Entries in Banking and Finance

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 »
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 »
Goldman, Marcus
Marcus Goldman immigrated to the United States in 1848. After twenty-one years working as an itinerant peddler and a shopkeeper, he carved out a niche for himself in commercial promissory notes forming what would eventually become Goldman, Sachs & Co. 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 »
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 »
Lehman, Mayer
Founded first by immigrant Henry Lehman as a mercantile store in Montgomery Alabama, Lehman Bros. underwent a series of reinventions with the help of his brothers Mayer and Emanuel to become first an important commodity brokerage and eventually an investment bank in New York. Continue Reading »
Loeb, Carl Morris
Despite not belonging to one of the elite New York Jewish banking families, Carl Morris Loeb became president of American Metal Company and later established his own investment firm Carl M. Loeb & Co. Continue Reading »
Parish, David
Born into a rich Scottish merchant family based in Hamburg and in the neighboring formerly-Danish village of Nienstedten, David Parish was a merchant, financier, and entrepreneur who acquired riches, fame, and professional success in Europe and the United States between 1802 and 1823. Parish embodied the possibilities of his era: He used his personal abilities and social networks to become one of the most influential players in the international financial community; he was honored by his peers as well as by politicians like Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, Friedrich von Gentz, and President James Madison. His downfall, however, resulted from a mixture of hubris, miscalculations, and general problems connected with the banking crisis of 1826. Continue Reading »
Pfister, Charles F
Thought extraordinarily successful, Charles Pfister was in many ways typical for a second generation German-American immigrant entrepreneur in the period between the gilded age and the progressive era: He managed technological and organizational innovations, continued in old branches and developed new ones, had to face the challenges of a political mass market and found himself in a contested situation by a general public, which celebrated successful entrepreneurs as titans and accused them as selfish and heartless forces of wealth. Continue Reading »
Salomon, Haym
Haym Salomon, best known for his role in helping to finance the American Revolution, served as the broker to Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris from 1781 to 1784. He immigrated to colonial New York in the mid-1770s. His working knowledge of many European languages enabled him to broker bills of exchange from several countries, including France and Spain. The descendants of Haym Salomon, along with members of the American Jewish community, have used his legacy as “the financier of the American Revolution” to construct an American Jewish heritage with roots in the nation’s very beginning. Continue Reading »
Scheffer, Albert
The life and career of Albert Scheffer, a St. Paul, Minnesota, businessman, is entwined with the financial development of the Upper American Midwest in the latter nineteenth century. He founded numerous banks and companies with great hope but eventually closed them with much sorrow. However, Scheffer was more than just a businessman. During his long career, he also became deeply involved in civic affairs in St. Paul, in local and state politics, in the fraternal affairs of Civil War veterans, and in caring for his extended family. 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 »
Seligman, Joseph
Joseph Seligman, along with his brothers, founded J. & W. Seligman & Co., which became the premier investment banking house raising money for the Union government, repaying the national debt necessitated by the war, and channeling European funds into the construction of American railroads and other industries. 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 »
Thiel, Peter
Peter Thiel is a technology entrepreneur, hedge fund manager, venture capitalist, libertarian, and philanthropist. He began his career by co-founding PayPal together with Elon Musk and Max Levchin in 1998 and served as the company’s chairman and CEO until the company sold to eBay in 2002. Since then, he has embarked on a number of projects including the establishment of Clarium Capital Management, a global macroeconomic hedge fund; investment in Facebook; the launch of The Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund; the co-formation of Mithril Capital Management, a global venture capital firm; and the launching of the Thiel Foundation, a nonprofit organization that carries out philanthropic activities. Continue Reading »
Untermyer, Samuel
German-American entrepreneurship can be found across the whole spectrum of American business in the period since 1720. The legal profession is no exception. Guggenheimer & Untermyer was one of the most successful and prominent German-American law firms during its life span, approximately 1855 to 1986. The firm was founded in the mid-1850s by Adolph (Abraham) Levinger, a Bavarian-Jewish immigrant. Samuel Untermyer later transformed it into an entrepreneurial Wall Street firm that represented a host of prominent clients, both German-America and native-born, Jewish and Gentile, during the late nineteenth century and throughout much of the twentieth. Continue Reading »
Villard, Henry
A financier and investor, Henry Villard helped realize many important infrastructure ventures in the U.S. and in the process made and lost several fortunes. Continue Reading »