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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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Crosby, James Morris (12 May 1927–10 April 1986), businessman and entertainment entrepreneur, was born in Great Neck, Long Island, New York, the son of John F. Crosby, an attorney, and Emily M. (maiden name unknown). After attending preparatory school in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, he went to Franklin and Marshall College in 1945. From that year to 1946, he served in the U.S. Navy, but 1946 found him back stateside, attending Bucknell College. He enrolled in Georgetown University later that year, graduating in 1948 with a degree in economics. He attended Georgetown Law School from 1948 to 1949. From 1949 to 1951 he was a shipping representative for the International Paint Company of New York City....

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Everleigh, Ada (15 February 1876–03 January 1960), and Minna Everleigh (13 July 1878–16 September 1948), businesswomen, were born in rural Kentucky, the daughters of a prosperous lawyer whose last name was Lester. Their mother’s name is unknown. They received little education. The sisters married brothers in 1897, but both husbands proved to be violent brutes, and the sisters left them after less than a year. Ada and Minna left Kentucky in 1898 and settled in Omaha, Nebraska, where they worked as prostitutes during the Trans-Mississippi Exhibition and eventually invested in a brothel. The closing of the fair led to a shortage of customers, and the sisters decided to head for more lucrative surroundings. With money inherited from their father they traveled to Chicago and on 1 February 1900 opened the famous Everleigh Club in the heart of the city’s vice district, known as the Levee District. They had assumed the name Everleigh at some point and used it throughout their residence in Chicago. Within a year they employed thirty women and achieved a national reputation for providing entertainment for men. “Minna and Ada Everleigh are to pleasure what Christ was to Christianity,” a reporter wrote....

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See Everleigh, Ada

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Marriott, John Willard (17 September 1900–13 August 1985), founder of the restaurant and hotel chain that bears his name, was born in Marriott, Utah, the son of Hyrum Marriott and Ellen Morris, farmers. In the town his grandfather established in 1854, the family, well off until after the First World War, was prominent in the Mormon church and the Republican party. At nineteen he left behind the hard life of farm work. For two years he served as a Mormon missionary in New England. While in the East he visited Washington and sought out members of Utah’s congressional delegation known to sponsor promising young fellow Mormons. He hoped that political contacts would provide a suitable job, but when they failed he returned to Utah. There he worked his way through a junior college and then the University of Utah, receiving an A.B. in 1926. Concentrating more on earning money and on social activities than on academic pursuits, he was particularly successful as a salesman....

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Moody, Harriet Converse (18 March 1857–22 February 1932), entrepreneur and patron of the arts, was born in Parkman, Ohio, the daughter of William Mason Tilden, a livestock broker, and Harriet Converse. William Tilden moved his family to Chicago circa 1867. Educated at home by her mother, Harriet later attended the Howland School, a Quaker institution in Union Springs, New York. She continued her education at Cornell University, where she earned a degree in English literature in 1876. Enrolling at the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia, she returned to Chicago after one year, made her debut, and married Edwin Brainard, a lawyer. The marriage was not a success, and the Brainards were divorced in the 1880s....

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Bill Rosenberg. With the sales representative Michael Vale (left) during a fiftieth-anniversary celebration for Dunkin' Donuts. Photograph by Angela Rowlings, Boston, 1 March 2000. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Rosenberg, William (10 June 1916–20 September 2002), entrepreneur and founder of the Dunkin' Donuts restaurant chain, was born in the Dorchester section of Boston, one of the four children of Nathan and Phoebe Swart Rosenberg, who operated a neighborhood grocery. Growing up in one of only a few Jewish families in the tough, working‐class district, as a child Rosenberg was sometimes the target of anti‐Semitic verbal abuse and physical attacks. He left school after eighth grade to work in the family business, and after the failure of the business during the Great Depression he found jobs delivering telegrams for Western Union and driving a horse‐drawn delivery truck for Hood Dairy. Rosenberg's reputation as a tenacious worker won him a wholesale delivery route with the Jack and Jill Ice Cream Company, a pioneer in the use of refrigeration trucks, vending machine sales, and other innovations. His success in developing new business along the route brought him an office position at Jack and Jill, and Harry Winokur, the company accountant, became a mentor, teaching him formal business methods and facilitating his promotion, at age twenty‐one, to national sales manager....