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Davenport, George (1783–04 July 1845), Indian trader and frontier townsite entrepreneur, was born in Lincolnshire, England. Nothing is presently known of his parentage or childhood, although he apparently enjoyed the equivalent of a good common-school education. At age seventeen he was placed with an uncle, a captain of a merchant vessel. In 1804 Davenport’s ship visited New York, where he broke his leg and had to be left behind to recuperate....

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Duer, William (18 March 1743–07 May 1799), businessman and politician, was born in Devonshire, England, the son of John Duer, a wealthy squire, and Frances Frye. After graduating from Eton, Duer joined the British army and traveled to India, where he later served as secretary to Lord Clive, governor-general of the East India Company. Duer soon fell ill, however, and returned to England. His father’s subsequent death left him in possession of a large inheritance, which included an estate in the West Indies. By 1768 Duer was actively managing his estate and trading with prominent businessmen in New York, including ...

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Greene, William Cornell (26 August 1853–05 August 1911), rancher, mineowner, and investor, was born at Duck Creek, Wisconsin, the son of Townsend Greene and Eleanor Cornell, farmers. His father died when William was very young, leaving his mother apparently little choice but to split up the family of two sons and two daughters. As a result, Greene was brought up by his great aunt in Chappaqua, New York. He apparently obtained a decent education, given the standards of that day, then moved to New York at age seventeen to begin his business career as a clerk in a tea store. In 1872 Greene moved west, apparently working in the Dakotas, then in Texas, and finally drifting to Arizona, where he became a prospector in the Bradshaw Mining District in 1877. He was then twenty-four years old, brave to a fault, given to gambling, short in temper, and modest of means....

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Johnson, Sir William (1715–11 July 1774), merchant, land speculator, and royal official among the Iroquois Indians, was born in County Meath, Ireland, the son of Christopher Johnson and Anne Warren, members of the gentry. William’s mother provided the family connections that started her son on the way to fortune. Her brother, Vice Admiral ...

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Low, Nicholas (30 March 1739–15 November 1826), merchant and speculator, was born at Raritan Landing, New Jersey, the son of Cornelius Low, Jr., and Johanna Gouverneur, descendants of English and Dutch settlers in New York. After education in New Jersey he moved to New York City to clerk for merchant Hayman Levy. Low established his own firm in 1774, primarily selling imported and manufactured goods....

Article

Smith, Peter (15 November 1768–14 April 1837), land speculator, fur trader, and entrepreneur, was born near Tappan, New York, the son of Gerrit P. Smith and Wyntje Lent, the descendants of strongly religious seventeenth-century Dutch immigrants. Smith’s temporal life began well enough. He was in his mid-teens when he accepted his first job clerking for Abraham Herring, a New York City merchant. Smith soon demonstrated his entrepreneurial spirit and a belief in his inherent abilities by opening his own shop, selling books, school and library provisions, canes, and snuffboxes from 1785 until 1788. He also sold theatrical supplies in response to his interest in acting, which he suppressed because of the religious scruples he held throughout his life....