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Adams, Edward Dean (09 April 1846–20 May 1931), banker, engineer, and financier, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Adoniram Judson Adams, a businessman, and Harriet Lincoln Norton. He graduated with a B.S. degree from Norwich University, Northfield, Vermont, in 1864. After spending a year in Europe, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1865–1866. In 1867 he joined the Boston firm of T. J. Lee & Hill, stockbrokers, where he served as bookkeeper and cashier. In 1871 he was a founding partner of Richardson, Hill & Company of Boston, private bankers. The following year he married Frances Amelia Gutterson; the couple had three children....

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Brown, Alexander (17 November 1764–04 April 1834), founder of an Anglo-American mercantile and financial services firm, was born in Ballymena, Ireland, the son of William Brown and Margaretta Davison. As a young adult he moved to Belfast, where he became involved in the linen trade, reportedly working as an auctioneer on occasion. His brother Stewart left for Baltimore in the mid-1790s, and Alexander followed in 1800. He had married Grace Davison in 1783, and after his arrival in Baltimore he opened a shop that featured linen goods supplied primarily by his in-laws and business associates in Ireland. The mercantile business prospered, and Brown soon widened the scope of his activities. He typified the all-purpose merchant of the early national era (c. 1790–1820), dabbling in various goods and services, including insurance and shipping. When his second son, ...

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Cooke, Jay (10 August 1821–16 February 1905), banker and financier, was born in Sandusky, Ohio, the son of Eleutheros Cooke, a lawyer, businessman, and politician, and Martha Carswell. Cooke, the third of five children, grew up in a happy and prosperous middle-class frontier family. At age fourteen, with only a modest formal education, Cooke was hired as a clerk in a Sandusky dry goods store. About a year later he was recruited by Mr. Seymour, possibly because of this gentleman’s romantic interest in one of Cooke’s cousins, to clerk in the dry goods company of Seymour & Bool. This meant leaving home and moving to St. Louis, Missouri, a city that Cooke came to dislike because of its rough frontier character. The financial downturn of 1837 forced Seymour & Bool into bankruptcy, and Cooke returned eagerly to Sandusky—but without a job....

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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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Green, Hetty (21 November 1834–03 July 1916), private banker, money lender, and eccentric, also known as the Witch of Wall Street, was born Harriet Howland Robinson in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Edward Mott Robinson, the owner of a prosperous whaling company, and Abby Slocum Howland, a member of one of the oldest and wealthiest families in New England. After the birth of her brother, who lived only a short time, Hetty’s parents sent her to live in her grandfather Gideon Howland’s household, where she was raised by her Aunt Sylvia. There she received her early education, reading the financial pages to her grandfather, whose sight was failing, and gaining a nascent understanding of financial markets. At age ten she attended a Quaker boarding school for three years, returning to New Bedford in 1847 after her grandfather’s death....

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Thomas W. Lamont Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92301).

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Lamont, Thomas William (30 September 1870–02 February 1948), banker and financier, was born in Claverack, New York, the son of Thomas Lamont, a Methodist minister, and Caroline Deuel Jayne. Young Lamont grew up in several small Hudson Valley towns in upstate New York, as his father was posted to a new church every two or three years. The family was not poor, but Lamont’s upbringing, described in his ...

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Stotesbury, Edward Townsend (26 February 1849–16 May 1938), business executive and financier, was born in Philadelphia, the son of Thomas P. Stotesbury, a partner in a sugar refinery, and Martha Parker, a staunch Pennsylvania Quaker. Stotesbury attended Friends Central School in Philadelphia and graduated in 1865. He began working at age sixteen in a wholesale grocery firm as a clerk and then took a job in his father’s sugar refinery, Harris and Stotesbury. His father arranged for Edward to work for the banking firm of Drexel and Co. in 1866 at a salary of $200 per annum. This entry position involved such mundane chores as cleaning inkwells, sweeping the office, and running errands. However, young Stotesbury seemed to possess a natural aptitude for banking, and by observation and dedication to the work he soon became proficient in reading balance sheets and became well informed on “commercial paper.”...

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Thatcher, Mahlon Daniel (06 December 1839–22 February 1916), merchant and banker, was born in New Buffalo, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Thatcher, a blacksmith-turned-schoolteacher, and Lydia Ann Albert. After working as a partner in his father’s Pennsylvania store, Mahlon headed west in 1865 to join his brother John Albert, who had opened the first general store in Pueblo, Colorado. Mahlon invested $2,900 in a stock of goods that he brought to the business....

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Frank A. Vanderlip Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G401-T-4209-B-014).

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Vanderlip, Frank Arthur (17 November 1864–29 June 1937), financier and bank president, was born in Aurora, Illinois, the son of Charles Vanderlip, a blacksmith and farmer, and Charlotte Woodworth. In 1880, a short time after the death of his father and a younger brother from tuberculosis, Vanderlip and his mother moved in with his maternal grandmother. To help support the family, Vanderlip worked at a machine shop while attending public school. He would later take courses in engineering at the University of Illinois and courses in economics and finance at the University of Chicago to supplement his education....