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 »
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 »
Baer, Ralph
Ralph Baer was an engineer and inventor particularly known for creating the first videogame console. Baer and his family came to the United States as German Jewish refugees in 1938 when Baer was sixteen years old and settled in the Bronx in New York City. Although he spent the majority of his career working within military defense contracting, he remained a passionate inventor of electronic games and toys. To support this passion, Baer established his consulting firm, R. H. Baer Consultants, in 1975, through which he partnered with well-known companies. Over the course of his life, his inventions and over one-hundred and fifty U.S. and international patents have contributed to the advancement of military defense, television technology, video gaming, electronic toys, and other electronic consumer products. Continue Reading »
Bernstein, Arnold
Arnold Bernstein was a successful shipping magnate in Hamburg before immigrating to the United States under pressure from the Nazi Regime. Despite losing his company the Arnold Bernstein Schiffahrtsgesellschaft and most of his assets, Bernstein re-established himself in the United States, founding a new shipping company, Arnold Bernstein Steamship Corporation. Continue Reading »
Bettmann, Otto
Otto Ludwig Bettmann was a German Jewish refugee who emigrated from Berlin to New York City in 1935 and established a unique picture archive in the United States. At a time when photojournalism was on the rise, he was able to channel his personal penchant and obsession for collecting pictures into a thriving business. 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 »
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 »
Carus, Marianne
Marianne Carus is the founder of Cricket magazine for children and young adults. Building on her success with Cricket, Carus managed to create a new niche market for children’s literary magazines in the United States, eventually launching four more magazines aimed at different age groups. Continue Reading »
Chorengel, Bernd
The youngest person ever appointed to the presidency of a major international hotel chain (Hyatt International Corporation), Bernd Chorengel exemplifies the contemporary nomadic management class: beginning in Germany, working in Southeast Asia and London, and finally settling in Chicago. Chorengel’s work for Hyatt grew the chain to more than one hundred hotels in over forty countries, as well as introducing numerous iconic hotels along the way. Continue Reading »
Cramer Sachs, Charlotte
Charlotte Cramer Sachs was an artist, inventor, entrepreneur, food and wine enthusiast, and an early developer of prepared cake and muffin mixes. Her company Cramer Products Company pioneered the manufacture and distribution of many types of prepared food mixes under the brand Joy Prepared Mixes. 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 »
Enoch, Kurt
Kurt Enoch grew up in Hamburg as one of three children to liberal progressive Jewish parents who owned a Hamburg-based printing plant. Following the rise of National Socialism in Germany, Kurt Enoch immigrated to France, England, and then the United States continuing his career as a publisher at each stop. An innovator in the publishing field, Kurt Enoch helped introduce changes such as sleeker formats, updated designs, and a thoughtful, strategic marketing of his books made Enoch a major transformer and pioneer of the paperback publishing business with his influence showing in the trade until today. 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 »
Frank, Werner
Werner L. Frank was a pioneering figure and longtime contributor to the United States and international computer industry. After being exposed to the young field of digital computing in the U.S. Army and studying it in college, Frank went on to co-found Informatics, one of the path-breaking early producers of software products in the 1960s. Continue Reading »
Grohmann, Eckhart
Eckhart Grohmann does not fit the all-too-familiar narrative of the old world European immigrant peasant turned captain of industry that permeates much of the American popular memory. Grohmann was already a member of the entrepreneurial class in Germany. After immigrating to the United States, he acquired his own company, Aluminum Casting and Engineering Co., a small Milwaukee foundry that he expanded into a major firm. 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 »
Jahn, Helmut
Helmut Jahn arrived in the U.S. as a young architecture school graduate from Germany and, after a meteoric rise in the architectural establishment of Chicago, has enjoyed a steadily successful career. He is best known for large public buildings in urban contexts, such as airports, arenas, and tall office buildings around the world. Continue Reading »
Jesselson, Ludwig
In the decades after 1945, Philipp Brothers grew to become the largest and most important metal trading company in the world. By the late 1970s, the company had become an international giant, dealing in over one hundred and fifty different industrial raw materials with representatives in virtually every country in the world possessing metals or minerals of commercial quality. During most of this period, Ludwig Jesselson, who had come to New York in 1937 to work for Philipp Brothers, was at the helm of the company. Jesselson led the company from a sizable private company to an international giant, in the process contributing to changing the markets for international commodities. 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 »
Knoll, Hans
Together with his wife Florence, a prominent interior designer, German-born immigrant Hans Knoll played a significant role in introducing modernist design into the market for high-end residential and office furniture through his firm Knoll Associates. 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 »
Lion, Alfred
Alfred Lion immigrated to the United States in 1936 and went on to found one of the world’s foremost jazz record labels, Blue Note Records with his longtime friend Francis Wolff. 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 »
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 »
Project Introduction
Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present
A GHI research project Continue Reading »
Schwan, Marvin
Marvin Schwan was the founder of Schwan’s Sales Enterprises, Inc., one of the largest producers of frozen food in the world. Continue Reading »
Staib, Walter
Walter Staib is an internationally renowned chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and hospitality consultant. A skilled self-promoter who is as comfortable in front of a television camera as in front of a stove, Staib is a regularly featured guest on local, national, and international television programs and specials. Continue Reading »
Stern, Leonard N.
Leonard Stern took over the family business Hartz Mountain Pet Company from his father in 1959. By the early 1980s, he had expanded the company's focus beyond pet foods to make it America's leading pet supply manufacturer and name brand. Continue Reading »
Strachwitz, Chris
Chris Strachwitz is a music producer and the founder of Arhoolie Records. Strachwitz and his family came to the United States in 1947, living first in Reno, Nevada, and later in California. After graduating, he became a high school teacher, but spent most of his time off searching out music in clubs. In 1962 he left teaching to concentrate on Arhoolie Records, which has become a Grammy-winning record label that specializes in roots music. Continue Reading »
Tede, Wolfgang
Wolfgang “Dieter” Tede was a founding partner of the Marine Chartering Company (MCC), a leading international ocean transportation company established in San Francisco. 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 »
Vernon, Lillian
Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Germany, Lillian came to the U.S. as a child after escaping from the Nazi regime of the 1930s. With an entrepreneurial spirit inherited from a family of businessmen, the “Queen of Catalogs” built her mail-order empire from scratch. Continue Reading »
Waldthausen, Kurt Gerhard
Kurt Waldthausen's career is typical of the modern globalized manager and entrepreneur: after beginning his career in Bremen and with stints in Pakistan, Brazil, Columbia, and Argentina, Waldthausen held management positions at several subsidiaries of German companies based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Drawing on his global experience as a manager, Waldthausen started his own international executive recruiting firm, Waldthausen & Associates, in 2000 to focus on helping companies from the German-speaking world place candidates in their U.S. subsidiaries. Continue Reading »
Wolff, Kurt and Helen
Kurt Wolff and Helen Wolff founded Pantheon Books Inc. in 1942. Continue Reading »

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