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Edward W. Bok. In the background are, from left to right, Senators George H. Moses, James Reed, and T. H. Caraway. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103937).

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Bok, Edward William (09 October 1863–09 January 1930), editor, philanthropist, and peace advocate, was born in den Helder, Holland, the son of William John Hidde Bok and Sieke Gertrude van Herwerden, who, having lost their inherited fortune through unwise investments, immigrated to the United States in 1870. They settled in Brooklyn, where Bok and his older brother learned English in public school. With his father at first unable to find steady employment, Bok delivered newspapers, worked in a bakery, and wrote up childrens’ parties for the ...

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Childs, George William (12 May 1829–03 February 1894), publisher, biographer, and philanthropist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. The names of his parents are not known. In Recollections (1890), his autobiography, Childs shrouds his family origins in mystery, making no reference to his parents or early childhood, beginning instead with an explanation of how he had had from a young age “a rather remarkable aptitude for business.” At twelve he worked a summer job as an errand boy in a Baltimore bookstore for two dollars a week. He reflects in ...

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Copley, Ira Clifton (25 October 1864–02 November 1947), newspaper publisher, congressman, public utilities executive, and philanthropist, was born in Copley Township, Knox County, Illinois, the son of Ira Birdsall Copley and Ellen Madeline Whiting, farmers. When Copley was two he was struck with scarlet fever, which left him blind. When he was three, the family moved to Aurora, Illinois, where he received treatment for his eyes. Even with the care of an eye specialist, his complete blindness lasted five years. With the move to Aurora, his father and his mother’s brother assumed ownership of the Aurora Illinois Gas Light Company, the beginning of a large utility company that Ira would one day manage....

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Elwyn, Alfred Langdon (09 July 1804–15 March 1884), philanthropist and author, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of Thomas Elwyn and Elizabeth Langdon, occupations unknown. His maternal grandfather, John Langdon, was the first continental governor of New Hampshire and presiding officer of the first U.S. Senate. Reared amid affluence and the socially prominent, Alfred graduated from Harvard as Langdon Elwyn in 1823. He then attended lectures by Dr. Gorham in Boston and other noted physicians in Europe (1826–1829), returning for formal medical study at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received his degree in medicine in 1831. In 1832 he married Mary Middleton Mease. They had two children....

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Marshall Field III In military uniform during World War I. Photograph by Arnold Genthe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93592).

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Field, Marshall, III (28 September 1893–08 November 1956), investor, newspaper publisher, and philanthropist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Marshall Field II and Albertine Huck. Being the grandson of the first Marshall Field, the Chicago multimillionaire merchant and real-estate developer, meant that Field would be heir to fabulous wealth—all the sooner when his father, unhappy and passive in his active father’s shadow, committed suicide in 1905 and then when his beloved grandfather died of pneumonia two months later. Field’s mother, who had lived in England with her husband and their children and who disliked Chicago, returned to England. The grandfather’s will provided well for Albertine and gave Field and his younger brother a $75 million trust together. Field attended Eton (1907–1912) and then Trinity College, Cambridge (1912–1914), studying mostly history and vacationing with the horsy set. He returned to the United States in 1914 and married Evelyn Marshall the following year; the couple had three children, including Marshall Field IV. He also studied high finance and played polo. In April 1917 he volunteered as a private, despite his earlier rheumatic fever, in the First Illinois Cavalry (quickly converted to artillery service). He was soon commissioned and promoted, saw action in France as a captain with the Thirty-third Division, and was decorated for gallantry at Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne....

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Guggenheim, Harry Frank (23 August 1890–22 January 1971), philanthropist, aviation pioneer, and newspaper executive, was born in West End, New Jersey, the son of Daniel Guggenheim and Florence Shloss. His family, refugees from the anti-Semitism of Switzerland, amassed a mining and smelting fortune and established a group of philanthropic foundations in which he played a major role....

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Hecht, George Joseph (01 November 1895–23 April 1980), publisher and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the son of Meyer Hecht and Gella Stern. He attended the Ethical Culture School from 1902 until he graduated in 1913, when he entered Cornell University. Hecht’s early schooling along with his parents’ interest in social welfare helped him develop his lifelong interest in helping others. It was at Cornell that he discovered his talent for publishing. He helped change the ...

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Sewall, Samuel (28 March 1652–01 January 1730), colonial merchant, judge, and philanthropist, was born at Bishop Stoke, Hampshire, England, the son of Henry Sewall, a pastor, and Jane Dummer. Sewall’s father had immigrated to Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1634, and although he was admitted to freemanship in 1637, he returned to England in 1646 and subsequently took the pulpit of North Baddesley. The family returned to Massachusetts in 1659....

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Wallace, DeWitt (12 November 1889–30 March 1981), editor and publisher, was born William Roy (or Roy William) DeWitt Wallace in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of James T. Wallace, an educator, and Janet Davis. DeWitt’s high marks enabled him to skip two grades in elementary school, but his academic achievements after that were spotty. In high school, he was better known for pranks and athletic skills. Wallace enrolled at Macalester College, a Presbyterian institution where his father was president. After his sophomore year he took a job at a bank in Colorado. In his spare time, he read widely in current publications and formed a habit of making notes on articles he found most appealing and on his own ideas. He then returned to school at the University of California, Berkeley. During a visit to Tacoma, Washington, a friend introduced him to Canadian-born Lila Bell Acheson, who later became his wife and business partner....