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Altman, Benjamin (12 July 1840–07 October 1913), merchant and art collector, was born in New York, New York, the son of Philip Altman, a dry goods merchant, and Cecilia (maiden name unknown). His father, a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria who had come to the United States in 1835, operated a small dry goods store named Altman & Co. on Third Avenue near Tenth Street. Young Altman worked with his brother Morris in his father’s shop in the afternoons. He left school at the age of twelve to work there full time and later held a variety of sales jobs with other dry goods shops in New York City and in Newark, New Jersey. When his father died in 1854, Altman and his brother took over the store, changing its name to Altman Bros. The business prospered, and by 1865 they moved to Third Avenue and Tenth Street; they moved again to a larger building on Sixth Avenue between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets in 1870. Morris left the business but remained a partner, and when he died in 1876, Altman became sole owner, later changing the name of the firm to B. Altman & Co....

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Borden, Gail (09 November 1801–11 January 1874), surveyor and inventor, was born in Norwich, New York, the son of Gail Borden, a pioneer and landowner, and Philadelphia Wheeler. The Bordens moved at least twice in the early 1800s, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky, which became Covington soon after their arrival, and then to New London, Indiana, in 1816, where Borden learned surveying. Borden attended school in Indiana during 1816 and 1817....

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Carnegie, Hattie (15 March 1886–22 February 1956), fashion designer and merchandiser, was born Henrietta Könengeiser in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Isaac Könengeiser and Hannah Kraenzer. The family emigrated to the United States, settling on New York’s Lower East Side in 1892. Hattie’s first job was as a messenger at R. H. Macy’s, where she encountered the heady new world of modern retailing and the lifestyle of affluent New York. That experience may have inspired her to assume the name Carnegie; ...

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Hattie Carnegie. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92431).

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Halston (23 April 1932–26 March 1990), milliner and fashion designer, was born Roy Halston Frowick in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of an accountant and a homemaker (names unknown). (The name Halston came from his maternal grandfather, Halston Holmes.) Halston spent his boyhood in Iowa. His first design was a red hat and veil he created for his mother to wear on Easter Sunday 1945 to the Central Presbyterian Church in Des Moines. After World War II the family moved to Evansville, Indiana, where as a teenager, Halston was known as the best dresser at Bosse High School. Following high school Halston attended Indiana University but left two years later for the Art Institute of Chicago. Halston attended the Art Institute for only two semesters and did not graduate....

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Kaufmann, Edgar Jonas, Sr. (01 November 1885–14 April 1955), retailer and patron of architecture, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Morris Kaufmann, a merchant, and Betty Wolf. Kaufmann’s grandfather was a horse trader in the Rhineland town of Viernheim, Germany. Two of his uncles left Germany in 1868 for Pittsburgh, where they were first peddlers and then tailors. In 1872 the two brothers were joined by Kaufmann’s father and another uncle. In 1877 the four Kaufmann brothers opened a department store in downtown Pittsburgh, doors away from the cast-iron Mellon Bank. In 1905 Edgar Kaufmann attended the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, after which he spent two years as an apprentice at the Marshall Field store in Chicago, at Les Galeries Lafayette in Paris, and at the Karstadt store in Hamburg. He returned from Europe in 1908, and by 1913 he held or controlled a majority interest in the family store. In 1909 he married his cousin Lilianne Kaufmann; they had one child....

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Post, Marjorie Merriweather (15 March 1887–12 September 1973), business owner, entertainer, and philanthropist, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of Charles William Post, founder of Postum Cereal Company, and Ella Letitia Merriweather. After several of Charles Post’s entrepreneurial ventures failed, his family entered him in a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1891. The sanitarium’s doctor, ...

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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....

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Sypher, Obadiah Lum (10 October 1833–18 August 1907), antique dealer and furniture manufacturer, was born in Flushing, New York, the son of Abraham Sypher, a miller, and Abigail Ann Lum. Soon after Obadiah’s birth, the family moved to the township of Blooming Grove, in Orange County, New York, a region where large crops of wheat were grown and ground in gristmills along the streams. As the American West opened to farming, gristmills in New York became unprofitable, however, so they were shut down or redesigned for other uses. In 1850 Obadiah was living with his father and working as a miller. But in 1860 he was no longer living at home, and by 1863 he had moved to Manhattan, where he was working as a clerk in a furniture store owned by Daniel Marley. It is not known how Sypher became associated with Marley. It is possible that there was a connection through ...