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Astor, John Jacob, IV (13 July 1864–15 April 1912), businessman, was born at “Ferncliff,” his father’s estate at Rinebeck-on-Hudson, New York, the son of William Backhouse Astor, Jr., and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn ( Caroline Astor). As the great-grandson and namesake of fur trade magnate ...

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Helmsley, Harry (04 March 1909–04 January 1997), real estate magnate, was born Henry Brakman Helmsley, the son of Henry Helmsley, a wholesale dry goods buyer, and the former Minnie Brakmann. The family moved from Manhattan to the Bronx, New York, several years after his birth. Harry, as he was nicknamed, and his younger brother, Walter, were educated in local public schools. Harry graduated at the age of sixteen from Evander Childs High School in the Bronx but could not afford to attend college full time; instead, he went to work to help support his family. He was hired as an office boy by a city real estate firm, Dwight, Voorhis and Perry, which paid him twelve dollars a week. Harry had secured the job through the connections of his maternal grandfather, who had been a city landlord, and he quickly proved adept at the business. Soon he was assigned to rent collection from properties managed by the firm; eventually he was given properties to oversee himself. His salary rose accordingly, as did his knowledge of buildings throughout New York City. During this time he also began a continuing program of self-education, taking extension classes at Columbia and New York universities as well as the YMCA. His favorite subject was history....

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Kelley, Hall Jackson (24 February 1790–20 January 1874), promoter of Oregon settlement, was born in Northwood, New Hampshire, the son of Benjamin Kelley, a physician, and Mary Gile. The pious youth began serious reading early and came to entertain visions of a “lonely, laborious, and eventful life.” After studying at the academy in Gilmanton, where his family had moved, he went to Middlebury College in Vermont. He graduated in 1813, and seven years later both Middlebury and Harvard conferred master of arts degrees on him. In the interval he had gone to Boston, where in 1815 he married Mary Baldwin, procreated a son, and began teaching in the public schools. His wife died in 1816. He was also active in church and welfare work, but his primary interest was in education. In 1820 he published a textbook, ...

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Morgenthau, Henry (26 April 1856–25 November 1946), lawyer, real estate agent, and diplomat, was born in Mannheim, Germany, the son of Lazarus Morgenthau, a cigar manufacturer, and Babette Guggenheim. After his business failed, Lazarus Morgenthau immigrated to the United States in 1866 and became an insurance salesman. Henry Morgenthau attended public high school, graduating in 1870, the same year he entered the City College of New York. He remained there only one year before financial pressures compelled him to work. Employed as an errand boy at a law firm, Morgenthau slowly learned the business, becoming expert in title searches and mortgage foreclosure sales. In 1875 he quit his job to enter Columbia Law School, supporting himself by teaching at night. He graduated in 1877 and was admitted to the bar....

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Otis, Harrison Gray (08 October 1765–28 October 1848), politician, lawyer, and businessman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Allyne Otis, a merchant and the first secretary of the U.S. Senate, and Elizabeth Gray. “Harry,” as he was called, enjoyed the privileges of economic comfort and social elevation, including his family connection to two famous revolutionary figures: his paternal aunt ...

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Rouse, James (26 April 1914–09 April 1996), mortgage banker and real estate developer, was born in Easton, Maryland, to Willard G. Rouse and Lydia Robinson Rouse. His father was a successful canned-foods broker on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where the Rouse family made their home; though they were prosperous, the elder Rouse saw to it that all his children learned the value of work. Young James tended the family garden and as a teenager worked in the local canneries as well as caddying and selling Fuller Brushes. Both socially popular and an excellent student, James Rouse was elected president of his class as well as the student council at Easton High School, edited a school newspaper, and was active on the basketball and track teams....

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Smith, John (1580–21 June 1631), colonial governor, promoter, and historian, was born in Willoughby by Alford in Lincolnshire, the son of George Smith, a yeoman, and Alice Rickard. His earliest schooling may have been under Francis Marbury, father of Anne Hutchinson, who was schoolmaster in Alford. Toward the end of his life Smith published an autobiography, one of the first examples of the modern genre, which he titled ...