Entries in Philanthropy and Social Advocacy

Aaron, Daniel
A cofounder, president, and CEO of the Comcast cable empire, Daniel Aaron emigrated with his family to the United States in 1937. Continue Reading »
Anneke, Mathilde Franziska (née Giesler)
Mathilde Franziska Anneke was an entrepreneur, lecturer, educator, journalist, writer, and a newspaper editor. She was well educated and a free and independent thinker, interested in political and social reform on behalf of women in both the German lands and the United States. Continue Reading »
Annenberg, Walter
Walter Hubert Annenberg was a publisher, editor, diplomat, and philanthropist. After assuming control his father's company, Triangle Publications, he went on to create a veritable media empire that included Seventeen magazine and TV Guide. Continue Reading »
Astor, John Jacob
Over the course of John Jacob Astor's career, he applied his great entrepreneurial talent to build the first modern American trade empire with partners in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Continue Reading »
Bloede, Victor Gustav
Between his birth in Germany and his death eighty-eight years later in Catonsville, Maryland, Victor Bloede became an eminent chemist and the proprietor of his flagship enterprise, the Baltimore-based Victor G. Bloede Company. Bloede was a real-estate developer, a banker, the founder of a construction company, a gentleman farmer, an advocate for issues of public concern, and a generous philanthropist. Continue Reading »
DeHaan, Christel
Although she grew up struggling in post World War II Germany, in 1996 Christel DeHaan became one of the wealthiest women in the United States when, at the age of fifty-four, she sold her company Resort Condominiums International (RCI) for $825 million. 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 »
Hammer, Adam
Adam Hammer was a German physician who immigrated to St. Louis, after having participated in the uprising in Baden. Soon after his arrival in the United States he became aware of the deficiencies in the American medical education system. He determined that the most effective remedy for the situation would be to carry out a comprehensive reform of the medical sector using the educational and medical practices of Germany as a model. Hammer’s entrepreneurial significance is found in his contributions to society as a social entrepreneur in the worlds of academia and public health, rather than as a profitable commercial entrepreneur. Continue Reading »
Kluge, John Werner
Through a series of savvy investment moves that drew on his uncanny ability to predict market demands and take calculated risks, John W. Kluge rose to the top of the U.S. media industry. He was one of the first to advocate a multimedia approach to marketing, and offered advertisers a variety of potential outlets to reach consumers. He transformed the Metropolitan Broadcasting Corp., which consisted of two floundering television stations and two radio stations, into Metromedia, Inc., which became the largest independent television business in the United States during the height of the major broadcast networks’ power in the 1960s and 1970s. Continue Reading »
Lewisohn, Adolph
Adolph Lewisohn was a Hamburg-born German-American businessman who, together with his brother Leonard, once led one of the most important and profitable copper companies in the United States Continue Reading »
Ludwig, Christopher
Christopher Ludwig was one of the most successful German immigrant entrepreneurs in the British North American colonies and later the United States during the late eighteenth century. Following his arrival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1754, Ludwig converted his savings and culinary skills into a bakery and confectionary shop in the Letitia Court district. The enterprise thrived, which allowed Ludwig to expand his bakeshop and branch out into other business endeavors. Within two decades Ludwig had amassed significant wealth that included ownership of numerous properties in the region. 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 »
Oberlaender, Gustav
Gustav Oberlaender, a Rhinelander who spent his adult life in the United States, became a dominant figure in the full-fashioned hosiery industry. He and his partners, fellow immigrants Ferdinand Thun and Henry Janssen, used skills acquired in Germany to establish textile machinery and hosiery firms in the United States, undercutting their birth country’s exporters. Continue Reading »
Paepcke, Walter Paul
The son of a Prussian immigrant, Walter Paepcke was the President of the Container Corporation of America (CCA) and founder of the Aspen Institute. Continue Reading »
Peter, Valentin Josef
Valentin Josef Peter emigrated with his family from Germany to the United States when he was fourteen years old. Peter had to work immediately to provide for his family, especially after the early death of his father George Peter. Despite—or perhaps driven by—these challenges—Peter rose from milking cows to running and owning one of the largest German-language newspaper empires in American history. Continue Reading »
Progressive Reform in a Transatlantic Age
This essay describes the main political, socioeconomic, and cultural dimensions of progressivism and, on this basis, explores the imprint of the Progressive Era on the modern United States. It pays particular attention to the transatlantic dimension of progressivism, suggesting that the reformers’ perceptions and translations of European social reform provided both inspiration and resources for the formulation of a new politics, economics, and culture in turn-of-the-century America, and arguing that the contributions of some German immigrant entrepreneurs need to be seen in this context. At the same time, the essay contends that the international dimension of progressivism highlighted the fissures, fault lines, and blind spots within the movement and within American culture and society as a whole. Continue Reading »
Rapp, Johann Georg
In 1803, George Rapp left his native Württemberg for the United States of America in search of the Promised Land. Between 1804 and 1825, Rapp and his sectarians established three utopian communities in the United States, each housing as many as eight hundred people. In order to realize his goal of a perfect society, Rapp established an organizational model that clearly defined interactions between his society and the outside world and religious observances. His so-called Divine Economy enabled him to negotiate between the community’s practice of an inner-communal socialism, external capitalist entrepreneurship, and spiritual millennial beliefs. Moreover, by adhering to this model, Rapp and his followers transitioned successfully from self-sustaining agricultural work to frontier marketing, manufacturing, and global business activities. 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 »
Schiff, Jacob
A banker and philanthropist, Jacob H. Schiff secured European funding to build America’s railroads, mines, and other enterprises. He helped transform the United States into the world’s leading industrialized economy. Continue Reading »
Steinway, Heinrich Engelhard
At the time Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg and his family left the Duchy of Brunswick for the United States in 1850, he was an independent craftsman of modest means, similar in many ways to others leaving the German states during that era. Within less than twenty years, the woodworker-turned-piano maker from the Harz Mountains in northern Germany established the Steinway firm, together with his sons, as one of the leading piano brands in the world. Continue Reading »