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Brand, Virgil Michael (16 January 1862–20 June 1926), brewer and numismatist, was born in Blue Island, Illinois, the son of Michael Brand, a cooper and brewer, and Philippine Darmstädter, the daughter of a flour merchant. Michael Brand was born in Odernheim near Alzey in the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt (not to be confused with the larger village of the same name in the Palatinate) and is said to have left Germany because he was involved in the Revolution of 1848. This is certainly possible, but many German immigrants who left for economic reasons later claimed they had left for political reasons, because it was more glamorous. Philippine Darmstädter was born in Framersheim, the next village over from Odernheim. Michael Brand established a brewery in Chicago under his own name, and it became one of the most prosperous breweries in the city. The firm was one of the very first to adopt Carl von Linde’s refrigeration machine, which meant that the company had an incalculable advantage over its competitors: in the summer, its beer was cold. Michael Brand became extremely wealthy, and in 1890, after a series of mergers, he sold out to English investors, who formed the United States Brewing Company. Michael Brand also established orchards at Brandsville in the Missouri Ozarks, where he sought to encourage viticulture. He owned an extensive library, and he must have had a great love for the classics, for he named his three sons Virgil, Horace, and Armin....

Article

Clapp, George Hubbard (14 December 1858–31 March 1949), businessman and numismatist, was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania (later absorbed into the north side of Pittsburgh), the son of DeWitt Clinton Clapp, a steel company official, and Delia Dennig Hubbard. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1877 with a bachelor of philosophy degree and was named the “first scholar” in the Scientific Department. Around 1882 he married Anne W. Love; they would have two children. Clapp worked as an engineer at the Penn Cotton Mill and then at Park Brothers’ Black Diamond Steel Works, where he met Captain ...

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Grim, David (28 August 1737–26 March 1826), tavern keeper, merchant, and antiquarian, was born in Stauderheim in the Palatinate, the son of Philip Grimm, a tanner and farmer, and Marguerite Dâher. He and his brothers Peter and Jacob dropped the second m from the family name. Grim immigrated to New York City with his parents and four older siblings in 1739. When Grim was about twelve, a painful lameness in his right leg, which he attributed to rheumatism, threw a hip out of joint and left him with one leg shorter than the other. He nevertheless served aboard two privateers during the French and Indian War. In the summer of 1757 he sailed under Captain Thomas Seymour on the ...

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Charles Frederick Gunther. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society (IChi-10584).

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Gunther, Charles Frederick (06 March 1837–10 February 1920), Chicago confectioner, politician, and antiquarian collector, was born Carl Friedrich Guenther in Wildberg, Wurttemberg, Germany, the son of Marie and Johann Martin Guenther, a candle and soap maker. The family immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1842, and at age ten Gunther began work as a government mail carrier, traveling forty miles daily by horseback. In 1850 they resettled in Peru, Illinois, an important ice harvesting center on the canal linking Chicago with the Mississippi watershed. Gunther found work as a cashier in a bank, where he came in contact with many of the merchants who shipped 100,000 tons of ice down the southern rivers during prosperous years....

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Harrah, William Fisk (02 September 1911–30 June 1978), casino owner and automobile collector, was born in South Pasadena, California, the son of John Garrett Harrah, a lawyer and businessman, and Amanda Fisk. Harrah attended Chapman College in 1931 and studied mechanical engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1932. He was an undistinguished student and was once caught cheating on a chemistry examination. When his family encountered financial problems during the Great Depression, Harrah dropped out of college. His family moved to Venice, California, where his father served a term as mayor. In 1932 Harrah’s father opened an establishment featuring the circle game, a variation of bingo in which some skill was required in shooting balls into a hopper. The circle game was akin to gambling, putting the operation at the edge of the law. William began as an employee but soon purchased the operation from his father for $500. Since gambling was illegal in Venice, the game was periodically closed when authorities chose to enforce the law strictly. In 1937 Hannah moved with his father to the more hospitable gambling environment of Reno, Nevada, and opened a bingo parlor....

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Mercer, Henry Chapman (24 June 1856–09 March 1930), archaeologist, collector, and tilemaker, was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the son of William Robert Mercer, a naval officer, and Mary Rebecca Chapman. His father retired from the navy to become a gentleman farmer and gardener. His mother’s sister, Elizabeth, came into a sizable fortune when her husband, Timothy Bigelow Lawrence of Boston, serving as a diplomat in Italy, died in 1869. Cultured and widely traveled, and with no children of her own, she returned to Doylestown and became a major influence in the lives of Mercer’s family, underwriting the costs of his education and travels. Mercer graduated from Harvard University in 1879 and studied at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Although admitted to the Philadelphia County Bar in 1881, he never practiced law. Mercer never married or had children....

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Sachse, Julius Friedrich (22 November 1842–14 November 1919), antiquarian, historian, and photographer, was born in Philadelphia, the son of Johann Heinrich Friedrich Sachse, an artist and designer, and Julianna D. W. Bühler. Julius F. Sachse attended public schools and the Lutheran Academy but had no university education; he was largely a self-educated man. Sachse’s early business career was as a merchant of men’s clothing accessories and a manufacturer of men’s silk shirts. His achievements in shirtmaking were recognized at international trade fairs....