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Biddle, Nicholas (08 January 1786–27 February 1844), banker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Biddle, a successful merchant and the vice president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, and Hannah Shepard. A precocious young man, serious beyond his years, Biddle hardly had a boyhood at all, entering the University of Pennsylvania at ten. Although he was ready to graduate at thirteen, his family sent him for further study to the College of New Jersey at Princeton, from which he graduated in 1801, the valedictorian of his class. He returned to Philadelphia to study law with his elder brother William Biddle and the well-known jurist William Lewis....

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Bush, Prescott Sheldon (15 May 1895–08 October 1972), banker and U.S. senator, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of Samuel Prescott Bush, a manufacturer of railway equipment, and Flora Sheldon. Raised in comfortable circumstances, Bush attended Columbus public schools, St. George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, and Yale College, where he earned a B.A. in 1917. At Yale, he was a three-sport athlete (baseball, football, golf), president of the glee club, and a member of the prestigious secret society, Skull and Bones. The quintessential “big man on campus,” he seemed headed for a career in law and politics....

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Butler, Ellis Parker (05 December 1869–13 September 1937), author and humorist, was born in Muscatine, Iowa, the eldest of eight children of Audley Gazzam Butler, a pork packer, and Adela Vesey. At the age of seventeen he left Muscatine High School after one year for a job as a billing clerk and salesman at Muscatine Spice Mill to help support his family. He later held similar jobs at an oatmeal mill, a crockery shop, and, for his last years in Muscatine, a wholesale grocery store where his father, whose pork business had failed, was a bookkeeper....

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Butterfield, Daniel (31 October 1831–17 July 1901), soldier and businessman, was born in Utica, New York, the son of John Butterfield, a businessman, and Malinda Harriet Baker. From his father, president of the Overland Mail and partner in the American Express Company, Butterfield acquired an interest in organizing and administering business corporations. He attended private academies before graduating at eighteen from Union College. Following a brief attempt to study law, he traveled extensively in the South, where he foresaw sectional conflict. In 1857 he married Elizabeth (full name unknown); they had no children. She died in 1877....

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Carroll of Carrollton, Charles (19 September 1737–14 November 1832), planter, businessman, investor, and the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the last of the signers to die, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, a planter, and his common-law wife, Elizabeth Brooke. An only child, Carroll was sent at the age of ten to the Jesuit college of St. Omers, in French Flanders, where Maryland’s Catholic gentry sent their sons because the colony’s laws, which denied “papists” the right to vote, hold office, practice law, and worship publicly, also forbade them to maintain religious schools. Young Carroll studied abroad for sixteen years, ending with a thesis in philosophy at the college of Louis le Grand in Paris in 1757. After reading civil law in Bourges and Paris, he moved to London in September 1759 to pursue the common law at the Inns of Court. However, his antipathy for the discipline, which he regarded as “founded upon and still subsisting by villainy,” became so intense that he ultimately defied his father’s intention that he formally enter the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. Finding the paternal insistence on his acquiring the social graces more to his liking, he became adept at dancing, drawing, and fencing and mastered Italian, bookkeeping, and surveying, practical skills the elder Carroll deemed essential for success as a landowner and man of business....

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Clark, Georgia Neese (27 January 1898–26 October 1995), U.S. treasurer, was born Georgia Neese in Richland, Kansas, the daughter of Albert Neese, a farmer and businessman, and Ellen O'Sullivan Neese. Her father, a self-made man, had prospered in the years before her birth and become the town's leading citizen, owning much of its property as well as the bank and general store. Although a Presbyterian, Georgia Neese briefly attended a small Catholic college in nearby Topeka after graduating from high school in 1917, then transferred to Washburn University in that city. She majored in economics at Washburn and was also active on campus, serving as president of several student organizations, including the drama club. Determined to become an actress, she moved to New York City following graduation in 1921 and enrolled at Sargent's Dramatic School....

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Corcoran, William Wilson (27 December 1798–24 February 1888), banker, investor, and philanthropist, was born in Georgetown, District of Columbia, the son of Thomas Corcoran, an Irish-born merchant, real estate seller, and local politician, and Hannah Lemmon. Corcoran, who is usually referred to as “W. W.” rather than William, was educated in local Georgetown schools and spent one year at Georgetown College (now Georgetown University). In 1815 he left college to go into the business of operating a dry goods store with his two older brothers, James and Thomas, Jr. In 1817 Corcoran opened a branch store, and by 1820, the three brothers expanded their interests to include an auction and commission house. After the company went bankrupt in a financial panic in 1823, Corcoran worked until 1847 to pay off all their creditors in full, an act that demonstrated his views regarding honor....

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Davison, Henry Pomeroy (13 June 1867–06 May 1922), banker and chairman of the American National Red Cross War Council, was born in Troy, Pennsylvania, the son of George Bennett Davison, a merchant of farm implements, and Henrietta Bliss Pomeroy. Davison attended public school in Troy until 1882, when his grandmother provided money for him to attend Greylock Institute in Massachusetts. In the summers he worked as a schoolteacher, but once he completed his education he became a clerk in the Troy bank owned by his Pomeroy uncles....

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Dawes, Charles Gates (27 August 1865–23 April 1951), banker and vice president of the United States, was born in Marietta, Ohio, the son of General Rufus R. Dawes and Mary Beman Gates. His father served gallantly in the Civil War and later went into the lumber business and served one term in Congress. Dawes earned his B.A. (1884) and M.A. (1887) from Marietta College and his LL.B. (1886) from the Cincinnati Law School. In 1887 he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, to practice law. He was an earnest opponent of the entrenched railroad powers, spending hours in court fighting discriminatory rail rates. His initial investments in real estate paid off, however, and he gradually became more sympathetic to conservative business views. For the rest of his life he would promote and defend the contribution of business and businessmen to the increasing wealth of the United States. He married Caro Blymyer of Cincinnati in 1889, and they had two children. After their son drowned in 1912, the couple adopted two more children. Although conservative, Dawes was always willing to hear opposing viewpoints. In Lincoln, Dawes became lifelong friends with ...

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Dodge, Joseph Morrell (18 November 1890–02 December 1964), banker and government financial official, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Joseph Cheeseman Dodge, an artist, and Gertrude Hester Crow. After graduating from Central High School in Detroit in 1908, Dodge became a clerk for the Standard Accident Insurance Company. In 1909 he joined the Central Savings Bank, where he advanced from messenger to general bookkeeper. After brief employment as an accountant, Dodge spent five years beginning in 1911 as a bank and securities examiner for the state of Michigan. He then went to work for the Bank of Detroit as an operating officer in 1916. In that same year he married Julia Jane Jeffers, and they had one son....

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Gaston, A. G. (04 July 1892–19 January 1996), entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation, he worked at a variety of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the ...

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Jones, Jesse Holman (05 April 1874–01 June 1956), businessman, federal agency head, and cabinet member, was born in Robertson County, Tennessee, the son of William Hasque Jones and Anne Holman, farmers and merchants. Jones’s mother died when he was six. In 1883 the family moved to Dallas, Texas, where his father helped manage the expanding lumber business of his brother M. T. Jones. In 1886 the family returned to north central Tennessee, where his father purchased a 600-acre farm and resumed an active interest in the tobacco business. Despite the family’s modest wealth and comfortable home life, at age fourteen Jones left school and began grading, buying, and selling tobacco for his father and uncles. His father offered to send him to college, but Jones was anxious to make money. When his father died in 1894, Jones became the Dallas branch manager for M. T. Jones Lumber Company. When M. T. Jones died in 1898, Jones moved to Houston to become general manager of the company and an executor of the $1 million estate....

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Kahn, Otto Herman (21 February 1867–29 March 1934), investment banker and patron of the fine arts, was born in Mannheim, Germany, the son of Bernhard Kahn, a banker, and Emma Eberstadt. Reared in a home with a rich cultural atmosphere and with valuable works of art, Otto was privately tutored and displayed a keen interest in music. He became familiar with banking and in 1883 began to work in a small bank in Karlsruhe....

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Lamont, Thomas William (30 September 1870–02 February 1948), banker and financier, was born in Claverack, New York, the son of Thomas Lamont, a Methodist minister, and Caroline Deuel Jayne. Young Lamont grew up in several small Hudson Valley towns in upstate New York, as his father was posted to a new church every two or three years. The family was not poor, but Lamont’s upbringing, described in his ...

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Lehman, Herbert Henry (28 March 1878–05 December 1963), investment banker and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Mayer Lehman and Babette Newgass, German immigrants. Lehman was reared in the prosperous surroundings of German-Jewish society in midtown Manhattan. His father was a founding partner of Lehman Brothers, a cotton-trading company that developed into a leading investment banking firm....

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Meyer, Eugene Isaac (31 October 1875–17 July 1959), investment banker, government official, and newspaper publisher, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Marc Eugene Meyer, a retail merchant, and Harriet Newmark. After growing up in San Francisco, Meyer attended the University of California for one year in 1892. He was a mediocre student who spent much of his time drinking and gambling. After his freshman year, his family moved to New York City and he transferred to Yale. By working much harder academically at Yale, Meyer earned excellent grades and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After skipping his junior year, he graduated with an A.B. with honors in 1895, ranking nineteenth in a class of 250. Meyer then spent two years in Europe learning French and German and gaining work experience in banking and international finance. On returning to the United States, Meyer was employed by the international banking firm of Lazard Frères, where his father was a partner. However, because his duties there were menial compared with the work he had been doing in Europe, Meyer left the firm in 1901, much against his father’s wishes, to open his own investment firm....

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Morgan, John Pierpont, Jr. (07 September 1867–13 March 1943), investment banker, was born in Irvington, New York, the son of John Pierpont (J. P.) Morgan, an investment banker, and Frances Louisa Tracy. Jack, so called by his family and associates to distinguish him from his illustrious father, graduated from Harvard in 1889. In 1890 he married Jane Norton Grew, daughter of Henry Sturgis Grew, a member of a powerful New England merchant and manufacturing family. They had four children....

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Morgan, John Pierpont (17 April 1837–31 March 1913), investment banker, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Junius Morgan, a merchant banker, and Juliet Pierpont, daughter of a Unitarian minister. J. P. Morgan was educated at the Hopkins Grammar School in Hartford, the Hartford Public High School, and finally Boston’s English High School, from which he graduated in 1854. He then attended the Institution Sillig at Vevey in Switzerland and spent two years at Germany’s Göttingen University....

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Morrow, Dwight Whitney (11 January 1873–05 October 1931), investment banker, diplomat, and senator, was born in Huntington, West Virginia, the son of James Elmore Morrow, a mathematics teacher and school principal, and Clara Johnson. Dwight Morrow grew up in a close-knit and intellectually active family, which possessed all the virtues of “right-minded” Presbyterianism, yet was perennially short of money. He was a frail and sickly child who compensated for his diminutive size through precocity of intelligence and tenacity....

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Peabody, George (18 February 1795–04 November 1869), merchant, investment banker, and philanthropist, was born in South Danvers (now Peabody), Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Peabody, a leather worker and a farmer, and Judith Dodge. His parents, though not wealthy, managed to provide their son with a basic education. As a boy George came to know the value of work. At age eleven he worked in Sylvester Proctor’s grocery in Danvers, and for a short time in 1811 he served as a clerk in the dry-goods store of his brother David....