. Germans made up a solid majority in several other branches of the food industry: sugar refining, vinegar making, and in the huge contingent of bakers. Steinway pianos and Martin guitars come to mind when one sees that 55 percent of piano factory workers and over three-fifths of the small group of musical instrument makers were of German background. This group also figures prominently in several other categories of light manufacturing, constituting half of all the country’s eighty thousand tailors, for example. There is no doubt that many of these ethnic niches reflected a transatlantic transfer of skills. One young tailor’s wife related how her husband had been hired right off the boat upon arriving in New York in 1854, and advised her unmarried girlfriends toiling away in the steep vineyards of the Moselle, “Burn up your grape baskets and get yourself a tailor, even if he’s just a windbag.”[3]

Table 2. Male Occupations with Heaviest German Concentrations, 1880 Census


% German Occupations with German Majority
Pork Butcher
76.3% Sausage Maker
60.4% Maker of Musical Instruments
58.2% Works in Sugar Refinery
57.9% Vinegar Maker
55.2% Works in Piano Factory
55.0% Works in Cigarette Factory
54.1% Cigar Box Maker
53.5% Baker & Confectionery
53.5% Baker
53.4% Wood Carver
51.8% Goldsmith
51.3% Trunk Maker
50.3% Tailor

Other Occupations employing 10,000+ and >1/3 German
46.6% Cigar Maker
44.3% Saloon
43.4% Cabinet Maker
41.4% Upholsterer
78,484 38.9% Butcher
36.6% Barber
36.4% Musician
33.3% Bartender
All Occupations

Source: Calculated from 1880 U.S. Census data set, Minnesota Population Center, North Atlantic Population Project: Complete Count Microdata, Version 2.0 [Machine-readable database] (Minneapolis: Minnesota Population Center, 2008). “German” includes both immigrants and their American-born children.

Some of these occupational concentrations held up even in states where Germans constituted just a small minority. In Texas, where there was only one German in the state’s labor force for every twenty-five native born workers in 1870, Germans actually outnumbered natives in the baking trade, and among brewers they held a huge, almost three to one advantage without even taking the second generation into consideration. It is no coincidence that the last independent brewery in Texas bears the name of Spoetzl, or that a worldwide fruitcake exporter in Corsicana, Texas, which every fall bakes thirty thousand cakes a day and ships them to more than 190 countries around the world, can trace its origins back to German immigrant August Weidmann, who arrived in 1883 and in 1896 together with an Anglo partner founded the Collin Street Bakery.[4]

Even where they did not constitute a majority, Germans showed impressive concentrations of one-third or more of those working in a number of large trades that each employed ten thousand or more men. They constituted more than 46 percent of the cigar makers, over 43 percent of the cabinet makers, and more than two-fifths of all the upholsterers in the country. Several other prominent occupations show a relation to other German concentrations further up the production chain. Nearly two-fifths of the country’s butchers were German. Not only did Germans produce most of the country’s musical instruments; they made up 36 percent of those playing them professionally. Besides brewing the great bulk of the beer, Germans also sold much of it: 44 percent of the saloonkeepers and one-third of the bartenders were German. These two job descriptions are among the few instances where the occupational categories allow a rough distinction between ownership and management, as opposed to labor. Not until 1910 did the census distinguish between employers, employees, and those working on their own account. Thus the term “brewer” in 1880 would probably encompass everyone from Adolphus Busch on down to his journeyman brewmaster, as well as small family enterprises like that of Heinrich Kreische.[5]

A broader classification of occupations by industrial branch further confirms the above information (Table 3). Germans not only dominated brewing, they constituted 70 percent of all those employed in the entire beverage industry. They made up a solid majority of those involved with bakery products as well. They also dealt in food and drink on the retail side, comprising one-third or more of those involved in eating and drinking establishments and liquor stores. Close to two-fifths of all tobacco and furniture manufacturing was carried on by Germans, and almost half of all clothing stores were run by them. But the question remains how many of these skills were transplanted.

Table 3. Industries with Highest German percentage in Male Labor Force, 1880 Census


% German Industrial Grouping
Beverage industries
52.8% Bakery products
48.1% Apparel and accessories stores (except shoe)
42.2% Miscellaneous food preparations, etc.
40.4% Paperboard containers and boxes
39.5% Tobacco manufactures
38.4% Furniture and fixtures
36.4% Eating and drinking places
35.9% Confectionery and related products
33.9% Professional equipment and supplies
33.4% Fabricated nonferrous metal products
33.0% Liquor stores
All Occupations

Source: Calculated from 1880 U.S. Census data set, Minnesota Population Center, North Atlantic Population Project: Complete Count Microdata, Version 2.0 [Machine-readable database] (Minneapolis: Minnesota Population Center, 2008). “German” includes both immigrants and their American-born children.

Occupation and Location: The Rise of Transatlantic Skill Transfer

Paradoxically, German-Americans were more urbanized than either the compatriots they left behind or the American population in general. However, one cannot simply assume that immigrants were transferring industrial or artisan skills across the Atlantic; many were new recruits to urban and industrial life. Then there were the borderline cases such as Martin Weitz, a handloom wool weaver from an impoverished mountain village in Hesse, who immediately upon arrival in 1854 went to work in a “Fectori” (his spelling), first in Astoria, New York, and then in Rockville, Connecticut, tending power looms.[6] Still, in this industry and region there was a higher degree of transatlantic continuity among both labor and management than was usually the case. When one examines the urbanization rates of German immigrants of various origins, it appears that urban and industrial background plays somewhat of a role, though by no means a stringent one. Berlin, the Hanseatic free cities of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lübeck, and Leipzig (the only cities separately enumerated in the NAPP data set), top the list in urbanization rates, but none of them saw as much as three-fifths of their immigrant population locate to American big cities. Even by including towns as small as 2,500 residents as the “urban” threshold, only natives of Berlin and Hamburg were more than two-thirds urbanized. Except for the Hanseatic city-states, Saxony was the most heavily urbanized and industrialized state of origin in Germany, but its immigrants were only a couple of points above the overall German average in their American urbanization rates.

One instance where occupational background did play a significant role was in the Saxon immigration to New England. This was a relatively uncommon destination for Germans; in 1880 Chicago claimed ten times as many Germans as Boston, New York more than twenty times. But of the few Germans who did settle there, many appear to have done so because of industrial specializations. Nationwide there were roughly equal numbers of Saxons, from the most industrialized state in Germany, and Mecklenburgers, from the most agricultural. In New England, however, Saxons outnumbered Mecklenburgers by a factor of twenty-four. Outside the city of Boston, Saxons made up 14 percent of the Germans in the New England states, compared with only three percent nationwide. For an explanation one need look no further than the textile industry, where one finds Germans involved in a transatlantic transfer of skills at both the top and the bottom of the industrial hierarchy. Two similar case studies make this abundantly clear. In Holyoke, Massachusetts, where a Westphalian industrialist had established a woolens factory, nearly half of the German immigrants originated from the Saxon textile district around Glauchau und Werdau, west of Chemnitz. The textile factory towns of Manchester, New Hampshire, and Lawrence, Massachusetts, exercised a similar pull on immigrants from German textile regions. More than one-third of the Germans there originated from Saxony or Sachsen-Altenburg and another 17 percent came from Silesia. Along with Thuringia, Hof in nearby Upper Franconia, and Asch in northwestern Bohemia, these few places of origin, all characterized by a strong textile sector, accounted for nearly three-quarters of the German population of these towns. Here, too, the dominant Saxon place of origin was Glauchau. Saxons were responsible for barely three percent of total German immigration, but represented approximately 35 percent of the Germans in Manchester and Lawrence, and no less than 46 percent of those in Holyoke.[7]

Particularly in the case of Holyoke, it is evident that a German employer attracted fellow ethnics with experience in the textile industry to run his mills. The Stursberg family of Lennep, Westphalia, had been heavily involved in exporting products of their woolen mills to the United States, but with the political and economic shifts of the Civil War, they faced protective tariffs and a weakened U.S. currency. In response, they transferred the bulk of their operations to the Germania Mill in Holyoke in 1865. Although they managed to recruit some workers from their home region in the Wupper Valley, they soon derived the bulk of their labor force from Saxony, where the woolens industry was facing similar problems. The German population of the mill town skyrocketed from just thirty-six in 1865 to nearly six hundred a decade later, seven-eighths of them concentrated in the Third Ward near the gates of Germania Mill.[8]

Manchester was dominated by the Amoskeag Mills, with some 14,000 employees the largest industrial establishment in the U.S. or the world at that time, not the environment where one might expect immigrant entrepreneurship to thrive. But there is ample evidence that within this complex, “the growth of gingham weaving at the Amoskeag owed much to German managers and workers,” many of whom arrived with industrial experience and several of whom attained supervisory positions. At least one worker with German training came up through the ranks to become an entrepreneur himself: Abraham Olzendam, founder of the Hosiery Company that bore his family name. He grew up and was trained as a dyer in the textile town of Barmen, and immigrated to the United States in 1848 at age 26. Initially he worked his trade in Massachusetts, moving to Manchester in 1858 and establishing his own hosiery factory in 1862. It apparently flourished from the start, for during the Civil War he was among the select group earning enough to pay income tax, and he went from reporting no property in the 1860 census to claiming $5,000 worth of real estate and $25,000 worth of personal property a decade later, when the census listed him as a hosiery manufacturer. He continued to lead this enterprise successfully till his death in 1896. [9]

Another significant concentration of German industrialists employing fellow immigrants was in the northern Queens communities of College Point and Astoria, New York. Already in 1854, Conrad Poppenhusen had established his factory manufacturing hard rubber combs in College Point and built up a paternalistic company town for his largely German labor force, which numbered around one thousand. One historian describes it as “a typical German industrial town similar to the Ruhr region.”[10] Of some 1,200 families resident in 1880, nearly three-fourths were headed by Germans. Poppenhusen’s philanthropy was so appreciated by his fellow Germans that they tolerated his dislike for beer. In nearby Astoria, the Steinway piano manufacturers, fleeing labor agitators and the crowding of Manhattan, purchased four hundred acres and erected a new factory after the Civil War. Steinway, too, financed worker housing and public facilities, even sponsoring a German-language teacher for the local public school. More than four-fifths German, this area was even more homogeneous than College Point. Steinway and Poppenhusen were only the most prominent among German industrialists in the area; their neighbors included the Hugo Funk Silk Mill, the Samuel Kunz Mill, and another rubber company run by Isaak B. Kleinert, and last but not least brewer Adolph Levinger. But ethnic homogeneity and employer paternalism did not necessarily guarantee tranquil labor relations. Steinway was faced with a strike when he attempted to impose a significant wage cut in 1870, and he ended up backing down, though he did prevail against the eight-hour-day movement later in the decade. Labor organizers had an easier job when they did not need to bridge ethnic divides, and piano workers were in a strong bargaining position because of their specialized skills.[11]

Germans, bringing with them many artisan skills, were clearly at an advantage over groups such as the Irish, who were much more concentrated in unskilled labor. It remains to be seen, however, whether this proved to be of long-term benefit, particularly in the next generation. Two studies of nineteenth century social mobility, one set in Philadelphia and another in the small New York town of Poughkeepsie, come to similar conclusions: Artisan skills often provided a fast start down what proved in the long run to be a blind alley, particularly for the subsequent generation.[12] Another initially positive characteristic of German communities had similar ironic consequences: their institutional completeness. As a pioneering study of Milwaukee observed, in that city, “Germans had the size and range of occupations and achievement within their numbers to support a potential community in the full sense of the word, one performing community supportive functions largely independent of the wider Milwaukee society.”[13] Such internal divisions made it “possible to live a German life as if in a microcosm of a whole society.”[14] One of the markers of genuine entrepreneurship was the ability to break out of this ethnic cocoon and participate fully in the larger society. But this was the exception rather than the rule with German immigrants in the late nineteenth century.

For much of the nineteenth century, the boundary between artisanship and industry was still rather indistinct. A study of Detroit in 1880 found that, as in Milwaukee on the eve of the Civil War, “the very presence of both German employers and German artisans shows that at least a significant part of the German community was independent economically.”[15] As late as the turn of the century, among Detroit workers “the Germans were most likely to be employed within their own community… many working for large industrial concerns but as many being independent craftsmen, often employing a few men of their own…. Some German entrepreneurs would hire only German employees, but some would also hire… other ethnic groups.”[16] Although such enterprises could occasionally serve as a springboard and allow their creators to break out of their ethnic cocoons, such opportunities were relatively scarce, and becoming much rarer by the automobile age of the 1920s. A profile of 121 of Detroit’s leading industrialists at the turn of the twentieth century finds that, in a city where German immigrants and their children made up 30 percent of the population, only ten percent of the entrepreneurs employing 100 or more people were German-Americans. Even of those, only half “had entered the world of the Anglo-Saxon business elite” with respect to their residences or club memberships. By contrast, “Most of the large German employers who produced mostly consumer products such as beer, clothing, or furniture operated within the confines of the [heavily German] east side only, not in the city at large.”[17]

Elements of Entrepreneurial Success: The Example of Carl Hilmar Guenther

Occasionally an immigrant enterprise succeeded in making the transition from what was basically a small, artisan-scale operation serving an ethnic enclave to a more industrial mode of production serving a broad, multi-ethnic customer base. Although every company history is a story unto itself, one such instance, the milling concern that was founded by immigrant Carl Hilmar Guenther and survives as a family-owned enterprise into the twenty-first century, exemplifies many of the characteristics that contributed to long-term entrepreneurial success. Equipped with a thorough training in milling when he left Weißenfels, Prussia, in the fateful year of 1848, Guenther was propelled less by any political motivations than by a sense of adventure combined with sober economic calculations. Arriving young and unencumbered, he could operate with an optimal degree of flexibility. Although Guenther enjoyed the German sociability in and around his first destination of Racine, Wisconsin, within two years he had located some 1,300 miles to the southwest in Fredericksburg, Texas, which still offered German Gemütlichkeit, but where his milling skills were in much shorter supply. By the time he turned twenty-five, Guenther was in the midst of designing and building a mill from the ground up, putting into practice what he had learned only in theory, and taking charge of activities he had only experienced as a subordinate in the Old Country. But when the first water flowed down the millrace, the mill “worked so well that it seemed as though it had been running for years.” It became a thriving enterprise and managed to survive the drought years of the late 1850s, serving a community that was 85-percent German. But in 1859, faced with competition from a steam mill in town, Guenther relocated to San Antonio, which was four times larger than Fredericksburg but not as well served with mills.[18]

In his old location, Guenther could operate largely in German; after two years in Fredericksburg he put off his brother’s request for a letter in English, “for I still use the dictionary.” Within a few months of the move to San Antonio, he reported that his firstborn son Fritz, at age two-and-one-half, “speaks very distinctly, but occasionally mixes Spanish, German, and English all together,” perhaps not surprising since the three cultural groups were represented in the city in roughly equal proportions.[19] Guenther reached out to all three cultures, importing wheat via oxcart from as far away as Mexico, and marketing his products across the whole ethnic spectrum and beyond. This was evident in the names under which his product was sold. “Pioneer Flour Mills” was one of its most prominent brands, although the Guenther name and portrait remained prominent on the labels. On tortilla flour sacks, he added “El Viejo,” (the Old Man), so that there was no mistaking among Spanish-speaking customers. Marketing kept pace with technological innovations in the milling process. A name like “Dewey’s Success” in the wake of the Spanish-American War shows an increasing identification with the dominant culture. By the eve of World War I, Pioneer sold a half-million pounds of flour to the U.S. Army at nearby Ft. Sam Houston, and with the war’s onset the company bought $50,000 worth of Liberty Bonds, a San Antonio record.[20]

Guenther’s labor force also became increasingly multi-ethnic over time, including many Hispanics, but management of the enterprise remained in German (and family) hands through 1982. Still, one can observe an increasing engagement with the dominant culture. All of pioneer Guenther’s eight children married within Germanophone cultural circles (including one Swiss immigrant).[21] They had received a fully bilingual education in the two-way immersion program of the San Antonio German-English School. In fact, the written German of the Guenther children was better than that of their immigrant mother, whose educational opportunities were limited in frontier Fredericksburg.[22] The younger Guenthers participated enthusiastically both in the ethnic Vereinsleben and the multiethnic San Antonio Fiesta. By the 1890s, the German-English School had succumbed to declining immigration and economic depression, and the Guenthers moved increasingly into the American mainstream for their studies. Two sons in the second generation had rounded out their education in Germany in the 1870s, but their youngest brother Erhard graduated from Washington and Lee College. By the third generation, the Guenthers were studying at faraway elite institutions such as Washington University in St. Louis and Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. It was this combination of persistence and adaptation that allowed the Guenther enterprise to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2001, the oldest surviving family owned business in Texas.[23]

German-American Entrepreneurs: How German, How American?

With the task of profiling prominent German-American industrialists and entrepreneurs, it is important to weigh just what were the relative contributions of Germany and America to their varied achievements. The range is quite varied. In some cases, the German component was little more than an abschreckendes Beispiel (the English term “bad example” sounds much too harmless). A prime case is John Jacob Astor, who owed little more to Germany than the determination never again to be as poor as he was there.[24] Or to take a less familiar example, John Pritzlaff emigrated from Pomerania in 1839 at age nineteen with one of the first groups of Old Lutherans. His background as a poor shepherd boy had next to nothing to do with the job he obtained in a Milwaukee hardware store after four years of knocking about — unless one considers counting sheep as good practice for counting change. He worked seven years for Yankee bosses before starting his own business in 1850, initially with a German partner whom he soon bought out. Building up a large trade “with all classes, but more particularly with his countrymen,” Pritzlaff expanded beyond local and ethnic circles to become one of the leading hardware wholesalers in the Midwest with 400 employees; his firm’s imposing building still stands today. He was succeeded by his son Fred, who headed the concern until his death in 1951, 101 years after the company’s founding. Although both generations of Pritzlaffs were active participants and major benefactors of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and its seminary in St. Louis, reflective of their ethnic heritage, there was little about their business enterprise that could be traced to their German origins.[25]

More often, however, one sees with immigrant entrepreneurs a symbiosis of the two cultures. Immigration often involved a transfer of skills and technology, and sometimes capital, to more promising surroundings. The German lands contributed good technical training, but America provided a more conducive and less restrictive environment in which to nourish ideas and enterprises.

A prime example is John Roebling, the father not only of the Brooklyn Bridge but of the wire rope suspension bridge in general. He immigrated at age 25 with limited financial resources, but the technical training he brought with him was much more valuable. He had already been exposed to iron chain suspension bridges, at least on a small scale, before he left Europe. On the German side, however, all his ideas remained theoretical because, as Roebling himself so pungently remarked in his diary, nothing could be done in Germany without “an army of councilors, ministers, and other officials discussing the matter for ten years, making long journeys, and writing long reports, while the money spent on all these preliminaries comes to more than the actual accomplishment of the enterprise.”[26] Similar sentiments were no doubt echoed silently or verbally by many innovators who left the German states.

In general, ambitious young men were afforded much greater autonomy with less experience in America than back in the Old Country. But the technologically backward situation of the Confederacy during the Civil War presents an extreme case of a broader tendency. Heinrich Stähler, who immigrated in 1860 after studying metallurgy at the mining academy in Berlin, happened upon a unique opportunity to apply his theoretical knowledge to practical problems in the copper district of East Tennessee as a result of the Civil War. In less than two years he advanced from being a laboratory assistant to directing a copper refinery. In November 1862, Stähler proudly reported to his parents, “Since Trippel [his previous boss, a Swiss immigrant] left I have been the sole head of the largest copper works — perhaps not in all America, but at least the largest in the Confederate States.” Although Stähler’s sympathies were “more for the Union,” this opportunity was simply too good to pass up, as his letter of May 1863 indicates: “I would really like to run a refinery like this at home in Germany someday, but unfortunately, there’s no chance.” With the approach of Yankee armies in late 1863, Stähler crossed over into Union lines and, despite numerous job offers, he returned to Germany where his fiancé was waiting. As it turned out, his American experiences and a subsequent sojourn in Sweden helped launch Stähler’s career as a successful manager and industrialist in Germany after all. But it required the proverbial “oxen tour through the provinces” to accomplish it.[27]

Heinrich Steinweg presents a similar case of frustrated ambitions although he was considerably older when he immigrated and became Henry Steinway. He was an accomplished, prize winning piano maker already in the German lands, but he had a serious problem: Kleinstaaterei. His shop was located in Seesen, a Braunschweig enclave surrounded by the Kingdom of Hannover, which subjected his products to high tariffs and severely restricted his marketing potential when the customs union between the two was dissolved in 1841. Steinweg had even tried selling a piano by lottery as a way of dodging trade restrictions. His first American piano was number 483 in his career. Moreover, he and his sons continued to innovate in the United States; his first cast-iron, single-frame piano was built in 1855, five years after his arrival in New York. This design was exported back to Germany to the one remaining son who carried on the family business there.[28]

There is another well-known musical instrument firm that is even older, but whose German roots are for the most part a well-kept secret: Martin guitars. It, too, is a story of German obstructions and American opportunities. Its founder, Christian Frederick Martin Sr., hailed from a family of Saxon cabinetmakers and had apprenticed with a famous guitar maker in Vienna. Attempting to establish himself back in Saxony, he became embroiled in a jurisdictional dispute between the cabinetmakers’ and violin makers’ guilds, which precipitated his emigration in 1833. After a few years in New York City, he moved his family and business to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in 1839, where they have been ever since. His success was due to both German/Austrian technical training and further innovation in America; the x-brace system distinctive to Martin guitars was not invented until the 1850s, for example.[29]

In some instances it is difficult to determine just how much the German background contributed to entrepreneurial success. One such case is the brothers Julius and Carl Wesslau, who established a very successful cabinetmaking and furniture business in New York’s Kleindeutschland. Circumstantial evidence suggests an important German role. The Wesslau brothers no doubt brought with them a thorough training as craftsmen, for they were at least the third generation in their trade, and their father’s journeyman wanderings had taken him all across Central Europe from Osnabrück in the northwest to Vienna in the southeast. But since the father survived until 1869 and four siblings remained behind, his sons probably brought along little or no capital besides human capital when they emigrated in the early 1850s from Jüterbog, a small city fifty miles south of Berlin. Although they located in the heart of the German community on the Lower East Side, the Wesslau brothers appear to have quickly reached out beyond the city and its German community. With the Civil War looming in December 1860, Julius wrote, “Our main business was with the South, and up to now we've lost about 600 dollars, and we may lose most of another 1,500 dollars, and we've let half of our workers go, and if things don't get better soon we'll have to send more away.” The Wesslaus seem to have adjusted to the new situation rather quickly, reporting by October 1862: “Our business has done rather well this year, and it is quite possible that we’ll make up what we lost last year.” Soon the brothers were complaining about income tax, which was imposed on only a select group of high earners. By war’s end they reported, “people think we’re rich, and maybe we are, if 40 thousand dollars means being rich.”[30]

One important question is where immigrant entrepreneurs managed to obtain capital and credit, given the scarcity of both during the American take-off period. When Pritzlaff started his hardware business, his American employer lent him the original capital at 7.5-percent interest, and that was probably a preferential rate based on years of faithful employment. In letters from the young state of Wisconsin and frontier Texas, Hilmar Guenther complained about interest rates ranging from 12 to 20 percent, for loans of only three or six months duration. In both Fredericksburg and San Antonio, he was able to draw upon family capital, all told some 6600 talers (approximately $4,712), and was happy to pay five or six-percent interest against his future inheritance. Even in the financial center of New York, one ambitious immigrant complained in an 1860 letter about six- to seven-percent interest rates, and hoped to obtain a family loan from Europe at five percent.[31] Anyone who could draw up capital or inheritance from the Old Country was at a distinct advantage, though the extent of transatlantic (or intraethnic) capital mobilization bears further investigation.

As with sources of labor and capital, for immigrant entrepreneurs in the consumer goods branch, one can pose a similar question on the marketing side: to what extent was the enterprise restricted to an ethnic niche; to what extent did it reach out to a larger customer base, particularly among Anglo-Americans? Most brewers probably started out serving primarily fellow ethnics. Germans viewed the right to drink beer as practically a constitutional right, and reacted vehemently and sometimes violently against any attempt to restrict it. Chicago experienced a “Lager Beer War” in 1855 when a Know-Nothing mayor attempted to drastically raise the fees for saloon licenses.[32] But over time, immigrant entrepreneurs, especially the more successful ones, broadened their customer base. In 1874, journalist Edward King, reporting on his journey through the former slave states, remarked upon a cultural symbiosis that was taking place in St. Louis: “At the more aristocratic and elegant of the German beer gardens… many prominent American families may be seen on the concert evenings, drinking the amber fluid and listening to the music of Strauss, of Gungl, or Meyerbeer.” He goes on to say that they “no longer regard the custom as a dangerous German innovation,” and he found in St. Louis “many of the hearty features and graces of European life, which have been emphatically rejected by the native population of the more austere Eastern States.”[33]

Clearly, brewing was an imported craft that catered to, or perhaps helped to create, a general American demand. Ironically, however, there were a number of successful immigrant brewers with backgrounds relatively unrelated to the brewing industry. One example is Heinrich Kreische, who arrived in Texas in 1846 trained as a stonemason. He even constructed the La Grange courthouse in 1855-1857 before building his brewery stone by stone on the outskirts of town shortly after the Civil War. By the late 1870s, Kreische Brewery was the third largest in the state, though it hardly survived its founder’s death in 1882.[34] Another county-seat brewery with much greater longevity, the Schell Brewery of New Ulm, Minnesota, shares with Kreische the distinction of being founded, or at least co-founded, by an amateur. August Schell, a machinist by trade who had immigrated in 1848, established the brewery in 1860 together with a partner Jacob Bernhardt, an experienced brewer. When the latter became ill in 1866, Schell bought him out for $12,000 and continued operations on his own. By 1880 Schell had largely turned over the brewing operations to his American-born son, Otto, who later studied the craft in Germany. Their enterprise has survived to the present, the second-oldest family owned brewery in the nation.[35]

Although this lack of brewing experience may not have been typical, it holds true for the largest and best-known German-American brewing establishment, Anheuser-Busch. Neither of its founders arrived with a background in the brewer’s trade. Eberhard Anheuser had amassed a fortune in soap making before 1859, when almost by happenstance, he first acquired a struggling brewery of which he was a major creditor. His son-in-law, Adolphus Busch, who had previously been in the brewery supply business, handled the marketing side of the Anheuser brewing concern. Busch’s main innovations were the pasteurization and rail shipment of beer as early as the 1870s to places as far away as Texas and Colorado. Miller Guenther served Anheuser bottle beer at a company picnic in San Antonio in 1875, and once the town of La Grange gained a railroad connection in 1880, within a year brewer Kreische was serving the imported product along with his local brew.[36] What Anheuser and Busch owed to Germany was something perhaps more important than a craft. Both brought with them good education and business training, as well as some capital, and they maintained transatlantic connections throughout their lives. Ironically, though, Busch’s beverage of choice was wine.[37] But a palate for hops was not a necessary ingredient for success. The German language and culture gave brewers like these easy access to the immigrant expertise they needed. In 1870 the Swabian Schell employed and boarded two brewers from as far afield as Austria and Lippe Detmold. As late as 1900, Otto Schell’s next-door neighbor was an immigrant brewer, doubtless his employee, who had arrived in 1882. In 1880, the Kreische household housed no less than five laborers from his native Saxony. German ethnicity also provided access to a ready-made customer base both in towns like La Grange and New Ulm and the city of St. Louis, though successful brewers quickly branched out beyond this base. And, of course, German brewers could draw upon a large ethnic network heavily involved in the wholesaling and retailing of alcohol.[38]

Particularly in the case of second-generation, German entrepreneurs, one might wonder what they could possibly owe to the Old Country unless they took over a family enterprise. Three prominent examples of international success, William Boeing, Hermann Hollerith, and Edward Stratemeyer, from their beginnings addressed a national market outside of any ethnic niches. Even so, they show a rather broad range of German identity and influence from their ethnic heritage. The German roots of Boeing aircraft might appear rather tenuous, given that the firm’s founder William Boeing was not only American-born, but involved himself in a totally different branch of industry than that of his father. The latter had immigrated to Michigan and become rich in the lumber business by a classical bourgeois method: marrying the boss’s daughter. But since she was Austrian born, and since their son was schooled in Vevey, Switzerland, it is safe to assume that he had a command of the German language, and that his technical training had a significant European component.[39]

The German connections are less direct with Hermann Hollerith, the inventor of the punch card and the father of modern data processing, who first visited his ancestral home as an adult promoting his new invention. His father, a Heidelberg professor and a refugee of the 1848 revolution, had died when Hermann was only seven. But growing up in the heavily German city of Buffalo, Hollerith was undoubtedly exposed to German language and culture, which left its mark on him. In fact, his “precise Germanic ways” sometimes caused him to be mistaken for an immigrant. Although he married outside the ethnic group, his wife had spent a year in Austria, and even the family cat was named Bismarck. Hollerith’s Swiss brother-in-law was one of the first to provide financial support for his invention, and his father’s Forty-Eighter network proved helpful on several occasions, possibly opening the door to his first appointment to the U.S. Census Office under Interior Secretary Carl Schurz, who as a young revolutionary had survived the Prussian siege of Rastatt along with the elder Hollerith.[40]

The opposite extreme of ethnic identity is represented by Edward Stratemeyer, who read the pulse of the American psyche so well that the quintessential figures of American juvenile fiction that he and his ghostwriters created — Tom Swift, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins — long outlived him and dominated the youth market for most of the twentieth century. Although both of his parents were born in Germany, Stratemeyer’s self-identity was purely Anglo-American. He even launched the most un-German book series imaginable about “the great modern movement for temperance” in 1915, though it never caught on with the public. Particularly in the books Stratemeyer authored himself before establishing his “fiction factory,” he spread the message that “Anglo-Saxon blood is bound to rule the world.” With stereotypical names like Hans Liederkranz and Fritz Stimmermann (two fictional corrupt saloonkeepers who rose to mayor and alderman, respectively), whatever German characters appeared in his early novels were just as unflattering and hackneyed as any of the other racial or ethnic groups he portrayed. Although it seems probable from the punning names he used, it is difficult to determine at this distance whether Stratemeyer even knew the German language.[41] But in this instance, German ethnicity was practically irrelevant to his career: an American entrepreneur with a German name, one might say.

A Tale of Two Wagonmakers: Signs For The Future

The progression from artisanship to entrepreneurship is nicely illustrated by the generations of the Nieburg family, even though it ended up in somewhat of a blind alley. Friedrich Nieburg emigrated from the Herford area in 1854 at age 18, apparently trained as a wagon maker, and initially started out combining his trade with farming in the village of Pitts, Missouri. Encouraged by increasing demand, he pursued his trade full-time, initially with the help of a younger brother or cousin. By 1870, he owned $2,600 worth of property, and four years later he moved to the nearby railroad town of Wright City. By 1880, he was assisted by two hands, who boarded with him, along with his three sons aged 16, 14, and 11. After their father’s death in 1889, the sons went into partnership forming the Nieburg Manufacturing Company, described in an 1895 “mug book” as “dealing in farm implements and undertakers' supplies, they manufacture a good line of carriages and spring and farm wagons.”[42] It is apparent from their increased division of labor that they were moving beyond the artisan stage. The eldest son, Charles, had ventured outside the ethnic enclave, spending some time in St. Louis learning woodworking and artistic carriage painting and three years with the Buckeye Harvester Company; he was responsible for management and bookkeeping in the family firm. The middle brother, Otto, was head of the ironworks and blacksmith shop, and the youngest son, William, was foreman of the woodworking department. The dawn of the automobile age posed daunting challenges to an enterprise of this nature, and it would have required a major mobilization of capital as well as a shift in the product line to remain competitive in the manufacturing sector. Instead, the Nieburg brothers appear to have resigned themselves to supporting roles. Among the agencies listed in Motor Age as selling Reo and Chevrolet cars in 1913 was the firm still designated “Nieburg Mfg. Co.” But by 1940, Charles was the proprietor of a farm machinery business, brother Otto had finished out his career owning a garage and car dealership, while William had ended up in the furniture and mortician business, succeeded by his son, Julius.[43] All three thus maintained their self-employed, middle-class status, but they did not achieve the breakthrough to genuine entrepreneurship beyond the local level.

Not that it would have been impossible: another Westphalian wagon maker who arrived in the Midwest only nine years earlier and started out very similarly managed quite a successful transition to the automotive age. Knapheide Manufacturing Company is now in the sixth generation of family ownership. Its current address, 1848 Westphalia Strasse, reflects the roots and the founding year of Herman Heinrich Knapheide’s enterprise in Quincy, Illinois, three years after his arrival in America. Compared to the Nieburgs’ location, Quincy was a bigger town with both river and railroad connections, and Knapheide got off to a quicker start. Earning enough to be subject to income tax during the Civil War, by 1870 he was worth $14,000 and employed six men and two youths, producing a wagon every week plus the occasional buggy. When the second generation took over after 1890 the enterprise was exporting its wagons to markets as distant as South America and Africa. But Knapheides embraced the automotive age in a very different way than Nieburgs, installing the first truck bed on a Model T Ford as early as 1910. In the twentieth century, the firm increasingly specialized in steel truck bodies. By 1960, nearly every farmer in the Midwest knew the Knapheide name, and in the 1970s they were the largest producer of farm truck bodies nationwide. The differing responses to the end of the horse and buggy era as much as anything explains the contrasting trajectories of two superficially similar family firms, though it took constant readjustments to keep the Knapheide enterprise viable into the twenty-first century.[44]

The era from 1840 to 1893 in many respects marked an optimal period for German-American entrepreneurship. It was both the period of heaviest German immigration, whether measured in numbers or percentage, and the era in which the United States took over first place among industrial nations, though still a period when individual, often self-made, industrialists were not yet overshadowed by corporations. From that point on, aspiring German-American entrepreneurs faced an increasingly challenging business climate in general, and some additional obstacles specific to their own ethnic group. For one thing, there was a much smaller pool of newly arrived compatriots in the labor force; instead of the 100,000 or more arriving every year in the 1880s, in the decade after 1894 annual German immigration never surpassed 40,000. In the wake of the Panic of 1893 and the resultant depression, the United States underwent a wave of business consolidation, and embarked on industrialization of an ever larger scale with the dawning of the Automobile Era. Detroit, with its concentration on heavy industry and auto manufacturing, presents an extreme case of a general tendency: “The German community, which was still a cross-class community in the 1890s, economically based on independent small enterprises,” had by 1920 “disappeared under the pressures of industrialization, and of the ideological trauma associated with the First World War.” Across the nation, the industry hardest hit was the one most heavily dominated by Germans. As St. Louis historian James Neal Primm pungently remarked, “World War I and its illegitimate offspring, the Prohibition Amendment, ruined the beer industry.”[45] Another of the Great War’s illegitimate offspring, immigration restriction, left Germans relatively unscathed compared to other nationalities. But the constellation of factors favoring German-American entrepreneurship, often with its roots in ethnic communities and initially based on fellow ethnics as workers and customers, would never again be as favorable as it had been in the years between 1840 and 1893.


[1] Paul Bairoch, “International Industrialization Levels from 1750 to 1980,” Journal of European Economic History 11.2 (1982): 269-333, here 275, 281, 286, 296; David S. Landes, Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 215, 221.

[2] Calculated from the 1880 U.S. Census data set, Minnesota Population Center, North Atlantic Population Project: Complete Count Microdata, Version 2.0 [Machine-readable database] (Minneapolis: Minnesota Population Center, 2008).

[3] Walter D. Kamphoefner, The Westfalians: From Germany to Missouri (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 155. More detail in Walter D. Kamphoefner, Wolfgang Helbich, and Ulrike Sommer, eds., News From the Land of Freedom: German Immigrants Write Home (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 372-373.

[4] Diana J. Kleiner, "SPOETZL BREWERY," Handbook of Texas Online (accessed July 10, 2013). Tommy W. Stringer, "COLLIN STREET BAKERY, CORSICANA," Handbook of Texas Online (accessed July 07, 2013). Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

[5]Interpretive Guide to Monument Hill/Kreische Brewery,” Texas Parks & Wildlife (accessed December 3, 2012).

[6] Kamphoefner, The Westfalians, 80-85. Kamphoefner, Helbich, and Sommer, News From the Land of Freedom, 335-366.

[7] Gerhard Wiesinger, Die deutsche Einwandererkolonie von Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1865-1920 (Stuttgart: F. Steiner Verlag, 1994), 35-36; Robert Paul McCaffery, Islands of Deutschtum: German-Americans in Manchester, New Hampshire and Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1870–1942 (New York: Peter Lang, 1996), 39-50, 72.

[8] Wiesinger, Die deutsche Einwandererkolonie von Holyoke, 27-36, 62-63.

[9] McCaffery, Islands of Deutschtum, 47-53. 1860 U.S. Census: Manchester Ward 7, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; Roll: M653_674; Page: 325. 1870 U.S. Census: Manchester Ward 3, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; Roll: M593_843; Page: 308A. 1880 U.S. Census: Manchester, Hillsborough, New Hampshire; Roll: 763; Page: 120D; Enumeration District: 127. Available online at The purchasing power of $5,000 in 1860 is equivalent to approximately $140,000 in 2011 dollars; $25,000 in 1870 comes to about $445,000 in 2011 dollars. This and all subsequent purchasing power calculations are based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index series available on:

[10] James S. Lapham, “The German-Americans of New York City, 1860-1890,” Ph.D. diss. (St. John’s University, 1977), 141.

[11] Ibid., 34-35, 132-146,152-157. Frederick Moore Binder and David M. Reimers, All the Nations Under Heaven: An Ethnic and Racial History of New York City (New York, Columbia University Press, 1995), 85-86. Stanley Nadel, Little Germany: Ethnicity, Religion, and Class in New York City, 1845-80 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980), 144-147.

[12] Bruce Laurie, Theodore Hershberg, and George Alter, “Immigrants and Industry: The Philadelphia Experience, 1850-1880,” in Hershberg, ed., Philadelphia: Work, Space, Family, and Group Experience in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), 112-116. Clyde and Sally Griffen, Natives and Newcomers: The Ordering of Opportunity in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Poughkeepsie (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978), 182-184.

[13] Kathleen Neils Conzen, Immigrant Milwaukee, 1836-1860: Accommodation and Community in a Frontier City (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 84.

[14] Kathleen Neils Conzen, "Immigrants, Immigrant Neighborhoods, and Ethnic Identity: Historical Issues," Journal of American History 66.3 (1979): 603-615, quote 613.

[15] Olivier Zunz, The Changing Face of Inequality: Urbanization, Industrial Development, and Immigrants in Detroit, 1880-1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 38.

[16] Ibid., 224.

[17] Ibid., 216-217.

[18] Walter D. Kamphoefner, ed., An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas: The Letters of Carl Hilmar Guenther (San Antonio: Maverick Publishing Co., 2001), vii-xii, 37-47, 79; quote 47. See also Lewis F. Fisher, C. H. Guenther & Son at 150 Years: The Legacy of a Texas Milling Pioneer (San Antonio: Maverick Publishing Co., 2001), 1-19.

[19] Kamphoefner, Immigrant Miller, x, 45, 80.

[20] Fisher, C. H. Guenther, 42-43, 48-49, 54-55. In 1918, $50,000 had the purchasing power of $747,000 in 2011$.

[21] Fisher, C. H. Guenther, 36.

[22] This is based on observations made in transcribing and translating the handwritten material that went into Kamphoefner, Immigrant Miller, 77-123.

[23] Fisher, C. H. Guenther, 36, 44, 48-49, 50, 66-67, 73, 77, 81, 95.

[24] Axel Madsen, John Jacob Astor: America's First Multimillionaire (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2001), 1-13. The chapter is tellingly entitled “The Hard Years.”

[25] Kamphoefner, Helbich, and Sommer, News From the Land of Freedom, 299-318. “Fred Pritzlaff is Dead at 90,” Milwaukee Journal, November 10, 1951.

[26] D.B. Steinman, The Builders of the Bridge: The Story of John Roebling and His Son (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1945), 10-16. Even $400 was not insignificant in 1832, the equivalent of $10,800 in 2011 purchasing power.

[27] Walter D. Kamphoefner and Wolfgang Helbich, eds., Germans in the Civil War: The Letters They Wrote Home (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 374-375, 377, 380, 386.

[28] “Seesens berühmtester Auswanderer — Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg und Familie,” in Brücken in eine Neue Welt: Auswanderer aus dem ehemaligen Land Braunschweig (Wiesbaden: Harassowitz, 2000), 142-146. The family brought considerable capital from Germany; when son Christian Friedrich Theodore Steinweg came over a second time in 1865, he registered the tidy sum of 10,000 Talers ($7,100 or $101,000 in 2011 purchasing power); source: Braunschweig emigration data, see description in Brücken in eine Neue Welt, 9-14. George Grove, John Alexander Fuller-Maitland, and Adela Harriet Sophia (Bagot) Wodehouse, Dictionary of Music and Musicians (A.D. 1450-1880) by Eminent Writers, English and Foreign (London: Macmillan, 1883), 709-710.

[29] Walter Carter, The Martin Guitar: A Complete History of Martin Guitars 2d ed., (Hal Leonard Corp., 2006), 10-22. 1860 U.S. Census: Nazareth, Northampton Co., Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1148; Page: 892. 1870 U.S. Census: Nazareth, Northampton Co., Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1383; Page: 469. Available online at The company is still owned by descendants of the founder.

[30] Kamphoefner and Helbich, Germans in the Civil War, 59-72; quotes from 60, 72. In 1860, a loss of $600 or $1500 was quite significant, equivalent to $16,700.00 or $41,900, respectively, in 2011 purchasing power; $40,000 in 1865 was indeed rich, the equivalent of $570,000 in 2011.

[31] Conzen, Immigrant Milwaukee, 117. Kamphoefner, Immigrant Miller, 23-25, 34, 40, 48-50, 58, 77, 79, 81. Kamphoefner and Helbich, Germans in the Civil War, 42. In its 2011 purchasing power, Guenther’s inheritance of 6600 talers or $4712 in 1860 is equivalent to about $132,000.

[32] Kamphoefner and Helbich, Germans in the Civil War, 298. Biographical Dictionary of American Mayors, 1820 to 1980, eds. Melvin Holli and Peter d'A. Jones (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1981), 34-35.

[33] Robin Einhorn, “Lager Beer Riot,” Encyclopedia of Chicago (accessed December 3, 2013). Edward King, The Great South (1875; repr. New York: Arno Press, 1969), 224. In American eyes, “German” was defined more linguistically and culturally than nationally: Johann Strauss was born in Austria, Joseph Gungl in Hungary, Giacomo Meyerbeer (born Jacob Liebmann Beer in a Berlin Jewish family) made his career primarily in the Paris opera. All three of them did, however, perform in Germany as well.

[34] Todd McMakin and James E. Corbin, comp., The Kreische Brewery State Historic Site (41FY128): An Archeological and Architectural Assessment ([Austin]: Texas Parks and Wildlife [Cultural Resources Program], 2001), 9-21.

[35]August Schell,” History-Schell’s Brewing Co. (accessed December 3, 2013). Confirmation is provided by the 1860 census, which lists Schell as a machinist. The $12,000 price amounts to $175,000 in 2011 purchasing power. Otto Schell applied for a passport in May 1882 and returned to the U.S. in May 1883. 1860 U.S. Census: New Ulm, Brown, Minnesota; Roll: M653_567; Page: 231. 1870 U.S. Census: New Ulm, Brown, Minnesota; Roll: T132_1; Page: 1058. Otto Schell Passport, Issue Date May 12, 1882; National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Passport Applications, 1795-1905; Collection Number: ARC Identifier 566612 / MLR Number A1 508; NARA Series: M1372; Roll #: 248. Passenger list “Deutschland,” departing Hamburg-New York May 16, 1883, Staatsarchive Hamburg; Volume: 373-7 I, VIII A 1 Band 048 C; Seite: 723; Mikrofilm Number: K_1729. Available online at The oldest family-owned brewery in the U.S. is D.G. Yuengling & Son. The brewery was founded in Pottsville, PA, in 1829 by German immigrant David Gottlieb Yuengling.

[36] Fisher, C. H. Guenther, 32. John Leffler, "LA GRANGE, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (accessed June 09, 2013). Published by the Texas State Historical Association. McMakin and Corbin, Kreische Brewery, 14.

[37] Peter Hernon and Terry Ganey, Under the Influence: The Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), 20-32, 48-49. The 1860 census lists Anheuser with the occupation “soap factory” and does not even mention beer. The census apparently missed Busch, but does show two of his brothers, Henry and John, listed as brewers in Washington, MO, one with $8,000 and the other with $10,000 worth of real property in 1860 ($223,000 and $279,000 in 2011 dollars, respectively). John had immigrated in 1849 at age 17 and was trained as a brewer in St. Louis. By 1870 he was sole proprietor worth $40,000 (the equivalent of $711,000 in 2011). 1860 Census: St Louis Ward 4, Missouri; Roll: M653_649; Page: 137; 1860 Census: Washington, Franklin, Missouri; Roll: M653_619; Page: 327, 350; 1870 Census: Washington, Franklin, Missouri; Roll: M593_775; Page: 330B; Available online at . History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford, & Gasconade Counties, Missouri (Chicago, 1888; reprint ed., Ramfre: Cape Girardeau, MO,1970), 730-731

[38] 1870 U.S. Census: New Ulm, Brown, Minnesota; Roll: T132_1; Page: 1058. 1900 U.S. Census: New Ulm Ward 1, Brown, Minnesota; Roll: 758; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 0043. 1880 U.S. Census, Fayette, Texas; Roll: 1303; Page: 243A; Enumeration District: 164. Available online at Walter D. Kamphoefner, "German and Irish Big City Mayors: Comparative Perspective on Ethnic Politics," in German-American Immigration and Ethnicity, 238-241.

[39] Robert J. Serling, Legend and Legacy: The Story of Boeing and its People (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992), 1-2. Friedrich Schütte, Westfalen in Amerika: Von Boeing, Bruns und Boas bis Ney, Niebuhr und Wewer ([Münster]: Landwirtschaftsverlag, [2005]), 219-221.

[40] Geoffrey D. Austrian, Herman Hollerith: Forgotten Giant of Information Processing (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 1-4, 29-30, 38-42, 55 (quote), 78. Hollerith quickly extended his marketing abroad, but ironically had the most difficulty with Germanic countries. Austria reneged on a patent agreement, and Germany, which had used its census bureau as a sheltered workshop for the handicapped, held off in adopting Hollerith machines until 1910, the last among major Western countries to do so (79-82, 217).

[41] Deidre Johnson, Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate (New York: Twayne, 1993), 1-3, 19-21, 78-87, 93. Carol Billman, The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate: Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the Million Dollar Fiction Factory (New York: Ungar Publishing Co., 1986), 23, 25, 40. Brian Rouleau, “Childhood's Imperial Imagination: Edward Stratemeyer's Fiction Factory and the Valorization of American Empire,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 7.4 (2008), 479-512, quote 510.

[42] Portrait and Biographical Record of St. Charles, Lincoln, and Warren Counties, Missouri (Chicago, 1895), 464-65. 1860 U.S. Census: Elkhorn, Warren, Missouri; Roll: M653_659; Page: 145; 1870 U.S. Census: Hickory Grove, Warren, Missouri; Roll: M593_824; Page: 752A; Available online at In terms of 2011 purchasing power, $2,600 in 1870 is equivalent to about $46,200.

[43] Portrait and Biographical Record, 464-65. Motor Age, 10/23/1913, p. 68; 1940 U.S. Census: Hickory Grove, Warren, Missouri; Roll: T627_2162; Page: 4B; Page: 3B; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 110-11. Available online at

[44]History,” About Us-Knapheide (accessed December 3, 2013); Illinois, District 4; Monthly and Special Lists; 1863-1866, NARA Series M764, U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 [database on-line]. 1870 U.S. Census: Quincy Ward 4, Adams, Illinois; Roll: M593_187; Page: 533B; 1870 U.S. Census, Schedule 4, Products of Industry: Quincy Ward 4, Adams, Illinois; Archive Collection Number: T1133; Roll: 15; Page: 1; Line: 07. Available online at Relative to purchasing power, $14,000 in 1870 is equivalent to $249,000 in 2011.

[45] Zunz, The Changing Face of Inequality, 38. James Neal Primm, Lion of the Valley: St. Louis, Missouri, 1764-1980, third ed., (St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 1998), 436.


Cite this Entry

APA Style

"The German Component to American Industrialization." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved November 17, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship:

Chicago Style

Kamphoefner, Walter. "The German Component to American Industrialization." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 2, edited by William J. Hausman. German Historical Institute. Last modified July 30, 2015.

MLA Style

"The German Component to American Industrialization," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2018, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 17 Nov 2018 <>

Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ca. 1890s

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