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Otero, Miguel Antonio (21 June 1829–30 May 1882), politician and businessman, was born in Valencia, New Mexico, then a province of the Mexican Republic, the son of Don Vicente Otero and Dona Gertrudis Chaves y Argon. Vicente Otero was primarily a farmer and merchant but also filled local judicial positions under the Mexican government. Miguel Antonio Otero entered St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, in September 1841 and continued his education there until the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in May 1846, at which time his parents sent for him. In 1847 he enrolled at Pingree College, located in Fishkill on the Hudson, New York. Within a short time he became a teacher at the college and also an assistant to the principal. In 1849 Otero commenced the study of law, first with James Thayer, an attorney living in Fishkill on the Hudson, then with a General Sanford in New York City during the winter of 1849–1850, and finally with Trusten Polk in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1851 to 1852. Otero was admitted to the Missouri bar in the spring of 1852, immediately after which he returned to New Mexico, now a U.S. territory. That same year he took a herd of sheep, presumably the property of his brother, Antonio José Otero, overland to California....

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Powell, James Robert (07 December 1814–09 December 1883), businessman and founder of Birmingham, Alabama, was born in Powellton, Brunswick County, Virginia, the son of Addison Powell and Sarah Gholson, planters. Powell was tutored at home for a few years before leaving in 1833 to work a short-lived job as an assistant teacher at Loundesboro Academy in Montgomery, Alabama. Having received a $1,000 loan from Angus McGehee, a distant relative, Powell leased the Planters’ Hotel in Montgomery, where he was able to move his family in 1834. The Powells subsequently moved to Wetumpka, where Addison Powell died in 1840....

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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....