Historic Germantown: Philadelphia, PA

William Rittenhouse

Paper maker and minister

William Rittenhouse was born in what is now Germany, near the Dutch border. His name was then Wilhelm Rittenhausen, later changed in America. He apprenticed in a paper mill in the German city of Mulheim-Ruhr-Broich. Later he moved to Holland to stay with his older brother. Here he learned the Dutch methods of fine paper making.

William emmigrated to Pennsylvania in 1688 with his son Nicholas. In 1690 he started the first paper mill in America. It became the major paper manufacturing mill in America for over one hundred years and was carried on by later generations of Rittenhouses.

William was one of the first German settlers in America, arriving five years after the first Germans arrived. He was a religious man and became the first minister at the Germantown Mennonite Meetinghouse. He held this position until his death in 1708.

1. "Rittenhouse Town in Philadelphia." Historic Rittenhouse Town Inc. pamphlet. Fairmount Park Commission.