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Aldrich, Winthrop (02 November 1885–25 February 1974), lawyer, banker, and legal and political adviser, was born Winthrop Williams Aldrich in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, a U.S. senator, and Abby Chapman. Aldrich graduated from Harvard College in 1907 and Harvard Law School in 1910. Upon graduation from law school Aldrich joined the New York City law firm of Byrne, Cutcheon & Taylor, specializing in finance and commercial law. In 1916 Aldrich was named a junior partner in the firm, and in December of that year he married Harriet Alexander, the granddaughter of California railroad and banking magnate ...

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Cheves, Langdon (17 September 1776–26 June 1857), lawyer, congressman, and financier, was born in Bull Town Fort, South Carolina, the son of Alexander Chivas (or Chivis) of Buchan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and Mary Langdon. It is not known when or why he changed the spelling of his last name. Alexander Chivas had migrated to America in 1762 and established himself as a frontier trader. A Loyalist supporter, he lost his livelihood during the Revolution and moved to the low country. Cheves’s mother, daughter of supporters of the colonial rebellion, died in 1779, and Langdon’s aunt, Mrs. Thomas Cheves, cared for young Langdon. He attended Andrew Weed’s school, and in 1785 his father took him to Charleston. He continued his formal schooling briefly but then pursued vigorous independent study. He apprenticed in a shipping merchant’s office, gaining experience in business and finance by keeping the firm’s accounts. He read for the law with Judge William Marshall and was admitted to the bar in 1797. Successful as a Charleston lawyer, he moved into the political arena. His first elected office was as warden of his city ward in 1802; he then served from 1802 to 1809 in the state legislature and became attorney general in 1809. He won national office in 1810 when he ran for Congress on the Republican ticket. In 1806 he married Mary Elizabeth Dulles; they had fourteen children. In addition to the law and politics, Cheves enjoyed success in designing and building houses and in farming....

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Few, William (08 June 1748–16 July 1828), lawyer, politician, and banker, was born near Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Few, a failed tobacco planter turned frontier farmer, and Mary Wheeler. Few’s family moved in 1758 to North Carolina, where young William received little formal schooling but enough skills and enough love for reading that the future Founding Father was able to educate himself. In the early 1770s, the Few family joined the Regulator movement, rural westerners’ sometimes violent opposition to unrepresentative coastal political control. The family lost one of William’s brothers, the family farm, and the family fortune in the struggle for more local autonomy. The Fews then moved to Georgia, leaving William behind to settle the family’s affairs, to farm, and to teach himself law....

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McCloy, John Jay, Jr. (31 March 1895–11 March 1989), lawyer, banker, and diplomat, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jay McCloy, a claims officer for an insurance firm, and Anna May Snader. McCloy’s father died just before McCloy’s sixth birthday. Left with a modest bequest, Anna McCloy learned hairdressing and developed a wealthy clientele to support herself, John, and her two spinster sisters. In summers Anna followed her clients to their vacation homes in the Adirondack Mountains, where John worked as a chore boy at resorts and taught tennis, a sport in which he excelled. Tennis opened doors for him for many years, as did his mother’s clients and his father’s business associated....

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Henry Morgenthau Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93469).

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Morgenthau, Henry (26 April 1856–25 November 1946), lawyer, real estate agent, and diplomat, was born in Mannheim, Germany, the son of Lazarus Morgenthau, a cigar manufacturer, and Babette Guggenheim. After his business failed, Lazarus Morgenthau immigrated to the United States in 1866 and became an insurance salesman. Henry Morgenthau attended public high school, graduating in 1870, the same year he entered the City College of New York. He remained there only one year before financial pressures compelled him to work. Employed as an errand boy at a law firm, Morgenthau slowly learned the business, becoming expert in title searches and mortgage foreclosure sales. In 1875 he quit his job to enter Columbia Law School, supporting himself by teaching at night. He graduated in 1877 and was admitted to the bar....

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Napier, James Carroll (09 June 1845–21 April 1940), politician, attorney, and businessman, was born on the western outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. His parents, William C. Napier and Jane E., were slaves at the time of his birth but were freed in 1848. After manumission and a brief residency in Ohio, William Napier moved his family to Nashville, where he established a livery stable business. James attended the black elementary and secondary schools of Nashville before entering Wilberforce University (1864–1866) and Oberlin College (1866–1868), both in Ohio....

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Harrison Gray Otis. Oil on canvas, 1833, by Chester Harding. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Otis, Harrison Gray (08 October 1765–28 October 1848), politician, lawyer, and businessman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Allyne Otis, a merchant and the first secretary of the U.S. Senate, and Elizabeth Gray. “Harry,” as he was called, enjoyed the privileges of economic comfort and social elevation, including his family connection to two famous revolutionary figures: his paternal aunt ...

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Scammon, Jonathan Young (27 July 1812–17 March 1890), lawyer, banker, and civic promoter, was born in Whitefield, Maine, the son of Eliakim Scammon and Joanna Young, farmers. As a boy he lost two fingers on his left hand, an injury that diverted his attentions away from farming and toward a profession. Scammon attended Maine Wesleyan Seminary, Lincoln Academy, and then Waterville (now Colby) College. Abandoning his studies at Waterville after only one year because of financial difficulties, Scammon went to Hallowell to read law at age nineteen and was licensed to practice in 1835....