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Clayton, William Lockhart (07 February 1880–08 February 1966), businessman and statesman, was born near Tupelo, Mississippi, the son of James Clayton and Martha Fletcher Burdine, cotton farmers. Raised in modest circumstances in Jackson, Tennessee, Clayton left school at thirteen to work as a court stenographer and typist. Offered work in St. Louis as a secretary by a visiting businessman impressed with his diligence, Clayton followed his employer to New York City in 1896 to join the American Cotton Company. Clayton entered the cotton business at a time when the rapid improvement of communications was cutting costs and prices, creating a highly concentrated marketing system. Clayton learned the ropes of the new system and won promotion. He married Susan Vaughan in 1902; the couple had four daughters. By 1902 he had become manager of the sales department and had been appointed secretary-treasurer of a subsidiary, the Texas Cotton Products Company. Worried that the American Cotton Company would founder from mismanagement, in 1904 Clayton joined his brother-in-law Frank Anderson in establishing a cotton brokerage, Anderson, Clayton & Company, in Oklahoma City....

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Cullen, Hugh Roy (03 July 1881–04 July 1957), oilman and philanthropist, was born in Denton County, Texas, the son of Cicero Cullen, a businessman whose father was a hero of the Texan struggle for independence, and Louise Beck, who came from a plantation-owning family of South Carolinians. When Cullen was in his early childhood his parents separated, and he moved with his mother to San Antonio where he completed his elementary education. At seventeen he was employed by a cotton broker, but after a six-year apprenticeship he set up his own cotton brokerage firm and vowed never to be someone else’s employee. In 1903 he married Lillie Cranz; they had five children....

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Maybank, Burnet Rhett (07 March 1899–01 September 1954), politician and businessman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Joseph Maybank, a physician, and Harriet Lowndes Rhett. By birth, Maybank was a member of Charleston’s aristocracy and inherited a place in two of South Carolina’s oldest and most distinguished families. The Maybanks were an integral part of the Low Country plantation life in South Carolina, and the Rhetts were among the earliest settlers in Charleston. ...

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Nolte, Vincent Otto (21 November 1779?–19 August 1856), merchant, was born in Livorno, Italy, the son of John Henry Nolte, a merchant. Little is known of his mother. He was educated privately in Germany and at age sixteen was apprenticed to the Livorno mercantile house of Otto Frank, managed by his uncle. There he rejected his uncle’s authority, spent much of his time in idle pursuits, and as a result soon found himself back in Hamburg working in his father’s countinghouse. As he explains in his memoir, ...

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Thompson, Jeremiah (09 December 1784–10 November 1835), cotton merchant and shipowner, was born in Rawdon, Yorkshire, England, the son of William Thompson, a manufacturer of woolen cloth; his mother’s name is unknown. In 1798 Thompson’s paternal uncle Francis came to New York City to represent the family business; in 1801, Thompson joined him....