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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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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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Douglas Pike and Lisabeth G. Svendsgaard

Bunker, Ellsworth (11 May 1894–27 September 1984), businessman and diplomat, was born in Yonkers, New York, the son of George R. Bunker, a founder of the National Sugar Refining Company, and Jean Polhemus Cobb. Bunker was educated in private schools in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and attended Yale University, where he majored in history and economics. After graduating in 1916, he entered the family business as a dockworker. In 1920 he married Harriet Allen Butler, with whom he was to have three children. Bunker advanced quickly in the National Sugar Refining Company and was named a director of the company in 1927. He went on to become secretary, treasurer, president, and chairman of the board, retiring in 1950. He remained a member of the board of directors until 1966....

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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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Chouteau, Auguste Pierre (09 May 1786–25 December 1838), fur trader and Indian diplomat, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Jean Pierre Chouteau, a fur trader and one of the founders of St. Louis, and Pelagie Kiersereau. He attended the United States Military Academy at West Point from 17 July 1804 until 20 June 1806 and became an ensign in the Second United States Infantry. After serving briefly as aide to General ...

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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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Coolidge, Thomas Jefferson (26 August 1831–17 November 1920), businessman and diplomat, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Coolidge, Jr., a businessman, and Eleanora Wayles Randolph. On his father’s side Coolidge was descended from John Coolidge, one of the first settlers of Watertown; on his mother’s side he was descended from Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States. His parents were members of the Boston elite, and throughout his life Coolidge moved in the same circles....

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Draper, William Franklin (09 April 1842–28 January 1910), textile machinery manufacturer and inventor, congressman, and ambassador to Italy, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of George Draper and Hannah Thwing. His grandfather, Ira Draper, had patented the first self-acting rotary temple for cotton looms in 1816 and had established a plant to manufacture the new machine part in Weston, Massachusetts. By 1842 Ira’s son Ebeneezer had taken control of the business and had moved the plant from Weston to Hopedale, Massachusetts, where he became a member of the Reverend ...

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Green, Benjamin Edwards (05 February 1822–12 May 1907), lawyer, diplomat, and business promoter, was born in Elkton, Kentucky, the son of Duff Green and Lucretia Maria Edwards. He grew up in Washington, D.C., where his father, a determined supporter of Andrew Jackson, moved in 1825 to edit the ...

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Grimké, Archibald Henry (17 August 1849–25 February 1930), lawyer, diplomat, and protest leader, was born a slave on “Caneacres” plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Henry Grimké, a lawyer and planter, and Nancy Weston, the family’s slave nurse. His parents probably never married, but his mother assumed the Grimké name. Grimké had an extremely difficult early life. After years of virtual freedom—he had attended Charleston schools for free African Americans though technically a slave—he and his brother ...

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Hamilton, John (1740–12 December 1816), colonial merchant, Loyalist, and British consul, was born in Scotland. Nothing is known of his education. In 1756 he joined his brother Archibald in Nansemond County, Virginia, as a partner in a mercantile company, which included an uncle in Glasgow as a third partner. The Hamiltons extended their operations into North Carolina, where they established an extensive trading center at Hamilton Hill near Halifax; they had stores and warehouses for retail and wholesale trade in imported and colonial goods, a tavern, and shops for a blacksmith, a cooper, a hatter, and a tailor. By 1776 the Hamiltons, who operated under the name of John Hamilton and Company, had become the largest commercial house in the colony. Throughout its existence, the company maintained an excellent reputation with North Carolina farmers and merchants, who benefited from its ample provision of purchasing credit....

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Herrman, Augustine (1605?–1686?), merchant, attorney, ambassador, and mapmaker, was born in Prague, Bohemia, thought to be the son of Ephraim Augustin Herrman, a shopkeeper and city councilman, and Beatrix Redel, but possibly the son of Abraham Herrman, a Hussite minister in Mseno who was exiled to Zittau in Saxony because he was not Roman Catholic, and eventually settled in Amsterdam (wife’s name unknown)....

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Holker, John (1745–1822), agent for the French during the American Revolution and influential merchant, also known as Jean Holker, was born at the time of the last Jacobite Rebellion (exact date and place unknown), the son of John Holker, an English soldier from the Manchester area who had sided with the Pretender. (His mother’s name is not known.) John Sr. fled with his family to France when the rebellion collapsed. In exile he turned to pioneering the introduction of new manufacturing techniques from England. He became a prosperous textile merchant-industrialist based in Rouen, and in 1755, thanks to the patronage of a powerful minister at court, Trudaine de Montigny, was appointed inspector general of manufactures. In 1775 he acquired the additional title of chevalier. In 1777 he acted as principal in a large contract for military clothing and uniforms placed by the American commissioners at Versailles on Congress’s behalf....

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Hoover, Herbert Clark, Jr. (04 August 1903–09 July 1969), undersecretary of state and businessman, was born in London, England, the son of Herbert Clark Hoover, the thirty-first president of the United States, and Lou Henry Hoover. The fact that Hoover’s father was president remained the dominant fact of his life. Hoover followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from Stanford University in 1925 with a degree in petroleum geology. That same year he married Margaret Watson, with whom he would have three children. He received his M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School three years later and remained at Harvard for the next two years as an instructor and researcher. In 1928 the Guggenheim Foundation awarded him a grant to survey West Coast air routes....

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Alanson B. Houghton. c. 1922. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99334).

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Houghton, Alanson Bigelow (10 October 1863–16 September 1941), congressman, diplomat, and manufacturer, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Amory Houghton, a glass manufacturer, and Ellen Ann Bigelow. After operating a glass factory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his grandfather, Amory Houghton, Sr., and his father operated the Brooklyn Flint Glass Company in New York (1864–1868). The company’s operations were then transferred to Corning, New York, and the company was renamed Corning Flint Glass Company; it was incorporated as the Corning Glass Works in 1875. After early education in Corning and St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, Alanson Houghton graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with an A.B. in 1886. He undertook graduate study at the Universities of Göttingen, Berlin, and Paris, with a focus on political economy. Before 1890 he also published articles on Italian finance in the ...

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Larkin, Thomas Oliver (16 September 1802–27 October 1858), merchant, diplomatic agent, and capitalist, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Oliver Larkin, Sr., a sea captain, and Ann Rogers Cooper. His spotty education is reflected in his correspondence, which is sprinkled with misspellings and grammatical slips. When Oliver was five, his father died, and in 1813 his mother remarried and moved the family to Lynn, which young Oliver always looked upon as his hometown. At the age of fifteen, he went to nearby Boston “to learn the art of making books,” a trade he abandoned two years later for a clerkship in a bookstore. That, too, proved confining, so in October 1821 he set out with a friend for Wilmington, North Carolina, to seek his fortune....

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Lawrence, Abbott (16 December 1792–18 August 1855), manufacturer, philanthropist, and diplomat, was born in Groton, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Lawrence and Susanna Parker, farmers. Lawrence was educated at the district school and the town academy. In 1808 he went to Boston as an apprentice in the warehouse of his older brother, Amos Lawrence (1786–1852), who was a well-established merchant in the city. In 1814 Abbott was admitted to partnership, and the firm of A. & A. Lawrence was founded, specializing in imports of English goods. Taking advantage of renewed trade following the War of 1812, the firm became one of the wealthiest in Boston. In 1819 Lawrence married Katherine Bigelow, the daughter of Timothy Bigelow, then Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Lawrence and his wife had seven children....

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Merry, William Lawrence (27 December 1842–11 December 1911), sea captain, merchant, and diplomat, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Henry Merry, a merchant and sea captain, and Candida Isbina Xavier, apparently Brazilian. Merry attended the Collegiate Institute in New York City during the 1850s. He became a junior officer on the ...

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Perle Mesta Right, with U. S. Senate candidate Marjorie Bell Hinrichs at the Democratic party jubilee in Chicago. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92423).