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History of Business Immigration

A History of Business Immigration

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The founding of America as we know it started with non-native explorers. Early exploration included expeditions from the Spanish, the French, and the English. Foreign colonization began as European nations came to the Americas to increase their wealth and broaden their influence over world affairs. The first colony was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Many of the people who settled in the New World came to escape religious persecution. In both Virginia and Massachusetts, the colonists flourished with some assistance from Native Americans. By 1770, more than 2 million people lived and worked in Great Britain's 13 North American colonies.

Famous Immigrants include:

  • Christopher Columbus, Italy, explorer
  • Samuel de Champlain, France, explorer
  • Henry Hudson, England, navigator

Revolutionary America 1760-1800

This era sparked a change in manufacturing processes for the better. Rather than simply doing things manually by hand, Americans were now beginning to use machines to get their work done. Business is better today because we outsource to other countries that can do the same work and labor for much less than what it would cost if we did so here in America. Technology has also increased greatly, so that thousands of products can be manufactured at a time.

At the country’s beginning, the three most important architects of its financial system were immigrants: Alexander Hamilton from St. Croix, then part of the Danish West Indies; Robert Morris, born in Liverpool, England; and Albert Gallatin of Geneva. Morris was the superintendent of finance during the Revolutionary War, using every resource at his command to support the army in the field. Hamilton, as the first secretary of the Treasury, rescued the country from bankruptcy and designed its basic financial system. Gallatin paid down much of the national debt, engineered the financing of the Louisiana Purchase, and remains the longest-serving Treasury secretary ever.

Famous Immigrants include:

  • Alexander Hamilton, St. Croix, Founding Father of the United States
  • Robert Morris, England, Founding Father of the United States

The Young Republic 1800–1850

The financial innovations of immigrants continued through the 19th century. In 1808, Alexander Brown of Ireland founded the nation’s first investment bank, and his immigrant sons set up Brown Brothers. The Lehman brothers, from Germany, began as dry-goods merchants and cotton brokers in Alabama, moved to New York just before the Civil War, and eventually founded a bank. Many other immigrants, including Marcus Goldman of Goldman Sachs, followed similar paths, starting very small, traveling to new cities, and establishing banks. Meanwhile, “Yankee” firms like Kidder, Peabody & Co.—whose partners were native-born—remained less mobile, tied by family and high society to Boston and New York.

Famous immigrants include:

  • Albert Gallatin, Switzerland, congressman; senator; United States Ambassador; and longest-serving United States Secretary of the Treasury
  • Alexander Brown, Ireland, investment banking pioneer
  • Henry and Emanuel Lehman, Germany, Lehman Brothers
  • William Colgate, England, Colgate
  • William Procter, England, Procter & Gamble
  • James Gamble, Ireland, Procter & Gamble
  • Charles Pfizer, Germany, Pfizer
  • John J. Audubon, Haiti, gained fame as an ornithologist and painter of birds

Industrial Revolution 1850–1900

The rise of corporations, heavy industry, and mechanized farming transformed the American people. Massive immigration after 1870 and new social patterns, conflicts, and ideas of national unity developed amid growing cultural diversity. The rise of the American labor movement and political issues reflected social and economic changes.

The late 19th century saw the concept of laissez-faire reach full effect. This was the idea that governments would not interfere in dealings of the economy. People were encouraged to follow a "free market" economy, and this still exists today. Entrepreneurs still try to run their business without too much interference from the government. Additionally, banks were made separate from Europe. Immigrant innovators were pioneers in many other industries after the Civil War. Three examples were Andrew Carnegie (Scotland, steel), Joseph Pulitzer (Hungary, newspapers), and David Sarnoff (Russia, electronics). Each came to America young, poor, and full of energy.

Carnegie’s mother brought the family to Pittsburgh in 1848, when Andrew was 12. He became a bobbin-boy in a textile mill, a telegram messenger, a telegraph-key operator, a low-level manager at the Pennsylvania Railroad, a division superintendent for the same railroad, and a bond salesman for the railroad in Europe. Recognizing the limitless market for the rails that carried trains, Carnegie jumped to steel. His most important innovation was “hard driving” blast furnaces, wearing them out quickly. This violated the accepted practice of “coddling” furnaces, but he calculated that his vastly increased output cut the price of steel far more than replacing the furnaces cost his company. In turn, an immense quantity of cheap steel found its way into lucrative new uses: Structural steel for skyscrapers, sheet steel for automobiles.

Pulitzer was the home-tutored son of a prosperous Hungarian family that lost its fortune. He came to the United States in 1864 at age 17, recruited by a Massachusetts Civil War regiment. Penniless after the war ended, he went to St. Louis, a center for German immigrants, whose language he spoke fluently. He worked as a waiter, a railroad clerk, a lawyer, and a reporter for a local German newspaper, part of which he eventually purchased. In 1879, he acquired two English-language papers and merged them into The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

In 1883, he moved to New York, where he bought The New York World and began a fierce competition with other New York papers, mainly the Sun and, later, William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal. The New York World was pro-labor, pro-immigration, and, remarkably, both serious and sensationalist. It achieved a huge circulation.

Famous immigrants include:

  • Marcus Goldman, Germany, Goldman Sachs
  • Andrew Carnegie, Scotland, made millions of dollars in railroad, steel, and oil
  • Joseph Pulitzer, Hungary, newspapers
  • Nikola Tesla, Croatia, inventor
  • Alexander Graham Bell, Scotland, AT&T
  • George Eastman, Italy, Kodak

Production Era 1900-1930

Industrial capitalism, urbanization, and political corruption. The United States changed from the end of World War I to the eve of the Great Depression. Henry Ford gave birth to this era with his famous line of cars. Businesses were beginning to use scientific methods to determine how to handle various forms of production. This included using statistics and different specialists to determine how to utilize mass production. Businesses today constantly look for ways to make production more efficient, particularly in office and medical work.

Sarnoff was just 9 years old when he arrived from Russia in 1901. He earned money selling Yiddish newspapers on the street and singing at a synagogue, and then he worked as an office clerk, a messenger, and, like Carnegie, a telegraph operator. From there, he became part of the fledgling radio firm RCA and rose rapidly within its ranks. Sarnoff was among the first to see radio’s potential as “point-to-mass” entertainment, i.e., broadcasting. He devoted a huge percentage of profits to research and development, and he won an epic battle with CBS over industry standards for color TV. For decades, RCA and electronics were practically synonymous.

As these men show, one of the key traits of immigrant innovators is geographic mobility, both from the home country and within the United States. Consider the striking roster of 20th-century immigrants who led the development of fields like movies and information technology: Universal Studios (1912), Paramount Studios (1912), United Artists (1919), Warner Brothers (1923), and the Hollywood Studios MGM (1924).

Famous immigrants include:

  • David Sarnoff, Russia, electronics, RCA
  • Mark Dintenfass, Poland, Universal Studios founder
  • Carl Laemmle, Germany, Universal Studios founder
  • Patrick Anthony "Pat" Powers, Ireland, Universal Studios founder
  • David Horsley, England, Universal Studios founder
  • Samuel Goldwyn, Poland, Paramount Studios founder
  • Adolph Zukor, Hungary, Paramount Studios founder
  • Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, England, actor and United Artist founder
  • Mary Pickford, Canada, actress and United Artist founder
  • Samuel Louis "Sam" Warner, Poland, Warner Brothers founder
  • Aaron "Albert" Warner, Poland, Warner Brothers founder
  • Harry Morris Warner, Poland, Warner Brothers founder
  • Louis B. Mayer, Russia, MGM founder
  • Harry Houdini, Hungary, performer
  • John W. Nordstrom, Sweden, Nordstrom
  • James L. Kraft, Canada, Kraft Foods
  • Albert Butz, Switzerland, Honeywell
  • Theodore and Milton Deutschmann, England, RadioShack
  • Irving Berlin, Russia, composed "God Bless America" and "White Christmas"
  • Elizabeth Arden, Canadian, cosmetics company founder
  • Igor Stravinsky, Russia, composer

Great Depression & World War II 1930-1945

The Great Depression affected American society, and the New Deal addressed the Great Depression, transformed American federalism, and initiated the welfare state. World War II, the character of the war at home and abroad, reshaped the United States’s role in world affairs.

Famous immigrants include:

  • Albert Einstein, Germany, physicist, the "greatest scientist of the 20th century"
  • Willem deKooning, Netherlands, painter
  • Ayn Rand, Russian, author
  • Aldous Huxley, England, author
  • Carey Grant, England, actor

Marketing Era 1945-1980

This era caused businesses to use the tactic of aiming to satisfy the needs and wants of a customer. By doing that, they were able to create profit, and this is what primarily drives modern-day markets. Businesses use commercials, ads, and word-of-mouth techniques to get their products out there. Also, because of this era, businesses spend millions of dollars on advertisements today. The Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics.

Famous immigrants include:

  • Henry Alfred Kissinger, Germany, political scientist, diplomat
  • Liz Claiborne, Belgium, Liz Claiborne
  • Andy Grove, Hungary, Intel
  • Maxwell Kohl, Poland, Kohl’s
  • Daniel Aaron, Germany, Comcast
  • Oscar de la Renta, Dominican Republic fashion house magnate
  • I.M. Pei, China, architect of many famous buildings
  • Madeleine Albright, Czech Republic, served as Secretary of State under President Clinton
  • Santana, Mexico, songwriter
  • Audrey Hepburn, England, actress
  • John Lennon, England, songwriter

End of the Century 1980-2000

Famous immigrants include:

  • Pierre Omidyar, France, e-Bay
  • Max R. Levchin, Russia, PayPal
  • Ang Lee, Taiwan, director
  • Bruce Willis, Germany, actor
  • Christiane Amanpour, England, news correspondent
  • Jackie Chan, China, actor
  • Iman, Somalia, model
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austria, actor, governor

Information Revolution 2000-Present

While incorporating global trade was big step in the American economy, it is quite clear that this era has dramatically changed and improved the way that we do business. By using computers and the internet, even the smallest business can compete with much larger and more successful brand names. Additionally, advertising is used in various forms, whether on the television or that 15-second ad right before you watch a YouTube video. Everything is now out in the open for businesses of all sizes.

The roster of famous companies that immigrants started is long and distinguished, and it includes eBay, Google, PayPal, Sun Microsystems, YouTube, and Yahoo.

Famous immigrants include:

  • Jerry Yang, Taiwan, Yahoo
  • Sergey Brin, Russia, Google
  • Steve Chen, Taiwan, YouTube
  • Elon Musk, South Africa, PayPal/Tesla
  • Andy Bechtolsheim, Germany, Sun Microsystems
  • Vinod Khosla, India, Sun Microsystems


These talented entrepreneurs could have gone anywhere in the world; but they chose the United States for good reasons. The U.S. offers a relatively unregulated and open mass market as well as efficient capital markets, legal security of property, low income taxes, and abundant venture capital. These advantages lure many foreign entrepreneurs to our shores with the skills and industrial vision already in place that support their business plans.

Before coming to the U.S., they decide that this country would be the best place to set their plans in motion. In such cases, the United States contributes only the economic environment in which globe-hopping entrepreneurs decided to launch the venture they already envisioned at home. In other words, the American magnet picked the foreign entrepreneurs from their mother country’s population and drew them to this country. Here, at last, we have pure self-selection at work.

In 2010, the United States issued more than 118,000 H-1B visas, down almost 25 percent from the nearly 155,000 issued in 2007.

Contributions of Immigrants to the National Economy

The following findings suggest that contributions of immigrants to the U.S. economy are substantial. Immigrants, as noted, create more jobs than they themselves fill, and recent immigrants from abroad create as much employment growth as internal migrants from other areas of the United States

Another source of job creation is the entrepreneurial activities of immigrants themselves. In 1990, almost 1.3 million immigrants (7.2 percent) were self-employed, a rate marginally higher than natives (7.0 percent). Self-employment, as defined by the census, covers a wide range of possibilities—from a businessman or professional practitioner to a domestic worker, casual laborer, or someone who drives a cab. The evidence points to the self-employed as among the most economically successful of all immigrants.

Immigrants also contribute in other ways to the U.S. economy, for instance, by spurring technological innovation. Such contributions remain to be quantified

Tech Additions

  1. LawPay -
  2. Ins - Zoom, etc.


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