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Griffith, Goldsborough Sappington (04 November 1814–24 February 1904), civic and religious leader, prison reformer, and philanthropist, was born in Harford County, Maryland, the son of James Griffith and Sarah Cox. His father died in the War of 1812, leaving Griffith, not one year old, the youngest of eight. His mother subsequently remarried and, when Griffith was twelve, moved to Baltimore with her husband and family of fourteen children. Griffith left school and obtained regular employment in a tobacco manufacturing house to help support the family. He continued his education in night school and devoted his leisure time to reading. Several years later he found a rewarding position as a paperhanger and, at the age of twenty-two, with $500 in savings and a knowledgeable partner, began a prosperous paperhanging and upholstery business. In 1854 he sold this thriving business to his half brothers and turned his attentions to his very successful wholesale and retail carpet business in which he was joined by his nephews....

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Hastings, Serranus Clinton (22 November 1814–18 February 1893), jurist, politician, educational philanthropist, and real estate magnate, was born near Watertown, Jefferson County, New York, the son of Robert Collins Hastings, a farmer, and Patience Brayton, who was from an early settler family in western New York. Robert Hastings, a Bostonian, saw action in the War of 1812 as a militia officer during the several attacks on the U.S. Naval Station at Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario. Serranus attended Gouverneur Academy for six years, taught by graduates of the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution in a strenuously moral classicism acceptable to Baptist tenets. He instituted that learning, aged twenty, as principal of the Norwich Academy, Chenango, New York. Within a year, however, he began the westward trek that brought him first to Lawrenceburg, southeastern Indiana, in 1835, to study law with two prominent lawyers there, meanwhile editing the ...

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Kane, Thomas Leiper (27 January 1822–26 December 1883), lawyer, soldier, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and defender of the Mormons, was born in Philadelphia, the son of John Kintzing Kane, a jurist, and Jane Duval Leiper. He attended school in Philadelphia and from 1839 to 1844 traveled in England and France, studying and visiting relatives. While in Paris he served for a time as an attaché of the American legation. Small in stature and never robust, he would spend most of his life struggling with ill health. In Paris he met Auguste Comte and others who surely encouraged his social conscience, which would be manifested later in his concern for philanthropic causes. In 1844 Kane returned to Philadelphia, where he studied law with his father. Although he was admitted to the bar in 1846 and clerked briefly for his father, who was a federal judge, his interests and activities generally moved in other directions....

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Levy, Uriah Phillips (22 April 1792–22 March 1862), U.S. naval officer and philanthropist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Michael Levy, a merchant, and Rachel Phillips. He was drawn early to the sea and at age ten ran away to be a cabin boy. After his return two years later, he was apprenticed for four or five years to a Philadelphia ship owner to learn navigation and other maritime skills. By age eighteen he had made several profitable voyages as a mate from Philadelphia to the West Indies....

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Pynchon, William (26 December 1590–29 October 1662), fur trader, magistrate, and founder of Springfield, Massachusetts, was born at Springfield, in Essex, England, the son of John Pynchon and Frances Brett, wealthy gentry. William was educated to read and write Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and served as a warden of Christ Church from 1620 to 1624. Like many members of his class, he supported the Puritans. In 1629 Pynchon invested £25 in the Massachusetts Bay Company and the following year accompanied Governor ...

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Sewall, Samuel (28 March 1652–01 January 1730), colonial merchant, judge, and philanthropist, was born at Bishop Stoke, Hampshire, England, the son of Henry Sewall, a pastor, and Jane Dummer. Sewall’s father had immigrated to Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1634, and although he was admitted to freemanship in 1637, he returned to England in 1646 and subsequently took the pulpit of North Baddesley. The family returned to Massachusetts in 1659....

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Vaux, Roberts (21 January 1786–07 January 1836), philanthropist, educational reformer, and penologist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Richard Vaux, a merchant, and Ann Roberts, both members of the Society of Friends. Roberts Vaux was descended on his father’s side from George Vaux of Sussex, England, a physician, who had sent his son, Richard, to Philadelphia in 1768 for mercantile training among Quaker friends and relatives. After acquiring wealth in the Atlantic carrying trade during the American Revolution, Richard Vaux, a Tory sympathizer, married Ann Roberts in 1784. She was descended from an illustrious and prosperous family that traced its American roots back to Hugh Roberts, a friend of ...

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Wittpenn, Caroline Bayard Stevens (21 November 1859–04 December 1932), penal reformer, social worker, and philanthropist, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the daughter of Edwin Augustus Stevens, inventor, railroad manager, shipbuilder, and founder of Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, and Martha Bayard Dod, social worker and founder of Holy Innocents Church, now All Saints Parish, Hoboken. Members of the Stevens family, established in Hoboken since the 1780s, were instrumental in developing the steamship lines and railroads of nineteenth-century America. The family tradition of philanthropy and personal involvement in helping others and her parents’ example, especially that of her mother, was a major influence on the socially conscious activities and interests Wittpenn tirelessly exhibited during her adult life....