Entries in Pacific West

Beringer, Jacob
Jacob Beringer, along with his older sibling Frederick, founded Beringer Brothers Winery in St. Helena, California (Napa County) in 1875. Continue Reading »
Boeing, William Edward
William E. Boeing, the founder of one of the United States’ most high-profile corporations, was active in several different economic sectors both before and after establishing the aircraft manufacturing company that bears his name. The son of a wealthy Michigan lumber magnate, Boeing inherited a fortune from his father as a child and went on to an elite education at a Swiss boarding school and at Yale. Leaving college before graduating, he moved to Washington state and used his inheritance to begin investing in the timber industry. He soon became fascinated by the early airplane industry and organized one of the first major airplane manufacturers. Continue Reading »
Boyle, Gertrude
In 1970, when Gert Boyle became the president of Columbia Sportswear, the company was a small, struggling organization with low profit margins. Five years later, Columbia went international and was expanding at an impressive rate. Continue Reading »
Bronner, Emanuel
Emanuel Bronner was a pioneer of natural cosmetics. Coming from a traditional German soap maker family, he founded Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps in 1948. While the business remained small in terms of turnover and profits, its liquid peppermint soap was one of the first all-natural products available on the post-World War II American market. Continue Reading »
Cohn, Harry
A Hollywood mogul, Harry Cohn founded Columbia Pictures and ran the studio for nearly four decades. Under his watch, Columbia grew quickly, earning a reputation for profitability and artistic achievement within the film community. Continue Reading »
Dohrmann, Frederick William
Frederick Dohrmann began his merchandizing career in San Francisco in 1868 as a partner with Bernhard Nathan in a crockery business. Over the next thirty-seven years, he expanded the business to create the Dohrmann Commercial Company, specializing in wholesale and retail sales of china, crystal, flatware, lamps, and fine “art goods.” F.W. Dohrmann also worked tirelessly for the betterment of San Francisco through German and non-German philanthropic boards and associations, and was one of the founders of the Merchants Association of San Francisco. Continue Reading »
Esslinger, Hartmut
Hartmut Heinrich Esslinger is one of the world’s leading industrial designers and the former head of frog design. In 1969, he founded esslinger design, which was based in Altensteig until 2010. The firm was renamed frogdesign in 1982 upon Esslinger’s move to California to work for Steve Jobs and Apple Computer as the lead designer for Apple’s “Snow White” design language. Over a career spanning more than forty years, Esslinger worked with firms in diverse fields of industry and technology. His innovative approach to design refined Louis Sullivan’s classic motto of “form follows function” into frog’s slogan of “form follows emotion,” pioneering a global design philosophy, especially to electronics, that sought a comprehensive approach to both the aesthetics and functionality of industrial design. Continue Reading »
Fey, Charles August
Over the course of a successful career, Charles August Fey made significant contributions to the development of America’s gaming industry. He is remembered today as the creator of the modern slot machine and as the “Thomas Edison of slots.” Continue Reading »
Genthe, Arnold
In 1895, Arnold Genthe accepted an offer to work as a tutor for an affluent German-American family in San Francisco. In between tutoring responsibilities, he taught himself photography and began publishing some of his photographs in local magazines. By 1901, he had already become one of the most sought-after portrait photographers on the West Coast. His award-winning photographic landscapes and pictures would soon bring both domestic and international recognition. Continue Reading »
Guericke, Konstantin
Konstantin Guericke is a web 2.0 pioneer and co-founder of LinkedIn, the world’s largest online business network. Guericke first came to the United States as a high school exchange student and then returned to pursue further studies at Stanford University. Benefiting from a unique environment for innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration, he found pathways to Silicon Valley’s high tech start-up scene. Continue Reading »
Guggenheim, Felix
Felix Guggenheim emigrated to the United States in 1940. An influential publisher in Germany, Guggenheim was able to utilize his former contacts to establish a successful business as a literary agent and legal advisor for clients in the U.S. and in Germany after the end of World War II. Continue Reading »
Hackfeld, Heinrich
Heinrich (Henry) Hackfeld was born in Almsloh, a village in the parish of Ganderkesee, in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. He eventually became part of the Bremish mercantile elite, but was atypical in that he came from a humble background. His firm, H. Hackfeld & Co. of Honolulu, was one of a number of German mercantile businesses founded in Melanesia and Polynesia during the nineteenth century. Initially the main focus of the firm’s business was both indirect and direct involvement in the North Pacific whaling industry. After the demise of this industry, at the beginning of the 1870s, the firm shifted its focus to another part of its business, the provision of factoring services to the Hawaiian sugar industry. By the time of the incorporation of Hawaii as a United States Territory in 1900 the firm was one of a small group of sugar factors that dominated the islands’ economy. Continue Reading »
Hellman, Isaias Wolf
Born in a small town in Bavaria, Isaias Wolf Hellman was one of a number of German-Jewish immigrants whose entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts helped transform Los Angeles and San Francisco from rough mining camps into two of America’s leading urban centers. Continue Reading »
Hihn, Frederick Augustus
German immigrant Frederick A. Hihn arrived in San Francisco as part of the Gold Rush and later amassed vast landholdings in Santa Cruz County. He spent much of his life developing property around existing towns and creating new vacation communities along Monterey Bay. Continue Reading »
Hirsch, Max
Max Hirsch and his son Harold Hirsch were responsible for building one of Portland’s most famous businesses and helping to create a sportswear industry. Max Hirsch was a first-generation German Jewish immigrant to Portland who in 1907 purchased Willamette Tent & Awning from a Portland businessman and turned it into the Hirsch-Weis Company. Building on the success of his father's company, Harold grew his skiwear line into White Stag, one of the largest skiwear companies in the world. Continue Reading »
Kaiser, Henry J.
Henry Kaiser’s importance in the creation of the modern American West cannot be overstated. Bridges and roads, river regulation projects and dams, pipelines and public transportation facilities, the supply of drinking water and cheap energy, the creation of steel production on the West Coast, and, finally, the building of houses and apartments—Henry J. Kaiser’s entrepreneurial activities played a crucial part in creating the preconditions for decades of prosperity throughout the region. Continue Reading »
Landor, Walter
Walter Landor, an industrial designer and pioneer in branding, created some of the world’s most recognizable packages, brands, and trademarks. Continue Reading »
Mengers, Sue
Sue Mengers emerged as a powerful Hollywood agent in the late 1960s and 1970s, a time of enormous challenges and transformation in the film industry, as independent-minded stars and directors took greater control over their projects, a tactic enhanced by the innovative work of agents like Mengers. Continue Reading »
Miller, Henry
Henry Miller immigrated to the United States in 1847. After building up a thriving butcher business in San Francisco, he engaged in cattle rearing and farming, invested heavily in irrigation systems, and formed a partnership with fellow German immigrant Charles Lux in 1858. By the end of the nineteenth century Miller & Lux had become America’s largest integrated cattle and meatpacking enterprise, owning close to 1.3 million acres of land in California, Nevada, and Oregon. Continue Reading »
Spreckels, Claus
Born in Lamstedt, Claus Spreckels settled in California and built a sugar empire that expanded into a multitude of sectors, including: transport, gas and electricity, real estate, newspapers, banks, and breweries. Continue Reading »