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Ames, Oakes (10 January 1804–08 May 1873), businessman and politician, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. He was educated in local schools and, for a few months, at Dighton Academy. At the age of sixteen, he entered his father’s shovel factory as an apprentice, rising quickly to become the works superintendent and then his father’s assistant. In 1827 he married Evelina Orvile Gilmore, and for the next three decades lived with her and their four children in one wing of his father’s house opposite the factory....

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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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Dillon, C. Douglas (21 August 1909–10 January 2003), financier, ambassador, and secretary of the Treasury, was born Clarence Douglass Dillon in Geneva, Switzerland, to Anne Douglass Dillon and Clarence Dillon, whose Polish Jewish father, Samuel Lapowski, was an immigrant who did fairly well in the men's retail business in Texas. The elder Clarence, who was sensitive about anti-Semitism, changed his last name to Dillon, his paternal grandmother's maiden name. At his firm Dillon, Read & Company during the 1920s and 1930s, he became an extremely successful investment banker and acquired a reputation for purveying corporate bonds. The young Douglas (he was known by his middle name, whose last letter was dropped at some point) was well educated. He first attended the Pine Lodge School in Lakehurst, New Jersey, where he became friendly with ...

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Durant, William Crapo (08 December 1861–18 March 1947), industrialist and financier, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Clark Durant, a businessman, and Rebecca Crapo. Durant grew up in a comfortable upper–middle-class household supported by his mother’s inheritance from her father, Henry Howland Crapo, a timber speculator, railroad investor, and former governor of Michigan. Without her husband, who had deserted the family, Rebecca Crapo Durant moved with her two children to Flint, Michigan, in 1872, three years after her father’s death....

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Field, Cyrus West (30 November 1819–12 July 1892), financier and promoter of the transatlantic cable, was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the son of David Dudley Field, a Congregationalist minister, and Submit Dickinson. Field’s abiding interest in grand projects such as the Atlantic telegraph owed much to his upbringing. Reared in a strict yet emotionally supportive household, he acquired from his parents a taste for hard work, a zeal for organization, and a restless curiosity. He “never saw Cyrus so uneasy,” one of his brothers once aptly remarked, “as when he was trying to keep still” (Judson, p. 58). It was also an upbringing conducive to high achievement as three of Field’s brothers also rose to national prominence: ...

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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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Gould, Jay (27 May 1836–02 December 1892), financier, was born Jason Gould in Roxbury, New York, the son of John Gould, a farmer and storekeeper, and Mary More. A frail, undersized child, Gould revealed early in life the characteristics that would make him formidable in business: a quick mind, perseverance, an indomitable will, far-ranging intellect, remarkable self-control, a fierce drive to succeed, and a bent for the practical. After attending a local school and nearby academy, Gould worked in his father’s store and at night taught himself mathematics and surveying. At sixteen he operated his own survey business; at nineteen he completed an impressive history of his native Delaware County....

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Hanna, Marcus Alonzo (24 September 1837–15 February 1904), businessman, presidential campaign manager, and U.S. senator, known as Mark Hanna, was born above his family’s grocery store in New Lisbon, Ohio, the son of Samantha Converse, a schoolteacher, and Leonard Hanna, who practiced medicine before joining his father and brothers in the grocery business. A proposed canal to link New Lisbon to the Ohio River failed, wiping out Hanna’s grandfather’s investment and pushing the town into commercial decline. Hanna’s father established a new wholesale grocery and shipping business in Cleveland, where he moved his family in 1852. Mark Hanna attended public schools and Western Reserve College, leaving college after getting caught in a student prank. As a traveling salesman for the family business, the gregarious Hanna proved a resourceful competitor. Elected second lieutenant in a Cleveland-based infantry in 1861, he instead became managing partner of the business following his father’s illness and December 1862 death. Called to defend Washington, D.C., during the summer of 1864, he served briefly in uniform but saw no combat....

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Hopper, Edna Wallace (17 January 1864?–14 December 1959), actress, entrepreneur, and financier, was born and raised in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Walter Wallace. (Her mother’s identity is unknown.) Little is verifiable about her early years, except that she was educated at the Van Ness Seminary, as public records were destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. She began her stage career on a whim when, at a reception, she met and charmed comedian Roland Reed into issuing her an invitation to join his company. In August 1891 she made her debut as Mabel Douglas in the musical comedy ...

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Lamont, Daniel Scott (09 February 1851–23 July 1905), secretary of war and financier, was born in McGrawville, Cortland County, New York, the son of John B. Lamont, a merchant and farmer, and Elizabeth Scott. The youth studied at McGrawville Union School and Cortland Normal College. He entered Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1868 but left academic life without a degree to enter journalism. Lamont purchased an interest in the ...

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Lamont, Thomas William (30 September 1870–02 February 1948), banker and financier, was born in Claverack, New York, the son of Thomas Lamont, a Methodist minister, and Caroline Deuel Jayne. Young Lamont grew up in several small Hudson Valley towns in upstate New York, as his father was posted to a new church every two or three years. The family was not poor, but Lamont’s upbringing, described in his ...

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Leffingwell, Russell C. (10 Sept. 1878–2 Oct. 1960), lawyer, financier, and federal government official, was born Russell Cornell Leffingwell in New York City to Mary Cornell Leffingwell and Charles Russell Leffingwell. Charles Leffingwell, whose ancestors played a major role in the development of colonial and revolutionary Connecticut, operated his wife’s family’s lucrative iron business. He sent his son to fine private schools, first to Yonkers Military Academy and then to New York City’s Halsey School, where he graduated in ...

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Mellon, Andrew William (24 March 1855–26 August 1937), financier, statesman, and art collector, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Mellon, a lawyer and later a judge, entrepreneur, and banker, and Sarah Jane Negley. Mellon attended public schools in Pittsburgh and Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh). While still a student he observed his father’s financial dealings with industrialists ...

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Newberry, Truman Handy (05 November 1864–03 October 1945), businessman and senator, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of John Stoughton Newberry, a lawyer, congressman, and manufacturer who founded the Michigan Car Company, and Helen Parmelee Handy. Newberry attended Michigan Military Academy in Orchard Lake, Charlier Institute in New York City, and Reed’s School in Lakeville, Connecticut. He graduated with a Ph.B. from the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale College in 1885. Newberry began his business career as a staff member of the Detroit, Bay City, and Alpena Railroad, of which he became superintendent of construction. After his father’s death in 1887, Newberry assumed total control of the family’s business enterprises, including the presidency of the Detroit Steel and Spring Company. He also engaged in various other manufacturing activities. In 1888 he married Harriet Josephine Barnes, with whom he had a daughter and twin sons....

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Raskob, John Jakob (19 March 1879–15 October 1950), financier, was born in Lockport, New York, the son of John Raskob, a cigar manufacturer, and Anna Frances Moran. After attending Clark’s Business College in Lockport, Raskob became secretary to an attorney in 1898 and the following year secured a job as a stenographer with a Lockport manufacturer. Dissatisfied with his pay, in 1899 Raskob followed a friend’s advice and moved to Lorain, Ohio, where he worked for ...

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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....

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Salomon, Haym (1740–06 January 1785), New York financier and patriot, was apparently born in Lissa, Poland, of Jewish parents. He traveled widely in his youth, becoming fluent in most European languages and acquiring considerable business skills before coming to the colonies. Despite the tradition that he left Poland in 1772 at the time of the first partition, he may have migrated as early as 1764 or perhaps as late as 1776. Most likely, he arrived in New York City shortly before the outbreak of the Revolution and soon established himself as a successful commission merchant. While there is no evidence of his participation in prerevolutionary political affairs, he immediately cast his lot with the patriots once hostilities began. Warmly recommended by Leonard Gansevoort, the Albany patriot, as a strong supporter of the American cause, Salomon, in June 1776, offered his services as sutler to the American forces under General ...

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Seligman, Isaac Newton (10 July 1855–30 September 1917), financier and civic leader, was born in Staten Island, New York, the son of Joseph Seligman, an investment banker, and Babette Steinhardt. He was educated at Columbia Grammar School (as a small boy he was tutored by ...

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Vanderbilt, Cornelius (27 May 1794–04 January 1877), steamship and railroad promoter and financier, was born in Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York, the son of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Phebe Hand. His father, a poor farmer with nine children, increased his income with some boating around the New York harbor. In 1795 the family moved to Stapleton, on the eastern shore of Staten Island. Cornelius hated both schools and books and had no formal education past the age of eleven, when he became his father’s helper. The husky, robust boy was an expert swimmer and adept at identifying most types of sailing ships. At an early age he helped his father transfer farm produce by boat to New York City. At the age of sixteen his parents lent him $100 to purchase a small sailboat. Cornelius Vanderbilt at once set up a ferrying and freight business between Staten Island and New York City that earned more than $1,000 in the first year. The fare for the trip to New York City was eighteen cents one way or a round trip for a quarter....

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Vanderlip, Frank Arthur (17 November 1864–29 June 1937), financier and bank president, was born in Aurora, Illinois, the son of Charles Vanderlip, a blacksmith and farmer, and Charlotte Woodworth. In 1880, a short time after the death of his father and a younger brother from tuberculosis, Vanderlip and his mother moved in with his maternal grandmother. To help support the family, Vanderlip worked at a machine shop while attending public school. He would later take courses in engineering at the University of Illinois and courses in economics and finance at the University of Chicago to supplement his education....