Entries in Retail

Altman, Benjamin
Benjamin Altman founder of B. Altman & Company. Continue Reading »
Beinecke, Frederick W.
Frederick W. Beinecke nurtured, along with his two brothers and lifelong business partners Edwin and Walter, The Sperry & Hutchinson Company (S&H) of New York City, the leading trading stamp company in the United States. Continue Reading »
Cone, Moses Herman
A second-generation German-American, Moses Cone began his career as a travelling salesman, or “drummer,” for his father’s Baltimore dry goods business. His customers included Southern mill owners who taught him much about the textile industry. Moses Cone eventually used this knowledge to break into the industry himself, first by securing ownerships stakes in various Southern mills, then by founding Cone Export & Commission Co., and finally by building his own mills in Greensboro, North Carolina. By 1908, the year of his death, Moses Cone and his brother Ceasar led the world in denim production. Continue Reading »
Demuth, Christopher
Christopher Demuth was a tobacconist whose business — Demuth’s Tobacco Shop — operated for over two centuries at the same location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 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 »
Filene, Edward Albert
Edward Albert Filene was a renowned department store magnate, civic reformer, and one of the earliest and most zealous champions of the credit union movement in the United States. Along with his younger brother Lincoln, Edward operated the famous Boston-based department store Filene’s, which they took over from their father, William, in 1891. During the first half of the twentieth century, Filene’s became one of the largest and most successful retail stores in the country, rivaling several of the premier retailers of the period, including Macy’s and Sears & Roebuck. Continue Reading »
German Immigrants and J. P. Morgan’s Securities Underwriting Syndicates
The Immigrant Entrepreneurship project offers a transnational perspective on American history. Transaction records from the J. P. Morgan & Co. Syndicate Books help us understand how a transnational society of bankers networked funds around the world by forming syndicates to support the globalization process. Syndicate participation provided a way for many German immigrants and German-Americans to attain both economic success and social status in America. Continue Reading »
German Jews and Peddling in America
Peddling helped launch the Jewish migration out of Germany and its predecessor states. The knowledge that thousands of young single men could come to America and get on the road, laden with a jumble of goods on their backs, and reasonably hope to end up a married proprietor of a thriving business, propelled them. The fact that they could fulfill the aims of their migration, settle down, and succeed in business, also helped change the face of the Jewish world for decades to come. Continue Reading »
Goldman, Henry
Today, second generation German-Jewish immigrant Henry Goldman is primarily remembered for his role as an early partner in Goldman Sachs, the international investment bank that still bears his family’s name. His accomplishments stretched well beyond his own firm, however. In addition to revolutionizing Goldman Sachs, he helped change the American economy by shifting investment banking away from railroads and heavy industry and toward mass-retail establishments. He also pioneered an approach to capital valuation that focused not on physical assets, but on future earnings. Continue Reading »
Gratz, Michael
Brothers Barnard Gratz and Michael Gratz were merchants and land speculators from the Prussian occupied territory of Silesia whose commercial enterprises connected Philadelphia to port cities in other continental American colonies, the Caribbean, and Europe, and to the North American frontier. Continue Reading »
Guldman, Leopold Henry
Leopold H. Guldman was born in 1852 to Jewish parents in Harburg, a village in the kingdom of Bavaria. After arriving in the U.S., Guldman eventually made his way to Colorado, where he opened small outlets in bustling mining towns and supplied goods to miners. By 1879, at the age of twenty-six, he founded the Golden Eagle Dry Goods Company, which quickly became one of Denver’s leading popular-price department stores. Continue Reading »
Jacobs, Joseph
Joseph Jacobs, a second-generation German-Jewish immigrant, built up a large retail drug-store chain in Atlanta in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A scientist by training and an entrepreneur by nature, Jacobs possessed a unique combination of skills that helped him play a defining role in the Atlanta pharmacy trade for decades. Continue Reading »
Kempner, Herschell
Entrepreneurs Harris and Ike Kempner were heavily involved in mercantile ventures and the cotton and sugar trade in Galveston, Texas, and the surrounding area. The father and son were also active in local politics; local, regional, and national charities; and the local Jewish Temple. Between Harris and his son, the Kempner family was active in, created new elements of, and even directed the Galveston commercial sector for nearly a century. Continue Reading »
Kroger, Bernard Heinrich
Bernard Heinrich Kroger, known nationally for his eponymous chain of wholesale grocery stores, capitalized on America’s growing consumerism by buying wholesale and slashing prices, and by reaching a massive audience with his colorful and innovative advertising campaigns. By the end of World War I, the Kroger grocery store had evolved from a local neighborhood shop into a national business. Continue Reading »
May, David
The founder of the May Department Store chain, David May was one of the most influential businessmen and philanthropists in early Denver. Continue Reading »
Neiman, Carrie Marcus
Carrie Marcus Neiman was a German-American and Jewish co-founder of the Neiman-Marcus department store and an innovator in the department store industry during the early-to-mid twentieth century. As the daughter of German immigrants, Carrie drew inspiration from European fashion and brought high-quality and cutting-edge merchandise to the Neiman-Marcus stores and customers. Continue Reading »
Netzer, Joseph
Joseph Netzer, a German immigrant, was an entrepreneur of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Along with many others, he journeyed to the US-Mexico border region in the late nineteenth century, attracted by new economic opportunities created by the construction of railroads that connected the industrializing areas of the U.S. with emerging capitalist centers in Mexico, including Monterrey and San Luis Potosi. Netzer, a hardware store owner and plumber by training, rose fairly rapidly to prominence in Laredo business and social circles. He became part of a cosmopolitan business class consisting of ethnic Mexicans, immigrants from western, southern and eastern Europe, from the Ottoman Empire, and from the northeastern and midwestern United States. His life illuminates the role of entrepreneurs who helped to integrate the U.S. and Mexican economies in that era. Continue Reading »
Oppenheimer, Henry
A successful retailer and wholesaler and longtime president of Hutzler Brothers Company, Henry Oppenheimer used family connections to establish and further his career in the United States after emigrating from Baden. Continue Reading »
Rosenwald, Julius
Julius Rosenwald served as vice president, president, and chairman of the board of Sears, Roebuck. During his tenure, Sears expanded its mail-order business and became America's largest retailer. He is perhaps best remembered, though, for his efforts to advance African-American education in the South. Continue Reading »
Sanger, Isaac
Isaac and Lehman Sanger arrived in Texas six years after the Republic joined the Union. By the end of the nineteenth century, their firm, Sanger Bros., had become the largest department store in Texas and perhaps in the Southwest. Continue Reading »