Meyer Guggenheim was born in Langnau, Switzerland in 1828. He emigrated to the United States and settled in Philadelphia with his new wife. He started his own company to manufacture stove polish but later became an importer of Swiss needlework.
In 1888 Guggenheim began investing in mines. With his seven sons he formed the Philadelphia Smelting and Refining Company. Guggenheim became the dominant force in the industry when he gained control of American Smelting in 1901. Meyer Guggenheim died in 1905.