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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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Ash, Mary Kay (12 May 1918–22 November 2001), founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, known as Mary Kay, was born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Texas, north of Houston, the daughter of Edward Alexander Wagner, an invalid, and Lula Vember Hastings, a restaurant manager. Texas has no record of Mary Kathlyn Wagner's birth for 1918—the year she usually claimed—nor for 1916, the date cited second most often; she may have been born as early as 1915. By 1920, her family moved to Houston's bleak Sixth Ward....

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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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Barnes, Albert Coombs (02 January 1872–24 July 1951), collector, educator, and entrepreneur, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jesse Barnes, a butcher, and Lydia A. Schafer. Barnes’s father lost his right arm in the Civil War, and his ability to support his family proved sporadic. However, Albert’s mother, to whom he was devoted, was hardworking and resourceful. Among his most vivid childhood memories were the exuberant black religious revivals and camp meetings he attended with his devout Methodist parents. Accepted at the academically demanding Central High School, which awarded bachelor’s degrees, his early interest in art was stimulated by his friendship with the future artist ...

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Carroll of Carrollton, Charles (19 September 1737–14 November 1832), planter, businessman, investor, and the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the last of the signers to die, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, a planter, and his common-law wife, Elizabeth Brooke. An only child, Carroll was sent at the age of ten to the Jesuit college of St. Omers, in French Flanders, where Maryland’s Catholic gentry sent their sons because the colony’s laws, which denied “papists” the right to vote, hold office, practice law, and worship publicly, also forbade them to maintain religious schools. Young Carroll studied abroad for sixteen years, ending with a thesis in philosophy at the college of Louis le Grand in Paris in 1757. After reading civil law in Bourges and Paris, he moved to London in September 1759 to pursue the common law at the Inns of Court. However, his antipathy for the discipline, which he regarded as “founded upon and still subsisting by villainy,” became so intense that he ultimately defied his father’s intention that he formally enter the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. Finding the paternal insistence on his acquiring the social graces more to his liking, he became adept at dancing, drawing, and fencing and mastered Italian, bookkeeping, and surveying, practical skills the elder Carroll deemed essential for success as a landowner and man of business....

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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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Gaston, A. G. (04 July 1892–19 January 1996), entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation, he worked at a variety of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the ...

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Hammer, Armand (21 May 1898–10 December 1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of Russian-born Julius Hammer, a pharmacist and physician, and Rose Robinson. Hammer’s childhood economic circumstances were better than those of many of his immigrant contemporaries. When he was still a child, his family moved to the Bronx, where his father balanced a quest for a medical degree with the demands of his drugstores. Hammer attended Morris High School and in 1917 registered at Columbia Heights Premedical School. Two years later he enrolled at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he graduated in June 1921....

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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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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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Post, Charles William (26 October 1854–09 May 1914), cereal magnate, entrepreneur, and advertising innovator, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the son of Charles Rollin Post, a purveyor of agricultural implements, and Caroline Lathrop Parsons. At the age of fourteen Post matriculated at the Illinois Industrial University (the predecessor to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign), where he studied mechanical engineering for about a year. Leaving school before earning a degree, he joined the Springfield Zouaves, a militia unit that became known as the Governor’s Guard. Post’s company served under General ...

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Rosenberg, William (10 June 1916–20 September 2002), entrepreneur and founder of the Dunkin' Donuts restaurant chain, was born in the Dorchester section of Boston, one of the four children of Nathan and Phoebe Swart Rosenberg, who operated a neighborhood grocery. Growing up in one of only a few Jewish families in the tough, working‐class district, as a child Rosenberg was sometimes the target of anti‐Semitic verbal abuse and physical attacks. He left school after eighth grade to work in the family business, and after the failure of the business during the Great Depression he found jobs delivering telegrams for Western Union and driving a horse‐drawn delivery truck for Hood Dairy. Rosenberg's reputation as a tenacious worker won him a wholesale delivery route with the Jack and Jill Ice Cream Company, a pioneer in the use of refrigeration trucks, vending machine sales, and other innovations. His success in developing new business along the route brought him an office position at Jack and Jill, and Harry Winokur, the company accountant, became a mentor, teaching him formal business methods and facilitating his promotion, at age twenty‐one, to national sales manager....

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Taylor, Myron Charles (18 January 1874–06 May 1959), business executive and diplomat, was born in Lyons, New York, the son of William Taylor, a textile executive, and Mary Morgan Underhill. His father made a fortune in the textile and leather industries. After a comfortable youth, Taylor attended Cornell University and earned a law degree in 1894, studying with ...