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Ames, Nathaniel (22 July 1708–11 July 1764), almanac maker, physician, and innkeeper, was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of Captain Nathaniel Ames, an astronomer and mathematician, and Susannah Howard. Probably after an apprenticeship with a country doctor, Ames became a doctor. With the likely assistance of his father, in 1725 Ames produced the first almanac to carry his name, though he was a youth of only seventeen. The almanac soon became well known and remained a staple product in New England, appearing annually for a half century....

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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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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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Downing, George Thomas (30 December 1819–21 July 1903), abolitionist, businessman, and civil rights advocate, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Downing, a restaurant owner, and Rebecca West. His father’s Oyster House was a gathering place for New York’s aristocracy and politicians. Young Downing attended Charles Smith’s school on Orange Street and, with future black abolitionists ...

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Fraunces, Samuel (1722 or 1723–10 October 1795), innkeeper, was born in the West Indies of unknown parentage. Little is known about his life before his arrival in New York City sometime in the mid-1750s. Though he was often referred to by contemporaries as “Black Sam,” surviving census records and other sources indicate that he was white. He first appeared in official city records in 1755 as an “innholder,” and a year later he acquired a tavern license. From 1759 to 1762 he maintained Masons’ Arms, the first of several taverns he would own or lease in New York and later in Philadelphia. Little is known about his first wife, Mary Carlile, except that she died shortly after he established himself as a tavern owner in New York City. He soon married again, and his second wife, Elizabeth Dailey, played a crucial role in his business operations, especially in the 1790s. They raised two sons and five daughters in a household that at various times contained several slaves and indentured servants....

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Greenway, Isabella (22 March 1886–18 December 1953), congresswoman, businesswoman, and community activist, was born Isabella Selmes in Boone County, Kentucky, the daughter of Martha Macomb Flandrau and Tilden Russell Selmes, a rancher and lawyer. After Isabella’s birth, her mother took her to join Tilden Selmes in North Dakota, where ...

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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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Grossinger, Jennie (16 June 1892–20 November 1972), businesswoman and philanthropist, was born in Baligrod, a village in Galicia, Austria, the daughter of Asher Selig Grossinger, an estate overseer, and Malke Grumet. Selig Grossinger sought a better life for his family in the United States. He traveled to New York City in 1897 and took a job as a coat presser. Jennie, her mother, and sister Lottie followed him to the Lower East Side three years later. Jennie had some Jewish elementary school education and four years of public school education at P.S. 174. She quit formal schooling to work as a buttonhole maker but continued to take some night school classes following her eleven-hour-day job....

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Harvey, Fred (27 June 1835– February 1901), caterer, hotelier, and restaurateur, was born Frederick Henry Harvey in London, England, the son of English-Scottish parents, whose names are unknown. Harvey emigrated from Liverpool, arriving in New York City in 1850. He immediately found employment at the Smith and McNewill Café earning two dollars a week as a busboy and pot scrubber. In the early 1850s he traveled by coastal packet to New Orleans, where he worked in restaurants and survived a bout with yellow fever. In the mid-1850s he traveled by stern-wheeler up the Mississippi to St. Louis. There he became involved in a jewelry business and a clothing store. His early training, however, sparked his desire to have his own restaurant. He became a U.S. citizen in 1858, and a year later he married Barbara Sarah Mattas; they had six children....

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Hilton, Conrad (25 December 1887–03 January 1979), businessman, was born Conrad Nicholson Hilton in San Antonio, Socorro County, New Mexico Territory, the son of Augustus Holver “Gus” Hilton, an entrepreneur, and Mary Laufersweiler. Hilton’s early life was spent on the frontier of the Southwest, where his father ran a variety of businesses, including a general store. He learned Spanish from his playmates and spent a great deal of time assisting his father in his various enterprises. After early study at a local school, he attended Goss Military Institute in Albuquerque (1899–1900), New Mexico Military Institute (1900–1901, 1902–1904), and St. Michael’s College, Santa Fe (1901–1902). Hilton dropped out of the New Mexico Military Institute in 1904 and went to work full time in his father’s increasingly prosperous store. There he learned to haggle with all types of customers, thereby honing the negotiating skills that were to serve him well in the future. Selling off part of his business (coal mines), Hilton’s father, now a wealthy man, moved the family to Long Beach, California, in 1905 due to his wife’s poor health....

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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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Mondavi, Rosa Grassi (28 March 1890–04 July 1976), boardinghouse operator and company president, was born in Sassoferrato, Italy. Her parents, Giovanni Grassi and Lucia (maiden name unknown), were farmers. She had no formal schooling and was trained in the domestic arts of cooking and home maintenance, by which she earned her living....

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Plant, Henry Bradley (27 October 1819–23 June 1899), transportation executive, was born in Branford, Connecticut, the son of Anderson Plant and Betsey Bradley, farmers. His father died of typhus when Plant was only six years old, and upon his mother’s remarriage to Philemon Hoadley several years later the family relocated to Martinsburg, New York. Plant later returned to his native state and settled in New Haven, where he finished his education at a private academy. Although Plant’s grandmother offered to pay his way through Yale (hoping that he would enter the ministry), he declined the offer in favor of entering the world of work....

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G. David Schine. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Schine, G. David (11 September 1927–19 June 1996), government official and businessman, was born Gerard David Schine, the son of J. Myer Morris Schine, millionaire owner of radio stations, movie theaters, and hotels, and Hildegarde Feldman Schine. After graduating from Harvard in 1949, Schine was appointed by his father to be president of his own company, Schine Hotels Inc....

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Statler, Ellsworth Milton (26 October 1863–16 April 1928), hotel founder, was born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the son of William Jackson Statler, a German Reformed pastor, and Mary McKinney. His father sought to supplement his meager income by farming and by selling handmade matches, with minimal success. The family moved to Bridgeport, Ohio, across the river from Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1868, where Reverend Statler purchased a general store while continuing his ministry. He died ten years later. In 1872 Statler joined two older brothers in securing employment at a Wheeling glass factory. He worked a twelve-hour shift firing furnaces as a “glory boy” for fifty cents a day....

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Wormley, James (16 January 1819–18 October 1884), hotelkeeper, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Pere Leigh Wormley and Mary (maiden name unknown). Both his parents were free people of color before their 1814 arrival in Washington, where his father became proprietor of a livery stable on Pennsylvania Avenue between Fourteenth and Fifteenth streets, near the famous Willard Hotel. Wormley’s early life is obscure, but it is certain that he went to work at a young age as a hack driver for his father, whose business was thriving by the 1820s. Eventually Wormley bought a horse and carriage of his own and began to work independently. Wormley’s exposure to the city’s fine hotels and high society through his clientele, which inevitably included many prominent public figures, might perhaps have influenced his later vocation....

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Wrigley, William, Jr. (30 September 1861–26 January 1932), businessman, was born in Philadelphia, one of nine children of William Wrigley, a soap maker, and Mary A. Ladley Wrigley. He had little formal education, having run away at age eleven in hopes of making his way in New York, but he returned to work for Wrigley's Scouring Soap, eventually as a salesman with horse and wagon. In a precursor of his later life, he set off westward, only to return to the factory, having lost his railroad ticket in Kansas City. In 1885 he married Ada E. Foote; they had two children and remained married until Wrigley's death....