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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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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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Colton, George Radcliffe (10 April 1865–06 April 1916), American colonial administrator, banker, and customs specialist, was born in Galesburg, Illinois, the son of Francis Colton and Frances A. Garey. Nothing is known about his parents’ occupations. At seventeen Colton moved west to work on a New Mexico cattle ranch for five years before he entered the banking business in David City, Nebraska, as cashier, manager, and subsequently vice president of the Central Nebraska National Bank. He entered Republican politics in 1889 when he served one term in the Nebraska state legislature. He married Jessie T. McLeod in the same year; they had two children. In 1897 he was a Nebraska state bank examiner and an active member of the National Guard. When the Spanish-American War of 1898 began, Colton helped organize the First Regiment of Nebraska Volunteer Infantry. As lieutenant colonel he served with his regiment in the Philippines. When the war ended President ...

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English, James Edward (13 March 1812–02 March 1890), businessman and politician, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of James English, a customs collector and shipowner, and Nancy Griswold. When he was eleven, English persuaded his parents to allow him to live with and work for a local farmer. After three years his father enrolled him in a private school. At sixteen he became an apprentice to a New Haven carpenter and joiner and grew adept at creating architectural designs and drawing up contracts. Subsequently, he worked as an independent contractor and master builder, planning and constructing several of New Haven’s more imposing houses. English had accumulated enough money by 1835 to form a lumber company in New Haven with a partner, Harmanus M. Welch. However, in the wake of the panic of 1837, he decided that it would be prudent to diversify his business. He purchased and constructed ships to serve the Philadelphia–New England trade and over the next two decades built a considerable fortune....

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Few, William (08 June 1748–16 July 1828), lawyer, politician, and banker, was born near Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Few, a failed tobacco planter turned frontier farmer, and Mary Wheeler. Few’s family moved in 1758 to North Carolina, where young William received little formal schooling but enough skills and enough love for reading that the future Founding Father was able to educate himself. In the early 1770s, the Few family joined the Regulator movement, rural westerners’ sometimes violent opposition to unrepresentative coastal political control. The family lost one of William’s brothers, the family farm, and the family fortune in the struggle for more local autonomy. The Fews then moved to Georgia, leaving William behind to settle the family’s affairs, to farm, and to teach himself law....

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Grace, William Russell (10 May 1832–21 March 1904), founder of W. R. Grace & Co. and twice mayor of New York City, founder of W. R. Grace & Co. and twice mayor of New York City, was born in Riverstown, Ireland, the son of James Grace, a landowner and farmer, and Eleanor Mary Russell. Grace, like so many Irishmen of his generation, left his famine-ravaged homeland in the mid-nineteenth century seeking a new life in the Americas. Well educated in Jesuit schools and coming from the minor gentry of Ireland, young William arrived in Peru in 1854....

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Herrick, Myron Timothy (09 October 1854–31 March 1929), banker, governor of Ohio, and diplomat, was born near Huntington, Ohio, the son of Mary Hulbert Herrick and Timothy R. Herrick, farmers. He attended local schools and at age sixteen began teaching in nearby Brighton. Two years later he enrolled in Oberlin Academy for a year and a half, and he later attended Ohio Wesleyan University for two years. In 1875 Herrick began reading law in the Cleveland offices of G. E. Herrick and J. F. Herrick and became active in the Cleveland Grays, a local militia group. In 1878 he opened his own law office. In 1880 he married Carolyn M. Parmely; they had one son. Until her death in 1918, Herrick considered his wife his closest adviser....

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Ladd, William Sargent (10 October 1826–06 January 1893), financier, merchant, and mayor of Portland, Oregon, was born in Holland, Vermont, the son of Nathaniel Gould Ladd, a physician, and Abigail Mead. Ladd’s father moved the family to New Hampshire in 1830, and at age fifteen William started work on a farm. Four years later he taught school and then became a station agent for the Boston, Concord & Montreal Railroad at Sanbornton Bridge. In 1851 he arrived in San Francisco, responding to reports from a schoolmate, Charles Elliott Tilton. Tilton had written that wealth and opportunity awaited in Portland, Oregon, by supplying miners and prospectors in the area. Portland, Ladd learned, provided the primary source of provisions for the miners in the northern California region, where gold was plentiful. Tilton had moved his own business to San Francisco, specialized in the China trade, and extended his sales network northward. Thus, Ladd had an available supplier in the region, so he acquired a stock of goods and opened a general mercantile business called W. S. Ladd & Company in Portland....

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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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Lowden, Frank Orren (26 January 1861–20 March 1943), businessman, governor of Illinois, and agriculturist, was born near the village of Sunrise City, Minnesota, the son of Lorenzo Orren Lowden and Nancy Elizabeth Bregg, and grew up in central Iowa. His father, a restless and independent man, worked as blacksmith and farmer, then studied law while in his forties; he was also somewhat of a rebel and political activist, involved in the Grange and the Democratic and Greenback parties. Lowden studied at rural schools, became a teacher at the age of fourteen, and in 1881 entered the University of Iowa, where he graduated as valedictorian in 1885. He then moved to Chicago, where he studied law at the Union College of Law, graduating in 1887, and landed a position at a major law firm. In 1896 he married Florence Pullman, daughter of the extremely wealthy and powerful industrialist ...

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Merriam, William Rush (26 July 1849–18 February 1931), banker, Minnesota governor, and director of the 1900 census, was born at Wadham’s Mills, Essex County, New York, the son of John Lafayette Merriam, a merchant and iron ore dealer, and Mahala Kimpton De Lano. His mother died in 1857, and his father married Helen M. Wilder. In 1861 he moved with his family to St. Paul, Minnesota, joining his stepuncle, Amherst H. Wilder, who had moved from New York two years earlier. Merriam’s father, who was often associated in business with Wilder, soon achieved prominence and wealth through investments in stagecoaches, railroads, and banks....

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Morrill, Edmund Needham (12 February 1834–14 March 1909), banker, congressman, and governor of Kansas, was born in Westbrook, Maine, the son of Rufus Morrill, a tanner and currier, and Mary Webb. He was educated in the common schools and at Westbrook Academy, where he graduated in 1855. For one year he was the academy’s superintendent, but he moved with a colony of settlers in 1857 to Brown County, Kansas Territory, and established a sawmill a few miles west of present-day Hiawatha. The mill failed after a fire in 1860, but Morrill repaid all of his creditors....

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Woodring, Harry Hines (31 May 1887?–09 September 1967), banker, governor of Kansas, and secretary of war, was born in Elk City, Kansas, the son of Hines Woodring, a grain dealer, and Melissa Jane Cooper. Being the youngest of six children and the only boy, Woodring grew up in an overprotected environment. Although a good student, he never graduated from high school, choosing instead to go to Indiana and live with an aunt so he could attend Lebanon Business University. After his return to Elk City in 1905, he worked as a bank cashier and four years later took a similar position in nearby Neodesha, Kansas. In 1918 he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Camp Colt, Pennsylvania. In October he completed officer’s school and was commissioned a second lieutenant, in the tank corps, but the war ended before he could go overseas....