Launched by the German Historical Institute Washington, Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present is an online project focusing on two important themes in American history: immigration and entrepreneurship. The project ran from 2010 until mid-2016. Immigrant entrepreneurship was one of the decisive factors in the United States’ rise as an economic superpower in the late nineteenth century. The country benefited from the relative openness and freedom that attracted talent from around the world and encouraged minorities who fled discrimination elsewhere to try their luck. This collaborative research project sheds new light on the entrepreneurial and economic capacity of immigrants by investigating the German-American example in the United States. It traces the lives, careers, and business ventures of eminent German-American businesspeople of the last three hundred years, integrating the history of German-American immigration into the larger narrative of U.S. economic and business history. A more detailed look at the objectives and research agenda for the project is available here.

Abschied der Auswanderer (emigrants‘ farewell), painting by Antoine Volkmar, 1860

Abschied der Auswanderer (emigrants‘ farewell), painting by Antoine Volkmar, 1860

The website for the project is broken down into two different content types. First, the peer-reviewed, in-depth biographies of leading German-American entrepreneurs form the bulk of the project. These biographies present hundreds of case studies on various issues facing immigrant entrepreneurs throughout American history. Each biography is supported by archival images, documents, and other media materials.

The thematic essays form the second type of content in the project. These essays explore broader themes and issues relevant to immigration and entrepreneurship that link the individual biographies. While this site is a work in progress, when it is completed it will have over two-hundred biographies and dozens of thematic essays to build the leading resource on the history of immigrant entrepreneurship.

For ease of navigation, the project is divided into five volumes:

Users can explore Immigrant Entrepreneurship through these pre-determined volumes. In each volume you will find a short introduction to the time period, the biographical articles, thematic essays, images, documents, and other materials.

The content of the project is also organized thematically, spatially, and temporally. By selecting themes you can explore all of the entries based on pre-assigned topics. These are industries, economic sectors, or other themes that are relevant to the various entries.  Similarly, by selecting regions you can view all of the content associated with particular regions in the U.S. Finally, by selecting volumes you can explore the content by more specific time periods. You may also browse a complete alphabetical list of the various content types or search for a specific subject using the search box in the top right corner.

The site also includes helpful resources if you interested in studying immigrant entrepreneurship in more depth. In the resources you will find a list of archival collections, bibliographies of secondary sources, links to related projects, and a guide for teachers using the project.

Entries and features will be added continuously. If you would like the project to take up a particular topic or entrepreneur, or simply would like to give us feedback, feel free to contact us with your suggestions.