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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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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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Bingham, William (08 April 1752–07 February 1804), businessman and public official, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Bingham, a saddler and merchant, and Mary “Molly” Stamper. Bingham graduated cum laude from the College of Philadelphia in 1768. Sometime after the death of his father in 1769, he served an apprenticeship with Philadelphia merchant ...

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Coolidge, Thomas Jefferson (26 August 1831–17 November 1920), businessman and diplomat, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Coolidge, Jr., a businessman, and Eleanora Wayles Randolph. On his father’s side Coolidge was descended from John Coolidge, one of the first settlers of Watertown; on his mother’s side he was descended from Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States. His parents were members of the Boston elite, and throughout his life Coolidge moved in the same circles....

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Fair, James Graham (03 December 1831–28 December 1894), miner, financier, and U.S. senator, was born near Belfast, Ireland, the son of Scotch-Irish parents. His father’s name was James Fair; only his mother’s maiden name, Graham, is known. In 1843 Fair’s parents left Ireland with their son and emigrated to the United States. The family settled in Geneva, Illinois. After attending public schools, Fair continued his studies, primarily in business, chemistry, and mathematics in nearby Chicago....

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Larkin, Thomas Oliver (16 September 1802–27 October 1858), merchant, diplomatic agent, and capitalist, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Oliver Larkin, Sr., a sea captain, and Ann Rogers Cooper. His spotty education is reflected in his correspondence, which is sprinkled with misspellings and grammatical slips. When Oliver was five, his father died, and in 1813 his mother remarried and moved the family to Lynn, which young Oliver always looked upon as his hometown. At the age of fifteen, he went to nearby Boston “to learn the art of making books,” a trade he abandoned two years later for a clerkship in a bookstore. That, too, proved confining, so in October 1821 he set out with a friend for Wilmington, North Carolina, to seek his fortune....

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Morris, Robert (20 January 1735–08 May 1806), preeminent merchant and revolutionary financier, was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Robert Morris, Sr., an ironmonger and later a tobacco agent in Maryland, and Elizabeth Murphet. Shortly after Morris joined his father in Maryland in 1747, his father placed him in the care of Robert Greenway of Philadelphia, who obtained an apprenticeship for Robert in the established Philadelphia mercantile house of Charles Willing. Morris quickly displayed exceptional talent and resourcefulness in commerce, sometimes serving as supercargo on the firm’s vessels. He also became a lifetime friend of Charles Willing’s son ...

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Truman H. Newberry Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98130).

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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....