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Astor, John Jacob, III (10 June 1822–22 February 1890), capitalist and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the son of William Backhouse Astor and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong. The family was noted for great wealth and public charity. Astor graduated from Columbia College in 1839, and after studying at the University of Göttingen for a short time and traveling through Europe he earned a law degree at Harvard in 1842. He practiced briefly as an attorney specializing in commercial transactions and then entered his father’s burgeoning real estate office. In 1846 Astor married the socially prominent Charlotte Augusta Gibbes of South Carolina. They had one child, ...

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William Waldorf Astor. Second from right, with Lady Astor, far right, and Henry Ford and Clara Ford. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98997).

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Astor, William Waldorf (31 March 1848–18 October 1919), businessman and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the son of John Jacob Astor, a businessman, and Charlotte Gibbes. Astor received his education at home under private tutors and studied law at Columbia University. He worked at law for a short while but found his first real calling in Republican politics. He served a term as a New York State assemblyman beginning in 1877, and two years later he was elected to the state senate. Twice he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, but he was defeated each time. The press and his political enemies found Astor’s inherited wealth an easy target for excoriation, and the public humiliation he suffered at their hands was the first step on the path toward his alienation from everything American. By all accounts Astor was extremely sensitive and simply could not endure criticism. Nor did he find satisfaction in his 1878 marriage to Mary Dahlgren Paul, although the union produced four children. The marriage suffered as shy Mary Astor was forced into a contest with her husband’s Aunt Caroline for the position of most important society matron in New York’s upper crust—the famous “Four Hundred Families.” In addition, the Astors were concerned for the safety of their children, whom they feared might become victims of a kidnapping for ransom....

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Colgate, James Boorman (04 March 1818–07 February 1904), capitalist and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the son of William Colgate, a prominent manufacturer, and Mary Gilbert. Educated at local schools and in Connecticut, he abandoned formal schooling at the age of sixteen to enter the commission house of Boorman, Johnson & Company. For a number of years he remained with the firm, which was headed by a relative, James Boorman. After returning from an extended trip to Europe in 1841–1842, he entered the employment of a wholesale dry-goods firm, where he worked for nine years. In 1844 he married Sarah Ellen Hoyt of Utica, New York; the marriage produced one son before his wife’s death in 1846....

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Cope, Caleb Frederick (18 July 1797–12 May 1888), financier and philanthropist, was born in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, the son of William Cope and Elizabeth Rohrer. After his father’s death during his early years, Cope was cared for by his mother and his maternal grandfather, Frederick Rohrer. He received only a rudimentary education in a one-room schoolhouse and was apprenticed at the age of twelve or thirteen to John Wells, a storekeeper, with whom he remained for four years....

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Davis, Arthur Vining (30 May 1867–17 November 1962), industrialist, financier, and philanthropist, was born in Sharon, Massachusetts, the son of Perley B. Davis, a Congregational minister, and Mary Vining. Educated in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, and at Roxbury Latin School in Boston, Davis enrolled at Amherst College and graduated in 1888 at the top of his class. He left for Pittsburgh, where ...

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DePauw, Washington Charles (04 January 1822–05 May 1887), businessman and philanthropist, was born in Salem, Indiana, the son of John DePauw, a merchant and lawyer, and Betsy Batiste. John DePauw was a prosperous landowner and a successful politician. Young “Wash,” as he was called, was educated at the county seminary and assisted his father in various business enterprises. His father died when he was sixteen, leaving “Wash” $700 in cash and a small piece of property. Elijah Malott, a merchant, and Elijah Newland, a physician, acted as the boy’s guardians. Malott appointed DePauw as his deputy in the county clerk’s office before he was of legal age, and he won the position on his own in 1844. DePauw married his patron’s daughter, Sarah Ellen Malott, in 1846; they had two children. He was an early success in business and freely admitted his determination to earn a fortune. He soon owned a flour mill, a saw mill, and a wool-carding mill and in 1850 erected both a brick commercial building and a railroad depot in Salem. He was active in Democratic politics and won reelection as county clerk by a large majority in 1851....

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Marshall Field III In military uniform during World War I. Photograph by Arnold Genthe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93592).

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Field, Marshall, III (28 September 1893–08 November 1956), investor, newspaper publisher, and philanthropist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Marshall Field II and Albertine Huck. Being the grandson of the first Marshall Field, the Chicago multimillionaire merchant and real-estate developer, meant that Field would be heir to fabulous wealth—all the sooner when his father, unhappy and passive in his active father’s shadow, committed suicide in 1905 and then when his beloved grandfather died of pneumonia two months later. Field’s mother, who had lived in England with her husband and their children and who disliked Chicago, returned to England. The grandfather’s will provided well for Albertine and gave Field and his younger brother a $75 million trust together. Field attended Eton (1907–1912) and then Trinity College, Cambridge (1912–1914), studying mostly history and vacationing with the horsy set. He returned to the United States in 1914 and married Evelyn Marshall the following year; the couple had three children, including Marshall Field IV. He also studied high finance and played polo. In April 1917 he volunteered as a private, despite his earlier rheumatic fever, in the First Illinois Cavalry (quickly converted to artillery service). He was soon commissioned and promoted, saw action in France as a captain with the Thirty-third Division, and was decorated for gallantry at Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne....

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Goldman, Henry (21 September 1857–04 April 1937), financier and philanthropist, was the youngest child of Bertha Goldman and of Marcus Goldman, who organized and directed a successful New York currency- and note-discounting firm. Henry Goldman was born in Philadelphia and spent his early childhood there. After the family moved in 1869 to New York City, the young Goldman received a fine education at the private Sachs Collegiate Institute for Boys and did well in his courses in the classics, history, and math. Having excelled on his college boards, he was admitted to and attended Harvard between 1874 and 1875. Goldman enjoyed history, literature, and art appreciation and wrote insightful papers for these courses. However, he had to drop out of Harvard at the end of his freshman year as a result of encountering severe problems with his eyesight....

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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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James, Daniel Willis (15 April 1832–13 September 1907), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Liverpool, England, the eldest son of Daniel James, a merchant, and Elizabeth Woodbridge Phelps, the eldest daughter of Anson G. Phelps, the head of Phelps, Dodge & Company, a major New York metal firm. James’s father was the resident partner in England of Phelps, Dodge & Company. After attending school in Edinburgh, Scotland, from age thirteen to seventeen, James was sent to New York to enter in the world of work preparatory to joining the family business....

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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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Herman Kohlmeyer Jr., Herman Kohlmeyer Jr. and Herman Kohlmeyer Jr.

Newman, Isidore (28 February 1837–30 November 1909), financier and philanthropist, was born Isidore Neumond in Kaiserslautern, Rhenish Bavaria (now the German state of Rheinland Pfalz), the son of Jacob Neumond, a merchant, and Clara Kahn. His family had been merchants in the area of Kaiserslautern for generations. In 1808, when the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte required all of the Jews in his Empire to take permanent family names, Isidore’s family adopted the name Neumond, which means “new moon.” Isidore Newman arrived in New Orleans on 18 November 1853 in steerage on a sailing ship, a penniless Jew sixteen years old. He was met by his uncle, Charles Newman, who had arrived in New Orleans in 1828 and set himself up, along with his sons Edward, Jacob, Louis, and Morris, in the money-changing business, probably changing money for sailors who had just docked in the port of New Orleans. Young Isidore had blond hair, blue eyes, a heavy German accent, a love of music, and a wardrobe consisting of one suit hand-sewn by his mother....

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Payne, Oliver Hazard (21 July 1839–27 June 1917), business executive and philanthropist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Henry B. Payne, a lawyer and industrialist, and Mary Perry. Educated at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Payne entered Yale University with the class of 1863 but withdrew in 1861 to join the Union army in 1861 after the outbreak of the Civil War. His father procured for him a lieutenant’s commission in an Illinois regiment. Payne soon advanced to the rank of captain, and his company saw action at New Madrid, Missouri, and Corinth and Booneville, Mississippi. In September 1862 he became a lieutenant colonel in the 124th Ohio Volunteers and was promoted to colonel in January 1863. Seriously wounded at Chickamauga, Payne underwent a long convalescence before rejoining his regiment in time to take part in battles at Resaca and Pickett’s Mill, Georgia, and winning the brevet of brigadier general. Payne resigned his commission in November 1864 following the Atlanta campaign. Although he did not return to complete his degree, Payne was voted a B.A. in 1878 by the Yale Corporation....

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Pratt, Enoch (10 September 1808–17 September 1896), businessman and philanthropist, was born in North Middleborough, Massachusetts, the son of Isaac Pratt and Naomi Keith, farmers. Although the family was only of middling means, its social capital was significant; the first Pratt had arrived in Massachusetts as early as 1628, and the Keith family had settled there in the 1660s. A youth from such an established family might have been expected to matriculate at Harvard College, but Pratt’s formal education ended when he graduated from the Bridgewater Academy at the age of fifteen. Asserting that he believed that he was “old enough to do considerable business,” Pratt immediately opted to accept a seven-year clerkship in nearby Boston, Massachusetts....

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Pritzker, Abram Nicholas (06 January 1896–08 February 1986), entrepreneur and financier, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Nicholas Pritzker, a pharmacist and later a lawyer, and Annie Cohn. He attended public schools and then Northwestern University, but he preferred the University of Chicago, where he transferred and lived on campus, completing his B.A. in philosophy in 1916. He began law school at Harvard but left during the first year to join the navy, where he served as a chief petty officer. When he was mustered out, he returned to Harvard, earning his law degree in 1920. He immediately joined his father and brother in the firm of Pritzker and Pritzker. He married Fanny L. Doppelt in 1921; they had three sons. He practiced law only briefly, drawn instead to real estate investment and finance. He did well in Chicago real estate but lost most of his fortune in the great Florida land boom of the 1920s; he then recovered quickly, in spite of the Great Depression....

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Julius Rosenwald With his wife, on board the Aquitania, 1926. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-75055).

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Rosenwald, Julius (12 August 1862–06 January 1932), executive and philanthropist, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the son of Samuel Rosenwald, a clothing merchant, and Augusta Hammerslough. Julius Rosenwald attended high school in Springfield for only two years. At age seventeen he left for New York to serve a clothing business apprenticeship with Hammerslough uncles. Indefatigable, Rosenwald also obtained part-time employment at other clothing establishments and managed to sample the metropolis’s amusements with friends such as Henry Goldman, later a founder of the investment banking firm of Goldman, Sachs and Co....

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Severance, Louis Henry (01 August 1838–25 June 1913), capitalist and philanthropist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Solomon Lewis Severance, a dry goods merchant, and Mary Long. His father died shortly before his birth, and his newly widowed mother moved with Louis and his older brother to the home of her father, David Long, Jr., the first physician in the city of Cleveland. The boys grew to maturity there, with Louis completing his education in the Cleveland public schools. At the age of eighteen he took a job with the Commercial National Bank of Cleveland. In August 1862 Severance married Fannie Buckingham Benedict, with whom he would have four children. In 1863, with the American Civil War raging, Severance entered the Union army as a “100-day” volunteer, during which time he participated in the defense of Washington, D.C. Following his discharge he sought his fortune within the embryonic oil industry. Moving to Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1864, Severance spent the next ten years working in oil production. He also became an elder in the local Presbyterian church; these two associations provided the focus for the rest of his life....