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Altman, Benjamin (12 July 1840–07 October 1913), merchant and art collector, was born in New York, New York, the son of Philip Altman, a dry goods merchant, and Cecilia (maiden name unknown). His father, a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria who had come to the United States in 1835, operated a small dry goods store named Altman & Co. on Third Avenue near Tenth Street. Young Altman worked with his brother Morris in his father’s shop in the afternoons. He left school at the age of twelve to work there full time and later held a variety of sales jobs with other dry goods shops in New York City and in Newark, New Jersey. When his father died in 1854, Altman and his brother took over the store, changing its name to Altman Bros. The business prospered, and by 1865 they moved to Third Avenue and Tenth Street; they moved again to a larger building on Sixth Avenue between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets in 1870. Morris left the business but remained a partner, and when he died in 1876, Altman became sole owner, later changing the name of the firm to B. Altman & Co....

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Bamberger, Louis (15 May 1855–11 March 1944), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Elkan Bamberger, a wholesale notions merchant, and Theresa Hutzler. Bamberger attended public school in Baltimore until he quit at fourteen to become a $4-a-week clerk and errand boy in his uncles’ dry-goods store, Hutzler Brothers. After two years he joined his brother Julius to work for their father, buying E. Bamberger & Company when their father retired in the mid-1870s. Leaving the position as business manager, Louis Bamberger relocated to New York City in 1887 to accumulate capital for his own retail business while working as a buyer for West Coast wholesalers....

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Copley, Ira Clifton (25 October 1864–02 November 1947), newspaper publisher, congressman, public utilities executive, and philanthropist, was born in Copley Township, Knox County, Illinois, the son of Ira Birdsall Copley and Ellen Madeline Whiting, farmers. When Copley was two he was struck with scarlet fever, which left him blind. When he was three, the family moved to Aurora, Illinois, where he received treatment for his eyes. Even with the care of an eye specialist, his complete blindness lasted five years. With the move to Aurora, his father and his mother’s brother assumed ownership of the Aurora Illinois Gas Light Company, the beginning of a large utility company that Ira would one day manage....

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Filene, Edward Albert (03 September 1860–26 September 1937), merchant, reformer, and philanthropist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of William Filene, a merchant, and Clara Ballin. His father emigrated from Poznan, Prussia (now Poland), in 1848 and, upon arriving in the United States, worked as a tailor in Boston. In 1856 he set up a small retail shop for women’s goods in Salem, Massachusetts. Encouraged by the prosperity of the Civil War years, William Filene moved his family and business to New York City in 1863, but the postwar downturn forced him into bankruptcy by 1870. The family retraced their steps and returned to small shopkeeping in industrial Lynn, Massachusetts....

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Goldman, Sylvan Nathan (15 November 1898–25 November 1984), inventor of the folding shopping cart and businessman-philanthropist, was born in Ardmore, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma), the son of Michael Goldman and Hortense Dreyfus, owners of a general store. He received eight years of education in local public schools and in 1912 underwent his bar mitzvah in a Jewish Reform temple....

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Heinz, Henry John, II (10 July 1908–23 February 1987), business executive and philanthropist, was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, the son of Howard Heinz, a business executive, and Elizabeth Grainger Rust. He was the grandson of Henry J. Heinz, the founder of H. J. Heinz Company, one of the largest international food processing and distribution corporations. Heinz, known as Jack, attended Yale University and graduated in 1931 with a B.A. in English. He pursued postgraduate studies in economics at Trinity College, Cambridge University, England (1931–1932)....

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Hershey, Milton Snavely (13 September 1857–13 October 1945), candy manufacturer, was born at his family’s homestead in Derry Church, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry H. Hershey and Fannie B. Snavely. In search of elusive wealth and success, Henry Hershey moved his family numerous times, always failing at his varied business ventures, including farming, cough drop manufacturing, and sales. As a result of the instability, Milton’s formal education was haphazard, and he never went beyond the fourth grade....

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Jarman, W. Maxey (10 May 1904–09 September 1980), corporate executive and philanthropist, was born Walton Maxey Jarman in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of James Franklin Jarman, part-owner of a shoe company, and Eugenia Maxey. In his youth Jarman liked working with cars and radios and attended a local public high school specializing in engineering and other technical subjects. He also had a hand in starting WSM, Nashville’s first radio station. He enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an electrical engineering major, but quit during his junior year in 1924 to join his father in starting a new shoe factory. The firm, known at first as Jarman Shoe Company, began with capital of $130,000. It reached $1,000,000 in sales and turned a profit the first year and established the pattern of doubling sales and profits every six years. Jarman married Sarah McFerrin Anderson of Gallatin, Tennessee, in 1928. She had studied math at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and was an accomplished diver, noted for her jumps from cliffs into the Cumberland River. The couple raised three children....

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Johnson, George Francis (14 October 1857–28 November 1948), shoe manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Milford, Massachusetts, the son of Francis A. Johnson, seaman and shoe worker, and Sarah Jane Aldrich. Johnson’s childhood was spent in a series of New England villages as his father moved about in search of better work. He left school at age thirteen to go to work in a boot factory....

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Kellogg, John Harvey (26 February 1852–14 December 1943), physician, surgeon, and health reformer, was born in rural Livingston County, Michigan, the son of John Preston Kellogg and Anne Stanley, farmers. In 1852 Kellogg’s parents accepted the religious teachings that led to the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1863. This decision had a marked influence on their son’s life. By 1856 the family had resettled in Battle Creek, Michigan. Part of the proceeds from the sale of their farm was used to relocate the infant Adventist publishing plant from Rochester, New York, to Battle Creek, where Kellogg’s father now operated a small store and broom shop....

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Kellogg, W. K. (07 April 1860–06 October 1951), founder of the Kellogg Company and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, founder of the Kellogg Company and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, was born Willie Keith Kellogg in Battle Creek, Michigan, the son of John Preston Kellogg, a broommaker and a leader of the newly established Seventh-day Adventist church, and his second wife, Ann Janette Stanley. Believing that Christ’s second coming was imminent, Kellogg’s parents provided only a scant education for most of the seven of their eleven children who survived infancy. By the time he was in his early teens, Kellogg, who legally changed his name to Will Keith and who preferred to be called W. K., had begun working as a traveling salesman of brooms, and by age nineteen he was manager of a broom factory in Dallas, Texas. Returning to Michigan in 1880, Kellogg completed a three-month business course at Parson’s Business College in Kalamazoo and went to work for his older brother, the flamboyant physician, author, and inventor Dr. ...

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Mugar, Stephen Pabken (05 March 1901–16 October 1982), businessman and philanthropist, was born in Harpoot, Armenia (Turkey), the son of Sarkis Mugar and Vosgitel (maiden name unknown). The Mugar family immigrated to the United States in 1906 and joined other family members in Boston. Mugar’s father, using $200 borrowed from relatives, purchased the Star Market in nearby Watertown Square. Stephen, his father, mother, and three sisters worked in the market. Stephen graduated from the Boston High School of Commerce in 1919 and took night courses at the Bentley School of Accounting and Finance in Boston (now Bentley College in Waltham, Mass.). When his father died in an automobile accident in 1923, Stephen took over the management of the market....

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Nicholson, Timothy (02 November 1828–15 September 1924), Quaker reformer and printer, was born in Perquimans County, North Carolina, the son of Josiah Nicholson, a teacher and farmer, and Anna White. Both parents came from families long prominent in Quaker affairs in North Carolina, and by Timothy Nicholson’s own account, their influence and that of Quaker neighbors was such that he never questioned Quaker teachings. He was educated in the Quaker Belvidere Academy in Perquimans County and at the Friends Boarding School (now Moses Brown School) in Providence, Rhode Island. He married twice, first in 1853 to Sarah N. White, who died in 1865, and then in 1868 to her sister, Mary White. There were six children by the first marriage and two by the second....

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Post, Marjorie Merriweather (15 March 1887–12 September 1973), business owner, entertainer, and philanthropist, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of Charles William Post, founder of Postum Cereal Company, and Ella Letitia Merriweather. After several of Charles Post’s entrepreneurial ventures failed, his family entered him in a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1891. The sanitarium’s doctor, ...

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Sanders, Harland David (09 September 1890–16 December 1980), restaurateur, was born near Henryville, Indiana, the son of Wilbert Sanders and Margaret Dunlevy, poor farmers. Sanders had an abbreviated childhood. His father died when Sanders was five years old and this forced his mother to supplement the family income through occasional factory work. Beginning at age seven she left Sanders in charge of his two siblings, sometimes for days at a time. He began working at age ten and his formal schooling ended during the seventh grade. Sanders left home when he was twelve years old, although he remained close to his family....

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Wendell Willkie Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103648).

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Willkie, Wendell Lewis (18 February 1892–08 October 1944), corporation lawyer and executive, politician, and civil rights activist, was born in Elwood, Indiana, the son of Herman F. Willkie and Henrietta Trisch. His father was a lawyer and local reformer, and his mother was one of the first female lawyers in Indiana. Willkie attended local schools and Indiana University, graduating in 1913. After teaching high school in Kansas (Sept. 1913–Nov. 1914), he returned to Indiana University to complete a law degree in 1916....