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Baldwin, William Henry, Jr. (05 February 1863–03 January 1905), railroad executive and philanthropist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Henry Baldwin, a dry goods merchant, and Mary Chaffee. A direct descendant of an English settler who had arrived in Massachusetts before 1640, Baldwin grew up in a family noted for its commitment to abolition and other reforms. His father founded the Young Men’s Christian Union of Boston, an adult social service organization. When Baldwin was five years old, his father retired from his successful mercantile career to serve as the union’s president....

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Green, John Cleve (04 April 1800–29 April 1875), philanthropist, railroad entrepreneur, and China trader, was born in Lawrenceville (formerly Maidenhead), New Jersey, the son of Caleb Smith and Elizabeth Green. His great-great-grandfather, Jonathan Dickinson, was first president of the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University; this family connection would later play a great part in Princeton’s future....

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Kennedy, John Stewart (04 January 1830–31 October 1909), railroad commission merchant, private banker, and philanthropist, was born in Blantyre, Scotland (near Glasgow), the son of John Kennedy, probably a millhand, and Isabella Stewart. He attended school from age six to thirteen and received formal instruction outside of office hours for another four years....

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Osborn, William Henry (21 December 1820–02 March 1894), merchant, railroad executive, and philanthropist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of William Osborn and Anna Henfield Bowditch, farmers. After a few years at local schools Osborn, at the age of thirteen, became a clerk in a Boston firm, the East India House of Peele, Hubbell & Company. Bright and quite capable, by age sixteen he was representing his firm in Manila, Philippine Islands. While still in his twenties Osborn set up his own import-export business in Manila. The new firm prospered and by the early 1850s he had made a small fortune. He left the Philippines, toured Europe, and returned to the United States in 1853....

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Thaw, William (12 October 1818–17 August 1889), transportation executive and philanthropist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of John Thaw, a banker, and Elizabeth Thomas. His father, after an earlier career as a merchant seaman, entered the banking business and relocated to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia in 1804. In Pittsburgh the elder Thaw served as the chief clerk in the newly established branch of the Bank of Pennsylvania. His son received his early education at local schools before entering the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh); it is unclear whether he graduated. At the age of sixteen Thaw entered the workplace as a clerk with his father’s firm, which had since been taken over by the Bank of the United States. While employed at the bank, he traveled on horseback throughout the Ohio River valley making collections. During this trip Thaw not only gained knowledge of the area but also became aware of the tremendous potential benefits that improved transportation could bring to the region....

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Vanderbilt, Cornelius, II (27 November 1843–12 September 1899), railroad executive and philanthropist, was born on his family's farm near New Dorp, Staten Island, New York, the son of William Henry Vanderbilt, a railroad magnate, and Maria Louisa Kissam Vanderbilt. He was the favorite grandson and namesake of the family patriarch, ...