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Alsop, George (1636–?), author of A Character of the Province of Maryland, was probably born in Westminster, England, the son of Peter Alsop, a tailor, and Rose (maiden name unknown). Aside from information in A Character of the Province of Maryland, very little is known about Alsop. His father’s occupation did not provide for much education, but evidence from ...

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John Jacob Astor IV. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116052).

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Astor, John Jacob, IV (13 July 1864–15 April 1912), businessman, was born at “Ferncliff,” his father’s estate at Rinebeck-on-Hudson, New York, the son of William Backhouse Astor, Jr., and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn ( Caroline Astor). As the great-grandson and namesake of fur trade magnate ...

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Billingsley, Sherman (10 March 1900–04 October 1966), nightclub owner and real estate developer, was born John Sherman Billingsley in Enid, Oklahoma Territory, the son of Robert Billingsley and Emily Collingsworth. Sherman Billingsley’s parents were so poverty stricken that the youngster was forced to quit school after he finished the fourth grade. His first job was collecting discarded whiskey bottles for resale to bootleggers in the new “dry” state of Oklahoma. In 1912 the youth moved to Anadarko, Oklahoma, to join his two older brothers who had developed a chain of cigar shops and drugstores, establishments that also illegally sold whiskey. Later going into business for himself, he owned and managed a confectionery in Houston, Texas, before moving to Charleston, West Virginia, to take over a cigar store. After going into the drug business, he owned drugstores in Seattle and Omaha, successively. While still just a teenager, he moved to Detroit and opened a grocery store; soon, he had three. In 1923, after saving about $5,000 in capital, he moved to the Bronx, New York City, where he opened a drugstore....

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Binga, Jesse (10 April 1865–13 June 1950), Chicago businessman, banker, and real estate investor, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Binga, Jr., a barber, and Adelphia Powers, a builder and real estate owner. (Nearly all sources cite William W. Binga as Jesse Binga’s father, but all are based on a Dec. 1927 article by Inez V. Cantley in ...

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Binney, Amos (18 October 1803–18 February 1847), biologist and businessman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Amos Binney, a businessman, and Hannah Dolliver. Interested early in natural history, Binney accumulated rocks, shells, and birds’ eggs. He attended an academy at Hingham, Massachusetts, and at the age of fourteen entered Brown University, where he was especially interested in the natural sciences and expanded his collection of shells. After graduating in 1821, he studied medicine with a physician in Boston, then attended medical lectures at Dartmouth College....

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Bucksbaum, Martin (31 July 1920–07 July 1995), shopping center developer, was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, the son of Louis Bucksbaum, a grocer, and Ida Bucksbaum. Martin grew up in Marshalltown and worked in his father's grocery store from an early age. He attended Marshalltown Junior College and was nineteen years old when he began managing the family's Cashway Super Market. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, then he resumed his work in the grocery store and became president of Cashway in 1950. By 1954 Martin Bucksbaum and his two younger brothers, Matthew and Maurice, were also operating supermarkets in two other central Iowa towns, and they dreamed of expanding their supermarket chain....

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Chandler, Harry (17 May 1864–23 Sept. 1944), newspaper publisher and promoter, of Southern California, was the eldest of four children born in Landaff, New Hampshire to Moses Knight Chandler and Emma Jane (Little) Chandler, who worked in a bobbin factory in neighboring Lisbon....

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Church, Robert Reed, Jr. (26 October 1885–17 April 1952), politician and businessman, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Robert Reed Church, Sr., a banker and businessman, and Anna Sue Wright, a school principal. The wealth and prestige of his father afforded young Church opportunities not available to most African-American children of his day. After attending a parochial school in Memphis and Oberlin Academy in Oberlin, Ohio, Church studied at Morgan Park Military Academy in Chicago, Illinois, and then enrolled in the Packard School of Business in New York City. He completed the business course and worked on Wall Street for several years before returning to Memphis in 1909 to help his father in the management of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company and other family enterprises. In 1911 he married Sara Paroda Johnson, a schoolteacher; they had one child....

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Cooper, William (02 December 1754–22 December 1809), land developer and politician, was born in Byberry (now part of Philadelphia), Pennsylvania, the son of James Cooper and Hannah Hibbs, farmers. Only modestly schooled, in 1774 young Cooper eloped with Elizabeth Fenimore, daughter of the well-to-do Quaker Richard Fenimore of Rancocas, New Jersey. They had twelve children, of whom seven lived to adulthood....

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Coram, Thomas (1668–29 March 1751), philanthropist and colony promoter, was born in the Dorsetshire coast village of Lyme Regis, England, the son of John Coram, a mariner, and Spes (maiden name unknown). Coram was primarily self-educated. He went to sea from age eleven to sixteen and was then apprenticed to a shipwright. Coram’s steady rise from humble birth to prominent merchant was due to his great vigor, ambition, and trustworthiness. In 1694 a group of London merchants sent him to Boston as head of a team of shipwrights in order to establish a shipyard. The new governor, ...

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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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Cushman, Robert (1579–1625), an organizer and promoter of Plymouth Plantation in New England, was born in Canterbury, England. Little is known about his early life. He was a woolcomber by trade but evidently had some education and private means. It is known that in 1606 he intervened to protect an ill-treated apprentice in Canterbury. That year he married Sarah Reder, with whom he had one child. In 1609 he moved to Leiden, Holland, where he joined John Robinson’s Separatist congregation. In 1617, a year after Sarah’s death, he married Mary, the widow of Thomas Singleton. In that same year, he was appointed one of the Pilgrims’ agents to make arrangements for their migration across the Atlantic....

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Cutler, Manasseh (13 May 1742–28 July 1823), preacher, botanist, and land promoter, was born in Killingly, Connecticut, the son of Hezekiah Cutler and Susanna Clark, prosperous farmers. After preparatory study with Killingly pastor Aaron Brown, Cutler matriculated at Yale College (A.B., 1765; A.M., 1768; LL.D., 1789). He married Mary Balch, daughter of Rev. Thomas Balch of Dedham, Massachusetts, in 1766; they had four children. During a brief residence on Martha’s Vineyard (1766–1768), he completed his training for the ministry under his father-in-law’s direction before being licensed to preach in 1770 and ordained at the Congregational church in Ipswich Hamlet (after 1793, Hamilton), where he remained until his death. In 1782 Cutler opened a boarding school that catered to the sons of leading Essex County families....

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De Witt, Simeon (25 December 1756–03 December 1834), cartographer, surveyor, and land developer, was born in Wawarsing, Ulster County, New York, the son of Andries De Witt, a physician, and Jannetje Vernooy. His early education was typical of what a scattered agricultural community could provide in that period. Later he received classical instruction from the local minister, and then, on the eve of the American Revolution, he enrolled at Queen’s College (later Rutgers University) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was granted a B.A. degree in 1776 and an M.A. degree in 1788....

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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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Disston, Hamilton (23 August 1844–30 April 1896), land developer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Disston, an industrialist, and Mary Steelman. At the age of fifteen Disston started as an apprentice in one of the divisions of his father’s factory, Keystone Saw, Tool, Steel and File Works, setting a precedent for other family members. The firm, later renamed Henry Disston and Sons, eventually became the world’s largest saw manufacturing company. A few years later, much to the dismay of his father, Hamilton and other young men from the Disston factory volunteered for Union army service during the U.S. Civil War. Returning to the firm at the end of the war in 1865, Hamilton continued an active role in the company, becoming its president in 1878 upon the death of his father....

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Filson, John (10 December 1753?–01 October 1788), author, historian, and land surveyor, was born in East Fallowfield Township near Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Davison Filson and Eleanor Clarke, farmers. After attending common schools in the vicinity of his birthplace, Filson studied Greek, Latin, mathematics, and surveying at West Nottingham Academy in Colora, Maryland. He inherited part of a modest estate following his father’s death in 1776, but, eschewing life on the farm, he taught school and surveyed lands in the area during the American Revolution....

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Ford, Barney Launcelot (1822–14 December 1902), conductor on the Underground Railroad, Negro suffrage lobbyist, and real estate baron, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of a Mr. Darington (given name unknown), a slaveholder and plantation owner, and Phoebe (surname unknown), one of Darington’s slaves. Given simply the name “Barney” at birth, he adopted the name Barney Launcelot Ford as an adult to please his soon-to-be wife and to provide himself with a “complete” name....

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Garrard, Kenner (30 September 1827–15 May 1879), soldier and businessman, was born in Fairfield, Kentucky, the son of Jeptha Dudley Garrard, a lawyer, and Sarah Bella Ludlow. Garrard, although born in Kentucky at his paternal grandfather’s home, was raised in his parents’ home in Cincinnati, Ohio. His maternal grandfather, Israel Ludlow, was a prominent real estate investor in Cincinnati. Garrard entered Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the class of 1848 but left after he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He graduated from West Point in 1851 and was commissioned in the artillery but transferred to the cavalry in 1852. He served with the First Regiment of Dragoons (a form of mounted infantry) until the outbreak of the Civil War on the frontier....