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Barnes, Julius Howland (02 February 1873–17 April 1959), industrialist and government official, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Lucien Jerome Barnes, a banker, and Julia Hill. Moving with his family, he attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Duluth, Minnesota. Following his father’s death in 1886, Barnes left school to take a job as office boy with the Duluth grain brokerage firm of Wardell Ames. There he rose rapidly, becoming president of the company in 1910 and subsequently reorganizing it as the Barnes-Ames Company. By 1915 Barnes-Ames was the world’s largest grain exporter, and Barnes acquired other business interests, principally in shipbuilding and Great Lakes shipping. In 1896 he married Harriet Carey, with whom he had two children....

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Carson, Kit (24 December 1809–23 May 1868), mountain man, army officer, and Indian agent, was born Christopher Houston Carson in Madison County, Kentucky, the son of Lindsey Carson, a farmer and revolutionary war veteran, and Rebecca Robinson. In 1811 Lindsey Carson moved his family to Howard County, Missouri, to find “elbow room.” He died in 1818, hit by a falling limb while clearing timber from his land. Christopher enjoyed no schooling and never learned to read or write, other than signing his name to documents. In 1825 his mother and stepfather apprenticed him to David Workman, a Franklin, Missouri, saddler whom Kit described as a kind and good man. Nevertheless, he ran away because he found saddlemaking tedious and distasteful work and yearned to travel. Following in the footsteps of a brother and a half-brother who were in the Santa Fe trade, Carson joined a caravan as a “cavvy boy” (an assistant to the wrangler in charge of the horse and mule herd). Though not unsympathetic, Workman was obliged by law to advertise for his runaway. But he misleadingly suggested to readers of the ...

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Gaspare J. Saladino

Clymer, George (16 March 1739–23 January 1813), merchant, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Christopher Clymer, a sea captain and an Episcopalian, and Deborah Fitzwater, a disowned Quaker. Clymer’s parents died by 1746, and he was raised by his maternal aunt Hannah Coleman and her husband William, a wealthy Quaker merchant and Proprietary party leader. The Proprietary party was aligned with the Penn family (proprietors of Pennsylvania) against the Quaker party, which sought to turn Pennsylvania into a royal colony. By the late 1750s Clymer himself had become a merchant. In 1765 Clymer, an Episcopalian, married Elizabeth Meredith, the daughter of the Quaker merchant Reese Meredith; like Clymer’s mother, she was disowned for marrying a non-Quaker. Five of their eight children attained maturity. Following his uncle William Coleman’s death in 1769, Clymer inherited £6,000. Three years later Clymer entered into partnership with his father-in-law and his brother-in-law ...

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Collins, Edward Knight (05 August 1802–22 January 1878), merchant and shipping operator, was born in Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the son of Israel Gross Collins, a sea captain, merchant trader, and ship owner, and Mary Ann Knight, an Englishwoman who died soon after Edward’s birth. After his mother’s death, his father moved to New York City, leaving Edward to be raised by the Collins family. Edward’s uncle (and later business associate), John Collins, was an important influence....

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Grinnell, Henry (13 February 1799–30 June 1874), merchant and patron of exploration, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the son of Cornelius Grinnell, a sea captain, and Sylvia Howland. The seaport of New Bedford was a center of the New England whaling industry, and young Henry took an early interest in the sea. After graduating from New Bedford Academy, Grinnell became a clerk at a shipping company, H. D. and E. B. Sewell, in New York City, and over the next seven years learned the shipping business. In 1814 his older brother, Joseph, had become a partner in another New York shipping firm, Fish & Grinnell. In 1825, after the retirement of Joseph Grinnell’s partner, Preserved Fish, the three Grinnell brothers—Henry, Joseph, and Moses Hicks—joined together to continue the firm under the name Fish, Grinnell & Company....

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Gwinnett, Button (bap. 10 April 1735), merchant and political leader, was born in Gloucester, England, the son of the Reverend Samuel Gwinnett and Anne Emes. Gwinnett left England as a young man and for a number of years after arriving in America was a merchant in the colonial trade. In April 1757 he married Ann Bourne, with whom he had three children. His business activities took him from Newfoundland to Jamaica, and at times brought him into conflict with other merchants and with legal authorities. Never very successful, he moved to Savannah in 1765 and opened a store. When that venture failed, he bought (on credit) St. Catherines Island, off the coast of Georgia to the south of Savannah, and attempted to become a planter. Though his planting activities were also unsuccessful, he did make a name for himself in local politics....

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Hancock, John (12 January 1737–08 October 1793), merchant and politician, was born in Braintree (present-day Quincy), Massachusetts, the son of John Hancock, a Harvard graduate and minister, and Mary Hawke. In 1744 Hancock’s father died, forcing Hancock’s mother to move with her three children to Lexington to live with her father-in-law, John Hancock. In 1745 young John was sent to live with his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Lydia Hancock, in Boston. ...

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Heco, Joseph (1837–1897), government interpreter, merchant, and publisher, was born Hamada Hikozō in the village of Komiya, near Kobe, Japan, on the eastern shore of the Inland Sea, the second son of a well-to-do farmer. After his father’s death his mother remarried, to a sea captain who adopted him. While on what should have been a brief internal voyage in late 1850, his ship was blown into the Pacific. He and sixteen other persons, after drifting for fifty-two days, were picked up by a U.S. ship that landed at San Francisco in February 1851. The American authorities, planning for Commodore ...

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Hooper, Samuel (03 February 1808–14 February 1875), merchant and legislator, was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, the son of John Hooper and Eunice Hooper. Through both his mother and his father, Samuel was descended from the early and influential settlers of Marblehead, and he carried on the family tradition in trade and shipping. As a boy he learned the business firsthand, sailing on his father’s ships to Europe, Russia, and the West Indies. In the counting room of the Marblehead Bank, of which his father was president, Hooper received his first lessons in finance. Although the family lived in a mansion, called the “Hooper House,” Hooper attended Marblehead common schools....

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Jones, George Wallace (12 April 1804–22 July 1896), miner, merchant, and political leader, was born in Vincennes, Indiana Territory, the son of John Rice Jones, a lawyer and jurist, and Mary Barger. After studying at the Catholic College in St. Louis, Jones, armed with letters of introduction, entered Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He met a host of then and future political leaders and “formed a warm friendship” with ...

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Laurens, Henry (24 February 1724–08 December 1792), planter-merchant and revolutionary war statesman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of John Laurens, a saddler, and Esther Grasset. The Laurens family had fled La Rochelle, France, as Huguenot refugees in 1682. After stops in London, Ireland, and New York, they settled in Charleston about 1715. Laurens received in his own words “the best education” that the provincial community could offer. In 1744 he sailed for London to serve a three-year clerkship in James Crokatt’s counting house. Laurens married Eleanor Ball in 1750. They had twelve children, but only four survived childhood. ...

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MacVeagh, Franklin (22 November 1837–06 July 1934), merchant and secretary of the treasury, was born near Phoenixville, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of John MacVeagh, a farmer and local politician, and Margaret Lincoln, a distant cousin of Abraham Lincoln. He was educated by private tutors, attended Freeland Seminary (now Ursinus College), and graduated from Yale College in 1862. He received an LL.B. from Columbia University in 1864, read law briefly in the office of Judge John Worth Edmonds in New York City, and was admitted to the bar. In 1865 he entered practice in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his brother, ...

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McHenry, James (16 November 1753–03 May 1816), physician and merchant, was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Ireland (present-day Northern Ireland), the son of Daniel McHenry, a merchant, and Agnes (maiden name unknown), both Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. James McHenry emigrated to America in 1771 and lived in Philadelphia with Captain William Allison, a sugar baker. In 1772 McHenry attended or was a tutor at the Newark Academy in Delaware, an institution incorporated by “Old Light” Presbyterians that had an English school offering “Merchants Accounts,” navigation, and surveying. After the academy, McHenry studied medicine privately in Philadelphia with the prominent physician ...

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Mott, James (29 June 1788–26 January 1868), merchant and reformer, was born at Cowneck (later North Hempstead), New York, the son of Adam Mott, a farmer and miller, and Anne Mott (Mott was both her maiden and her married name). Both parents were descended from a seventeenth-century Quaker emigrant from England, and Mott was brought up in a close-knit community of Long Island Friends. He received his education at a Friends’ boarding school at Nine Partners in New York’s Dutchess County. He excelled at Nine Partners and, after ten years, was appointed an assistant teacher and then a teacher. At the school he met Lucretia Coffin ( ...

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Niebaum, Gustave Ferdinand (30 August 1842–05 August 1908), fur trader and wine maker, was born Gustav or Gustave Nybom in Helsingfors (now Helsinki), the son of a police official of Swedish and Baltic-German stock; his parents' names do not appear in currently accessible records. Finland at the time was a semiautonomous grand duchy of Russia. Niebaum became a sailor, but not just an ordinary seaman. Intelligent and a graduate of a gymnasium, Europe's equivalent of an American high school, he enrolled in Helsinki's Nautical Institute. Graduating at nineteen, he soon secured his master's papers and was in command of his own ship by 1864, in the service of the Russian American Company, sailing to Alaska....

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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....

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Sherman, Roger (19 April 1721–23 July 1793), merchant and revolutionary leader, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of William Sherman and Mehetabel Wellington, farmers. He moved with his family two years later to the part of Dorchester that became Stoughton and is now the town of Canton, Massachusetts. He grew up on his father’s farm and attended district schools, an apt student with a particular interest in arithmetic. William Sherman was somewhat downwardly mobile and had reduced his farm from 270 acres to 73 acres by the time of his death in 1741....

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Vespucci, Amerigo ( March 1454–22 February 1512), merchant and explorer after whom America is named, was born in Florence, Italy, the son of Nastagio Vespucci, a notary, and Lisa Mini. The date 9 March is often cited as his birth date as a result of confusion with an Amerigo Vespucci, born on 9 March 1451 and otherwise unrecorded, who can be presumed to have died in infancy. The explorer Vespucci’s family was wealthy and well connected. He was educated by his uncle Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, confessing, in a letter of 1476, the imperfection of the Latin he acquired. From 1478 to 1480 he accompanied his uncle Guido Antonio Vespucci on an embassy to Paris. From 1484, an extensive series of letters shows him at intervals in various Tuscan ports, probably engaged in family business. By 1488 he was in the employ of Lorenzo di Pier Francesco dei Medici, with whose family he established a relationship of confidence....

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Williams, Jonathan (26 May 1750–16 May 1815), merchant, lay scientist, and first superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Jonathan Williams, a successful merchant, and Grace Harris. His father provided him with the finest education then available. Following several terms at Harvard College, Williams ventured to London in 1770 to conduct family business and finish studying under the aegis of his great-uncle ...