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Langdon, Woodbury (1739–13 January 1805), merchant and judge, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of John Langdon and Mary Hall, successful farmers. Langdon attended the local Latin grammar school and as a young man went to work for Henry Sherburne, one of the leading Piscataqua merchants. He rose quickly to become a ship captain and then Sherburne’s partner in business. In 1765 he married his partner’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Sarah Sherburne. The couple had nine children. Langdon was building ships as well as trading and had become the fifth highest taxpayer in a community filled with wealthy merchants. He also was involved in imperial politics as an ally of Peter Livius, a recent arrival from England eager to replace Governor ...

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Oliver, Peter (17 March 1713–12 October 1791), colonial merchant, iron manufacturer, and jurist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Oliver, a merchant, and Elizabeth Belcher, daughter of Governor Jonathan Belcher. Disciplined twice at Harvard, first for the theft of a goose and later a turkey, he graduated at the head of his class in 1730, a recognition of his social lineage. In 1733 he received an M.A. by arguing against the proposition that tautology is an ornament of oratory. In the same year he married Mary Clark, daughter of another prominent Boston merchant, Richard Clark. The couple joined Old South Church, where Oliver had inherited his father’s rented pew. They had six children who survived infancy....

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Phillips, John (27 December 1719–21 April 1795), merchant-banker, judge, and school benefactor, was born in Andover, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Samuel Phillips and Hannah White. His father, who had graduated from Harvard in 1708, prepared him for the college, which he entered when he was only eleven years old, in 1731. As an undergraduate, John was awarded the William Browne and the Hollis scholarships, received the Hopkins Prize for outstanding scholarly achievement, and was selected to deliver an oration at his class of 1735 commencement. After graduation, Phillips taught school in Andover and took the M.A. degree at Harvard in 1738....

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Saffin, John (22 November 1626–18 July 1710), jurist and merchant, was born in Exeter, Devonshire, England, the son of Simon Saffin and Grace Garrett. While Saffin’s later public life is well documented, other details are vague and incomplete. Around 1634 the family immigrated to Scituate, Massachusetts, where Saffin became a student at ...

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Sewall, Samuel (28 March 1652–01 January 1730), colonial merchant, judge, and philanthropist, was born at Bishop Stoke, Hampshire, England, the son of Henry Sewall, a pastor, and Jane Dummer. Sewall’s father had immigrated to Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1634, and although he was admitted to freemanship in 1637, he returned to England in 1646 and subsequently took the pulpit of North Baddesley. The family returned to Massachusetts in 1659....

Article

Shippen, Edward (1639– August 1712), merchant, religious martyr, and political leader, was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of William Shippen, a prominent landholder, and Mary Nunnes (or Nuns). Although his older brother earned degrees at Oxford and became an Anglican clergyman, Edward in 1668 emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts, a wilderness town of about 3,500. In 1671 he married Elizabeth Lybrand; they had eight children during their seventeen years together. Not long after he joined an artillery company, Shippen converted to his wife’s faith and became a member of the Society of Friends....