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Allen, James (25 December 1697–07 January 1755), merchant and politician, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Jeremiah Allen, the longtime treasurer of the province, and Mary Caball. Ranked fifth by social status in a class of seventeen at Harvard College, he graduated in 1717. Allen then entered his father’s merchant business, importing dry goods from England and exchanging New England fish for West India sugar. In 1725 he married Martha Fitch, daughter of Colonel Thomas Fitch. They had no children. Allen belonged to Boston’s Congregational West Church but was not a bigot: he contributed £20 to the Anglican King’s Chapel for the purchase of bells....

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Alvarez, Manuel (1794–05 July 1856), merchant and U.S. consul, was born in Abelgas, León, Spain, the son of Don José Alvarez and Doña María Antonia Arias. Alvarez spent his childhood in his native village in the Cantabrian Mountains. Under the care of his parents, he became proficient in both French and Spanish. As a youth he wanted to become a writer. An avid reader, he was familiar with the writings of Thomas Carlyle, Sir Walter Raleigh, and ...

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Bache, Richard (?1737–29 July 1811), merchant and revolutionary leader, was born in Settle in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England, the son of William Bache, a tax collector in Settle, and Mary Blyckenden. With encouragement from his father, Richard, at a young age, pursued a career in business and evidently worked in several British counting houses....

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Bayard, John Bubenheim (11 August 1738–07 January 1807), merchant and statesman, was born at Bohemia Manor, Maryland, the son of James Bayard, a merchant and planter, and Mary Asheton. He and his twin brother James Asheton Bayard were educated first by Samuel Finley...

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Bingham, William (08 April 1752–07 February 1804), businessman and public official, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Bingham, a saddler and merchant, and Mary “Molly” Stamper. Bingham graduated cum laude from the College of Philadelphia in 1768. Sometime after the death of his father in 1769, he served an apprenticeship with Philadelphia merchant ...

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Bowdoin, James (22 September 1752–11 October 1811), merchant and diplomat, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, son of James Bowdoin, a merchant and Massachusetts governor, and Elizabeth Erving. After early schooling at Boston Latin School, he attended Harvard College, from which he received his degree in absentia in 1771, having gone to England in 1770 for health reasons. In England he studied at Christ Church, Oxford University, and subsequently traveled on the Continent until his return home in late 1775....

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Brown, John (27 January 1736–20 September 1803), merchant and congressman, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of James Brown, a merchant and shipowner, and Hope Power. The Brown family was long dominant in the mercantile life of Rhode Island, and during the Revolution Brown and his brothers ...

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Carter, Henry Alpheus Peirce (07 August 1837–01 November 1891), merchant and diplomat, was born in Honolulu, Kingdom of Hawaii, the son of Captain Joseph Oliver Carter, a Pacific trader and master mariner, and Hannah Trufant Lord. At age three, Henry and his older brother were sent to Boston, Massachusetts, to be educated, but owing to their father’s subsequent financial losses, they had to return to Hawaii in 1849....

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Carter, Robert (1663–04 August 1732), merchant-planter and public official, was born in Lancaster County, Virginia, the son of John Carter, a wealthy merchant-planter and attorney, and Sarah Ludlow. John Carter died in 1669 leaving Robert 1,000 acres and one-third of his personal estate. He also provided that an indentured servant be “bought for him … to teach him his books either in English or Latine according to his capacity.” Later, probably around 1672, he was sent to London by his elder brother John where he spent six years receiving a grammar school education. In London Robert lived with Arthur Bailey, a prosperous merchant, from whom he must have learned about the intricacies of the tobacco trade. Little else is known about his early years, but in 1688 he married Judith Armistead, with whom he had five children. In 1701 he married Elizabeth Landon Willis; this union produced an additional ten children. Five sons and five daughters lived to maturity, and all the sons received an English education. The death of his brother John in 1690, followed shortly by the death of his daughter and half brother, resulted in Carter inheriting the bulk of a large estate that included more than 9,000 acres of land and 115 slaves. Carter, already a man of substance, quickly added to his wealth through planting and mercantile activity, including a significant involvement in the slave trade. He also began to acquire large amounts of land, a process that was aided by the two terms he served as agent (1702–1712, 1719–1732) for the Fairfax family, the proprietors of the Northern Neck. The Northern Neck was that vast area of land between the Rappahannock and the Potomac rivers, stretching to the headwaters of the latter. At Carter’s death it was reported that he left 300,000 acres of land, 1,000 slaves, and £10,000 in cash, and it appears that this estimate was not far off the mark....

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Clark, Daniel (1766–13 August 1813), merchant, diplomat, and territorial delegate, was born in Sligo, Ireland. Although his parents’ names are unknown, his family’s wealth and connections were sufficient to provide him with an education at Eton and other English schools. Declining fortunes in Ireland prompted the Clarks in 1785 or 1786 to emigrate to America, where they settled in Germantown, outside of Philadelphia....

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George Clymer. Engraving by James Barton Longacre. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111789).

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Gaspare J. Saladino

Clymer, George (16 March 1739–23 January 1813), merchant, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Christopher Clymer, a sea captain and an Episcopalian, and Deborah Fitzwater, a disowned Quaker. Clymer’s parents died by 1746, and he was raised by his maternal aunt Hannah Coleman and her husband William, a wealthy Quaker merchant and Proprietary party leader. The Proprietary party was aligned with the Penn family (proprietors of Pennsylvania) against the Quaker party, which sought to turn Pennsylvania into a royal colony. By the late 1750s Clymer himself had become a merchant. In 1765 Clymer, an Episcopalian, married Elizabeth Meredith, the daughter of the Quaker merchant Reese Meredith; like Clymer’s mother, she was disowned for marrying a non-Quaker. Five of their eight children attained maturity. Following his uncle William Coleman’s death in 1769, Clymer inherited £6,000. Three years later Clymer entered into partnership with his father-in-law and his brother-in-law ...

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Crowninshield, Benjamin Williams (27 December 1772–03 February 1851), merchant and politician, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of George Crowninshield, a sea captain and merchant, and Mary Derby, daughter of another prominent shipping family. Young Benjamin received a common school education and then was put into his father’s shipping business, George Crowninshield and Sons, to learn navigation and the clerical details of the business. He went to sea at a very early age and may even have captained a ship himself. In 1804 he married Mary Boardman, who was also from a prominent shipping family; they had no children....

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Cruger, Henry, Jr. (22 November 1739–24 April 1827), merchant, member of Parliament, mayor of Bristol, England, and New York state senator, was born in New York City, the son of Henry Cruger and Elizabeth Harris. The Cruger family had long been prominent in the economic and political life of New York, and Henry Cruger, Jr., enjoyed an assured position in the Atlantic community throughout his career. His paternal grandfather had migrated in 1698 from Bristol, England, to New York, where he became a prosperous merchant and shipowner and also an alderman and mayor. His father was also a merchant and shipowner trading between England, North America, and the West Indies as well as a member of the provincial assembly and the governor’s council. John Cruger, his uncle, was the first president of the New York Chamber of Commerce, an alderman and mayor of New York, a member and speaker of the provincial assembly, and a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. John Harris Cruger, an older brother, succeeded their father as a member of the governor’s council....

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Cushing, Thomas (24 March 1725–28 February 1788), merchant and politician, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Cushing, a prominent merchant and officeholder, and Mary Bromfield. Thomas graduated from Harvard in the class of 1744 and received a master’s degree in 1747. That same year he married Deborah Fletcher, with whom he had two children. Although established as a merchant specializing in the importation of woolens, his business dwindled as his interest in local politics increased. After serving in a number of minor Boston offices, he was appointed a justice of the peace in 1760. The next year he began a fourteen-year stint in the Massachusetts General Court as a member of the Popular party, opposing the royal governor’s Court party. In 1766, when Governor ...

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Cutt, John (1625–05 April 1681), merchant and colonial administrator, was born in England, the son of Richard Cutt, a Welsh merchant who moved his family to Bristol in Gloucestershire and then sat as a member of Oliver Cromwell’s Parliament in 1654. His mother’s name is unknown. Almost nothing is known of his early years in England, but like nearly all members of his generation he was certainly influenced by the struggle between King Charles and his Parliaments and the English Civil War (1642–1645)....

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Cutts, Samuel (08 December 1726–29 May 1801), merchant and revolutionary activist, was born probably in Kittery, Maine, the son of Major Richard Cutt, a merchant, and Eunice Curtis. The fourth of ten children, he was of the first generation to change the spelling of the family name from Cutt to Cutts. His great-grandfather was Robert Cutt, who with two brothers had come, in the 1640s to the Piscataqua River region of northern New England where they soon became one of the dominant mercantile and landholding families. One of Robert’s brothers, ...

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De Berdt, Dennys (1694–11 April 1770), merchant and colonial agent, was born in London, England, the son of John De Berdt, a trader. Particulars regarding his mother have not survived. Following in his father’s footsteps, De Berdt became a merchant in London, quickly establishing an interest in foreign trade. By 1748 he was deeply involved in the North American trade, and two decades later he admitted still having £50,000 “locked up in America” (Reed Collection). He was long associated with the firm of Wright, Burkitt & Sayre....

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De Peyster, Abraham (08 July 1657–02 August 1728), colonial government official and merchant, was born in New Amsterdam, the son of Johannes De Peyster and Cornelia Lubbertse. His father, having settled in New Amsterdam in the early 1650s, created a thriving mercantile business that his son further developed by the early 1680s. While De Peyster began to rise in rank in the militia, he was also called upon in 1684 to become the city assessor and the following year became an alderman. While on a visit to Holland in 1684, De Peyster met and married a cousin, Catherine De Peyster. They had five children that survived to maturity. The province came to depend on De Peyster to supply local officials with monetary loans or food supplies for the militia. His continued inability to speak English did not deter local government agencies from calling on him for assistance whenever necessary....

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Derby, Elias Hasket (16 August 1739–08 September 1799), merchant, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Captain Richard Derby, an established ship master and merchant, and Mary Hodges, a merchant’s daughter. His father’s rise as a prominent general merchant was instrumental in lofting Derby to the position of one of the wealthiest and most successful merchants of his age. As an apprentice in his father’s counting-house, young Derby assisted in the management of a burgeoning shipping business through the 1750s and 1760s. He became adept at keeping the firm’s books and coordinating the flow of New England fish, lumber, and produce, West Indies sugar and molasses, and Southern tobacco and naval stores. As his aging father gradually withdrew from the business, the younger Derby assumed full control of counting-house operations, introducing new practices to adapt to the increasing complexity of the Atlantic trade. In 1761 he married Elizabeth Crowninshield; they had seven children....