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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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Robert Fulton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102509).

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Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....

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Hale, James Webster (21 November 1801–17 August 1892), entrepreneur, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Hale, a sail maker, and Marianna Foxwell Lowell. Hale was a restless youth who, after attending public school in Boston, went to sea at age fifteen. He sailed to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the West Indies, eventually becoming a sea captain. It was probably Hale’s maritime exploits that brought him into contact with ...

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Hertz, John Daniel (10 April 1879–08 October 1961), transportation entrepreneur and investment banker, was born in Ruttka, a village in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the north of Budapest (now a part of Slovakia), the son of Jacob Hertz and Katie Schlessinger. The family immigrated to the United States in 1884 and settled in Chicago. The family was poor and parental discipline strict....

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Keith, Minor Cooper (19 January 1848–14 June 1929), entrepreneur, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Minor Hubbell Keith, a lumber merchant, and Emily Meiggs, sister of Henry Meiggs, who built railroads in Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Keith was educated in private schools in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1883 he married Cristina Castro, daughter of José María Castro, who served twice as Costa Rican president. They had no children....

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Lamar, Gazaway Bugg (20 October 1798–05 October 1874), business entrepreneur, was born near Augusta, in Richmond County, Georgia, the son of Basil Lamar, a landholder, and Rebecca Kelly. Lamar received little formal education, although he had private Latin instruction. By age twenty-three and married to his first wife Jane Meek Creswell, whom he wed in October 1821, Lamar became a commission merchant in Augusta and, by 1823, in Savannah. Lamar’s expanding enterprises included banking and steamboating....

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Lear, William Powell (26 June 1902–15 May 1978), electrical engineer and aeronautical entrepreneur, was born in Hannibal, Missouri, the son of Reuben Lear, a carpenter and teamster, and Gertrude Powell. His parents separated when Lear was six, and his mother married a plasterer in Chicago. The family’s meager income represented a lifelong goad to Lear to become financially secure. After finishing the eighth grade, he left school and found work as a mechanic. At age sixteen Lear decided to leave home and enter military service. Lying about his age, he signed up in 1918 with the navy and was posted to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, where he was trained in radio technology. After the armistice, he found employment with a succession of electrical and radio businesses and developed several technical improvements while gaining valuable experience in a rapidly developing industry. During the early 1920s he built and patented the first practical radio for autos but lacked financial support to go into production and sold the design to Motorola in 1924....

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Mills, Darius Ogden (05 September 1825–03 January 1910), banker and mining and railroad entrepreneur, was born in North Salem, Westchester County, New York, the son of James Mills, a town supervisor of North Salem (1835), and Hannah Ogden. From a prominent family, Mills was educated at the North Salem Academy and then at the Mount Pleasant Academy at Ossining, New York. His father’s death in 1841 deprived Mills of a college education. Instead he became a clerk in a mercantile establishment in New York City. In 1847, at the invitation of a cousin, he became cashier of the Merchants’ Bank of Erie County in Buffalo, New York....

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Ogden, Aaron (03 December 1756–19 April 1839), soldier, public official, and entrepreneur, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Robert Ogden II, a lawyer, and Phebe Hatfield. He attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and graduated with the class of 1773. Over the next three years he taught school, first in Princeton, then in Elizabethtown, but with the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and its American colonies, he was quickly drawn into the revolutionary confrontation....