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Abbott, Horace (29 July 1806–08 August 1887), manufacturer, was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, the son of Alpheus Abbott and Lydia Fay, farmers. His father died when Abbott was quite young, leaving the family in poverty. With little opportunity for formal education, Abbott was apprenticed to a blacksmith in Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1822. After completing his five-year term, he spent the following two years as a journeyman blacksmith. Abbott then returned to Westborough and set up his own blacksmith shop. In 1830 he married Charlotte Hapgood; they would have seven children. He remained in Westborough until 1836....

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Abernethy, George (07 October 1807–02 May 1877), businessman and provisional governor of Oregon, was born in New York City, the son of William Abernethy, a shoemaker; the name of his mother is unknown. He attended school in New York. In 1830 he married Anne Cope, with whom he would have two children. As a young man, he entered a mercantile business and continued in it until his firm failed in the panic of 1837, an event that ruined him financially. He sold his property in Brooklyn, New York, and repaid his debts....

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Adams, Charles Francis (02 August 1866–11 June 1954), financier and secretary of the navy, was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, the son of John Quincy Adams II, a prominent lawyer and civic leader, and Fanny Crowninshield. His paternal grandfather, the diplomat Charles Francis Adams...

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Adams, Edward Dean (09 April 1846–20 May 1931), banker, engineer, and financier, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Adoniram Judson Adams, a businessman, and Harriet Lincoln Norton. He graduated with a B.S. degree from Norwich University, Northfield, Vermont, in 1864. After spending a year in Europe, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1865–1866. In 1867 he joined the Boston firm of T. J. Lee & Hill, stockbrokers, where he served as bookkeeper and cashier. In 1871 he was a founding partner of Richardson, Hill & Company of Boston, private bankers. The following year he married Frances Amelia Gutterson; the couple had three children....

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Addicks, John Edward O’Sullivan (21 November 1841–07 August 1919), promoter and aspiring politician, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Edward Addicks, a politician and civil servant, and Margaretta McLeod. Addicks’s father achieved local political prominence and arranged for his son to take a job at age fifteen as a runner for a local dry goods business. Four years later Addicks took a job with a flour company and, upon reaching his twenty-first birthday, became a full partner in the business. Like many Quaker City merchants, Addicks speculated in local real estate in the booming port town, avoided service in the Civil War, and achieved a modicum of prosperity in the postwar period. He became overextended, as he would be most of his career, however, and went broke in the 1873 depression....

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Aldrich, Winthrop (02 November 1885–25 February 1974), lawyer, banker, and legal and political adviser, was born Winthrop Williams Aldrich in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, a U.S. senator, and Abby Chapman. Aldrich graduated from Harvard College in 1907 and Harvard Law School in 1910. Upon graduation from law school Aldrich joined the New York City law firm of Byrne, Cutcheon & Taylor, specializing in finance and commercial law. In 1916 Aldrich was named a junior partner in the firm, and in December of that year he married Harriet Alexander, the granddaughter of California railroad and banking magnate ...

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Alexander, Sadie Tanner Mossell (03 January 1898–01 November 1989), economist and lawyer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Aaron Mossell, an attorney and the first black graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Mary Tanner. While a young girl her father abandoned the family, and she was raised by her mother with the assistance of relatives....

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Allen, Ira (01 May 1751–15 January 1814), frontier entrepreneur and Vermont political leader, was born in Cornwall, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Little is known of his youth, but in 1770 he followed his five elder brothers north to the New Hampshire Grants region and joined the Yankee versus Yorker struggle, which stemmed from the 1764 Crown decree that New York rather than New Hampshire owned the area that would become Vermont. While brother ...

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Allerton, Samuel Waters (26 May 1828–22 February 1914), meat packer, was born in Amenia, New York, the son of Samuel Waters Allerton, Sr., a tailor and woolen mill operator, and Hannah Hurd. The youngest of nine children, he attended school for several years but received little formal education beyond that. The family experienced financial difficulties as a result of the 1837 panic and was forced to move several times, once as far west as Dubuque, Iowa, before settling on a farm in upstate New York in 1842. Eight years later Samuel and his older brother Henry rented a farm in Yates County and began raising and trading cattle and hogs. Shortly thereafter they bought a farm in Wayne County....

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Alsop, George (1636–?), author of A Character of the Province of Maryland, was probably born in Westminster, England, the son of Peter Alsop, a tailor, and Rose (maiden name unknown). Aside from information in A Character of the Province of Maryland, very little is known about Alsop. His father’s occupation did not provide for much education, but evidence from ...

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Ames, Nathan Peabody (01 September 1803–03 April 1847), manufacturer and entrepreneur, was born in Dracut (now Lowell), Massachusetts, the son of Nathan Peabody Ames, a cutlery and edge toolmaker, and Phoebe Tyler. Nathan served an apprenticeship with his father and then joined the prosperous family business. In 1829 Ames met Edmund Dwight, who offered him four years of rent-free use of property in Cabotville, Massachusetts, if he would move himself and his business to that location (Cabotville was incorporated as Chicopee in 1848). Ames agreed to the condition and he, his father, and his younger brother, James Tyler Ames, moved to Cabotville the same year....

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Oakes Ames. Photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-B-1245).

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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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Ames, Oliver (04 February 1831–22 October 1895), industrialist and governor of Massachusetts, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oakes Ames (1804–1873), a manufacturer and congressman, and Evelyn Gilmore. Ames came from a long line of Massachusetts capitalists. The family gained notoriety in 1872, when the House of Representatives censured Oliver’s father because of his part in the Credit Mobilier scandal. Oliver was to fight throughout his life to clear his father’s besmirched image....

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Andersen, Arthur Edward (30 May 1885–10 January 1947), certified public accountant, was born in Plano, Illinois, the son of John William Andersen, a foundry foreman, and Mary Aabye. Shortly after his birth the Andersen family returned to their native Norway, where they lived for several years before immigrating again to the United States and taking up residence in Chicago. After the deaths of his mother (1896) and his father (1901), Andersen began his working career as an office boy at the Fraser & Chalmers Company in Chicago (later Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company), his father’s employer. In 1906 he married Emma Barnes Arnold of Chicago, with whom he had three children. Andersen decided to become an accountant in 1907 when as assistant to Allis-Chalmer’s controller he was given the responsibility of aiding the firm’s independent auditors. That year he joined Price Waterhouse & Company in Chicago, where he remained until 1911....

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Anderson, Benjamin McAlester (01 May 1886–19 January 1949), economist, was born in Columbia, Missouri, the son of Benjamin McLean Anderson, a businessman and politician, and Mary Frances Bowling. Anderson entered the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1902 and earned an A.B. in 1906. He was appointed professor of political economy and sociology at Missouri Valley College in Marshall in 1906 and was named as the head of the Department of History and Political Economy at the State Normal School at Springfield the following year. He married Margaret Louise Crenshaw in 1909; they had four children....

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Annenberg, Moses Louis (11 February 1878–20 July 1942), publisher and race wire operator, called by contemporaries "Moe", publisher and race wire operator, called by contemporaries “Moe,” was born in Kalwichen, East Prussia, the son of Tobias Annenberg, a storekeeper, and Sarah Greenberg, who were Orthodox Jews. In 1882 Tobias Annenberg moved to the United States, opening a store in “the Patch,” a tough neighborhood and breeding ground for criminals in Chicago. He saved enough money to send for his wife and children in 1885....

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Mary Kay Ash. In her office, Dallas, Texas, January 1982. Courtesy of AP Images.

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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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John Jacob Astor IV. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116052).