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Astor, William Waldorf (31 March 1848–18 October 1919), businessman and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the son of John Jacob Astor, a businessman, and Charlotte Gibbes. Astor received his education at home under private tutors and studied law at Columbia University. He worked at law for a short while but found his first real calling in Republican politics. He served a term as a New York State assemblyman beginning in 1877, and two years later he was elected to the state senate. Twice he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, but he was defeated each time. The press and his political enemies found Astor’s inherited wealth an easy target for excoriation, and the public humiliation he suffered at their hands was the first step on the path toward his alienation from everything American. By all accounts Astor was extremely sensitive and simply could not endure criticism. Nor did he find satisfaction in his 1878 marriage to Mary Dahlgren Paul, although the union produced four children. The marriage suffered as shy Mary Astor was forced into a contest with her husband’s Aunt Caroline for the position of most important society matron in New York’s upper crust—the famous “Four Hundred Families.” In addition, the Astors were concerned for the safety of their children, whom they feared might become victims of a kidnapping for ransom....

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Bok, Edward William (09 October 1863–09 January 1930), editor, philanthropist, and peace advocate, was born in den Helder, Holland, the son of William John Hidde Bok and Sieke Gertrude van Herwerden, who, having lost their inherited fortune through unwise investments, immigrated to the United States in 1870. They settled in Brooklyn, where Bok and his older brother learned English in public school. With his father at first unable to find steady employment, Bok delivered newspapers, worked in a bakery, and wrote up childrens’ parties for the ...

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Booth, Evangeline Cory (25 December 1865–17 July 1950), fourth general and first female general of the Salvation Army, was born Eveline Cory Booth in South Hackney, London, England, the seventh of eight children of Catherine Mumford and William Booth, a Methodist minister. Earlier that year the Booths left the church and formed the East London Christian Mission, committing to a more evangelical, "for the people" style of missionary work than they felt Methodism allowed. In 1878 the newly dubbed "General" William Booth renamed their group the Salvation Army. His daughter received no formal education but was a devoted participant in her parents' evangelical organization and from a young age considered herself specially anointed to work with the needy. Growing up, she was called Eva after a character in ...

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Bundy, McGeorge (30 March 1919–16 September 1996), presidential foreign affairs adviser and philanthropist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Harvey Hollister Bundy, a highly successful lawyer who served as a special assistant to Secretary of War Henry Stimson during World War II, and Katherine Putnam Bundy, who was related to several of Boston's most socially prominent families. He grew up in a noisy, high-spirited household where he and his siblings were encouraged to join their elders in debate about history and politics around the dinner table. (His older brother, ...

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Carnegie, Andrew (25 November 1835–11 August 1919), industrialist and philanthropist, was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, the son of William Carnegie, a handloom weaver, and Margaret Morrison. William Carnegie was sufficiently prosperous to have four looms in his shop and to employ three apprentices. Although shunning political activism, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the political views of his wife’s father, Thomas Morrison, Sr., an early leader of the Chartist movement and a friend of William Cobbett to whose journal, ...

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Cooper, Peter (12 February 1791–04 April 1883), inventor, manufacturer, and civic benefactor, was born in New York City, the son of John Cooper and Margaret Campbell. His father was a struggling merchant who moved the family successively to Peekskill, Catskill, and finally Newburgh, New York, in search of financial success. Assisting his father in a series of occupations (hatter, brewer, shopkeeper, and brickmaker), Cooper obtained valuable practical work experience. Given his family’s relative poverty and constant movement, Cooper was only able to obtain a year’s worth of formal schooling; this deficiency in his formal education haunted him throughout his life....

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Corcoran, William Wilson (27 December 1798–24 February 1888), banker, investor, and philanthropist, was born in Georgetown, District of Columbia, the son of Thomas Corcoran, an Irish-born merchant, real estate seller, and local politician, and Hannah Lemmon. Corcoran, who is usually referred to as “W. W.” rather than William, was educated in local Georgetown schools and spent one year at Georgetown College (now Georgetown University). In 1815 he left college to go into the business of operating a dry goods store with his two older brothers, James and Thomas, Jr. In 1817 Corcoran opened a branch store, and by 1820, the three brothers expanded their interests to include an auction and commission house. After the company went bankrupt in a financial panic in 1823, Corcoran worked until 1847 to pay off all their creditors in full, an act that demonstrated his views regarding honor....

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Eastman, George (12 July 1854–14 March 1932), inventor, businessman, and philanthropist, was born in Waterville, New York, the son of George Washington Eastman, a nurseryman and educator, and Maria Kilbourn. His father’s pioneering work in establishing Eastman Mercantile (or Commercial) College in Rochester in 1842, a prototype for later business schools, perhaps inspired Eastman to be a trailblazer in another field. His father died when George was seven, two years after the family moved to Rochester, and his mother took in boarders. Eastman attended public and private schools until age thirteen, when he became an office boy in a real estate firm to help support his mother and two older sisters. A year later Eastman transferred to an insurance office and in 1874 he became a bookkeeper for the Rochester Savings Bank....

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Field, Marshall, III (28 September 1893–08 November 1956), investor, newspaper publisher, and philanthropist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Marshall Field II and Albertine Huck. Being the grandson of the first Marshall Field, the Chicago multimillionaire merchant and real-estate developer, meant that Field would be heir to fabulous wealth—all the sooner when his father, unhappy and passive in his active father’s shadow, committed suicide in 1905 and then when his beloved grandfather died of pneumonia two months later. Field’s mother, who had lived in England with her husband and their children and who disliked Chicago, returned to England. The grandfather’s will provided well for Albertine and gave Field and his younger brother a $75 million trust together. Field attended Eton (1907–1912) and then Trinity College, Cambridge (1912–1914), studying mostly history and vacationing with the horsy set. He returned to the United States in 1914 and married Evelyn Marshall the following year; the couple had three children, including Marshall Field IV. He also studied high finance and played polo. In April 1917 he volunteered as a private, despite his earlier rheumatic fever, in the First Illinois Cavalry (quickly converted to artillery service). He was soon commissioned and promoted, saw action in France as a captain with the Thirty-third Division, and was decorated for gallantry at Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne....

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Grinnell, Henry (13 February 1799–30 June 1874), merchant and patron of exploration, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the son of Cornelius Grinnell, a sea captain, and Sylvia Howland. The seaport of New Bedford was a center of the New England whaling industry, and young Henry took an early interest in the sea. After graduating from New Bedford Academy, Grinnell became a clerk at a shipping company, H. D. and E. B. Sewell, in New York City, and over the next seven years learned the shipping business. In 1814 his older brother, Joseph, had become a partner in another New York shipping firm, Fish & Grinnell. In 1825, after the retirement of Joseph Grinnell’s partner, Preserved Fish, the three Grinnell brothers—Henry, Joseph, and Moses Hicks—joined together to continue the firm under the name Fish, Grinnell & Company....

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Guggenheim, Daniel (09 July 1856–28 September 1930), industrialist and philanthropist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Meyer Guggenheim, a merchant, and Barbara Meyer. At age seventeen Daniel Guggenheim ended his formal education and joined the family lace business. For the next eleven years he worked as a lace buyer in Switzerland, the nation from which his father and grandfather had emigrated a quarter-century earlier. By the time Guggenheim returned to the United States, his father had begun to invest in lead and silver mines in Leadville, Colorado. Although initially leery of shifting the focus of their business to mining, the younger Guggenheim soon committed himself fully to the new venture and eventually assumed a leadership role among his brothers. The family firm, M. Guggenheim’s Sons, expanded its interests beyond mining, building the largest smelter in the world in Pueblo, Colorado. The shift in emphasis from extraction to the more technologically advanced smelting industry typified Daniel Guggenheim’s increasing commitment to technological innovation as a fundamental corporate strategy. International diversification became a second part of that plan, as the family interests spread beyond the borders of the United States....

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Hammer, Armand (21 May 1898–10 December 1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of Russian-born Julius Hammer, a pharmacist and physician, and Rose Robinson. Hammer’s childhood economic circumstances were better than those of many of his immigrant contemporaries. When he was still a child, his family moved to the Bronx, where his father balanced a quest for a medical degree with the demands of his drugstores. Hammer attended Morris High School and in 1917 registered at Columbia Heights Premedical School. Two years later he enrolled at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he graduated in June 1921....

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Hoover, Herbert Clark (10 August 1874–20 October 1964), engineer, philanthropist, and thirty-first president of the United States, was born in West Branch, Iowa, the son of Jesse Clark Hoover and Hulda[h] Minthorn, farmers. Orphaned at the age of nine, he lived with a variety of relatives in Iowa and finally spent his teenage years in Newberg and Salem, Oregon. Although his parents belonged to a “progressive” branch of Quakers who permitted some organ music and gospel hymns at their meeting house, Hoover’s religious training was quite rigorous under the tutelage of his mother, an ordained Quaker minister....

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Kearsley, John (1684–11 January 1772), physician, politician, and philanthropist, was baptized in the village of Greatham, County Durham, England. His father was John Kearsley, an Anglican minister; his mother’s name is unknown. Kearsley’s father provided two of his sons with a medical education; young John studied in London without earning a degree. For a time he practiced medicine in England, but in 1711 he emigrated and settled in Philadelphia....

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Mellon, Paul (11 June 1907–01 February 1999), philanthropist, art collector, horse breeder, and conservationist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Andrew W. Mellon, a banker, secretary of the treasury (1921–1932), and ambassador to Britain (1932–1933), and Nora McMullen Mellon. His parents divorced when he was five and his sister Ailsa was eleven. Under the terms of the divorce settlement, the children were to spend eight months with their father and four months with their mother, who was living in England. (When they reached the age of fourteen, the children were to decide how long they wished to stay with either parent.) As a child, Paul was afraid of his father, whom he described in his autobiography, ...

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Pastorius, Francis Daniel (26 September 1651–30 December 1719?), founder of Germantown, Pennsylvania, and author, was born in Sommerhausen, Germany, the son of Melchior Adam Pastorius, a lawyer, and Magdalena Dietz Johenn. Francis Daniel Pastorius was educated in the manner conventional for a Continental gentleman. He attended Latin school and studied public law as well as French and Italian at the Universities of Altdorf, Strassburg, Basel, Jena, and Regensburg. After taking his examinations at the University of Altdorf and defending his dissertation in 1676, he practiced law among the landed gentry of Windsheim, Germany. The experience proved unsatisfying for the young lawyer, who was sensitive to the tensions that existed between the ordinary citizens of Windsheim, who longed for more consideration of their concerns, and the government of that imperial city, in which his father was one of the leading magistrates. In reaction, Francis Daniel Pastorius in 1679 moved to Frankfurt am Main, Germany, where he practiced and tutored law before accompanying a young nobleman on his grand tour through the Netherlands, England, France, Switzerland, and Germany from 1680 to 1682....

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Peabody, George (18 February 1795–04 November 1869), merchant, investment banker, and philanthropist, was born in South Danvers (now Peabody), Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Peabody, a leather worker and a farmer, and Judith Dodge. His parents, though not wealthy, managed to provide their son with a basic education. As a boy George came to know the value of work. At age eleven he worked in Sylvester Proctor’s grocery in Danvers, and for a short time in 1811 he served as a clerk in the dry-goods store of his brother David....

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Rockefeller, John D. (08 July 1839–23 May 1937), industrialist and philanthropist, was born John Davison Rockefeller in Richford, New York, the son of William Avery Rockefeller and Eliza Davison. The family moved several times during his youth: to Moravia in 1843, to Owego in 1850, and to Ohio in 1853, settling in Strongsville, then in Parma in 1855, and finally in Cleveland. His father, an itinerant businessman, dealt in horses, lumber, salt, patent medicines, and herbal remedies and often lent money at profitable rates of interest. He gave his son practical training in business, but the father’s frequent, long absences burdened young Rockefeller with larger responsibilities within the family and helped foster a close relationship with his mother, a devout Baptist whose emphasis on proper moral conduct, discipline, thrift, and hard work would remain with her son....

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Rockefeller, John D., Jr. (29 January 1874–11 May 1960), philanthropist, was born John Davison Rockefeller, Jr., in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of John Davison Rockefeller, Sr., an industrialist, and Laura Celestia Spelman. Rockefeller was the third child born to his parents but the only son, the circumstance that defined his life and career. When Rockefeller was born, his father was already wealthy from the success of the Standard Oil Trust, and the boy was raised with the expectation that he would be his father’s successor in business and philanthropy. Rockefeller, Jr., spent most of his childhood in Cleveland until his family moved to New York in 1884. With Rockefeller, Sr., frequently absent, the dominant influence in the home was Laura Spelman Rockefeller, a pious woman who gave her youngest child tender attention and a strict sense of moral obligation....

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Rosenwald, Julius (12 August 1862–06 January 1932), executive and philanthropist, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the son of Samuel Rosenwald, a clothing merchant, and Augusta Hammerslough. Julius Rosenwald attended high school in Springfield for only two years. At age seventeen he left for New York to serve a clothing business apprenticeship with Hammerslough uncles. Indefatigable, Rosenwald also obtained part-time employment at other clothing establishments and managed to sample the metropolis’s amusements with friends such as Henry Goldman, later a founder of the investment banking firm of Goldman, Sachs and Co....