Immigrant Entrepreneurship

German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present

Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Immigrant entrepreneurship was one of the decisive factors in the United States' rise as an economic superpower in the late nineteenth century. The country benefited from the relative openness and freedom that attracted talent from around the world and encouraged minorities who fled discrimination elsewhere to try their luck. The collaborative research project Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present will shed new light on the entrepreneurial and economic capacity of immigrants by investigating the German-American example in the United States. It will trace the lives, careers and business ventures of eminent German-American businesspeople of roughly the last two hundred and ninety years, integrating the history of German-American immigration into the larger narrative of U.S. economic and business history.

German immigrants and their descendants have played a disproportionately large role in the American business community, particularly in the nineteenth but also, to a lesser extent, in the twentieth century. The common origin of well-known large companies like Heinz, Levi Strauss, Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Pabst, Pfizer, Warburg, Steinway, and Merck, to name but a few, is easy to recognize. In many cases, however, the German origin is not immediately obvious. It was Wilhelm Böing, for example, who came to the U.S., founded a lumber mill and was later known as a timber magnate. Later his son, William Edward Boeing, founded the Pacific Aero Products Company, which became the Boeing Airplane Company and is today is the world's leading aerospace company. More recently, German immigrants have come to the U.S. to take advantage of educational opportunities and unique economic clusters like Silicon Valley. Andy Bechtolsheim, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and early investor in Google, left Germany to study at Carnegie Mellon and Stanford and went on to play an important role in the development of Silicon Valley.

Coordinated by a project team at the GHI, an interdisciplinary group of scholars from both sides of the Atlantic will contribute to a multi-volume biographical online platform. The website will also be a repository for a wealth of complementary material. By synthesizing the diverse fields of business history, entrepreneurship research, migration history and German-American studies, the project will make a significant contribution to a wide array of academic disciplines and lay the groundwork for further research. For more information about the project or suggestions, please contact us.

Editorial Board

  • Volume 1: "From the Colonial Economy to Early Industrialization, 1720-1840"
    Marianne Wokeck (Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis)
  • Volume 2: "The Emergence of an Industrial Nation, 1840-1893"
    William J. Hausman (College of William & Mary)
  • Volume 3: "From the End of the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era, 1893-1918"
    Giles R. Hoyt (Max Kade German-American Research and Resource Center, Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis)
  • Volume 4: "The Age of the World Wars, 1918-1945"
    Jeff Fear (University of Redlands)
  • Volume 5: "From the Post-war Boom to Global Capitalism, 1945-today"
    R. Daniel Wadhwani (University of the Pacific)

Sponsored by the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through funds of the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.

Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology

Additional support has been generously provided by Deutsche Telekom.

Deutsche Telekom

In collaboration with