German Corporate Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth Century America (1800-1899)

Many of the Germans who came to the United States in the nineteenth century were entrepreneurs, some in the more mundane sense of owning their own businesses, others in the more exciting sense of being innovators within various business sectors. Germans also appear to have been more likely to engage in entrepreneurial activities on a scale large enough to require the formation of corporations. That hypothesis stems from the analysis of a database of the names of several hundred thousand incorporators, people (mostly men) who helped for-profit businesses to receive special charters granted by state legislatures across the United States between 1790 and 1861.

Updated: September 19, 2014


Many of the Germans who came to the United States in the nineteenth century were entrepreneurs, some in the more mundane sense of owning their own businesses, others in the more exciting sense of being innovators within various business sectors. Although drawing comparisons with other immigrant groups is fraught with difficulties, it seems that Germans were more likely to be self-employed than most other immigrant groups of the era, especially the Irish, Italians, or Chinese, who tended to be poorer, less educated, and more likely to work for others in sectors like construction or manufacturing. (Mining was something of an exception in areas like Western Pennsylvania). Germans also appear to have been more likely to engage in entrepreneurial activities on a scale large enough to require the formation of corporations. That hypothesis stems from the analysis of a database of the names of several hundred thousand incorporators, people (mostly men) who helped for-profit businesses to receive special charters granted by state legislatures across the United States between 1790 and 1861.[1]

Throughout the nineteenth century, German-initiated and German-run businesses engaged in a wide variety of business activities from banking to brewing, insurance underwriting to publishing, and manufacturing to agricultural production. Some entrepreneurs found formal incorporation unnecessary but others, especially those that wished to pool the capital of large numbers of their neighbors and other investors, obtained corporate charters in order to pursue their business ventures.

While it proved impossible to verify the birthplaces of most incorporators with core Germanic surnames (see Appendix A) in the 1790-1861 database, enough could be traced genealogically to verify that first- and second-generation German Americans chartered numerous corporations in the first half of the nineteenth century. Secondary sources verify that German immigrants remained active in the corporate sector in the second half of the century as well, a fact reinforced by the large number of corporations in operation in the early twentieth century that contained words like “German” and “Germania” (see Appendix B) in their names. A few years later, most of the corporations removed “German” from their names to escape the anti-German sentiments stirred up during World War I, part of a long process whereby most corporations –German or otherwise – cleansed themselves of ethnic associations during the twentieth century.

German Entrepreneurial Diversity

In her 1895 short story, “Washington’s Birthday at Hardyville,” Annie Fellows-Johnston blasted German immigrants for being unpatriotic and less interested in schooling their children than in making a buck. All that German immigrants “care about,” protagonist Mr. Hardy claimed, “is having their corn and stock turn out well.” Mrs. Hardy agreed that “They usually force the boys and girls to live like overworked horses. All they think of is making money.”[2]

Although subjected to stereotypes like that proffered by Fellows-Johnston, many of the Germans who moved to America in the nineteenth century were attracted by high wages, cheap land, and, perhaps most of all, political and economic freedoms.[3] Typically, the profit motive drove German immigrants to work hard, as Fellows-Johnston discerned, but also to work smart, transforming some of them from mere farmers into innovative agricultural entrepreneurs.[4] In Cullman County in northern Alabama, for example, German farmers moved in after federal troops moved out and the railroads started to move through in the wake of the Civil War. In the late 1860s and 1870s, they introduced new crops like strawberries and wine grapes to the area.[5] German immigrants, both those directly from traditional German-speaking lands in Central Europe and those who came to America via the Russian Black Sea region, were also a potent force on the western frontier. Many worked the railroads before taking homesteads in the Dakotas,[6] where, in contrast to Hardyville, they became esteemed members of their respective communities due to their strong work ethic and business acumen.[7] Newly-arrived Germans were so valued that Dakota and other territories hired agents in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago to steer to them to the Great Plains.[8]

Dakota homesteader George Beine remembered that one couple had emigrated from German Bohemia, “as had their neighbors, and spoke only a few words of English.” The husband, he recalled, “was a small man but… he spent his time making various items – harnesses from hides, cups from tin cans with the handles ingeniously formed of willow, a set of table knives from an old saw, a butcher knife from a file – furnishing the house with the products of his skill.”[9] Another homesteader, Grace Fairchild, recalled that “Old Lady Stuffenberg lived on a claim at the southwest corner of our land. She had been born in Germany, but had come over here several years before.” Stuffenberg made good beer and great blood sausage. “Somehow,” Fairchild remembered, “she had put together a smoke house and smoked all her meat. Nothing but the squeal was lost when Old Lady Stuffenberg butchered a hog.”[10]

Still another early Dakotan recalled that a German native named William Landers (née Lenders) had lived in several eastern states before coming to Dakota Territory in 1884, where he settled on Hat Creek south of the Black Hills and raised livestock. Landers was said to be the “first rancher to build fences and dams in the region [and] soon acquired a second place on Ash Creek, a tributary of Hat Creek, about twenty-three miles south of Hot Springs.” Landers died in 1904 with about 500 head of cattle bearing his brand.[11]

An even bigger German stock outfit in southwestern South Dakota, one of the biggest in the region in fact, was that of Oelrichs and Company. In 1798, a member of the Oelrichs family of Schleswig-Holstein moved to New York City to establish a branch of the family mercantile business there. In 1837, Henry Oelrichs permanently emigrated from Bremen to Baltimore to help run a steamship ticket agency that was a major player on several Euro-American passenger routes into the twentieth century.[12] (It was prominent enough that newspaper editors asked its general manager about safety reforms in the wake of the Titanic disaster.[13]) From there his business and his sons spread west and into the burgeoning cattle business.[14]

Many other German immigrants ended up establishing large businesses like Oelrichs and Company and even formally chartered corporations, which by the U.S. Civil War were already ubiquitous. Contrary to long-standing, but erroneous, assumptions, antebellum America did not suffer a general dearth of “capital” in any sense of the term but rather abounded in human, physical, and even financial resources. Interest rates were higher than in older economies, like those of Britain and the Netherlands, because investment funds could be put to numerous profitable uses in America’s dynamic, expanding economy.[15] Except in the aftermath of financial panics in 1819, 1837, and 1857, ably-led projects received the funding they needed: short term from banks, intermediate term from bondholders, and long term from equity holders.[16] German immigrants and their descendants became important borrowers and securities issuers and depositors and investors in America’s financial system as early as the colonial period.

In the eighteenth century, Germans poured into Pennsylvania. Some then moved south along the Shenandoah into backcountry Maryland and Virginia, where with Scots-Irish immigrants they comprised up to thirty percent of the free population.[17] By 1790, Pennsylvania was home to over 140,000 German-born residents, more than half of the 264,000 or so residents counted in the federal census that year. By then, Virginia, Maryland, and New York had about 25,000 German-born residents each, and North Carolina and New Jersey had about 15,000 each.[18] In each state where they had a major presence, Germans were customers of early banks and brokers.[19]

In the nineteenth century, the locus of German immigration shifted and with it the region of their greatest impact on the corporate economy. By 1850, almost twenty-one percent of all German-born residents in the United States lived in New York. Ohio was second at nineteen percent and Pennsylvania a distant third at just under fourteen percent. Missouri was then home to just under eight percent of all Germans residing in America, Illinois to just under seven percent, and Wisconsin and Indiana to six and five percent, respectively. About two-fifths of all German-born individuals residing in America lived in the Northeast, while another two-fifths resided in the Upper Midwest, leaving only twenty percent in the South.[20] Many Germans disliked competing with free blacks or slaves for jobs[21] and, while a few owned slaves, most leaned ideologically toward abolition or at least away from slaveholding.[22] When opportunities in the Northeast declined, therefore, Germans quickly flooded into the Upper Midwest. By 1841, for example, Hermann Reuthlisberger was brewing beer in Milwaukee.[23] Before the Civil War, sizeable numbers of German immigrants ended up as far west as St. Paul, Minnesota, and the surrounding hinterland, where they soon dominated the building and brewing trades. In an oft-repeated pattern, the better-off established themselves in fur or lumber trading, retail, hospitality, law, or finance.[24]

Over a third of the Germans who entered Pennsylvania between 1785 and 1820 paid for their voyage by entering servitude and hence were employed by entrepreneurs rather than engaging in entrepreneurial activities themselves.[25] Apparently, many continued to struggle economically even after paying their dues; as late as the mid-1830s, only the Irish outnumbered Germans in Baltimore’s almshouses.[26] For a variety of reasons, however, servitude virtually ended after 1820.[27] After about 1835, relatively few German immigrants, about one in four, worked as unskilled laborers, and more than two in five made their primary living by working their own farms.[28] Most others were relatively highly educated – skilled in a manual trade and literate – and immigrated with a little working capital. They therefore worked as attorneys, doctors, or financiers, or as artisans, bakers, brewers, miners, or tradesmen, or as grocers, hoteliers, real estate developers and speculators, restaurateurs, or wholesalers.[29] In other words, many Germans in antebellum America possessed the human and financial capital requisite to found small businesses organized as proprietorships or partnerships.[30] (According to several scholars, German Jews were especially likely to run their own companies due to the employment discrimination they had faced in Europe.[31])

Entrepreneurs who organized their businesses as sole proprietorships, general partnerships, or limited partnerships could slowly accumulate considerable fortunes. Frederick Bodmann (1801-1874), who came to America from Hanau near Frankfurt am Main in 1822, amassed a fortune of several million dollars by making, wholesaling, and retailing tobacco products in Cincinnati and by carefully plowing profits back into that and other businesses. Eventually, his son Charles took over the business while another son moved to Brussels, Belgium, to engage in trade.[32] However, these business forms had legal and financial restrictions that limited their flexibility and prevented them from growing rapidly.

Corporate Charters and German Investors

Proprietorships and partnerships were able to borrow from banks and could issue debt and equity, but only in relatively small sums and in their most illiquid forms. To grow large quickly and benefit from economies of scale, entrepreneurs had to issue more liquid forms of debt and equity, bonds and stocks that could be traded easily between investors without triggering firm dissolution. To do that, they had to formally incorporate by obtaining a charter from a state government. Incorporation brought with it several legal benefits, including the right of perpetual succession (the right to change owners without dissolving and reforming the company every time), entity shielding (which protected corporations and their creditors from bankrupt stockholders), and defined liability (which protected stockholders from bankrupt corporations). All three of those legal benefits made the issuance of easily tradable stocks and bonds possible.[33]

Obtaining a charter typically meant convincing the state legislature to enact a special law. Most non-financial charter applications passed with little difficultly but occasionally opposition arose for competitive or partisan reasons. Several score residents of Clark County, for example, petitioned the Ohio legislature against the incorporation of the Springfield Hydraulic Company.[34] In March 1850 the bill passed anyway and the firm was capitalized at $200,000, with help from Levi Rineheart, Thomas Kizer (1812-unknown, born in Clark County, near German Township, to Virginia parents[35]),Daniel Hertzler (from the heavily German populated Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, a Mennonite and an agricultural entrepreneur of considerable wealth[36]), and others, including James L. Torbert from Pennsylvania, who was second-generation Scots-Irish.[37]

Entrepreneurs could also form unchartered associations that claimed the benefits of incorporation via contract.[38] Numerous entrepreneurs pursued this approach, but almost always only until a formal charter could be passed by the legislature. A third approach was to obtain a charter under a general incorporation statute. That became the preferred path after the Civil War, but in the antebellum era only a few states mandated general incorporation and some offered no such option. Before the Civil War, at most 10,000 businesses incorporated under general incorporation laws while over 22,000 incorporated by means of special charters. Most were joint-stock companies owned by their stockholders but a considerable percentage of banks, insurers, and cemeteries took the mutual form and hence were technically owned by their customers.[39]

Antebellum joint-stock corporations, including those formed by Germans, usually raised equity capital via a direct public offering (DPO) of stock. In other words, they sold shares in themselves directly to investors without the aid of an intermediary such as an investment bank. They typically did so by advertising the names of stock subscription agents (people associated with the management of the corporation often explicitly mentioned in the charter) or by advertising a time and place where subscription books would be opened. Interested members of the public would then approach a subscription agent or appear at the advertised spot and purchase options called scripts (sometimes scrips), usually for a dollar or two apiece. The script allowed the holder to purchase full-fledged shares by making installment payments on the stock when called for by the board of directors up to the par value of the shares as specified in the corporation’s charter. If progress stalled, stockholders could minimize their losses by withholding further installment payments or use the threat of nonpayment to induce corporate officers to exert more effort.[40]

Of the subscription and stockholder lists that have survived, many are laden with German surnames, especially in states with large German populations. Of a list of 52,547 individuals who invested in Pennsylvania DPOs between 1814 and 1850, for example, 898 bore core Germanic surnames like Baer (Bair, Bare, Bear, Beer), Conrad, Freytag, Gulick, Huber, Kuntz, Saeger (Sager), Schenck (Schenk, Shenk), and so forth. [41] Although less than two percent of the total, many German investors were missed in the database search because their names were unintentionally corrupted or intentionally Anglicized, rendering them nearly impossible to identify without arduous additional genealogical research.[42] Others overlooked in the search bore less common surnames not represented in the core surname list provided in Appendix A. On the other hand, the core surname methodology overestimates the influence of German immigrants because some investors with Germanic surnames undoubtedly stemmed from families who had lived in America for several generations or bore surnames also common among Dutch or Swiss immigrants and their ancestors. The closest student of the Pennsylvania DPO lists, historian John Majewski, did not attempt to analyze the country of origin of stockholders but he did note that Lancaster County, an area of high German-speaking concentration, was over-represented in the stockholder lists.[43]

Numerous individuals with core German surnames, 1,038 to be precise, can also be found in the 8,080 special charters that explicitly listed the stock subscription agents charged with selling scripts to the public. That includes people with surnames like Brough, Cline, Fister, Gebhart, Henning, Kurtz, Noble, Reeder, Stump, Werner, and Wever. Again, however, the count can only be suggestive because some German stock subscription agents bore names that had been anglicized or corrupted or were not included in the core list in Appendix A. Others were two, three, or more generations removed from the Old World. Cross listing several hundred thousand names with census manuscripts for country of origin proved impractical and would not be definitive anyway, though I am certain that a technologically savvy graduate student someday will create a credible method for further refining the estimates provided here.[44]

Antebellum Corporations Formed by Germans

The emphasis in this article is on incorporators from German-speaking lands or with German roots who were explicitly identified in antebellum business charters as company founders, of which there were 1,226 using the surname methodology described above. Due to the inherent difficulties of identifying the country of origin of specific individuals, the approach will be more anecdotal than statistical: I more or less randomly identified incorporators with German surnames, attempted (with help from GHI interns) to confirm their origins, and researched the general outlines of the companies that they helped to form. The picture that emerges, while statistically imprecise, is nevertheless quite clear: German immigrants and their descendants (generically referred to as German Americans below) were important contributors to antebellum America’s largest, most dynamic, and most important business enterprises, its corporations.

That is not to say, however, that all German immigrants fully comprehended the American system of free enterprise. John F. Amelung moved from Bremen to Baltimore in 1784 to establish a glass manufactory that employed 350 workers. Rather than incorporating, however, he begged the Maryland and federal governments for subsidies. The former granted him a small loan and a tax break but the latter had neither the will nor the means to help. Amelung’s concern languished after fire destroyed his factory in 1789.[45] In a similarly misguided effort, some German immigrants attempted to replicate Old World cooperative enterprises – like communal or employee-owned shops and craft guilds -- in Manhattan, Buffalo, and elsewhere, but met with little success.[46]

Probably the most famous German corporate entrepreneur in the antebellum period was John Jacob Astor (1763-1848). Born near Heidelberg in the small town of Walldorf in the Margraviate of Baden, Astor immigrated to the United States in March 1784, soon after its independence was officially won. In 1808, he was the sole incorporator of the American Fur Company, a corporation chartered in New York. The charter authorized Astor to raise from $500,000 to $2 million in equity capital (approximately $9.2 to 37 million in 2011$), an enormous sum for the time, especially for a non-financial corporation.[47] (The fur trade attracted other Germans as well, including Johann August “John” Sutter, who was born in Baden in 1803.[48]) American Fur thrived, aiding Astor in his speculations in real estate and other endeavors, including several more corporate forays.[49] In 1830, Astor helped to charter New York Life Insurance and Trust Company, a $1 million New York corporation. Two years later, he was an incorporator in the Northwestern Insurance Company, another New York company, capitalized at $150,000. In 1839, Astor helped to charter Portsmouth Dry Dock and Steamboat Basin Company in Scioto County, Ohio, a $2 million corporation.[50]

Other German Americans also dominated a few antebellum U.S. corporations. In 1832, for example, William Baer, Michael S. Baer, and Frederick Augustus Schley (1789-1858) received a charter for Baer’s Chymical [sic] Works of Baltimore, a manufacturer with an authorized capital of $300,000.[51] (Schley’s father was born in the German lands but no information about the national origins of the other two could be found.) By the following year, the operation was advertising at No. 83 Pratt Street that “any kind of preparation” would be “punctually attended to.”[52] Michael S. was a published doctor[53] and the grand marshal of the Baltimore Freemasons.[54] Schley, whose family had settled in Frederick, Maryland, in 1735,[55] was an attorney with a large and lucrative practice who stood six foot two. His son, George, a graduate of the University of Virginia, studied and practiced chemistry at the works for half a year.[56] (Not everyone involved in the company, however, was German American. An owner of 884 shares in the concern was Evan Poultney (1795-1838),[57] a banker of English Quaker extraction who helped to bankrupt the venerable Bank of Maryland in March 1834.[58])

Similarly, in 1835, Matthias N. Forney, Henry Meyers, Peter Muller, Henry C. Wampler, David Diehl, Daniel Barnitz, William Bair, Daniel P. Lange, Peter Winebrenner, William D. Gobrecht, George Gitt, John L. Hinkle, Benjamin Welsh, Adam Alt, Samuel Trone, Jacob Hilt, and David Slagle of Hanover Borough and Samuel Hornish, George Eichelberger, and Charles Cremer of Heidelberg Township, York County, chartered the Hanover Saving Fund Society. (No genealogical information about most of those men could be found, but Muller was possibly born in the German lands and several others probably had German or Swiss ancestors.) With an authorized capitalization range of $10,000 to $50,000, this Pennsylvania savings bank outlived the nineteenth century and survived World War II.[59] As late as 1915 its statutory capital remained a relatively paltry $50,000, but its surplus was $200,000 and it was paying dividends of seven percent on each of its 5,000 shares outstanding.[60] Most of its officers and directors still bore Germanic surnames like Wirt, Schmidt, and Winebrenner.[61] Most or all, though, were by then at least several generations removed from the Old World.[62]

Frederick Walter set out for the California gold fields in 1850 with eight other young men, all of German birth or ancestry, and formed a mining company with them. Walter soon abandoned the mines, however, to start the Pacific Brewery, which thrived despite intense competition from other breweries, most also run by German immigrants. Walter returned to mining after a fire destroyed his brewery in 1854. He used his mining profits to rebuild the brewery facility and by 1858 was making $20,000 a year from his new brewery and a related business, the Harmony Saloon, which was run by German immigrant A. M. Kruttschnitt.[63] Fires and floods continued to dog Walter’s operations but in 1865 he paid $650 in federal income taxes, suggesting an annual income north of $15,000, a hefty sum for the time. He sold the Pacific Brewery later that year to pursue a career in politics.[64]

The Sonora Exploring and Mining Company of Arizona Territory was chartered in Ohio in 1857 and capitalized at $2 million.[65] It, too, was run mostly by German immigrants, a mixture of Jews and Gentiles.[66] The former group included Nathan B. Appel (1828-1901), who was born in Hochstadt on Main, but moved to Arizona in the 1850s and soon after took a Hispanic wife. Unsurprisingly, Appel was fluent in German, French, Spanish, and English.[67] The first president of the company was Samuel Peter Heintzelman (1805-1880) of Mannheim, Pennsylvania, one of the territory’s U.S. Army commanders.[68] Although aided by German engineering talent like Herman Ehrenberg, the Sonora never made a profit, partly because of the remote location of its best mine, the Heintzelman.[69]

Other companies also appear to have been formed primarily by men of German ancestry. For example, the Metamora Building Association of Maryland, chartered in 1850, listed the following incorporators: Frederick Heinz, Henry F. Hoffman, Conrad Schlott, Henry Weisbach, Henry Vey, John C. Ermold, Ludwig Waidner, George Puhl, John Zinkan, Henry Heidrich, Jacob Schafer, George D. Volkmar, Conrad Moeller, and William Mensel. (Most of these men were from Hesse-Kassel

Some German-dominated corporations wore their national identity on their sleeve by putting some variant of the word German into their name. In 1854, for example, Robert Ernst (possibly Bavarian), Laudin Eseuman, Phillip Tompert (from Wurttemburg), G. Phillip Doern (from the Duchy of Nassau), Lewis Rehm (from Wurttemburg), Gustavus Stein, Jacob Lavall (German but precise origin unknown), John Durkee, Conrad Shroeder, John J. Felker (born somewhere in German lands), Herman Justi, Frederick Schmidt, Orville Turman, and several others chartered the German Insurance Company of Louisville, Kentucky. With an authorized capitalization range of $100,000 to $500,000, the company survived the Civil War and by 1870 had assets of almost $950,000.[70] It established a bank, the German Security Bank, in 1867, which it spun off at the behest of insurance regulators in 1871.[71] It changed its name to Liberty Insurance in 1917 in response to wartime anti-German sentiments.[72]

The German Land Association of Minnesota, which was chartered in 1857 with an authorized capitalization range of $100,000 to $500,000, was started by William Pfaender, Adolphus Fischer, Fred. Werner, C. Victor Bechmann, Julius Fischer, Adolphus Forbriger, Charles Strobel, Louis Hoffman, Charles Meininger, Louis Strobel, Albert Tafel, Henry Esmann, Charles Floto, and Max Wocher.[73] Headed by Pfaender (who was certainly from the German lands although the national origins of the others have been obscured by time), the company, which began operations as an unchartered association in 1856, built a sawmill, hotel, warehouse, and other infrastructure to help jumpstart the creation of an ambitious town for German immigrants called New Ulm. The Panic of 1857 and the socialist utopian ideology of some of the founders hurt the company, however, which soon sold off its mill and newspaper. It ceased business in 1859 and was completely dissolved by 1862.[74] New Ulm, by contrast, survived and to this day relishes its Germanic origins.

Other antebellum corporations with German in their names (not including place names like Germantown, Pennsylvania, or German, New York) were the American and German Trading and Insurance Company (ch. South Carolina, 1835), the German Hebrew Charity Society (ch. Maryland, 1838, and, despite its name, a for-profit concern capitalized at $20,000[75]), the German Catholic Cemetery Association and the German Catholic Cemetery Society (also both for-profit and chartered by Ohio on the same day in 1843), the German Protestant Cemetery (ch. Ohio, 1844), the First German Protestant Cemetery Association (ch. Ohio, 1845), the Baltimore German Building Association (ch. Maryland, 1850), the Baltimore German Homestead Association (ch. Maryland, 1850), the German Catholic St. Stephen Cemetery Association and the German Evangelical Protestant Cemetery (both again chartered by Ohio on the same day in 1851), German Mutual Insurance Company (ch. Kentucky, 1856), German Mutual Life Insurance Company (ch. Missouri, 1857), German Insurance and Savings Institution (ch. Illinois, 1859), German Saving and Loan (ch. Missouri, 1859), and the German Washington Mutual Association (Kentucky, 1860).

Most antebellum German corporate entrepreneurs, however, did not self-segregate but rather joined entrepreneurs of non-Germanic backgrounds to help charter companies. For the most part, Germans, especially wealthier, better-educated Germans, were more readily accepted as business partners by Anglo-Americans than blacks, Native Americans, Irish, Chinese, and various other racial and ethnic groups. At times, the proverbial American melting pot was evident in the genealogies of individual incorporators. In 1857, for example, third- or fourth-generation German American Eli J. Saeger (1818-1888)[76] helped to found the Bank of Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and served as its first president. The bank, which was initially capitalized at $400,000, survived the Panic of 1857 and converted to national bank status in 1865.[77] It also survived the Great Depression, merging with First National Bank of Allentown in 1960.[78] Other types of “hyphenated Americans” also helped to form this long-lived bank, including Jonas Biery (1804-1874), the direct descendant (great-grandson) of Joseph Biery (1703-1768), who moved from Bern, Switzerland, to Pennsylvania in 1739.[79] Yet another founder, David Thomas (1794-1882), had been born in Wales.[80]

The moving force behind the Bronx Bleaching and Manufacturing Company, which bleached cloth and dyed fabrics, was James Bolton, a textile manufacturer who fled Lancashire, England, after a duel in which he was too successful for the laws of the realm.[81] One of the three incorporators of the concern, which received a charter from New York in 1825 and was capitalized at between $25,000 and $50,000, was Peter H. Schenck (1779-1852).[82] Of Hessen or New York Dutch ancestry, Schenck was involved in multiple early textile manufacturing companies, including an unincorporated one that he organized with John Jacob Astor in 1812.[83] Bronx Bleaching converted to a partnership in the early 1850s[84] but thrived until sometime after 1889,[85] when it relocated to West Farms in the Bronx.[86]

German immigrants or their descendants were involved in every major sector of the corporate economy – from finance to manufacturing to transportation – throughout the century and throughout the country. They did not dominate any branch of industry, except perhaps for brewing, but they made contributions to almost all of them.[87] For example, German Americans contributed to the lumber business in Michigan, Iowa, and elsewhere.[88] The Black River Lumber Driving and Boom Company, for instance, was established by Horatio Curts and others in 1854 to move logs down the Black River to mills. Its capitalization was not mentioned in its charter. In 1864 it became a subsidiary of the Black River Improvement Company, capitalized at $50,000, and was owned and controlled largely by the loggers who used it.[89] The combined companies moved six to seven billion logs over the first three decades of their existence.[90] Four of the top 131 lumber-entrepreneurs of the mid-nineteenth century were German, including Frederick Weyerhaeuser (1834-1914), an émigré from Nieder-Saulheim in Rhenish Hesse (today part of Rhineland-Pfalz), who founded the Weyerhauser Timber Company in 1900.[91] Today, the company, which controls over six million acres of timberland, is the world’s largest manufacturer of wood and cellulose fibers products, including paper.

In 1857, Russell E. Hecock, Volentine Weis (possibly from Bavaria), Michael Kleinherz, and others chartered the Henry City Bridge Company to bridge the Illinois River. The company survived into the twentieth century.[92] The Lemay Ferry Bridge Company of St. Louis, also formed in 1857, did not fare so well. Originally chartered by Charles Mehl and others, it was wholly owned by John C. Hall when he passed away. In 1876, St. Louis and Jefferson counties each paid $5,000 to Hall’s estate to buy the improvement and make it a free public bridge.[93]

While many German-American corporate entrepreneurs were involved in the formation of only one company, some, lesser known and less affluent than John Jacob Astor, helped to charter two or more companies. In 1831, Aaron Gulick and others chartered the Washington Bridge Company. Capitalized at $4,000, the company bridged the South River in Middlesex County and was still operating in 1877, the last toll bridge in the county.[94] Although it had been recently repaired, residents considered the structure rickety and greatly resented the tolls so they pushed the county to buy it.[95] Gulick was at it again in 1838, helping to charter the Washington Steamboat and Transportation Company, which possessed an authorized capitalization of between $4,000 and $25,000.[96]

In 1821, Peter H. Schenck, one of the founders of the aforementioned Bronx Bleaching, and other individuals incorporated the Manhattan Fire Insurance Company and capitalized it at $250,000.[97] It survived the Great Fire of New York in 1835, doubled its capital, and by 1861 had paid $3 million in claims and had an office in Montreal.[98] In 1864 it doubled its capital again, to $1 million.[99] The Boston Post that year lauded the company, calling it an “old and solid corporation” under the direction of “leading merchants… sure guarantees of stability and good government.”[100] In the early 1880s, however, it succumbed to excess losses and poor governance.[101] In the year that he died, 1852, Schenck also helped to charter the Mariners’ Savings Institution of New York. Like other mutual companies, Mariners’ invested safely, largely in first mortgages and bonds issued by the federal, state, and New York City governments.[102] Female depositors were welcomed to transact business whenever they saw fit but only female customers were served on Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.[103] The institution changed its name to the Metropolitan Savings Bank in 1865[104] and thrived for more than a century thereafter.[105]

Another serial corporate entrepreneur of likely Germanic origins, Henry Kayser, helped to form the St. Louis Mutual Fire and Marine Insurance Company in 1851. The company failed exactly half a century later when its policies were taken up by Connecticut Fire of Hartford.[106] Kayser was also involved in the formation of the Citizens’ Mutual Saving Fund and Loan Association of St. Louis in 1855 and the Carondelet Waterworks Company, a water utility capitalized at $200,000 when Missouri awarded it a charter in 1857.[107]

In 1828, Jacob Baer and others incorporated the Fredericktown Savings Institution. It thrived for over a century, at one point paying dividends in excess of eight percent; Baer served as its first president, until being relieved in 1831.[108] In 1848, Baer and others incorporated the Middletown Savings Institution in Frederick County. It too long thrived, until at least the Second World War.[109] In 1853, with the aid of 126 petition signatures,[110] Baer and others incorporated the Catoctin Savings Institution in Middletown, Maryland. Unlike Baer’s two earlier banking projects, this institution soon failed, apparently sometime in the 1860s.[111]

Some antebellum corporations formed with the aid of German Americans struggled before succumbing to competition, fraud, financial panics, or other pressures. The New Jersey Navigation Company was chartered in 1804 with help from John Gulick to connect the Delaware River to Raritan Bay. The attempt failed,[112] apparently because the company had difficulty identifying a suitable route[113] and hence found it impossible to raise sufficient equity funding.[114]

Serial entrepreneur Peter H. Schenck and others chartered the Galen Salt Company on the Seneca River near Syracuse, New York, in 1810. Capitalized at $50,000, the company produced “basket-salt” purported to be “superior to any imported.”[115] It competed well with the Kanawha salt producers[116] but because its brine contained “somewhat less than 9% salt” it had difficulty keeping up with the richer Salina Salt Work brines when they came into production. The company soon ceased operations.[117] The failure did not deter Schenck or others who adopted the American mindset of trying again in another field. Failed corporations were little lamented by Americans, who long regarded bankruptcy as an invitation to try a new business elsewhere. As one German traveler put it: “When an entrepreneur goes broke, the American thinks not of what so many families have lost, only of the creative achievement of one man’s commercial spirit.”[118]

In 1812, Jacob Schenck and others obtained a charter for a toll bridge, called the Union Bridge Company, to bridge New York’s Oswego River. The work remained incomplete in 1820, the time allotted in the first charter, so the company obtained a two-year extension. By 1821, however, it had given up and obtained permission to sell its charter privileges to Nehemiah B. Northrop.[119]

Thirty years later, in 1851, Addison A. Spotts and others chartered the Jeffersonville Savings Bank of Virginia. It folded before the Civil War began.[120] So too did the Western New York Agricultural Live Stock Insurance Company, which Henry H. Rohde (possibly Prussian) helped to charter in April 1852.[121] The Susquehanna Mutual Life Insurance Company of Harrisburg was chartered in 1854 with the aid of Charles F. Muench. Despite its name, it was a joint-stock company with an authorized capital range of $50,000 to $100,000.[122] The company was shuttered in 1856,[123] apparently after bad claims and court experiences.[124]

Alexander Kayser (possibly Prussian) helped to charter the Southern Hotel Company of St. Louis in December 1855. Capitalized at the audacious sum of $1 million, the company struggled to finish its building during the Civil War.[125] The hotel finally opened in December 1865 but the company sold the building to a major investor, Col. Robert Campbell, the next year. Campbell turned the hotel into a major destination, perhaps the greatest hotel in the nation,[126] but the building was destroyed by fire in April 1877. At least a dozen people lost their lives and Campbell, who was underinsured, lost almost $100,000.[127]

Some antebellum corporations formed with the aid of one or more German Americans operated at least for a few years before disappearing for reasons unknown. Horatio G. Balch helped to charter the Lubec Mining Company of Lubec, Maine, in 1832. Capitalized at $200,000, this lead mining company remained in business until at least the Civil War.[128] In April 1835, George M. Keim and John M. Keim helped to charter the Berks County Savings Institution, a joint stock savings bank capitalized at $10,000. By November it had been in operation for four months and had attracted over $30,000 of deposits.[129] In 1836, Ruliff R. Schenck and others incorporated the Monmouth Silk Manufacturing Company. Capitalized at $200,000, the company by 1838 offered a premium of $100 “to the person who could grow the greatest number of pounds of cocoons.[130] In 1837, the Dalton Steam Mill, Manufacturing, and Trading Company built two mills on Nettle Creek and in 1839 it was chartered, with an authorized capital range of from $5,000 to $50,000, with help from Joseph Routh. Its steam sawmill and gristmill both burned in 1848 and only the former was rebuilt.[131] Chartered in 1839 by John W. Schmidt and others and capitalized at $250,000, the Emmet Fire Insurance Company of New York was defunct by the Civil War.[132]

In 1856, Gustavus H. Wetzel (area of origin in the German lands unknown), Charles Hauser (possibly from Baden-Wurttemberg), Theobald Metzger (possibly from Hesse or Koenigsheim), Augustus Wierich (from Bremen), and American-born John Lewis gained a charter from the Wisconsin legislature for the Black River Falls Iron Company, an iron mining and manufacturing company with an authorized capital between $20,000 and $100,000.[133] Wetzel and Wierich soon disassociated themselves from the company, which in August 1858 borrowed $15,000 from Daniel Koehler and Caspar Bircher.[134] The note and mortgage were not paid, so Koehler and Henry Pfiffner, who had purchased Bircher’s interest in the mortgage, sued the corporation in an attempt to foreclose. Stockholder William M. Hubby appeared before the court and was allowed to defend the corporation’s interests because the directors were not present. The court dismissed the bill without prejudice. Koehler and Pfiffner appealed but lost because conclusive evidence showed that the corporate seal had been wrongfully affixed to the mortgage. The trial, however, unearthed evidence that the directors had acted in their own best interests, and not those of the stockholders or other creditors, by first securing themselves the sums the corporation owed to its creditors.[135]

Many corporations chartered by German Americans, by contrast, thrived for decades before folding, merging, or otherwise exiting business. In 1830, for example, Peter W. Schenck helped to charter the Monmouth Steam Boat Company. Capitalized at $20,000, the company’s first ship, the Saratoga, offered two-hour connections between the Highlands, New Jersey and New York City.[136] In the early days, it docked in front of Schenck’s tavern.[137] The firm survived the Civil War and indeed the rest of the nineteenth century.[138]

The Firemen’s Insurance Company of Dayton, which Robert C. Schenck and Peter Baer incorporated in 1835 with an authorized capitalization of $100,000, survived at least into the late nineteenth century, by which time its capital had grown to $250,000 plus modest reserves.[139] It underwrote both fire and marine risks.[140] One of its long time directors was Jacob Rohrer (1815-unknown), whose ancestors emigrated from Switzerland to Pennsylvania in the seventeenth century.[141]

In 1842, John B. Schenck helped to charter the Sycamore Manufacturing Company on Sycamore Creek, a tributary of the Cumberland River, 23 miles from Nashville in Cheatham County, Tennessee.[142] With an authorized capitalization ranging from $30,000 to $100,000, the company, which made blasting and sporting gunpowder, survived the Civil War and even managed to grow by acquiring equipment from decimated Confederate manufacturers.[143] By 1870 it produced 80 kegs per day and its product was considered superior to that of DuPont and Hazard. By then, its authorized capital had been increased from $150,000 to $300,000.[144] It was so successful in the 1870s that several competitors joined forces to try to destroy it.[145] The company survived the ordeal by joining with various gunpowder cartel associations.[146] DuPont eventually swallowed it, however, and shuttered the mills in 1903.[147]

In 1845 William C. Balch and two others chartered the Ocean Steam Mills to manufacture cloth in Newburyport, Massachusetts. In fiscal year 1856-1857, the company turned 364,370 pounds of cotton worth $48,344 into almost 1.9 million yards of printed cloth worth $89,657.[148] Originally capitalized at $200,000, the company increased its authorized capitalization to $360,000 in 1867 to finance a factory enlargement and additional machinery.[149] In 1871 it was folded into a new company, the Ocean Mills, which itself was folded into a new Ocean Steam Mills company in 1878. In 1886, the new concern joined the Whitefield Mills, which continued to produce cloth until 1889.[150]

In 1846, John H. Schenck and O. H. Schenck helped to charter the Franklin Hydraulic Company of Ohio. Capitalized at $100,000, it survived the war and was still generating power for the Harding Paper Company in the 1880s[151] but may have gone out of business by the end of the century.[152]

When Kalamazoo, Michigan, needed a cemetery in 1849, Nathaniel A. Balch and others obtained a charter and created a cemetery that eventually expanded to 28 beautiful hillside acres. Balch remained active in the business for decades, at least into the late 1870s.[153] Many of the city’s most prominent residents chose the grounds as their final resting place. The city government eventually took over the concern in 1940.[154]

Ernst Angelrodt of Tubingen became a banker and businessman in Hermann, Missouri.[155] In 1849, he helped to incorporate the Missouri Pacific Railroad with an authorized capital of $10 million. The line, one of the first west of the Mississippi, had a long career that required several reorganizations before the Union Pacific acquired it in the early 1980s.[156]

In 1850, Sydney Schenck and others incorporated the Monmouth County Plank Road Company, the longest plank road in the region,[157]and capitalized it at $100,000.[158] Unlike many plank roads, it survived the Civil War[159] and the corporation was still paying taxes through the 1880s.[160]

The Jefferson Fire Insurance Company of Philadelphia was chartered in 1855 by Philip Schmidt, Gustavus Lembert, Robert Q. Schelmerdine, Peter A. Keyser Jr., Daniel Underkofler, and others and was capitalized at between $100,000 and $500,000.[161] (Schmidt was probably German but the national origins of the others are unclear.) The company survived the Civil War and by 1900 had over $390,000 in assets, mostly invested in conservative local mortgages, capital of $100,000, and a surplus over twice that sum. Its revenues were small but it paid dividends ranging from ten to eighteen percent.[162]

The Point Pleasant Manufacturing Company of Mason County, Virginia (later West Virginia), was chartered in January 1853 with the aid of James Capehart. Capitalized at between $5,000 and $100,000, the company survived the Civil War[163] and remained in operation into the twentieth century. John Fichtner (possibly from Austria) helped to charter the Somerset County Mutual Fire Insurance Company in 1855. It moved to Philadelphia in 1894 and changed its name to the Tradesmen’s Mutual Fire Insurance Company.[164]

In 1859, J. B. Dicker, John Schmidt, Christian Ploeser, Fredrick Hohenschild, Fredrick Herdacker, Francis Saler, Christian Mehl, Henry Kattleman, Brannock Jones, B. Schmees, Christian Steahlin, and F. W. Cronenbold chartered the South St. Louis Mutual Fire and Marine Insurance Company. It survived the Civil War[165] but by 1881 was in the process of winding up its affairs.[166] Also in 1859, Jacob Wirt (possibly from Hesse) and others of likely German ancestry helped to form the Hanover Gas Light Company in Pennsylvania. Capitalized at $40,000, the company was still in operation in 1878 and headed by A. W. Eichelberger. L. F. Melsheimer, one of the original incorporators, was secretary.[167] It should not be confused with the gas company of the same name chartered in New Hampshire in 1860 with help from Adna P. Balch. The latter was dissolved in 1937.[168]

A few antebellum corporations formed with German help are still in business today. In 1853, for example, Abraham Shelly, Henry Eberly (Eberle in some sources), Emanuel Cassel, Dr. Andrew Gerber, Dr. J. L. Zeigler, Jacob Ulrich, Henry Kurtz, Jacob E. Cassel, Henry S. Myers, Henry Shaffner, and others chartered the Mount Joy Savings Institutions in Mount Joy, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Capitalized at $50,000, the bank was first led by Eberly as president and Gerber as treasurer.[169] It converted to a commercial bank in 1860 when it increased its authorized capital to $62,500.[170] In 1865 it converted into a national bank and continued to be led by a strong contingent of German Americans, including bank president John G. Hoerner and directors Jacob Reiff and John B. Stehman.[171] By 1883 it had a capital of $125,000.[172] It survives to this day as an independent entity called the Union Community Bank FSB.[173]

Chartered in 1837, the Butchers’ Market Association in the city of St. Louis is still in operation today.[174] So too is the Citizens’ Mutual Saving Fund and Loan Association of St. Louis, which was chartered in 1855.[175] The St. Louis Phoenix Mutual Saving Fund and Loan Association is also still active today.[176] Chartered in 1859 with an authorized capital range of $10,000 to $50,000, the bank was created with the aid of William Stumpf (who likely hailed from Hesse).[177]

Michael Reichert helped to form the Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Berks and Lehigh Counties in 1857. As late as 1912, it remained small, with only about $6.9 million dollars of insurance in force and cash receipts totaling less than $15,000 per year.[178] The company employed German Americans, including collector Eugene Z. Fenstermacher (1856-1896), the only child of Willoughby Fenstermacher and the husband of Emma Ziegler.[179] Headquartered in Kutztown, the insurer survives until this day.[180]

Corporation Formation by German Forty-Eighters

After 1848 an influx of Germans reached the U.S. after fleeing the German lands following ill-fated revolutions. Many of the so-called Forty-Eighters were men of high learning and classical liberal leanings who contributed to American cultural, political, and economic development in significant ways. Some, known as the “Latin Farmers” due to their high level of education, turned to farming, though not always successfully.[181] Others entered the booming German-language press and book trade,[182] while still others practiced their professions, including law, medicine, pharmacology, and theology, or engaged in any of a wide range of artisanal, commercial (retail and wholesale), or manufacturing pursuits. Engineer Heinrich Flad, for example, obtained patents for water meters, pressure gauges, street sprinkler systems, elevators, and other useful new tools.[183]

Unsurprisingly, some of the Forty-Eighters became corporate entrepreneurs. Rudolf Eickemeyer, a revolutionary who fled the Kingdom of Bavaria at age seventeen, obtained about 150 patents, including one for an electric railway motor. He sold[184] his business to General Electric in 1892.[185] Henry Steinway (1797-1871) (née Heinrich Steinweg), of Brunswick, made a fortune building pianos. By 1859, his New York factory employed 800 workers and completed 60 quality pianos a week.[186] Steinway and Sons continues in business today.[187]

Carl Rietz organized the Charles Rietz and Brothers Lumber Company of Chicago in 1877 after running a profitable lumber business in Saginaw, Michigan.[188] Dr. Karl Mieding became secretary of the Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Milwaukee.[189] Born in Koblenz, Forty-Eighter Wilhelm “William” Hexamer (1825-1870) helped to form the Hoboken and Weehawken Horse Railroad (authorized capitalization $300,000) in New Jersey in 1860 before joining the Union Army.[190] After its acquisition by the North Hudson County Railway, the company thrived until it was taken over by Public Service Railway in the early twentieth century.[191]

F. C. Konig, of the Rhenish Palatinate (Rhinepfalz), fled the German lands in 1849 and eventually established a soap and candle factory in Peoria, Illinois.[192] The young son of a revolutionary, Charles A. Schieren (1842-1915), managed to get into trouble with police in Dusseldorf and in 1856 fled to America with his father. In 1868, he founded a company bearing his name that made machine belting in Brooklyn, where he later served a term as mayor from 1893-1895.[193] Described by contemporaries as “kindly and good-natured,” Schieren also helped to found the Hide and Leather Bank.[194]

In late March 1860, a group of twenty-one men, most German-born Forty-Eighters, met at Delmonico’s Restaurant in Lower Manhattan to establish a life insurance company for German Americans. Led by Hugo Wesendonck, the company, which called itself Germania Life Insurance Company until World War I, grew and thrived. Today, it is known as the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, a Fortune 500 company.[195]

Corporations Formed by Germans After the Civil War

After the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War in 1861, Germans continued to immigrate to America in significant numbers. In fact, immigration peaked in 1882 before dropping off considerably after 1894.[196] They also continued to contribute greatly to America’s economy, culture, and what we might call its business of culture and learning. It was in 1861, in fact, that Prussian pharmacist Friedrich Hoffman moved to the United States where he fought against patent medicines and other forms of so-called quackery while enhancing the professional standing of pharmacists in his new country through entrepreneurial initiatives like his pharmacy and his journal, Pharmaceutische Rundschau.[197] By 1890, some 800 German-language newspapers were published throughout the country[198] and German immigrant theater was an important business and cultural force in New York and across the nation.[199] Hugo Munsterberg (1863-1916) of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) arrived at Harvard in 1892 and by his death was perhaps the most famous psychologist in America, in large part due to his entrepreneurial instincts, flair with the media, and controversial views on crime, childhood education, industrial psychology, and other topics of general interest.[200]

Unsurprisingly, newly-arrived Germans, as well as those who had arrived in the antebellum era, continued to be active in the nation’s rapidly-expanding corporate sector, especially in German urban enclaves like Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Louisville, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Saint Louis, Saint Paul, and San Francisco.[201] In San Francisco in 1890, male German immigrants owned forty percent of all immigrant-owned businesses, more than any other ethnicity. (In terms of business ownership, female German immigrants ran second only to female Irish immigrants that year.)[202] Germans were also active in some of the smaller, industrial cities of the Northeast like Holyoke, Massachusetts, which was home to the Germania Woolen Mills controlled by Prussian Rhineland émigré August Strusberg,[203] and even in out-of-the-way places like Arizona.[204]

Germans like August Belmont, Marcus Goldman, Abraham Kuhn, Henry Lehman, Joseph Sachs, Joseph Seligman, James Speyer, Jacob H. Schiff, and Felix Warburg eventually rivaled John Jacob Astor in fame – and wealth – by selling financial services like securities issuance and brokerage to the national government and the country’s largest and most important corporations. Their descendants dominated Wall Street well into the twentieth century with the help of newcomers like Henry Kaufman, who arrived as a boy in the 1930s.[205] Henry Villard, the nephew of two Forty-Eighters,[206] helped to develop the Columbian River region of the Pacific Northwest before becoming president of Edison General Electric Company in 1889. He expressed gratitude for “the incomparable advantages arising from the free play of the human faculties enjoyed in this country.”[207]

Claus Spreckels (1828-1905) of Hanover was perhaps the most successful German immigrant entrepreneur of the late nineteenth century. He died with an estate worth roughly $50 million, gained largely from his interests in Hawaiian cane sugar, California beet sugar, and in vertical and horizontal cognates like sugar refining, transportation, power, mass media, real estate, finance, and beer, almost all of which involved corporation formation, mergers, and other forms of corporate entrepreneurship.[208]

Not all postbellum German entrepreneurship, however, was directed into high finance or urban industry. John Gottfried Cullmann, for example, incorporated the North Alabama Land Company in January 1886 and capitalized it at $150,000.[209] Two years later, he reorganized his company as the North Alabama Land and Immigration Company (NALIC) and increased its capitalization to $2 million.[210] Born in Bavaria in 1823, Cullmann came to America in 1865 to avoid his creditors. The area of north-central Alabama in which his company operated was eventually named Cullman in his honor. By 1906, despite the area’s relatively poor soils, the company had colonized the region with several thousand Germans and a smattering of immigrants from other European nations. Cullmann counted his company a success but he did not grow wealthy from the venture and other land developers attracted more Germans to the South than he did.[211]

In 1910, scores of corporations operating in the collection districts of Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota that paid a special corporate excise to the Internal Revenue Service[212] had some variant of the word "German" in their names that was not related to a place name like Germantown. (See Appendix B for the names of 133 of them, listed alphabetically by collection district.[213] Of course many other German-owned or German-run corporations, like Kaspare Cohn Commercial and Savings Bank of California, did not choose to include the word German in their names.)[214] The vast majority of those corporations must have had a strong connection to Germany. They cannot be traced further, however, because many, like Germania Life and the German Insurance Company of Louisville, changed their names during the Great War to avoid negative publicity. Of course, if the antebellum pattern continued after the Civil War, and there is no reason to suspect that it did not, many Germans helped to found or capitalize corporations in cooperation with Anglo, Irish, French and other “hyphenated Americans.” And some all-German companies, like the Jefferson Mutual Fire Insurance Company organized in St. Louis in March 1861, decided not to explicitly advertise their Germanic roots.[215]


In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Germans comprised the largest non-English-speaking group of immigrants to America but they hardly dominated demographically. Between 1850 and 1920, German-born inhabitants comprised only between three and four percent of the total U.S. population.[216] Germans’ impact on the nation’s economy, especially its developing corporate sector, however, appears outsized. It is well known that Germans and their descendants in America formed large numbers of voluntary associations in the second half of the nineteenth century[217] and that German immigrants and/or investors significantly aided the development of other nations, including Brazil, Canada, France (particularly Alsace-Lorraine), Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, and Spain.[218] We can confidently add the United States to that list even though we cannot yet measure precisely the impact of German Americans on U.S. corporate development. With the current state of technology, it would be very costly to attempt a more precise reconstruction of German inputs into the development of America’s corporate sector in the nineteenth century and due to lost sources (e.g., stockholder lists) a complete reconstruction will never be possible. But the available evidence clearly shows evidence of Germans throughout the corporate economy. Germans were everywhere within corporate America, from the smallest depositors in German-controlled savings banks, to the founders of the nation’s largest and most important corporate behemoths, to the partners in the greatest investment banking houses of Wall Street. Germans appear to have contributed more to the development of America’s system of corporate entrepreneurship than their population share would suggest, certainly compared to immigrant and ethnic groups that encountered deeper prejudices and more barriers to corporation formation and investment.


[1] These special legislative acts granted charters of incorporation to entrepreneurs in an era before general incorporation laws became widespread.

[2] Annie Fellows Johnson, Aunt ‘Liza’s Hero and Other Stories (Boston: L. C. Page and Co., 1903), 91-92, 98.

[3] Farley Grubb, German Immigration and Servitude in America, 1709-1820 (New York: Routledge, 2011), 8, 25-28.

[4] German farmers often ended up poorer than Yankee farmers working similar ground because they had more children on average in an effort to ensure ownership continuity. Germans also tended to take fewer leveraged risks but they innovated in sundry ways nonetheless. Edward V. Carroll and Sonya Salamon, “Share and Share Alike: Inheritance Patterns in Two Illinois Farm Communities,” Journal of Family History 13 (April 1988): 219-132; Terje Joranger, “The Migration Tradition: Land Tenure and Culture in the U.S. Upper Mid-West,” European Journal of American Studies 2.1 (2008): 2-16.

[5] Robert S. Davis, “The Old World in the New South: Entrepreneurial Ventures and the Agricultural History of Cullman County, Alabama,” Agricultural History 79.4 (Autumn 2005): 439-461.

[6] R. Alton Lee, Principle Over Party: The Farmers’ Alliance and Populism in South Dakota, 1880-1900 (Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2011), 10; Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1993), 126.

[7] Paula M. Nelson, After the West Was Won: Homesteaders and Town-Builders in Western South Dakota, 1900-1917 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1986), 52-53.

[8] Herbert S. Schell,History of South Dakota 4th ed. (Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2004), 116-119. Established states did likewise and all were guilty of “boosterism” to varying degrees. Jocelyn Wills, Boosters, Hustlers, and Speculators: Entrepreneurial Culture and the Rise of Minneapolis and St. Paul, 1849-1883 (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2005), 113.

[9] Shirley Cochell and George Beine, Land of the Coyote (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1972), 144.

[10] Grace Fairchild and Walker D. Wyman, Frontier Woman: The Life of a Woman Homesteader on the Dakota Frontier (River Falls: University of Wisconsin-River Falls Press, 1972), 43-44.

[11] Bob Lee, Last Grass Frontier Volume II: The South Dakota Stockgrowers Heritage (Sturgis: Black Hills Publishers, Inc., 1999), 61.

[12] New York Oelrichs Co. Caspar Meier and His Successors: C.H.H. Meier, Caspar Meier Co., L.N. von Post Oelrichs, Oelrichs Kruger, Oelrichs Co. October 12, 1798-October 12, 1898 (New York: Privately Printed, 1898).

[13] “The Roll of the Saved Seems Now to Be Complete,” Halifax Chronicle Herald, April 18, 1912, 9.

[14] August Schatz, Longhorns Bring Culture (Boston: Christopher Publishing House, 1961), 43; John W. Leonard, Men of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries (New York: L. R. Hamersly & Co., 1908), 1, 929; Donald M. Fisher, Lacrosse: A History of the Game (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 65; “Big Grocery Bills on Ocean Liners,” Toronto Sunday World, July 7, 1914.

[15] Grubb, German Immigration, 25-26.

[16] James Lester Sturm, Investing in the United States, 1798-1893: Upper Wealth-Holders in a Market Economy (New York: Arno Press, 1977); Robert E. Wright, Origins of Commercial Banking in America, 1750-1800 (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001); Robert E. Wright, Hamilton Unbound: Finance and the Creation of the American Republic (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002); Robert E. Wright, The Wealth of Nations Rediscovered: Integration and Expansion in American Financial Markets, 1780-1850 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Robert E. Wright, The First Wall Street: Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, and the Birth of American Finance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); Robert E. Wright, One Nation Under Debt: Hamilton, Jefferson, and the History of What We Owe (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008).

[17] John J. McCusker and Russell R. Menard, The Economy of British America, 1607-1789 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), 228.

[18] Grubb, German Immigration, 3.

[19] Records of the Bank of North America, Prager Letter Book, Clement Biddle Letter Book, Andrew Summers Account Books, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.; Robert E. Wright, “U.S. Government Bond Trading Database, 1776-1835,” EH.NET. accessed Octoer 22, 2013. 

[20] Grubb, German Immigration, 391.

[21] Carl Wittke, Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1952), 191-202.

[22] Fred Bateman and Thomas Weiss, A Deplorable Scarcity: The Failure of Industrialization in the Slave Economy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981), 90; Mischa Honeck, We Are the Revolutionists: German-Speaking Immigrants and American Abolitionists After 1848 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011), 1-5.

[23] Jennifer Watson Schumacher, ed. Images of America: German Milwaukee (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2009), 61.

[24] Wills, Boosters, 78.

[25] Grubb, German Immigration, 197, 347.

[26] Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 33, 244.

[27] Grubb, German Immigration, 341-371.

[28] Ibid., 412.

[29] Rockman, Scraping By, 32; Gerhard Grytz, “‘Triple Identity’: The Evolution of a German Jewish Arizonan Ethnic Identity in Arizona Territory,” Journal of American Ethnic History 26.1 (Fall 2006): 20-49; Louis Brister, “Johann von Racknitz: German Empresario and Soldier of Fortune in Texas and Mexico, 1832-1848,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 99.1 (July 1995): 48-79; Paul E. Stroble Jr., “Ferdinand Ernst and the German Colony at Vandalia,” Illinois Historical Journal 80.2 (Summer 1987): 101-110; Jerome Jansma, Harriet Jansma, and George Engelmann, “Engelmann Revisits Arkansas,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 51.4 (Winter 1992): 328-356; Suzanne Model, “The Economic Progress of Europeans and East Asian Americans,” Annual Review of Sociology 14.1 (1988), 363-380; Frederic Trautmann, “‘Life in the Wild’: Three German Letters from Indiana, 1852-1853,” Indiana Magazine of History 80.2 (June 1984): 146-165, here 148, 162; Grubb, German Immigration, 406-414.

[30] Barry Supple, “A Business Elite: German-Jewish Financiers in Nineteenth-Century New York,” Business History Review 31 (Summer 1957): 143-178, here 149-154; Rosalind Beiler, Immigrant and Entrepreneur: The Atlantic World of Caspar Wistar (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008).

[31] David Galenson, “Economic Opportunity on the Urban Frontier: Nativity, Work, and Wealth in Early Chicago,” Journal of Economic History 51.3 (September 1991): 581-603, here 588, 600; Model, “The Economic Progress of Europeans,” 365, 368, 375.

[32] J. Thomas Scharf, History of Western Maryland (Philadelphia, 1882), 1,041-1,042.

[33] Robert E. Wright, Corporation Nation (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).

[34] Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Ohio, Being the First Session of the Forty-Seventh General Assembly (Columbus: S. Medary, 1849), 292, 635, 707.

[35] History of Clark County, Ohio (Chicago: W. H. Beers & Co., 1881), (accessed May 20, 2013).

[36] Springfield Ohio History, “Daniel Hertzler House Museum,” (accessed May 20, 2013).

[37] Scotch-Irish Society of America, The Scotch-Irish in America: Proceedings of the Scotch-Irish Congress, Vol. 5 (Nashville, Tenn.: Barber and Smith, 1893), 158-159.

[38] Shaw Livermore, Early American Land Companies: Their Influence on Corporate Development (New York: Commonwealth Fund, 1939).

[39] Wright, Corporation Nation.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Letters Patent, 1814-1874, Corporation Bureau, Department of State, RG 26, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

[42] Grubb, German Immigration, xxi-xxii, 19.

[43] John Majewski, “Toward a Social History of the Corporation: Shareholding in Pennsylvania, 1800-1840,” in The Economy of Early America: Historical Perspectives and New Directions, ed. Cathy Matson (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 294-316.

[44] For similar comments related to completely a full blown social history of German immigrants, see Farley Grubb, German Immigration, 399.

[45] Doron S. Ben-Atar,Trade Secrets: Intellectual Piracy and the Origins of American Industrial Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 103-9; Scharf, History of Western Maryland, 596.

[46] Norman Ware, The Industrial Worker, 1840-1860: The Reaction of American Industrial Society to the Advance of the Industrial Revolution (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1964), 196-197, 236.

[47] Robert E. Wright and Richard E. Sylla, “‘Fortune 500’ of 1812 Shows Early U.S. Banks’ Early Influence: Echoes,” Bloomberg, April 10, 2012 (accessed April 10, 2012); Robert E. Wright and Richard E. Sylla, “Early Corporate America: The Largest Industries and Companies Before 1860,” Financial History (Summer 2012): 20-25, 38-39; All conversion calculations were conducted via Measuring Worth, (accessed December 4, 2013) using the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

[48] Albert Hurtado, John Sutter: A Life on the North American Frontier (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006).

[49] Kenneth Wiggins Porter, John Jacob Astor: Business Man 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931).

[50] Approximately $25 million, $4 million, and $50 million, respectively, in 2011$.

[51] Approximately $8.1 million in 2011$.

[52] Charles Varle, A Complete View of Baltimore, with a Statistical Sketch (Baltimore: Samuel Young, 1833), 87.

[53] Michael S. Baer, “A Case of Venereal Nodes, Cured by Fowler’s Mineral Solution,” American Medical Recorder 4 (April 1821): 460-461.

[54] Edward T. Schultz,History of Freemasonry in Maryland (Baltimore: J. H. Medairy & Co., 1888), 4:473, 480, 489.

[55] Scharf, History of Western Maryland, 408.

[56] Edward Salisbury, Biographical Memoranda of All Who Were Ever Members of the Class of 1832 (New Haven: Yale University, 1880), 245-246.

[57] Richard Gill and John Johnson, Court of Appeals of Maryland: Volume IX, Containing Cases in 1837-9 (Baltimore: John D. Toy, 1840), 301.

[58] Robert E. Shalhope, The Baltimore Bank Riot: Political Upheaval in Antebellum Maryland (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009); Reverdy Johnson and John Glenn, Reply to a Pamphlet Entitled “A Brief Exposition of Matters Relating to the Bank of Maryland,” with an Examination Into Some of the Causes of the Bankruptcy of That Institution (Baltimore: Jas. Lucas & E. K. Deaver, 1834).

[59] Hanover Saving Fund Society, Hanover Saving Fund Society, Hanover, Pennsylvania: Past and Present (1909); United Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, Telephone Directory (Gettysburg, Pa.: July 1944), 49. Approximately $263,000 to $1.3 million in 2011$.

[60] Approximately $1.2 and $4.6 million, respectively, in 2011$.

[61] Twenty-First Annual Report of the Commissioner of Banking … For the Year 1915 (Harrisburg: William Stanley Ray, 1916), 244-245.

[62] John Gibson, ed., A Biographical History of York County, Pennsylvania (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996), 71.

[63] Approximately $564,000 per year in 2011$.

[64] William Bullough, “Entrepreneurs and Urbanism on the California Mining Frontier: Frederick Walter and Weaverville, 1852-1868,” California History 70.2 (Summer 1991): 162-173. Approximately $9,200 and $214,000, respectively, in 2011$.

[65] Approximately $53 million in 2011$.

[66] Grytz, “‘Triple Identity’,” 25.

[67] “Appel Family of German Descent,” (accessed May 19, 2013); Harriet and Fred Rochlin, Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1984), 146; Sidney De Long, The History of Arizona: From the Earliest Times Known to the People of Europe to 1903 (San Francisco: Whitaker & Ray Company, 1905), 73; John Boessenecker, When Law Was in the Holster: The Frontier Life of Bob Paul (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012), 171, 430.

[68] “Samuel P. Heintzelman,” Wikipedia. (accessed May 19, 2013); Diane M. T. North, Samuel Peter Heintzelman and the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company (Phoenix: University of Arizona Press, 1980).

[69] Thomas E. Sheridan, Landscapes of Fraud: Mission Tumacacori, the Baca Float, and the Betrayal of the O’Odham (Phoenix: University of Arizona Press, 2006), 12, 117-119; Rachel St. John, Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 66; Jim Turner, Arizona: A Celebration of the Grand Canyon State (Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2011), 129.

[70] Approximately $2.7 to $13.4 million and $16.9 million, respectively, in 2011$.

[71] Annual Report of the Commissioner of the Insurance Bureau of Kentucky (Frankfort, Ky.: S. I. M. Major, 1871), xvi-xvii.

[72] Brad Asher, Kentucky: On the Road Histories (Northampton, Mass.: Interlink Books, 2007), 206-207.

[73] Approximately $2.7 million to $13.3 million in 2011$.

[74] June Drenning Holmquist, ed., They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 1981), 165; David A. Lanegran, Minnesota on the Map: A Historical Atlas (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society, 2008), 96; Noel Iverson, Germania, U.S.A.: Social Change in New Ulm, Minnesota (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966).

[75] Approximately $500,000 in 2011$.

[76] “Eli J. Saeger,” The Carbon Advocate, October 6, 1888.

[77] James E. Barnett, Finances of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Year Ending November 30, 1900 (Harrisburg: Wm. Stanley Ray, 1901), 251; James Lambert and Henry Reinhard, A History of Catasauqua in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania (Allentown, Pa.: Searle and Dressler, 1914), 180-186. Approximately $10.6 million in 2013$.

[78] “History of a Lehigh Valley Financial Institution,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, April 17, 2001.

[79] “Jonas Biery,” Hopkin Thomas Project, (accessed September 10, 2013).

[80] “David Thomas,” Hopkin Thomas Project, (accessed September 10, 2013).

[81] Stephen Paul De Villo, The Boltons of Bronxdale,” Bronx River Alliance (accessed April 29, 2013).

[82] “Peter H. Schenck,” New-York Historical Society, (accessed May 21, 2013). Approximately between $586,000 and $1.2 million in 2011$.

[83] Historical and Genealogical Record: Dutchess and Putnam Counties, New York (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.: A. V. Haight Co., 1912), 30.

[84] Frederic Shonnard and W. W. Spooner, History of Westchester County, New York, from Its Earliest Settlement to the Year 1900 (New York: New York History Company, 1900), 215-216.

[85] Laws of the State of New York (Albany: Banks & Brothers, 1884), 626.

[86] “Bronx Bleaching & Manufacturing Company,” The Bronx: History, Facts and Changes (accessed 29 April 29, 2013).

[87] Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 13, 338.

[88] Ibid., 340.

[89] Approximately $738,000 in 2011$.

[90] Dorothy Sagen Johnson, “Lumbering on the Black River at Onalaska, Wisconsin, 1852-1902,” M.A. thesis (University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 1974), 16.

[91] Frederick W. Kohlmeyer, “Northern Pine Lumbermen: A Study in Origins and Migrations,” Journal of Economic History 16.4 (December 1956): 529-38, here 530.

[92] Annual Reports of the War Department for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1904: Volume V, Report of the Chief of Engineers (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904), 722.

[93] F. M. Brown, Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri (Columbia, Mo.: E. W. Stephens, 1893), 623. Approximately $108,000 in 2011$.

[94] Approximately $107,000 in 2011$.

[95] James Sweeney, “South River: The Bridge Question,” Woodbridge, N.J. The Independent Hour, March 1, 1877.

[96] Approximately between $100,000 and $623,000 in 2011$.

[97] Approximately $5.1 million in 2011$.

[98] “Manhattan Fire Insurance Company,” Halifax, N.S. The British Colonist, April 27, 1861. Approximately $79 million in 2011$.

[99] Approximately $14.8 million in 2011$.

[100] “Manhattan Fire Insurance Company,” New York Times, May 16, 1864.

[101] “A Loss to Stockholders,”New York Times, February 28, 1883.

[102] “Reports of Savings Banks,” New York Times, January 31, 1856; “The Three Million Loan,” New York Times September 20, 1860.

[103] Richard Germain, Dollars Through the Doors: A Pre-1930s History of Bank Marketing in America (New York: Greenwood Publishing, 1996), 78.

[104] “Savings Banks,” New York Times, June 17, 1865.

[105] Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, An Examination of the Banking Crises of the 1980s and Early 1990s (1997), 223.

[106] “St. Louis Mutual Fire Mark,” New York City Fire Museum, (accessed May 4, 2013).

[107] Approximately $5.3 million in 2011$.

[108] Fredericktown Savings Institution, One Hundred Years of Successful Banking: Fredericktown Savings Institution, Frederick, Md. -- 1828-1928: A Sketch of the Origin of an Institution that Has Rendered a Century of Valuable Banking Service in Frederick and Vicinity (Fredericktown: Marken & Bielfeld, 1928); Scharf, History of Western Maryland, 543.

[109] “Bank Directors Named,” Frederick News Post, January 23, 1940.

[110] Journal of the Proceedings of the House of Delegates of the State of Maryland (Annapolis: Thomas W. Martin, 1853), 213.

[111] Thomas John Chew Williams and Folger McKinley, History of Frederick, Maryland (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1967), 534.

[112] John P. Wall and Harold E. Pickersgill, History of Middlesex County New Jersey, 1664-1920 (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1921), 78.

[113] Hunter Research, Abbott Farm National Historic Landmark Interpretive Plan: Technical Report (2009), 4-32.

[114] Lorett Treese, Railroads of New Jersey: Fragments of the Past in the Garden State Landscape (Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2006), 11.

[115] William W. Campbell, The Life and Writings of DeWitt Clinton (New York: Baker and Scribner, 1849), 93, 105, 183. Approximately $944,000 in 2011$.

[116] “Th: Lothrop &Co.,” Geneva Gazette, April 3, 1811.

[117] Frederick J. H. Merrill, “Salt and Gypsum Industries of New York,” Bulletin of the New York State Museum 3.1 (April 1893), 18; W. H. McIntosh, “History of the Town of Butler” (1877), (accessed May 3, 2013); Hamilton Child, Gazetteer and Business Directory of Wayne County, N.Y. (Syracuse: Journal Office, 1867), 57.

[118] Frederic Trautmann, ed. “Western Pennsylvania Through a German’s Eyes: The Travels of Franz von Loher, 1846,” Western Pennsylvania History 65.3 (1982): 221-237.

[119] Adelaide R. Hasse,Index of Economic Material in Documents of the States of the United States: New York (Washington: Carnegie Institution, 1907), 84; The Revised Statutes of New York (Albany: Packard and Van Benthuysen, 1829), 3: 644.

[120] William C. Pendleton, History of Tazewell County and Southwest Virginia, 1748-1920 (Richmond, Va.: W. C. Hill Printing Co., 1920), 539.

[121] J. H. French and Frank Place, Gazetteer of the State of New York (R. Pearsall Smith, 1859), 89.

[122] Approximately between $1.4 and $2.8 million in 2011$.

[123] Walter C. Wright, “Life Insurance in the United States,” Publications of the American Statistical Association (1889), 134.

[124] John M. Van Fleet,Res Judicata: A Treatise on the Law of Former Adjudication (Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill Co., 1895), 114-115.

[125] “Scales, Thomas H. et al v. The Southern Hotel Company, Garnishee & Co.,” Supreme Court of Missouri, 1802-1884, Missouri Judicial Index Database, (accessed May 4, 2013). Approximately $26.8 million in 2011$.

[126] William R. Nester,From Mountain Man to Millionaire: The “Bold and Dashing Life” of Robert Campbell (Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press, 2011), 237-238.

[127] “Southern Hotel,” (accessed 4 May 4, 2013); J. Thomas Scharf, A History of St. Louis City and County, From the Earliest Periods to the Present Day: including Biographical Sketches of Representative Men (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1883). Approximately $2.2 million in 2011$.

[128] “Marriages: Mr. John Lubec to Miss Mary Jane Rice,” Hancock County, Maine Ellsworth Herald, February 15, 1861. Approximately $5.4 million in 2011$.

[129] Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg: Crabb & Barrett, 1835), 129. Approximately $813, 000 in 2011$.

[130] R. V. M’Lean, “Silk Culture,” The Silk Grower and Farmer’s Manual (October 1, 1838), 73. Approximately $5.4 million and $2,500, respectively, in 2011$.

[131] Andrew W. Young, History of Wayne County, Indiana, From Its First Settlement to the Present Time (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1872), 207; History of Wayne County, Indiana Together with Sketches of Its Cities &c. (Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co., 1884), 431. Approximately $125,000 to $1.3 million in 2011$.

[132] J. H. French and Frank Place, Gazetteer of the State of New York (R. Pearsall Smith, 1859), 86. Approximately $6.2 million in 2011$.

[133] Approximately $547,000 to $2.7 million in 2011$.

[134] Approximately $410,000 in 2011$.

[135] Koehler v. The Black River Falls Iron Company 67 U.S. 715 (1863).

[136] John P. King, The Highlands, New Jersey (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2001), 46. Approximately $503,000 in 2011$.

[137] Jean Howson, An Illustrated History of Travel and Transportation at Highlands and Highland Beach, New Jersey (New Jersey Department of Transportation, 2010), 11.

[138] Thirty Third Annual Report of the Department of Docks and Ferries For the Year Ending December 31, 1903, (New York, 1904), 118; U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Reports: Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court at October Term, 1909. Vol. 215 (New York: Banks Law Publishing Co., 1910), (accessed May 4, 2013).

[139] Advertisement, Western Kansas World, May 9, 1891. Approximately $2.6 million and $6.4 million, respectively, in 2011$.

[140] W. G. Lyford, The Western Address Directory (Baltimore: Jos. Robinson, 1837), 254.

[141] “Jacob Rohrer,” Miami County Ohio Genealogical Researchers, (accessed April 29, 2013).

[142] Charles E. Robert,Nashville and Her Trade for 1870 (Nashville: Roberts & Purvis, 1870), 208.

[143] James B. Hallums, “Cheatham County,” Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture 2.0 (2010), (accessed May 4, 2013). Approximately $854,000 to $2.9 million in 2011$.

[144] Robert, Nashville, 208. Approximately $2.7 million to $5.3 million in 2011$.

[145] John A. Shields, Federal Courts and Practice: All Sherman Law Trust Prosecutions and Syllabus of Equity, Jurisdiction, Pleading and Practice (New York: Banks Law Publishing Co., 1912), 609.

[146] “State ex rel Sycamore Manuf’g Co. v. Tomlin et al,” The Southwestern Reporter 36 (June 29-October 12, 1896), 952.

[147] C. L. Bragg et al,Never Want for Powder: The Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 2007), 238.

[148] Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1857 (Washington: James B. Steedman, 1858), 311. Approximately $1.3 million and $2.4 million, respectively, in 2011$.

[149] Approximately $6.1 million to $5.7 million in 2011$.

[150] John J. Currier, History of Newburyport, 1764-1909 (Newburyport, Mass.: John J. Currier, 1909), 2:153.

[151] William P. Trowbridge, Reports on the Water-Power of the United States (Washington: GPO, 1887), 48, 50.

[152] Dallas Bogan, Franklin-Area Chautauqua Was Cultural, Civic Marvel (August 2004), (accessed May 3, 2013). But see Miami Township 175th Anniversary Committee, Miami Township (Arcadia Publishing 2004), 79, 82 which makes no mention of the company or its dam being defunct. Approximately $3 million in 2011$.

[153] Mountain Home Cemetery of Kalamazoo, Mich., Its Officers, Act of Incorporation, Rules and Regulations, and Original Purchasers of Lots (Kalamazoo: Kalamazoo Publishing Co., 1878).

[154] “Mountain Home Cemetery,” Kalamazoo Public Library, (accessed May 4, 2013).

[155] Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 11-12.

[156] “Missouri Pacific Railroad,” Wikipedia, (accessed May 15, 2013). Approximately $304 million in 2011$.

[157] Helen Henderson, Matawan and Aberdeen: Of Town and Field (Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), 55.

[158] Approximately $3 million in 2011$.

[159] “Corporations of New Jersey,” New Jersey State Library, (accessed May 4, 2013).

[160] Report of the Joint Committee on Treasurer’s Accounts to the Legislature of New Jersey, with the Treasurer’s Report to the Governor on the Finances of the State (Camden, N.J.: S. Chew, 1888), 38.

[161] Approximately $2.7 million to $13.4 million in 2011$.

[162] Best’s Insurance Reports Upon All American and Foreign Joint-Stock Companies (New York: Alfred M. Best Company, 1901), 99. Approximately $10.8 million and $2.8 million, respectively, in 2011$.

[163] Suzie Crump, “Mason County Obituaries, 1978, A-F,” USGenWeb Project, (accessed May 4, 2013). Approximately $150,000 to $3 million in 2011$.

[164] Pennsylvania County Court Reports Containing Cases Decided in the Courts of the Several Counties of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: T. & J. W. Johnson & Co., 1896), 256.

[165] Missouri State Gazetteer, Shippers’ Guide and Business Directory (Chicago: G. W. Hawes and Co., 1866), 222; Second Annual Report of the Superintendent of the Insurance Department, State of Missouri, 1871 (Jefferson City, Mo.: Horace Wilcox, 1871), 15.

[166] Insurance Year Book, 1881-82 (New York: Spectator Company, 1881), 216.

[167] William Wallace Goodwin, Directory of Gas Light Companies and Their Officers in the United States, Canadas, South America and Cuba 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: William W. Goodwin & Co., 1878), 95. Approximately $1.1 million in 2011$.

[168] Laws of New Hampshire (1860), 2,327; Laws of New Hampshire (1937), 534.

[169] Approximately $1.5 million in 2011$.

[170] Approximately $1.7 million in 2011$.

[171] J. I. Mombert, An Authentic History of Lancaster County in the State of Pennsylvania (Lancaster, Pa.: J. E. Barr & Co., 1869), 174.

[172] Franklin Ellis and Samuel Evans, History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Everts & Peck, 1883), 604. Approximately $3 million in 2011$.

[173] National Information Center, Federal Reserve System, (accessed May 8, 2013).

[174] “Butcher’s Market Association,” Bizapedia, (accessed April 29, 2013).

[175] “Citizens’ Mutual Saving Fund and Loan Association,” Bizapedia, (accessed April 29, 2013).

[176] “St. Louis, Phoenix Mutual Saving Fund and Loan Association,” Missouri Secretary of State, (accessed May 4, 2013).

[177] Approximately $279,000 to $1.4 million in 2011$.

[178] Insurance in force is the sum total of the face value of all policies in effect and in most instances is many multiples of an insurer’s assets or capital. “Growth of Life and Fire Insurance Business Here,” Reading Eagle, January 28, 1905; Thirty-Ninth Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg: C. E. Aughinbaugh, 1912), 1,024-1025. Approximately $165 million in 2011$.

[179] Reading Eagle, July 24, 1896.

[180] “Farmers’ Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Berks and Lehigh Counties,” (accessed April 29, 2013).

[181] Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 111-121.

[182] Ibid., 314-318.

[183] Ibid., 321-344.

[184] Charles Proteus Steinmetz, “Rudolf Eickemeyer,” The Electrical World, March 16, 1895, 331; John S. Friedman, Out of the Blue: A History of Lightning: Science, Superstition, and Amazing Stories of Survival (New York: Random House, 2009), 106.

[185] Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 327.

[186] Ibid., 337.

[187] Claudius Torp, “Heinrich Engelhard Steinway,” Immigrant Entrepreneurship. German-American Business Biographies, 1720-Present, (accessed December 17, 2013).

[188] Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 340.

[189] Ibid., 338.

[190] Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 229; “Captain William (Wilhelm) Hexamer,” Antietam on the Web, (accessed May 15, 2013); “William Hexamer,” Wikipedia, (accessed September 10, 2103). Approximately $8.4 million in 2011$.

[191] A. H. Ringler, History of the North County Railway from Its Earliest Days to the Present Time (West Hoboken, N.J.: North Hudson County Railway, 1893); “North Hudson County Railway,” Wikipedia, (accessed September 10, 2013); Garret D. W. Vroom, Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court and, At Law, in the Court of Errors and Appeals of the State of New Jersey (Trenton: William S. Sharp, 1880), 73.

[192] Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 337.

[193] Ibid., 338.

[194] “Charles A. Schieren’s Career: A Successful Business Man, Public-Spirited Citizen, and Earnest Reformer,” New York Times, October 15, 1893.

[195] Anita Rapone, The Guardian Life Insurance Company, 1860-1920: A History of a German-American Enterprise (New York: New York University Press, 1987); Robert E. Wright and George David Smith, Mutually Beneficial: The Guardian and Life Insurance in America (New York: New York University Press, 2004); Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 62, 277, 304, 309.

[196] Sean Cashman, America in the Gilded Age: From the Death of Lincoln to the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, 3rd ed. (New York: New York University Press, 1993), 74-75; Grubb, German Immigration, 377.

[197] Sabine Knoll Schutze, Friedrich Hoffman (1832-1904) and the Pharmaceutische Rundschau (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2002).

[198] Cashman, America in the Gilded Age, 89.

[199] John Koegel, Music in German Immigrant Theater: New York City, 1840-1940 (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2009).

[200] Lundy T. Benjamin Jr., “Hugo Munsterberg: Portrait of an Applied Psychologist,” in Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology ed. Gregory A. Kimble and Michael Wertheimer (Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000), 4:119-135.

[201] Rapone, The Guardian, 12; Grubb, German Immigration, 392.

[202] Edith Sparks, Capital Intentions: Female Proprietors in San Francisco, 1850-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 47-49, 223, 226.

[203] Robert P. McCafferty, “Review of Gerhard Wiesinger, Die Deutsche Einwanderkolonie von Holyoke, Massachusetts, 1865-1920,” German Quarterly 70.4 (Autumn 1997): 405-406.

[204] Grytz, “‘Triple Identity,’” 20-49.

[205] Supple, “A Business Elite,” 147; June B. Fisher, When Money Was in Fashion: Henry Goldman, Goldman Sachs, and the Founding of Wall Street (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010); Henry Kaufman, On Money and Markets: A Wall Street Memoir (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000), 1, 87.

[206] Wittke, Refugees of Revolution, 336-337.

[207] Dietrich G. Buss, Henry Villard: A Study of Transatlantic Investments and Interests, 1870-1895 (New York: Arno Press, 1978); Chris Kobrak, “"A Reputation for Cross-Cultural Business: Henry Villard and German Investment in the United States,” in Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 2, ed. William J. Hausman. German Historical Institute. (accessed September 10, 2013).

[208] Uwes Spierkermann, “Claus Spreckels: A Biographical Case Study of Nineteenth-Century American Immigrant Entrepreneurship,” Business and Economic History On-Line 8.1 (2010): 1-21, (accessed September 10, 2013).

[209] Approximately $3.7 million in 2011$.

[210] Approximately 48.8 million in 2011$.

[211] Davis, “The Old World in the New South,” 439-461.

[212] Annual Report of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1911 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1911), 81.

[213] Corporation Assessment Lists, 1909-1915, Record Group 58.3.3, National Archives and Records Administration. Microfilm M667, Reels 11-17, inclusive.

[214] Oliver Buechse, Penny Maines, and Bruce Corbin. Union Bank – A California History of 145 Years (San Francisco: Union Bank, 2009), ii.

[215] Don Heinrich Tolzmann, ed., The German Element in St. Louis (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000), 28.

[216] Grubb, German Immigration, 383, 393.

[217] Gerald Gamm and Robert D. Putnam, “The Growth of Voluntary Associations in America, 1840-1940,”Journal of Interdisciplinary History 29.4 (Spring 1999): 511-557, here 525.

[218] Marion Pinsdorf, German-Speaking Entrepreneurs: Builders of Business in Brazil (New York: Peter Lang, 1990); Warren Schiff, “The Germans in Mexican Trade and Industry During the Diaz Period,” The Americas 23.3 (July 1967): 279-296; Mark Haberlein, “German Communities in 18th Century Europe and North America,” in European Migrants, Diasporas, and Indigenous Ethnic Minorities, ed. Matjaz Klemenic and Mary N. Harris (Pisa: Plus-Pisa University Press, 2009): 19-35; Nuria Puig and Rafael Castro, “Changing and Persistent Patterns of International Investment: French and German Capital in Nineteenth-Century and Twentieth-Century Spain,” Business and Economic History On-Line 4.1 (2006): 1-44, (access September 10, 2013).


Cite this Entry

APA Style

"German Corporate Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth Century America." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved February 24, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship:

Chicago Style

Wright, Robert. "German Corporate Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth Century America." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 2, edited by William J. Hausman. German Historical Institute. Last modified September 19, 2014.

MLA Style

"German Corporate Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth Century America," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2018, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 24 Feb 2018 <>

Nathan Benjamin Appel, n.d.

  • The Jefferson Fire Insurance Company, 425 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ca. 1930s-1940s
  • The Vine Street Hill Cemetery (German Evangelical Protestant Cemetery) Chapel, Cincinnati, Ohio, n.d.
  • The Metropolitan Savings Bank Building, New York City
  • Daniel Hertzler House in Bethel Township, Ohio

See more images »