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Chalmers, William James (10 July 1852–10 December 1938), businessman and philanthropist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Thomas Chalmers, a machinist and mining manufacturer, and Janet Telfer. Educated in the Chicago public schools until the age of fourteen, he then worked as an apprentice machinist in the Eagle Works Manufacturing Company (Chicago), where his father was superintendent. Upon completing his apprenticeship, he spent a year traveling in Europe. He returned to Chicago in 1871, where he took charge of the finances for his father’s newly formed company, Fraser, Chalmers & Co., which designed machines for milling, smelting, and refining ores....

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McCormick, Nettie Fowler (08 February 1835–05 July 1923), businesswoman and philanthropist, was born Nancy Maria Fowler in Brownsville, Jefferson County, New York, the daughter of Melzar Fowler and Clarissa Spicer, general merchants. In infancy Nettie Fowler lost her father; her mother ran the family business until her death, when Nettie was seven. Nettie was then raised by her maternal grandmother in the family of her uncle, a prosperous merchant and temperance activist; both guardians were local philanthropists. Between 1850 and 1855, she was educated at three seminaries, one year each at Falley Seminary of Fulton, New York; ...

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Parker, John P. (1827–30 January 1900), African-American abolitionist and entrepreneur, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of a slave mother and white father, whose names are unknown. At the age of eight, Parker was sold as a slave to an agent in Richmond, where he in turn was purchased by a physician from Mobile, Alabama. While employed as a house servant for the physician, Parker learned to read and write. In Mobile he was apprenticed to work in furnaces and iron manufactures as well as for a plasterer. Beaten by the plasterer, Parker attempted to escape, only to be captured aboard a northbound riverboat....