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Austell, Alfred (14 January 1814–07 December 1881), businessman and financier, was born in Dandridge, Tennessee, the son of William Austell and Jane Wilkins, farmers. Austell was reared in the East Tennessee foothills and received little formal education. At the age of seventeen he left Tennessee to join his older brother William’s cotton business in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The business was heavily encumbered by debts, but Austell and his brother were able to turn it into a success and pay off their $20,000 liability in just three years....

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Brice, Calvin Stewart (17 September 1845–15 December 1898), U.S. senator, railroad builder, and financier, was born in Denmark, Ohio, the son of William Kilpatrick Brice, a Presbyterian minister, and Elizabeth Stewart. He received his earliest education at home and in the public schools of Columbus Grove, Putnam County, where his family moved after his third birthday. When Brice turned thirteen years old, his parents placed him in the preparatory program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where because of his father’s limited means he had to work his way through school. He required only one year of preparatory work before being granted admission as a freshman....

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Butterfield, John (18 November 1801–14 November 1869), western pioneer, express company operator, and investor, was born in Berne, near Albany, New York, the son of Daniel Butterfield (his mother’s name is unknown). His formal education consisted of intermittent attendance at local public schools. As a young man he became a stagecoach driver in New York State and later an investor in barges plying the Erie Canal....

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Corbin, Austin (11 July 1827–04 June 1896), financier, real estate developer, and railroad executive, was born in Newport, New Hampshire, the son of Austin Corbin, a farmer and politician, and Mary Chase. Corbin had little formal education. He attended the common schools in Newport and taught there briefly as a young man. He read law under two New England attorneys and then enrolled in Harvard Law School, graduating in 1849. Corbin was not an active member of the bar for very long. For two years he practiced law in Newport with Ralph Metcalf. In 1851 he moved to Davenport, Iowa, and continued as an attorney for three more years. In 1853 he married Hannah Maria Wheeler of Newport; they had four children....

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Cord, Errett Lobban (20 July 1894–02 January 1974), automaker and financier, was born in Warrensburg, Missouri, the son of Charles W. Cord, a storekeeper, and Ida Lobban. Throughout his life Cord was known simply by his initials, “E. L.” In the early 1900s his family moved to Los Angeles, where Cord attended high school but left before finishing his final year. As a teenager he showed a passion for automobiles, rebuilding old cars and racing them on dirt tracks in California and Oregon. Cord operated a garage and a trucking firm in California, the latter in Death Valley. He also established the short-lived Cord Auto Washing Company, worked as a truck driver, and sold and raced cars in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1914 Cord married Helen Marie Frische of Cincinnati. They had two sons....

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Crown, Henry (13 June 1896–14 August 1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born Henry Krinsky in Chicago, the son of Arie Krinsky, a Lithuanian immigrant garment worker, and his wife Ida Gordon. At some point they changed their name to Crown. To help his poor family, Crown took a job at age fourteen as clerk at the Chicago Firebrick Company. In 1912 he began work at the Union Drop Forge Company, while taking night courses in accounting. In 1915 he and his two older brothers, Sol and Irving, formed a small steel-brokerage company, S. A. Crown and Company, and Crown quickly established a local reputation as an aggressive and reliable deal maker with a discerning eye for opportunity, a striking power of recall, and an acute sense of timing....

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Dillingham, Benjamin Franklin (04 September 1844–20 August 1918), businessman, was born in West Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Clark Dillingham, a shipmaster, and Lydia Sears Howes. Dillingham was educated in the public schools of Southboro and Worcester, Massachusetts. He left school at age fourteen to become a seaman on the merchant ship ...

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Dillon, Sidney (07 May 1812–09 June 1892), railroad constructor and financier, was born in Northampton, Montgomery County, New York, the son of Timothy Dillon, a farmer who had fought in the revolutionary war. His mother’s name is unknown. He grew up in humble circumstances and at the age of seven accepted work as a water boy on the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad from Albany to Schenectady, New York. He carried water to the laborers who were employed on the grating and received one dollar per week for his efforts....

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Fish, Stuyvesant (24 June 1851–10 April 1923), railroad executive and banker, was born in New York City, the son of Hamilton Fish and Julia Kean. He was a direct descendant of Peter Stuyvesant, and his father had been a New York congressman, governor, and later a U.S. senator and secretary of state in the cabinet of ...

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Forbes, John Murray (23 February 1813–12 October 1898), merchant, capitalist, and railroad developer, was born in Bordeaux, France, and raised in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Ralph Bennet Forbes, a merchant, and Margaret Perkins. Through the generosity of his elder brother, Thomas Tunno Forbes, young John enjoyed five years of schooling at the experimental Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, before taking up a place in 1828 as a clerk to his uncles in Boston, the China traders James and ...