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Joel Barlow. Watercolor on ivory, 1806, by William Dunlap. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Barlow.

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Barlow, Joel (24 March 1754–26 December 1812), businessman, diplomat, and poet, was born in Redding, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Barlow and Esther Hull, fairly well-to-do farmers. Barlow was born the second-to-last child in a large family. Given the size of the family and their farm, Barlow could receive formal education only from the local minister, an education probably interspersed with farm chores. When Barlow was eighteen, his father arranged for his schooling at Moor’s Indian School (now Dartmouth) in Hanover, New Hampshire. Barlow began his studies there in 1772, yet his father’s death shortly thereafter made it necessary for Barlow to return home. He entered Yale College with the class of 1778. At Yale Barlow began to give evidence of an interest in poetry, in moral and political philosophy, and in science as a key to the improvement of the human condition. His first published poem, a broadside publication, was a satire in pseudobiblical verse about the bad food served in Yale commons. Although he wrote poems throughout his college days, Barlow’s best-known college verses were verse orations delivered at two Yale commencements, ...

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Julius H. Barnes. Right, with Thomas Lamont, left, and Silas Strawn. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92371).

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Barnes, Julius Howland (02 February 1873–17 April 1959), industrialist and government official, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Lucien Jerome Barnes, a banker, and Julia Hill. Moving with his family, he attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Duluth, Minnesota. Following his father’s death in 1886, Barnes left school to take a job as office boy with the Duluth grain brokerage firm of Wardell Ames. There he rose rapidly, becoming president of the company in 1910 and subsequently reorganizing it as the Barnes-Ames Company. By 1915 Barnes-Ames was the world’s largest grain exporter, and Barnes acquired other business interests, principally in shipbuilding and Great Lakes shipping. In 1896 he married Harriet Carey, with whom he had two children....

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Fargo, William George (20 May 1818–03 August 1881), business leader and mayor of Buffalo, New York, was born in Pompey, New York, the son of William C. Fargo, a farmer and mail contractor, and Tacy Strong, a farmer. The eldest of twelve children, Fargo grew accustomed to steady work at an early age. He had little formal education and at the age of thirteen secured a job carrying the mail on horseback twice a week over a thirty-mile route. Since Fargo’s father was also a mail carrier, Fargo may well have owed this opportunity to his father’s influence. He supplemented his income as a mail carrier by running a variety of errands for his neighbors, for which he was paid a small commission. These errands included carrying parcels and messages and purchasing goods at local stores. It is likely that this experience helped to shape Fargo’s later determination to establish a business that would perform these tasks on a regular basis and on a greatly extended geographical scale....

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Grady, Henry Francis (12 February 1882–14 September 1957), diplomat, economist, and businessman, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of John Henry Grady and Ellen Genevieve Rourke. He earned his A.B. in 1907 from St. Mary’s University in Baltimore, Maryland, and his doctorate in economics in 1927 from Columbia University. As a young man, Grady studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood, but his interest in economics and finance led him to overlapping careers in business, academia, and government. In 1917 he married Lucretia del Valle; they had four children....

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W. Averell Harriman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105320 ).

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Harriman, W. Averell (15 November 1891–26 July 1986), businessman and government official, was born William Averell Harriman in New York City, the son of the railroad organizer Edward H. Harriman and Mary Averell (Mary Williamson Averell Harriman). He spent his early years in New York and on the family estate of Arden in the nearby Ramapo Mountains. He was educated at Groton and Yale. Harriman did poorly in preparatory studies, which brought admonishment from his father, and it is possible that his stammer, which he carried throughout his long life, resulted from this experience. At Yale he did better academically, and excelled socially....

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King, William (09 February 1768–17 June 1852), merchant shipper, army officer, and governor of Maine, was born in Scarborough, Maine, the son of Richard King, a merchant and shipowner, and Mary Black. He was educated at home, but he spent one term at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts....

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Low, Frederick Ferdinand (30 June 1828–21 July 1894), businessman, politician, and diplomat, was born in Frankfort (present-day Winterport), Maine, into a Penobscot Valley farming family. His parents’ names are not known. Frederick Low attended public schools and Hampden Academy. At age fifteen he was apprenticed to Russell, Sturgis and Company, a Boston firm with a large China trade. He enriched his education by attending Fanuiel Hall and Lowell Institute lectures. Low completed his apprenticeship in 1849 and joined other Forty-niners in California. For three months he panned gold on the American River. Taking some $1,500 from his claim, he declared himself “satisfied” and returned to San Francisco to commence successful careers in business and government....

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Merry, William Lawrence (27 December 1842–11 December 1911), sea captain, merchant, and diplomat, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Henry Merry, a merchant and sea captain, and Candida Isbina Xavier, apparently Brazilian. Merry attended the Collegiate Institute in New York City during the 1850s. He became a junior officer on the ...

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Otero, Miguel Antonio (21 June 1829–30 May 1882), politician and businessman, was born in Valencia, New Mexico, then a province of the Mexican Republic, the son of Don Vicente Otero and Dona Gertrudis Chaves y Argon. Vicente Otero was primarily a farmer and merchant but also filled local judicial positions under the Mexican government. Miguel Antonio Otero entered St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, in September 1841 and continued his education there until the outbreak of the Mexican-American War in May 1846, at which time his parents sent for him. In 1847 he enrolled at Pingree College, located in Fishkill on the Hudson, New York. Within a short time he became a teacher at the college and also an assistant to the principal. In 1849 Otero commenced the study of law, first with James Thayer, an attorney living in Fishkill on the Hudson, then with a General Sanford in New York City during the winter of 1849–1850, and finally with Trusten Polk in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1851 to 1852. Otero was admitted to the Missouri bar in the spring of 1852, immediately after which he returned to New Mexico, now a U.S. territory. That same year he took a herd of sheep, presumably the property of his brother, Antonio José Otero, overland to California....

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Short, Robert Earl (20 July 1917–20 November 1982), businessman, political activist, and sports franchise owner, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Robert Lester and Frances Niccum. His father, a brewery driver, fireman, union official, and Democratic alderman in the city’s fourth ward, had his son distributing political literature at age nine. By the time Short graduated from North High School in 1936, he was interested in a career in law and politics. He received his bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Thomas in 1940, studied law at several universities, and served in the U.S. Navy before earning a law degree from Georgetown University in 1947. He then served as assistant to the U.S. district attorney, both in Washington, D.C. (1947–1948) and in Minneapolis (1949–1950)....

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Wilkeson, Samuel (01 June 1781–07 July 1848), shipowner, iron founder, and manufacturer, was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the son of John Wilkeson and Mary Robinson, farmers. Samuel Wilkeson’s early years, after only two weeks of formal education, were devoted solely to working on his father’s farm. In 1902 at age twenty-one he left the family farm and married Jane Oram, who subsequently bore all of Wilkeson’s six children....