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Bates, Joshua (10 October 1788–24 September 1864), merchant and banker, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Colonel Joshua Bates and Tizrah Pratt. Bates’s father served as an officer during the Revolution. Joshua suffered from ill health as a child. He was educated by a private tutor and at the public school. When he was fifteen his father apprenticed him in the counting house of William R. Gray, the son of ...

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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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Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Lithograph on paper, 1832, by Albert Newsam. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Carroll of Carrollton, Charles (19 September 1737–14 November 1832), planter, businessman, investor, and the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the last of the signers to die, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, a planter, and his common-law wife, Elizabeth Brooke. An only child, Carroll was sent at the age of ten to the Jesuit college of St. Omers, in French Flanders, where Maryland’s Catholic gentry sent their sons because the colony’s laws, which denied “papists” the right to vote, hold office, practice law, and worship publicly, also forbade them to maintain religious schools. Young Carroll studied abroad for sixteen years, ending with a thesis in philosophy at the college of Louis le Grand in Paris in 1757. After reading civil law in Bourges and Paris, he moved to London in September 1759 to pursue the common law at the Inns of Court. However, his antipathy for the discipline, which he regarded as “founded upon and still subsisting by villainy,” became so intense that he ultimately defied his father’s intention that he formally enter the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. Finding the paternal insistence on his acquiring the social graces more to his liking, he became adept at dancing, drawing, and fencing and mastered Italian, bookkeeping, and surveying, practical skills the elder Carroll deemed essential for success as a landowner and man of business....

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Delafield, John (16 March 1748–03 July 1824), merchant and underwriter, was born in Aylesbury, Bucks, England, the son of John Delafield, a cheese merchant, and Martha Dell. Most historians claim John Delafield accumulated considerable property in England as a young brewer from an ancient, distinguished family. Though obviously a man of means by American standards, Delafield may not have been as well off as supposed and could have moved to the newly independent United States at age thirty-five to better his business prospects. Delafield arrived in British-occupied New York City on 4 April 1783, bearing the first copy of the provisional treaty of peace to reach the new republic. He immediately joined the Chamber of Commerce and started a mercantile, insurance, financial brokerage, and real estate business. He was so successful that he was soon one of the richest men in New York and was able to retire from active mercantile pursuits in 1798, though he continued in marine insurance....

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Dumaine, Frederic Christopher (06 March 1866–27 May 1951), financial leader and industrialist, was born in Hadley, Massachusetts, the son of Christopher Dumaine and Cordelia Roberts, French-Canadian immigrant laborers. Dumaine’s only formal education was in the Hadley public schools. In 1877 he worked in a Dedham, Massachusetts, dry-goods store to help family coffers, and in 1880 he came under the tutelage of ...

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Flint, Charles Ranlett (24 January 1850–12 February 1934), merchant and company promoter, was born in Thomaston, Maine, the son of Benjamin Flint and Sarah Tobey, merchants. His mother died three years later and his father remarried in 1856. Charles attended schools in Maine and Brooklyn, graduating from the Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn in 1868. His father and uncle operated a shipping business from 1837, which Flint eventually joined in 1885. In 1883 he married Emma Kate Simmons. He retained the occupational title of merchant throughout his life and his career reflected the expansion and changing character of the New York trading community during the late nineteenth century. In 1871 he and George W. Gilchrist, a shipbuilder and neighbor in Thomaston, established a ship chandlery firm. A year later Flint acquired a 25 percent stake in W. R. Grace & Co., a New York trading company with interests in Peru; George W. Gilchrist was the father-in-law of ...

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Forstall, Edmond Jean (07 November 1794–16 November 1873), merchant, banker, and sugar planter, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edouard Pierre Forstall and Celeste de la Villebeauve. The father’s occupation is uncertain, but in Edmond’s youth several members of the Forstall family, Edouard perhaps one of them, were active in Louisiana commerce. Record of Edmond’s education is lacking, but at the age of twelve he went to work for a merchant. In his adulthood he was fluent in English as well as French and read and wrote widely in both languages. As early as 1818 he was named a director of the Louisiana State Bank. By 1819 he was associated with the New Orleans firm of Gordon, Grant & Company, and in 1823 when the firm reorganized as Gordon & Forstall, Forstall became managing partner. In July 1823 he married Clara Durel; the couple had eleven children, one of whom died in infancy....

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A. G. Gaston, 8 September 1963. Outside of his home in Birmingham, Ala., the same day it was torched in protest of his work in the Civil Rights Movement. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Gaston, A. G. (04 July 1892–19 January 1996), entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation, he worked at a variety of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the ...

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Girard, Stephen (20 May 1750–26 December 1831), merchant, banker, and philanthropist, was born in Bordeaux, France, the son of Pierre Girard, an officer in the French navy, and Odette Lafargue. He was blind, or partially sighted, in one eye at birth and, therefore, probably received less formal education than his peers. At age fourteen he signed on as a cabin boy for vessels sailing to the West Indies. His first American port of entry was New Orleans. After receiving a license to serve as a ship captain at age twenty-three, Girard was named an officer on a voyage to Port-au-Prince, Saint Domingue (now Haiti), in 1774. He departed the West Indies and set sail for New York with a consignment of sugar and coffee. Rather than returning to France, Girard remained in New York and became an employee of the shipping firm of Thomas Randall & Son. He purchased a half-interest in the ship ...

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Hutton, E. F. (07 September 1875–11 July 1962), stockbroker, businessman, and syndicated columnist, was born Edward Francis Hutton in New York City, the son of farmer James Laws Hutton, an Ohioan who moved to New York to seek work. His mother’s name is not known....

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Kelly, Eugene (25 November 1808–19 December 1894), merchant, banker, and philanthropist, was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of Thomas Boye Kelly. His mother’s name and his parents’ occupations are unknown. Little is known of his family background save that his father, heir to a formerly prominent and prosperous line, lost the balance of his fortune because of his participation in the rebellion of 1798. Following the rebellion, the elder Kelly changed his name from “O’Kelly” to the more common “Kelly” as a precaution against reprisals for his activities. Eugene received his education in a local hedge school, after which he became a draper’s apprentice....

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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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Ludlow, Daniel (02 August 1750–26 September 1814), merchant and banker, was born in New York City, the son of Gabriel Ludlow, a merchant, and Elizabeth Crommelin. In 1765 Ludlow’s father sent him to Amsterdam, Holland, to enter the counting house of Crommelin and Zoon, where his grandfather Charles Crommelin was a principal. During his five year stint with the firm, young Ludlow learned banking, French, German, and of course Dutch. After returning to New York around 1770, Ludlow joined his father’s mercantile business, which he took over after the latter’s death in 1773. In October of that same year Ludlow married Arabella Duncan. The couple had five children before Arabella’s death in 1803. Ludlow, a Loyalist during the Revolution, joined the Chamber of Commerce in 1783. Shortly thereafter, on 1 January 1784, he entered into a partnership with Edward Goold. Their first advertisement, a circular letter, was rather vague about their line of business, promising “to contribute to the Success of whatever Concerns may be entrusted to our Charge.” They probably imported goods on commission and on their own account. Manuscript evidence suggests that they were also involved in marine insurance. The partnership dissolved in 1790, when Ludlow joined with his nephew Gulian Ludlow under the name Daniel Ludlow & Company. This firm, a major importer of East India goods and a marine insurer, stayed together for fifteen years. The firm experienced significant underwriting losses during the 1798 Quasi-War with France, but soon recovered with aid from Ludlow’s new banking concern....

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Mills, Darius Ogden (05 September 1825–03 January 1910), banker and mining and railroad entrepreneur, was born in North Salem, Westchester County, New York, the son of James Mills, a town supervisor of North Salem (1835), and Hannah Ogden. From a prominent family, Mills was educated at the North Salem Academy and then at the Mount Pleasant Academy at Ossining, New York. His father’s death in 1841 deprived Mills of a college education. Instead he became a clerk in a mercantile establishment in New York City. In 1847, at the invitation of a cousin, he became cashier of the Merchants’ Bank of Erie County in Buffalo, New York....

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Mitchell, John, Jr. (11 July 1863–03 December 1929), newspaper editor and banker, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on the estate of James Lyons, where his parents, John Mitchell and Rebecca (maiden name unknown), were house slaves. After gaining their freedom, the Mitchells were employed by Lyons as servants in his mansion in the city, where their son performed various chores and became a keen observer of the rituals of polite society practiced there. Mitchell’s mother exerted the decisive influence on him during his formative years: she instilled in him a fierce sense of racial pride, instructed him in the ways of gentlemanly conduct, and insisted on his regular attendance at the First African Baptist Church, where he was baptized at the age of fourteen. Over the objections of her white employer, Rebecca Mitchell arranged for her son’s education, first in a private school and later in public schools. An intensely competitive student with considerable artistic ability, Mitchell regularly won medals for superior performance and graduated at the head of his class at the Richmond Normal and High School in 1881....

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George Peabody. Engraving by John Chester Buttre, second half of the nineteenth century. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98992).

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Peabody, George (18 February 1795–04 November 1869), merchant, investment banker, and philanthropist, was born in South Danvers (now Peabody), Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Peabody, a leather worker and a farmer, and Judith Dodge. His parents, though not wealthy, managed to provide their son with a basic education. As a boy George came to know the value of work. At age eleven he worked in Sylvester Proctor’s grocery in Danvers, and for a short time in 1811 he served as a clerk in the dry-goods store of his brother David....

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Phillips, Frank (28 November 1873–23 August 1950), oilman and banker, was born in Scotia, Nebraska, the son of Lewis F. Phillips, a farmer, county assessor, and judge, and Lucinda Josephine Faucett, a schoolteacher. Although Phillips was born in Nebraska, his father’s farming career necessitated a move to Creston, Iowa, in 1874. There Frank attended the local school but dropped out at age fourteen. Phillips would have no contact with the realm of formal education until he received a number of honorary degrees years later....