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Altman, Benjamin (12 July 1840–07 October 1913), merchant and art collector, was born in New York, New York, the son of Philip Altman, a dry goods merchant, and Cecilia (maiden name unknown). His father, a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria who had come to the United States in 1835, operated a small dry goods store named Altman & Co. on Third Avenue near Tenth Street. Young Altman worked with his brother Morris in his father’s shop in the afternoons. He left school at the age of twelve to work there full time and later held a variety of sales jobs with other dry goods shops in New York City and in Newark, New Jersey. When his father died in 1854, Altman and his brother took over the store, changing its name to Altman Bros. The business prospered, and by 1865 they moved to Third Avenue and Tenth Street; they moved again to a larger building on Sixth Avenue between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets in 1870. Morris left the business but remained a partner, and when he died in 1876, Altman became sole owner, later changing the name of the firm to B. Altman & Co....

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Archbold, John Dustin (26 July 1848–05 December 1916), oil industry executive and philanthropist, was born in Leesburg, Ohio, the son of Israel Archbold, a minister, and Frances Dana. His education at local schools ended when his father died. Not yet in his teens, Archbold took a clerking position in 1859 at a country store in Salem, Ohio, to help support his family. In that same year he noted the excitement surrounding the discovery of oil in nearby Titusville, Pennsylvania. After several years of hard work, he journeyed to the oil fields of western Pennsylvania with $100 in savings. Upon arriving in Titusville, Archbold obtained a position in the office of William H. Abbott, one of the leading oilmen in the fast-growing region. He used every moment not spent in the performance of his duties to study and was soon familiar with oil refinement, transportation, brokering, and production. Recognition of his ability came in the form of a partnership in the firm before he reached the age of nineteen. Archbold’s efforts, however, failed to save the badly overextended firm from collapse in 1869. Undaunted, he scraped together additional savings and became a partner in the local refining firm of Porter, Moreland & Company. In 1870 he married Annie Mills of Titusville; the couple had four children. By the early 1870s Archbold also established a sales office in New York City, where he sold oil on behalf of his own firm and outside producers as well....

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Ball, Frank Clayton (24 November 1857–19 March 1943), businessman and philanthropist, was born at “Bascomb Farm” near Greensburg, Ohio, the son of Lucius Styles Ball, a farmer, and Maria Polly Bingham, a teacher. In 1868 the family moved to Canandaigua, New York, where Ball first attended Canandaigua Academy. In 1878 he moved to Buffalo, where he lived with his uncle, a Baptist minister, who had learned of an opportunity to construct fish kits (wooden boxes used by fishermen to hold their catch) out of lumber left over from making barrels. Ball and his brother Ed entered the business and had just begun production when the building burned down, causing them to lose everything. Ball then returned to Canandaigua for another term at the academy....

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Bamberger, Louis (15 May 1855–11 March 1944), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Elkan Bamberger, a wholesale notions merchant, and Theresa Hutzler. Bamberger attended public school in Baltimore until he quit at fourteen to become a $4-a-week clerk and errand boy in his uncles’ dry-goods store, Hutzler Brothers. After two years he joined his brother Julius to work for their father, buying E. Bamberger & Company when their father retired in the mid-1870s. Leaving the position as business manager, Louis Bamberger relocated to New York City in 1887 to accumulate capital for his own retail business while working as a buyer for West Coast wholesalers....

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Sydney V. James and Gail Fowler Mohanty

Brown, Moses (12 September 1738–06 September 1836), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of James Brown, merchant, and Hope Power. The father died the next year, leaving a variety of properties and businesses, which indicates that his family was far from poor. Moses Brown had a few years of formal schooling before being apprenticed to his merchant uncle, Obadiah, to learn the intricacies of eighteenth-century commerce and to be adopted as a son and partner. After Obadiah died in 1762, Moses managed the business, and in 1774 married Obadiah’s daughter Anna, who bore three children, two of whom lived to maturity. Moses joined his three surviving brothers in the firm of Nicholas Brown & Co. to operate the family businesses. The profits of trade were diversified by manufacturing and money-lending. The Brown brothers inherited profitable candle and chocolate works and started a plant to smelt and work iron. They also tried at least one ill-fated slaving voyage....

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Buchtel, John Richards (18 January 1820–23 May 1892), businessman and philanthropist, was born in Green Township in Summit County, Ohio, the son of John Buchtel and Catherine Richards, farmers. His early years were spent on his father’s farm, during which time he received a rudimentary education. In later years Buchtel regretted his lack of formal schooling and donated most of his fortune to educate others. While still a young man, Buchtel acquired a 100-acre farm from his father by paying a $700 encumbrance on the property. In 1844 he married Elizabeth Davidson, whose parents had recently moved to Summit County from Pennsylvania. The Buchtels had no children....

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Busch, August Anheuser, Jr. (28 March 1899–29 September 1989), corporate executive and philanthropist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of brewmaster August Anheuser Busch, Sr., and Alice Zisemann. Busch, known as “Gussie,” was accustomed to wealth and was steeped in a rich family tradition from his grandfather, ...

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Cabot, Godfrey Lowell (26 February 1861–02 November 1962), manufacturer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Cabot, a physician and prominent member of the unofficial first family of Boston, and Hannah Lowell Jackson. In 1882 Cabot graduated from Harvard, where he studied chemistry. Following graduation, he studied at Zurich Polytechnicum and University in Switzerland and again at Harvard in 1891 and 1892. In 1890 he married Maria Buckminster Moors, with whom he had five children....

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Callaway, Cason Jewell (06 November 1894–12 April 1961), business executive, agriculturist, and developer, was born in LaGrange, Georgia, the son of Fuller Earle Callaway and Ida Jane Cason. His father was the founder of Callaway Mills, Inc., a highly successful cotton processing firm. He attended Bingham Military School in Asheville, North Carolina, followed by one year at the University of Virginia. He enjoyed a successful year at Charlottesville, but his father decided that he needed skills training. Therefore, he enrolled at Eastman School of Business in Poughkeepsie, New York. Young Callaway was given responsibility for Valley Waste Mills, a division of his father’s Callaway Mills. At age twenty he organized Valley Waste Mills into a great commercial success as a pioneering recycling operation. His achievements gained his father’s attention as well as that of other top managers in the firm, since the waste division netted more than $1 million in profits during the three-year period just before U.S. entry into World War I....

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Andrew Carnegie. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101767).

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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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Chalmers, William James (10 July 1852–10 December 1938), businessman and philanthropist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Thomas Chalmers, a machinist and mining manufacturer, and Janet Telfer. Educated in the Chicago public schools until the age of fourteen, he then worked as an apprentice machinist in the Eagle Works Manufacturing Company (Chicago), where his father was superintendent. Upon completing his apprenticeship, he spent a year traveling in Europe. He returned to Chicago in 1871, where he took charge of the finances for his father’s newly formed company, Fraser, Chalmers & Co., which designed machines for milling, smelting, and refining ores....

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Colgate, William (25 January 1783–25 March 1857), manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Hollingbourne parish, Kent, England, the son of Robert Colgate, a gentleman farmer, and Sarah Bowles. In 1795 he emigrated with his family to the United States because his father, an outspoken critic of King George III, was forced to flee England to avoid prosecution for treason. The family disembarked in Baltimore, Maryland, and purchased a modest estate in nearby Harford County, which was lost two years later when it was discovered that they did not possess a clear title. They then moved to present-day Randolph County, West Virginia, where his father attempted unsuccessfully to farm and mine coal. In 1800 they returned to Baltimore, where he and his father went into business with Robert Mather, a soap and candle maker. After the partnership dissolved two years later and his family relocated to Ossining, New York, he remained in Baltimore and opened his own soap and candle works....

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Cooper, Edward (26 October 1824–25 February 1905), businessman, philanthropist, and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Peter Cooper, a businessman, philanthropist, and public figure, and Sarah Bedell. After attending public school in New York City, the younger Cooper enrolled at Columbia College, but he earned no degree. At Columbia College, Cooper met ...

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Peter Cooper. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-11083).

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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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Cope, Thomas Pym (26 August 1768–22 November 1854), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Caleb Cope, a plasterer and town burgess who had come from the family farm in Chester County, and Mary Mendenhall. The third son in a family of seven, Cope received a good education for the time, including study in English, German, Latin, and mathematics. In his diary he describes how an unfair teacher provoked in him such intense concentration that he dreamed mathematical problems and mastered the subject. His diary also reveals a well-trained and wide-ranging mind with a talent for acute, usually sympathetic, observation. During the revolutionary wars, the Quaker pacifism of Cope’s parents, and their willingness to house captured British prisoners, drew the attacks of local hotheads. The most famous prisoner that the Copes lodged was Major ...

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Copley, Ira Clifton (25 October 1864–02 November 1947), newspaper publisher, congressman, public utilities executive, and philanthropist, was born in Copley Township, Knox County, Illinois, the son of Ira Birdsall Copley and Ellen Madeline Whiting, farmers. When Copley was two he was struck with scarlet fever, which left him blind. When he was three, the family moved to Aurora, Illinois, where he received treatment for his eyes. Even with the care of an eye specialist, his complete blindness lasted five years. With the move to Aurora, his father and his mother’s brother assumed ownership of the Aurora Illinois Gas Light Company, the beginning of a large utility company that Ira would one day manage....

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Crown, Henry (13 June 1896–14 August 1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born Henry Krinsky in Chicago, the son of Arie Krinsky, a Lithuanian immigrant garment worker, and his wife Ida Gordon. At some point they changed their name to Crown. To help his poor family, Crown took a job at age fourteen as clerk at the Chicago Firebrick Company. In 1912 he began work at the Union Drop Forge Company, while taking night courses in accounting. In 1915 he and his two older brothers, Sol and Irving, formed a small steel-brokerage company, S. A. Crown and Company, and Crown quickly established a local reputation as an aggressive and reliable deal maker with a discerning eye for opportunity, a striking power of recall, and an acute sense of timing....

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Cullen, Hugh Roy (03 July 1881–04 July 1957), oilman and philanthropist, was born in Denton County, Texas, the son of Cicero Cullen, a businessman whose father was a hero of the Texan struggle for independence, and Louise Beck, who came from a plantation-owning family of South Carolinians. When Cullen was in his early childhood his parents separated, and he moved with his mother to San Antonio where he completed his elementary education. At seventeen he was employed by a cotton broker, but after a six-year apprenticeship he set up his own cotton brokerage firm and vowed never to be someone else’s employee. In 1903 he married Lillie Cranz; they had five children....