Even before Alexander Hamilton founded the Bank of New York in 1784, America’s economy was being shaped by immigrants’ ideas, innovations and money.
As a nation largely comprised of immigrants, the United States prospered because its leaders were able to create an amalgamation of competing ideas among people who shared the ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence, even if their politics and backgrounds varied greatly.
One example was Hamilton, a financial wizard and immigrant from the Caribbean who argued and fought for his monetary system with Albert Gallatin, a Swiss immigrant who was the U.S. secretary of the Treasury from 1801 to 1814. That is, Hamilton was a champion of a more centralized banking system until July 11, 1804, the day he was shot by his longtime political foe and the sitting vice president, Aaron Burr, in a duel. Hamilton died the next day.
But Hamilton’s vision didn’t die. His methods, his ideas and his bank would continue to be a part of the economy of New York and the country.
His contributions were among the many provided by immigrant businessmen and immigrant workers who helped shape the nation.
The railroads that crisscross the country were built in large part by immigrants, often from Ireland, China and – in the Midwest and Plains – from Mexico.
German and Russian-German farmers introduced new kinds of wheat that helped build the economy of Kansas.
Immigrants’ influence was felt in science, industry, academia and politics – the examples are endless. And immigrants – and their sons, daughters and grandchildren – continue to add to and strengthen the economy. Here are the stories of five such people who now call Wichita home.