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date: 18 October 2019

Sumner, William Grahamlocked

(30 October 1840–12 April 1910)
  • Robert C. Bannister


Sumner, William Graham (30 October 1840–12 April 1910), economist and sociologist, was born in Paterson, New Jersey, the son of Thomas Sumner, an English artisan who emigrated from Lancashire in 1836, and Sarah Graham. When Sumner was eight, his mother died, leaving him and two siblings in the care of a stepmother whose preference for parsimony over affection left a legacy in William’s renowned personal austerity. Although not formally educated, his father championed free trade and temperance but was otherwise contemptuous of what his son later termed the “gospel of gush.” After a lifetime of seeking his fortune without success, Thomas Sumner died in 1881 almost as poor as when he arrived, a model for the “forgotten man” of one of Sumner’s best-known essays....

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