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Bates, Joshua (10 October 1788–24 September 1864), merchant and banker, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Colonel Joshua Bates and Tizrah Pratt. Bates’s father served as an officer during the Revolution. Joshua suffered from ill health as a child. He was educated by a private tutor and at the public school. When he was fifteen his father apprenticed him in the counting house of William R. Gray, the son of ...

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Brown, Alexander (17 November 1764–04 April 1834), founder of an Anglo-American mercantile and financial services firm, was born in Ballymena, Ireland, the son of William Brown and Margaretta Davison. As a young adult he moved to Belfast, where he became involved in the linen trade, reportedly working as an auctioneer on occasion. His brother Stewart left for Baltimore in the mid-1790s, and Alexander followed in 1800. He had married Grace Davison in 1783, and after his arrival in Baltimore he opened a shop that featured linen goods supplied primarily by his in-laws and business associates in Ireland. The mercantile business prospered, and Brown soon widened the scope of his activities. He typified the all-purpose merchant of the early national era (c. 1790–1820), dabbling in various goods and services, including insurance and shipping. When his second son, ...

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Delafield, John (16 March 1748–03 July 1824), merchant and underwriter, was born in Aylesbury, Bucks, England, the son of John Delafield, a cheese merchant, and Martha Dell. Most historians claim John Delafield accumulated considerable property in England as a young brewer from an ancient, distinguished family. Though obviously a man of means by American standards, Delafield may not have been as well off as supposed and could have moved to the newly independent United States at age thirty-five to better his business prospects. Delafield arrived in British-occupied New York City on 4 April 1783, bearing the first copy of the provisional treaty of peace to reach the new republic. He immediately joined the Chamber of Commerce and started a mercantile, insurance, financial brokerage, and real estate business. He was so successful that he was soon one of the richest men in New York and was able to retire from active mercantile pursuits in 1798, though he continued in marine insurance....

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Flint, Charles Ranlett (24 January 1850–12 February 1934), merchant and company promoter, was born in Thomaston, Maine, the son of Benjamin Flint and Sarah Tobey, merchants. His mother died three years later and his father remarried in 1856. Charles attended schools in Maine and Brooklyn, graduating from the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn in 1868. His father and uncle operated a shipping business from 1837, which Flint eventually joined in 1885. In 1883 he married Emma Kate Simmons. He retained the occupational title of merchant throughout his life and his career reflected the expansion and changing character of the New York trading community during the late nineteenth century. In 1871 he and George W. Gilchrist, a shipbuilder and neighbor in Thomaston, established a ship chandlery firm. A year later Flint acquired a 25 percent stake in W. R. Grace & Co., a New York trading company with interests in Peru; George W. Gilchrist was the father-in-law of ...

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Forstall, Edmond Jean (07 November 1794–16 November 1873), merchant, banker, and sugar planter, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edouard Pierre Forstall and Celeste de la Villebeauve. The father’s occupation is uncertain, but in Edmond’s youth several members of the Forstall family, Edouard perhaps one of them, were active in Louisiana commerce. Record of Edmond’s education is lacking, but at the age of twelve he went to work for a merchant. In his adulthood he was fluent in English as well as French and read and wrote widely in both languages. As early as 1818 he was named a director of the Louisiana State Bank. By 1819 he was associated with the New Orleans firm of Gordon, Grant & Company, and in 1823 when the firm reorganized as Gordon & Forstall, Forstall became managing partner. In July 1823 he married Clara Durel; the couple had eleven children, one of whom died in infancy....

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Girard, Stephen (20 May 1750–26 December 1831), merchant, banker, and philanthropist, was born in Bordeaux, France, the son of Pierre Girard, an officer in the French navy, and Odette Lafargue. He was blind, or partially sighted, in one eye at birth and, therefore, probably received less formal education than his peers. At age fourteen he signed on as a cabin boy for vessels sailing to the West Indies. His first American port of entry was New Orleans. After receiving a license to serve as a ship captain at age twenty-three, Girard was named an officer on a voyage to Port-au-Prince, Saint Domingue (now Haiti), in 1774. He departed the West Indies and set sail for New York with a consignment of sugar and coffee. Rather than returning to France, Girard remained in New York and became an employee of the shipping firm of Thomas Randall & Son. He purchased a half-interest in the ship ...

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Kelly, Eugene (25 November 1808–19 December 1894), merchant, banker, and philanthropist, was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of Thomas Boye Kelly. His mother’s name and his parents’ occupations are unknown. Little is known of his family background save that his father, heir to a formerly prominent and prosperous line, lost the balance of his fortune because of his participation in the rebellion of 1798. Following the rebellion, the elder Kelly changed his name from “O’Kelly” to the more common “Kelly” as a precaution against reprisals for his activities. Eugene received his education in a local hedge school, after which he became a draper’s apprentice....

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Ladd, William Sargent (10 October 1826–06 January 1893), financier, merchant, and mayor of Portland, Oregon, was born in Holland, Vermont, the son of Nathaniel Gould Ladd, a physician, and Abigail Mead. Ladd’s father moved the family to New Hampshire in 1830, and at age fifteen William started work on a farm. Four years later he taught school and then became a station agent for the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad at Sanbornton Bridge. In 1851 he arrived in San Francisco, responding to reports from a schoolmate, Charles Elliott Tilton. Tilton had written that wealth and opportunity awaited in Portland, Oregon, by supplying miners and prospectors in the area. Portland, Ladd learned, provided the primary source of provisions for the miners in the northern California region, where gold was plentiful. Tilton had moved his own business to San Francisco, specialized in the China trade, and extended his sales network northward. Thus, Ladd had an available supplier in the region, so he acquired a stock of goods and opened a general mercantile business called W. S. Ladd & Company in Portland....

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Ludlow, Daniel (02 August 1750–26 September 1814), merchant and banker, was born in New York City, the son of Gabriel Ludlow, a merchant, and Elizabeth Crommelin. In 1765 Ludlow’s father sent him to Amsterdam, Holland, to enter the counting house of Crommelin and Zoon, where his grandfather Charles Crommelin was a principal. During his five year stint with the firm, young Ludlow learned banking, French, German, and of course Dutch. After returning to New York around 1770, Ludlow joined his father’s mercantile business, which he took over after the latter’s death in 1773. In October of that same year Ludlow married Arabella Duncan. The couple had five children before Arabella’s death in 1803. Ludlow, a Loyalist during the Revolution, joined the Chamber of Commerce in 1783. Shortly thereafter, on 1 January 1784, he entered into a partnership with Edward Goold. Their first advertisement, a circular letter, was rather vague about their line of business, promising “to contribute to the Success of whatever Concerns may be entrusted to our Charge.” They probably imported goods on commission and on their own account. Manuscript evidence suggests that they were also involved in marine insurance. The partnership dissolved in 1790, when Ludlow joined with his nephew Gulian Ludlow under the name Daniel Ludlow & Company. This firm, a major importer of East India goods and a marine insurer, stayed together for fifteen years. The firm experienced significant underwriting losses during the 1798 Quasi-War with France, but soon recovered with aid from Ludlow’s new banking concern....

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George Peabody. Engraving by John Chester Buttre, second half of the nineteenth century. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98992).

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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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Phillips, John (27 December 1719–21 April 1795), merchant-banker, judge, and school benefactor, was born in Andover, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Samuel Phillips and Hannah White. His father, who had graduated from Harvard in 1708, prepared him for the college, which he entered when he was only eleven years old, in 1731. As an undergraduate, John was awarded the William Browne and the Hollis scholarships, received the Hopkins Prize for outstanding scholarly achievement, and was selected to deliver an oration at his class of 1735 commencement. After graduation, Phillips taught school in Andover and took the M.A. degree at Harvard in 1738....

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Seligman, Joseph (22 November 1819–25 April 1880), merchant, investment banker, and New York civic leader, was born in Baiersdorf, Bavaria, the son of David Seligman and Fanny Steinhardt. Joseph, who excelled in literature and in the classics, graduated from the Erlangen Gymnasium and started to study medicine. Resentful of the economic and sociopolitical restrictions against Jews in the Germanies, he decided against a career in medicine and against one in the wool-weaving business of his father and in 1837 made the long journey on the ship ...

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Swanwick, John (09 June 1759?–31 July 1798), merchant, banker, and congressman, was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Richard Swanwick and Mary Bickerton. Around 1770 the Swanwicks, a family of middling origins, came to America and settled in Caln Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Appointed commander of a British revenue cutter at the Customs House, his father moved the family to Philadelphia. When the Revolution broke out, his father became known for the fervor with which he pursued his role as a wagon master for the Loyalists. In contrast, young John Swanwick committed himself to the patriot cause by taking the oath of allegiance and by joining the second militia company of the Sixth Battalion in Philadelphia....

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Thatcher, Mahlon Daniel (06 December 1839–22 February 1916), merchant and banker, was born in New Buffalo, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Thatcher, a blacksmith-turned-schoolteacher, and Lydia Ann Albert. After working as a partner in his father’s Pennsylvania store, Mahlon headed west in 1865 to join his brother John Albert, who had opened the first general store in Pueblo, Colorado. Mahlon invested $2,900 in a stock of goods that he brought to the business....

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Willing, Thomas (19 December 1731–19 January 1821), merchant, political leader, and banker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Willing, a successful merchant and, later, mayor of Philadelphia, and Anne Shippen, granddaughter of Edward Shippen, the first mayor of Philadelphia. The Willings in 1740 sent young Thomas to England to be educated. He first went to school at Bath between 1740 and 1743 and then attended Robert Wheeler’s school at Wells, Somersetshire. Willing went to London in September 1748 and for six months took courses in business at the Watt’s Academy. The same year he began to read law at the Inner Temple....

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Yeatman, Thomas (25 December 1787–12 June 1833), merchant and banker, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of John Yeatman, a ship and boat builder on the Potomac and Monongahela rivers, and Lucy Patty. Very little is known of Yeatman’s early life. He arrived in Nashville about 1807 and probably soon became a river trader. W. W. Clayton, in ...