William Rittenhouse

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William Rittenhouse (1644 – 18 February 1708) is the first person recorded as having made paper in North America.

Early life[edit]

External video
Rittenhouse homestead.jpg
William Rittenhouse, Paper Industry International Hall of Fame, 1996, 2:23

He was born in a small village in the Ruhr region of Germany with the name Wilhelm Rettinghaus or Rittinghaus.[1] During his stay in the Netherlands he changed his name to "Willm Rittenhuysen"; this name was also found on a petition for naturalization of residents of Germantown, Pennsylvania dated 7 May 1691.

As a young man, Rittenhouse was a papermaking apprentice in Germany; he learned the Dutch ways of papermaking while living with his brother in the Netherlands before emigrating to the Pennsylvania Colony in 1688. Two years later he founded the first paper mill to be established in the colonies; this Rittenhouse Mill became the family business for the next century.

Rittenhouse was naturalized as a citizen of Pennsylvania (and therefore England) in 1691.[1]


Around 1690 the Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mennonite congregation elected William Rittenhouse as its first preacher, he died in Pennsylvania in 1708. His legacy continued to his descendant David Rittenhouse, who had the Rittenhouse name immortalized in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[2]


  1. ^ a b Erben, Patrick. "William Rittenhouse." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 1, edited by Marianne S. Wokeck. German Historical Institute. Last modified July 24, 2014.
  2. ^ "Rittenhouse Square". visitphilly.com. Visit Philadelphia™. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  • "William Rittenhouse." Historic Germantown. Independence Hall Association. 12 Dec 2007 [1] [2]
  • Bender, Harold S.; "The Founding of the Mennonite Church in America at Germantown, 1683-1708;" Mennonite Quarterly Review; Vol. 7; pp. 227–250.
  • White, Jean M. "The Descendants of Paulus and Gertrude Kusters of Kaldenkirchen, Germany and Germantown, Pennsylvania the first four generations"; The Caster Association of America; 1991
  • Erich Kuß: Rittinghaus. Europäische Wurzeln des ersten amerikanischen Papiermachers. München, 2012.[3]

External links[edit]