Business of Migration since 1815
Millions of American immigrants, who worked in business or started new businesses of their own, also used businesses in order to reach America in the first place. Before the mid nineteenth century advent of the telegraph, railroad and steamship, this migration usually relied on the services of multiple businesses and intermediaries in order to carry out long multi-stage journeys across land and ocean. In the modern “global village,” interconnected by widely available fast air travel, key services needed by international migrants are also generally dispersed across multiple businesses, often related mainly to surmounting and adapting to legal restrictions. In between, during late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the business of migration was concentrated mainly on the crossing of the North Atlantic. Mass transatlantic migration then became the core segment of the world’s first major intercontinental travel industry, a business in which large German shipping lines played a leading role. Within a longer term context, this essay emphasizes that middle epoch of commercially-provided physical relocation from Europe to the United States, and also includes a sub-focus on entrepreneurship of German origin. Continue Reading »
German Component to American Industrialization
The era from 1840 to 1893 was a momentous one both for German-American immigration and for U.S. industrialization, so it bears examining to what extent the two developments were interrelated. This essay will first sketch out the contours of German immigration and American industrialization in this era. It then identifies areas of the U.S. economy where Germans were particularly concentrated, and examines the industrial and geographic niches where transatlantic connections were of greatest consequence. Shifting focus from global to individual patterns, it then explores what was German and what was American about German-American entrepreneurship in the mid- and late nineteenth century. Continue Reading »
German Corporate Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth Century America
Many of the Germans who came to the United States in the nineteenth century were entrepreneurs, some in the more mundane sense of owning their own businesses, others in the more exciting sense of being innovators within various business sectors. Germans also appear to have been more likely to engage in entrepreneurial activities on a scale large enough to require the formation of corporations. That hypothesis stems from the analysis of a database of the names of several hundred thousand incorporators, people (mostly men) who helped for-profit businesses to receive special charters granted by state legislatures across the United States between 1790 and 1861. Continue Reading »
German Immigrants in the United States Brewing Industry
Immigrant groups in the United States sometimes find an economic niche that allows them to become dominant in a particular business, or, at the very least, to become associated with that niche in the public mind. For the German-American community before nationwide Prohibition (1920–1933), domination of the American brewing industry was both a cliché and a reality. 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 »
German Social Entrepreneurs and the First Kindergartens in Nineteenth Century America
Two German women, Caroline Louisa Frankenberg and Margarethe Meyer Schurz, are credited with bringing the kindergarten movement to the nineteenth-century United States by opening kindergartens that served children of German immigrants. They conducted classes in the German language and were social entrepreneurs in that they made an innovative, long-term, social impact on the American educational system. Their primary interest was not personal financial gain, but rather the humanistic, social, and educational development of children. As word spread of their efforts, Anglo-American educators took note and grew the movement, establishing English-language kindergartens and kindergarten training schools for teachers. The creation of kindergartens fundamentally changed how Americans thought about the ideal environment for beginning a child’s education. Continue Reading »
Living the American Dream? The Challenge of Writing Biographies of German-American Immigrant Entrepreneurs
Biographies of businesspeople offer a new integrative perspective not only to trace the lives, careers, and business ventures of significant immigrants but to answer core questions of American, business, and migration history in a new way. The Immigrant Entrepreneurship project aims to explore hundreds of biographies; the sheer amount of this material has made clear that biographies can be used not only to analyze individual lives but also to address general questions in the history of capitalism and modernity. Continue Reading »
Project Introduction
Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present
A GHI research project Continue Reading »

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