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Butterfield, John (18 November 1801–14 November 1869), western pioneer, express company operator, and investor, was born in Berne, near Albany, New York, the son of Daniel Butterfield (his mother’s name is unknown). His formal education consisted of intermittent attendance at local public schools. As a young man he became a stagecoach driver in New York State and later an investor in barges plying the Erie Canal....

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Robert Fulton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102509).

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Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....

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Grady, Henry Francis (12 February 1882–14 September 1957), diplomat, economist, and businessman, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of John Henry Grady and Ellen Genevieve Rourke. He earned his A.B. in 1907 from St. Mary’s University in Baltimore, Maryland, and his doctorate in economics in 1927 from Columbia University. As a young man, Grady studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood, but his interest in economics and finance led him to overlapping careers in business, academia, and government. In 1917 he married Lucretia del Valle; they had four children....

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Hale, James Webster (21 November 1801–17 August 1892), entrepreneur, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Hale, a sail maker, and Marianna Foxwell Lowell. Hale was a restless youth who, after attending public school in Boston, went to sea at age fifteen. He sailed to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the West Indies, eventually becoming a sea captain. It was probably Hale’s maritime exploits that brought him into contact with ...

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Keith, Minor Cooper (19 January 1848–14 June 1929), entrepreneur, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Minor Hubbell Keith, a lumber merchant, and Emily Meiggs, sister of Henry Meiggs, who built railroads in Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Keith was educated in private schools in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1883 he married Cristina Castro, daughter of José María Castro, who served twice as Costa Rican president. They had no children....

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Lamar, Gazaway Bugg (20 October 1798–05 October 1874), business entrepreneur, was born near Augusta, in Richmond County, Georgia, the son of Basil Lamar, a landholder, and Rebecca Kelly. Lamar received little formal education, although he had private Latin instruction. By age twenty-three and married to his first wife Jane Meek Creswell, whom he wed in October 1821, Lamar became a commission merchant in Augusta and, by 1823, in Savannah. Lamar’s expanding enterprises included banking and steamboating....

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Ogden, Aaron (03 December 1756–19 April 1839), soldier, public official, and entrepreneur, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Robert Ogden II, a lawyer, and Phebe Hatfield. He attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and graduated with the class of 1773. Over the next three years he taught school, first in Princeton, then in Elizabethtown, but with the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and its American colonies, he was quickly drawn into the revolutionary confrontation....

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Paul, Josephine Bay (10 August 1900–06 August 1962), businesswoman and philanthropist, was born Josephine Holt Perfect in Anamosa, Iowa, the daughter of Otis Lincoln Perfect, a realtor, and Tirzah Holt. In 1906 the family moved to Brooklyn, New York, where Josephine Perfect grew up. In 1916 Josephine graduated from Brooklyn Heights Seminary and enrolled at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where she studied for a year. She then spent the next ten years as a secretary and as the director of the Brooklyn Junior League’s bookstore, helping the store to recover from near bankruptcy. In 1928 Josephine and her sister Tirzah established a greeting card business in Brooklyn. With Tirzah as designer and Josephine as sales manager, the sisters managed to sustain a thriving business with distribution stretching from the East Coast to the Midwest. In 1933, following Tirzah’s marriage, the sisters dissolved the business....

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Reeside, James (1789?–03 September 1842), mail contractor and stagecoach proprietor, was born in Scotland, the son of Edward Reeside and Janet Alexander. His parents moved to Baltimore County, Maryland, shortly after his birth. Because the family had limited financial resources, Reeside received little formal schooling. In 1816 he married Mary Weis, and they had one son and two daughters....

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Arthur Sewall. [left to right] William Jennings Bryan and Arthur Sewall. Color lithograph, c. 1896. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2130).

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Sewall, Arthur (25 November 1835–05 September 1900), shipbuilder and railroad and bank president, was born in Bath, Maine, the son of William Dunning Sewall, a shipbuilder, and Rachel Trufant. Sewall received a common school education in Bath. He was subsequently sent to Prince Edward Island to learn how to cut ship timber, and soon he was able to perform every job required in a shipyard. In 1854, during a peak period of wooden shipbuilding, he founded the firm of E. & A. Sewall with his older brother Edward and took over his father’s firm. When Edward died in 1879, the name was changed to Arthur Sewall & Co. Beginning with the 1,000-ton ...

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Cornelius Vanderbilt. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-4160).

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Vanderbilt, Cornelius (27 May 1794–04 January 1877), steamship and railroad promoter and financier, was born in Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York, the son of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Phebe Hand. His father, a poor farmer with nine children, increased his income with some boating around the New York harbor. In 1795 the family moved to Stapleton, on the eastern shore of Staten Island. Cornelius hated both schools and books and had no formal education past the age of eleven, when he became his father’s helper. The husky, robust boy was an expert swimmer and adept at identifying most types of sailing ships. At an early age he helped his father transfer farm produce by boat to New York City. At the age of sixteen his parents lent him $100 to purchase a small sailboat. Cornelius Vanderbilt at once set up a ferrying and freight business between Staten Island and New York City that earned more than $1,000 in the first year. The fare for the trip to New York City was eighteen cents one way or a round trip for a quarter....

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White, Maunsel (1781–17 December 1863), commission merchant and entrepreneur, was born in Tipperary, Ireland, the son of Lawford White and Anne Maunsell. White’s early years were typical of early Irish emigrants to America; despite his poverty, he came hoping for opportunity. Orphaned in Ireland at about age thirteen, he joined his older brother who had emigrated to Louisville, Kentucky. As a boy, White met ...

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Worthington, Thomas (16 July 1773–20 June 1827), entrepreneur, politician, and U.S. senator, was born near Charlestown, Berkeley County, Virginia (now Jefferson County, W.Va.), the son of Robert Worthington, a prominent planter, and Margaret Matthews, from Frederickton, Maryland, who was of Irish background. Orphaned by the age of seven, he received little formal education and in May 1791 went to sea for two years. On his return he farmed the Berkeley County estate, took up surveying, and bought up Virginia military land warrants that he located near Chillicothe in the Northwest Territory. In December 1796 he married Eleanor Van Swearingen of Shepherdstown, Virginia, herself an orphan with a rich property. The couple had ten children. In spring 1798 Worthington freed his slaves and moved his family to Chillicothe; they were joined by his brother-in-law and lifelong political ally, ...

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Yeatman, Thomas (25 December 1787–12 June 1833), merchant and banker, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of John Yeatman, a ship and boat builder on the Potomac and Monongahela rivers, and Lucy Patty. Very little is known of Yeatman’s early life. He arrived in Nashville about 1807 and probably soon became a river trader. W. W. Clayton, in ...