Commerce and Industry

The Site of the Home and Printing Plant of Christopher Saur (Sower)
5253 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia

“On this spot, was printed, by the elder Sower, the first American book in German type, a book of hymns; here he began to issue the first German newspaper in America; and, forty years before an English Bible was printed in the colonies, here also in 1743, he issued the first Bible in an European language printed in America” (German). (Francis Burke Brandt and Henry Volkmar Gummere, Byways and Boulevards in and about Historic Philadelphia, Philadelphia: Corn Exchange National Bank, 1925: 44)

John Wanamaker
Statue East of City Hall, Philadelphia

John Wanamaker (1838-1922), “born in Philadelphia in a humble brickmaker’s home of devout parents of French and German descent”, was “founder of the well-known (John Wanaker’s) department store, pioneer in the merchantile business, advertising genius, educator, writer/publisher, speech-maker, public servant, church builder and humanitarian. Wanamaker was the most eminent citizen of Philadelphia in 1900.” In 1889, he joined President Benjamin Harrison’s cabinet as Postmaster General of the United States. ( William Allen Zulker, “John Wanamaker led an extraordinary life”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/28/95: D2)

“Nearly 16 years after he opened a men’s store on Sixth and Market Streets, Wanamaker invented what he called a ‘New Kind of Store’, the department store –an idea so novel that 71,106 shoppers came to visit it on its opening day, March 12, 1877.” (Jane M. Von Bergen, “A marketing pioneer gives way to the new”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/28/95: D3) John Wanamaker’s closed its doors on August 28, 1995.


“August Gaul’s colossal Eagle in the John Wanamaker department store (now Lord & Taylor’s – 13th and Chestnut Streets, Philadelphia) is considered community landmark by most Philadelphians, an image of civic pride amidst a symbol of commercial enterprise. Part of Germany’s contribution to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (in St. Louis), it was acquired by the civic-minded Wanamaker. Generations of local residents have arranged to ‘meet at the eagle’ after a day of shopping and visiting center city.” (Penny Balkin Bach, Public Art in Philadelphia, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992, 24)

Merck and Company
Sumneytown Pike, West Point, Pennsylvania

“Merck & Co., Inc., an enterprise in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 today, began a century ago as small branch of a European fine chemical firm, E. Merck. In this, as in many other ways, America has always been an amalgam of people, ideas, and resources from around the world. Europe provided this commercial outpost of E. Merck with its initial vision, its leadership, its capital, and its base of scientific knowledge. All of these came from Germany where E. Merck, an established Darmstadt company, traced its origins back to the seventeenth century. By the late nineteenth century, the Darmstadt business was exporting many of its four thousand products to the United States where the pharmaceutical industry being served by E. Merck was relatively backward.

Germany at this time led the world in generating new chemical knowledge and synthetic organic products. American scholars who wanted to understand the most advanced scientific techniques routinely went to Germany to study. Many of them returned to the United States with knowledge that seeded entrepreneurial ventures in the domestic chemical industry. It was in this context that E. Merck reorganized its tiny sales office in the United States as a separate firm”, under the leadership of George Merck in 1891. “Shortly after he became a U.S. citizen in 1902, he (George Merck) started manufacturing his own fine chemicals at Rahway, N.J. and St. Louis. Merck & Co., an offspring of Germany, was soon manufacturing more than it imported.”

“In 1917, when the United States entered the First World War, the German phase of the Merck company’s history abruptly ended. To the distress of many immigrants, The German Empire was not the enemy. George Merck had no choice but to break formal ties with his family and E. Merck after the U.S. government seized the Merck & Co. stock owned by the Darmstadt firm. Fortunately, George had positioned his business so that it could weather this crisis. With the help from New York investors, he was able to purchase from the U.S. government the stock formerly owned by E. Merck.” (Merck Sharp & Dohme: A Brief History, 1992: 1, 2, 4)

Today, “Merck & Co., Inc. is an international research-intensive health products company focusing on the discovery, development, marketing and manufacturing of important human and animal health products.” (The Merck Story – Serving Society, November 1994: 1).

Rohm and Haas Company
6th and Market Streets, Philadelphia

“It all started back in 1904 when Otto Rohm noticed a foul odor emanating from a nearby tannery in Stuttgart, Germany. Since the beginning of time, leather manufacturers had used fermented dog dung to bate, or soften, leather during the tanning process. However, because of the bate’s unpredictability and negative olfactory feedback (it smelled read bad), the leather industry beckoned for a better bate. Rohm, a chemist, set out to find it.” (Steve Ozer, “Man’s Second Best Friend”, Newsletter for Neighbors of Rohm and Haas Research Laboratories, vol. 2, no. 4, Fall 1996, 3)

In 1907, Dr. Otto Röhm and his partner, Mr. Otto Haas, a businessman, founded the Röhm & Haas Company in Esslingen, Germany manufacturing Oropon, a compound used by tanneries. In the summer of 1909 Dr. Röhm moved the growing business to a larger factory in Darmstadt and on September 1, 1909, the American branch of Röhm and Haas Company opened for business in rented quarters at 202 North Second Street, Philadelphia. It was incorporated in Delaware on April 24, 1917. (Sheldon Hochheiser, Rohm and Haas Company: History of a Chemical Company, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986: 6, 10, 22) “Today, Rohm and Haas Company is a manufacturer of specialty chemicals and plasticsthat find their way into thousands of uses around the world. Rohm and Haas’ “products are sold primarily to industrial companies that use them to make finished consumer goods.” (Products and Locations – Rohm and Haas, January 1995)