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Allerton, Isaac (1586– February 1659), merchant in the early years of the Plymouth colony, . Little is known of Allerton’s early life, and nothing is known regarding his education and religious orientation. He was a tailor in London at the time that he moved to Leiden, Holland, in 1608. When the Separatist congregation of John Robinson arrived in 1609 Allerton joined the church. In 1611 he married a fellow member, Mary Norris. In 1614 he became a citizen of the Dutch city....

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Davis, Alice Brown (10 September 1852–21 June 1935), Seminole leader and merchant, was born in Park Hill, Cherokee Nation (now in Cherokee County, Okla.), the daughter of John F. Brown, a physician, and Lucy Redbeard, a Seminole of the Panther clan (Kachaki). Her parents met while her father was employed as a contract physician for the federal government during the removal of most of the Seminoles from Florida to the Indian Territory in the 1840s. One of seven children, Alice was educated at home and also attended schools in the Cherokee Nation and the Presbyterian mission school near Wewoka....

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de Vries, David Pietersen (1593–1655?), merchant adventurer and colonizer, was born in La Rochelle, France, the son of Pieter Jakobszoon de Vries, a ship captain, and a Dutch mother (name unknown). His father was from Hoorn, a northern Dutch province, and his mother from Amsterdam. They moved to La Rochelle in 1584 and back to Hoorn when David was four. He attended Latin school, obtained a knowledge of geography and astronomy, and learned French, Dutch, and English as a result of his family’s contact with the international Calvinist community....

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du Sable, Jean Baptiste Point (1745?–28 August 1818), explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a Negro slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French-Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (Point au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-blood ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, ...

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Fleete, Henry (1602–1661), English colonial merchant and Indian interpreter, was born in County Kent, England, the son of William Fleete, a lawyer and country squire, and Deborah Scott. Residing in America after 1621, Fleete is best known for pioneering the Potomac River beaver trade between the late 1620s and early 1630s and for guiding Lord Baltimore’s colonists to their first Maryland settlement in March 1634....

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Gaines, George Strother (1784–21 January 1873), frontier trader and Alabama businessman, was born in Stokes County, North Carolina, the son of James Gaines, a revolutionary war captain, and Elizabeth Strother, farmers. Major General Edmund Pendleton Gaines, who was a prominent army officer on the western and southern frontiers between 1797 and the Mexican War, was his brother. At age ten Gaines moved with his family to Tennessee, where he later gained employment in a Gallatin general store. In 1804, Joseph Chambers, the factor of the U.S. Choctaw Trading House, invited Gaines to become his assistant. Subsequently Gaines relocated to St. Stephens on the Tombigbee River in the Mississippi Territory. In 1806 he succeeded Chambers as factor....

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Herrman, Augustine (1605?–1686?), merchant, attorney, ambassador, and mapmaker, was born in Prague, Bohemia, thought to be the son of Ephraim Augustin Herrman, a shopkeeper and city councilman, and Beatrix Redel, but possibly the son of Abraham Herrman, a Hussite minister in Mseno who was exiled to Zittau in Saxony because he was not Roman Catholic, and eventually settled in Amsterdam (wife’s name unknown)....

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Hunt, John Wesley ( August 1773–21 August 1849), pioneer merchant, manufacturer, and financier, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Abraham Hunt, a merchant, and Theodosia Pearson. Growing up with seven siblings, John probably attended a private school. At a young age he began training in business in his father’s general store in the same two-story building as their home in Trenton. His father also taught him about breeding racehorses and about flour milling....

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Hunt, Wilson Price (1782?– April 1842), explorer and merchant, was born in Hopewell, New Jersey, the son of John P. Hunt and Margaret Guild, occupations unknown. Little is known of his early life. In 1804 he moved to St. Louis, on the edge of the frontier about to be opened by the expedition of ...

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James, Thomas (04 November 1782–17 December 1847), fur trader and Mexican trade merchant, was born in Maryland, the son of Joseph Austin James and Elizabeth Hosten. In 1803 James traveled west with the rest of his family, first to Kentucky and then to the Illinois country, entering Missouri Territory in 1807. The family settled near the village of Ste. Ferdinand (San Fernando), later known as Florissant. James heard of the adventures of Lewis and Clark’s successful expedition after their return to St. Louis in 1806. He determined to sign up with the Missouri Fur Company for a trading trip to the reaches of the upper Missouri River. After conflicts with his employers, he returned from the Missouri country in August 1810....

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Menard, Pierre (07 October 1766–13 June 1844), frontier trader, merchant, and politician, was born at St. Antoine, Quebec, Canada, the son of Jean Baptiste Menard, a French-born merchant, and Marie Françoise Cirée, a Canadian. He had a common school education. Following in the footsteps of his father, who had supported the American side in the American Revolution and served in the American army, Menard, at age twenty-one, moved from Quebec to find opportunities on the American frontier as a trader or merchant. Rather than following those among the French Canadians who, in response to the Treaty of Paris, tried to continue trading under British control and protection in the western Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley, Menard moved to Vincennes, Indiana, around 1787 and actively sided with the Americans in their relations with the British and Indians. Menard was employed by Colonel François Vigo ( ...

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Panton, William (1745?–26 February 1801), merchant-adventurer, was born on the family farm on the Mains of Aberdour some eight miles west of Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the son of John Panton and Barbara Wemyss, farmers. Nothing is known about his education in Scotland. Panton came to America in 1765 and served as an apprentice with John Gordon and Company, merchants and Indian traders, of Charleston. In 1774 he and Philip Moore formed a partnership that lasted for several years. He next joined with Thomas Forbes in the firm of Panton, Forbes and Company, with offices in South Carolina and Georgia. Panton and Forbes, however, were Loyalists, and the American Revolution soon forced them to move to St. Augustine, British East Florida....

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Schuyler, Peter (17 September 1657–19 February 1724), Indian trader and merchant, was born in Albany (then called Beverwyck), New Netherland, the son of Philip Pieterse Schuyler, a successful Indian trader, and Margarita Van Slichtenhorst, the daughter of Brant Aerts Van Slichtenhorst, director of Rensselaerswyck. It is unclear what formal schooling Peter Schuyler had, but living at his father’s home and trading center, “The Flatts,” he learned enough about the Iroquois, including their language, to become one of only three European colonial New Yorkers trusted by them. Called “Quidor” by those unable to pronounce his given name, he derived much of his influence in the province from his special relationship with the Indians. While Schuyler was alive, no governor could negotiate with the Five Nations without him....

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Shelikhov, Grigorii Ivanovich (1748–20 July 1795), fur trader and founder of the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska, was born in the small southern Russian trading center of Rylsk, Kursk gubernia, the son of Ivan Shelikhov, a merchant. His mother’s name is unknown. In 1772 his father sent him to Siberia to promote family interests and to escape a plague. There in 1774 he became a partner of P. S. Lebedev-Lastochkin, a merchant of Irkutsk engaging in fur-trading ventures in the Kurile and Aleutian islands. Traveling northward down the Lena River to Yakutsk, and from there by the tortuous overland route to the port and maritime fur trade center of Okhotsk, Shelikhov became involved in companies sending out trading vessels and soon concentrated on the Aleutian Island trade. In 1775 he married Natalia Alekseevna Kozhevina; they had six children. In 1778, short of money, Shelikhov became a ...

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Amerigo Vespucci. From an engraving by Gideon Fairman, c. 1815. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102761).

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Vespucci, Amerigo ( March 1454–22 February 1512), merchant and explorer after whom America is named, was born in Florence, Italy, the son of Nastagio Vespucci, a notary, and Lisa Mini. The date 9 March is often cited as his birth date as a result of confusion with an Amerigo Vespucci, born on 9 March 1451 and otherwise unrecorded, who can be presumed to have died in infancy. The explorer Vespucci’s family was wealthy and well connected. He was educated by his uncle Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, confessing, in a letter of 1476, the imperfection of the Latin he acquired. From 1478 to 1480 he accompanied his uncle Guido Antonio Vespucci on an embassy to Paris. From 1484, an extensive series of letters shows him at intervals in various Tuscan ports, probably engaged in family business. By 1488 he was in the employ of Lorenzo di Pier Francesco dei Medici, with whose family he established a relationship of confidence....

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Vizcaíno, Sebastián (1550–1628), merchant and explorer, was born in Spain, the son of Antonio Vizcaíno(?), a Basque commoner from Corcho, Spain. His mother’s identity is unknown. Vizcaíno apparently served in the Spanish army in Portugal in 1567 but sailed to New Spain (Mexico) in 1585. In Mexico he entered the China trade, making at least one voyage on the “Manila galleon” as a trader between 1586 and 1589. (The Manila galleon was sent regularly once a year to Manila from Acapulco, Mexico, with silver to return with luxury goods, mostly from China.) Some time before 1589 he married a woman of some means (name unknown), with whom he had at least one son, Juan. He also had at least one daughter (mother unknown)....

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Wyeth, Nathaniel Jarvis (29 January 1802–31 August 1856), New England ice merchant and western explorer, was born near Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Jacob Wyeth, the operator of the Fresh Pond Hotel, and Elizabeth Jarvis. He joined his father in the management of the hotel and in 1824 married his cousin Elizabeth Jarvis Stone. During the slack season, he harvested ice from Fresh Pond, first for the hotel’s use and then for ...