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Corbett, Henry Winslow (18 February 1827–31 March 1903), banker, capitalist, and politician, was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, the son of Elijah Corbett, a mechanic and businessman, and Melinda Forbush. Reared in a large family in Washington County, New York, Corbett attended Cambridge Academy and later clerked. In 1843 he moved to New York City and took employment with Williams, Bradford & Company. Confident of his business acumen, the company sent him by sea to Oregon to sell merchandise, and in February 1851 Corbett arrived in Portland, a village hacked out of the timber. While awaiting the arrival of his goods, the ambitious young merchant rode up the Willamette Valley to discover what pioneer farmers wanted to buy, and he found a strong demand for shoes, nails, sugar, coffee, tobacco, cloth, and brooms. Thus Corbett began a lifetime practice of seeking market opportunities. He opened a Portland store near the Willamette River, slept in the store’s loft, made a remarkable $20,000 profit in about fourteen months, and then rejoined his employers in New York....

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Hoffmann, Francis Arnold (05 June 1822–23 January 1903), German-American political leader, businessman, and agricultural writer, was born in Herford, Westphalia, Prussia, the son of Frederick William Hoffmann, a bookbinder, and Wilhelmina Groppe. Educated at the Gymnasium in Herford, he left home in 1840 to emigrate to the United States. He traveled first to Chicago, where he worked briefly as a hotel porter then took a position as teacher for a German congregation in Addison township, Du Page County, Illinois, west of Chicago. He also led hymns and read sermons in the church services. In 1841 he went to Michigan to study under clergy of the Lutheran Michigan Synod and was ordained. He returned to Addison to serve as pastor and also served other congregations in northeastern Illinois. In 1844 he married Cynthia Gilbert, a native of Ohio. The exact number of their children is unknown; four survived Hoffmann. He acquired citizenship by naturalization in 1846....

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Herbert H. Lehman. At laying of the cornerstone of Letchworth Village, a state mental institution near Haverstraw, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102023).

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Lehman, Herbert Henry (28 March 1878–05 December 1963), investment banker and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Mayer Lehman and Babette Newgass, German immigrants. Lehman was reared in the prosperous surroundings of German-Jewish society in midtown Manhattan. His father was a founding partner of Lehman Brothers, a cotton-trading company that developed into a leading investment banking firm....

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George W. Perkins Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99094).

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Perkins, George Walbridge (31 January 1862–18 June 1920), banker and political leader, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of George W. Perkins, a prison official, and Sarah Louise Mills. In 1872 his father left prison work to run an agency of the New York Life Insurance Company. George had only a grammar school education. In 1877 he began working for his father as an office boy, and by 1886 he had become agency cashier at $100 a month. In that year the elder Perkins died. George hoped to take over the agency, but the company considered him too young for the position and offered him a job as salesman. He accepted reluctantly but was a phenomenal success. Between February 1887 and the end of the year he sold nearly $3 million in policies in Kansas and Colorado. The company then made him district supervisor in charge of business in the Southwest....

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Phelan, James Duval (20 April 1861–07 August 1930), politician and banker, was born in San Francisco, the only son of James Phelan and Alice Kelly. The elder Phelan, Irish-born, came to San Francisco in 1849 and prospered through investments in trade, real estate, banking, and insurance. The younger Phelan graduated from St. Ignatius College in 1881 and studied at Hastings College of Law (both in San Francisco), then entered his father’s businesses and moved immediately into prominent roles in civic and commercial organizations....