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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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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 ...

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Green, John Cleve (04 April 1800–29 April 1875), philanthropist, railroad entrepreneur, and China trader, was born in Lawrenceville (formerly Maidenhead), New Jersey, the son of Caleb Smith and Elizabeth Green. His great-great-grandfather, Jonathan Dickinson, was first president of the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University; this family connection would later play a great part in Princeton’s future....

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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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Collis Potter Huntington. Oil on canvas, 1958, by Herbert Bohnert. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Anna Hyatt Huntington.

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Huntington, Collis Potter (22 October 1821–13 August 1900), railroad builder and financier, was born at Harwinton, Connecticut, the son of William Huntington, a farmer and small manufacturer, and Elizabeth Vincent. Huntington’s schooling, limited to four months a year, ended when he was thirteen. His marriage in 1844 to Elizabeth T. Stoddard lasted until her death in 1883. Childless, the couple in 1862 adopted the daughter of Elizabeth’s deceased sister. In 1884 Huntington married a widow, Arabella Duval Yarrington Worsham, and adopted her only son. Huntington died at Pine Knot Lodge, near (or on) Lake Raquette, New York....

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Keep, Henry (22 June 1818–30 July 1869), New York financier and railroad president, was born in Adams, New York, the son of Heman Chandler Keep and Dorothy Kent, impoverished farmers. When Heman Keep died in 1835, his relatives proved unable to support his family, which was forced to take refuge in the Jefferson County poorhouse. Young Henry was bound out to a farmer who agreed to send him to a public school but then reneged on the obligation. The young man fled to Honeoye Falls, New York, where for an initial wage of seven dollars per month he became a drayman for a cooper named Tuler. He proved able to save money, which he devoted to speculation in bank notes depreciated in the panic of 1837. He proceeded into arbitrage in Canadian bank notes, buying them at a discount in upstate New York and redeeming them at par in Ontario. With the proceeds, he was able to return to his home area to establish a bank at Watertown. While there he married Emma Woodruff, daughter of a prominent citizen of the town. The couple had one daughter, also named Emma. Keep expanded his activities in the 1840s by establishing several country banks in his area....

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Kennedy, John Stewart (04 January 1830–31 October 1909), railroad commission merchant, private banker, and philanthropist, was born in Blantyre, Scotland (near Glasgow), the son of John Kennedy, probably a millhand, and Isabella Stewart. He attended school from age six to thirteen and received formal instruction outside of office hours for another four years....

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Keys, Clement Melville (07 April 1876–12 January 1952), financier and aviation entrepreneur, was born in Chatsworth, Ontario, Canada, the son of George Keys, a minister, and Jessie Margaret Evans. Keys graduated with an A.B. degree from the University of Toronto in 1897 and taught history and classics at Ridley College in St. Catherines, Ontario, for three years. He moved to New York City in 1901 and joined the staff of the ...

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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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Lord, Eleazar (09 September 1788–03 June 1871), financier, railway president, and theologian, was born in Franklin, Connecticut, the son of Nathan Lord and Mary Nevins. After a local education, Lord began clerking in nearby Norwich. Four years later, in 1808, he prepared for college with the pastor of a nearby Congregational church. Lord entered Andover Theological Seminary in 1810. The Haverhill Association licensed him to preach in 1812, and he served a year as an itinerant. Lord later entered Princeton to complete his ordination studies. Failing eyesight thwarted his plans but did not keep him from enjoying a life of moneymaking, political lobbying, economic theorizing, and theological ruminating....

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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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Moffat, David Halliday (22 July 1839–18 March 1911), capitalist and railroad executive, was born in Washingtonville, Orange County, New York, the son of David Halliday Moffat, a farmer and storekeeper, and Katherine Gregg. Moffat went to work at the age of twelve, after only a few years at the local school. He commuted from his home to nearby New York City to work as a messenger for the New York Exchange Bank, where he later became an assistant teller. In 1855 he joined his older brother Samuel in Des Moines, Iowa, where Samuel was a teller in the banking firm A. J. Stevens & Company....

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Paul, Josephine Bay (10 August 1900–06 August 1962), businesswoman and philanthropist, was born Josephine Holt Perfect in Anamosa, Iowa, the daughter of Otis Lincoln Perfect, a realtor, and Tirzah Holt. In 1906 the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Josephine Perfect grew up. In 1916 Josephine graduated from Brooklyn Heights Seminary and enrolled at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where she studied for a year. She then spent the next ten years as a secretary and as the director of the Brooklyn Junior League’s bookstore, helping the store to recover from near bankruptcy. In 1928 Josephine and her sister Tirzah established a greeting card business in Brooklyn. With Tirzah as designer and Josephine as sales manager, the sisters managed to sustain a thriving business with distribution stretching from the East Coast to the Midwest. In 1933, following Tirzah’s marriage, the sisters dissolved the business....