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Bean, L. L. (13 October 1872–05 February 1967), retail merchant, was born Leon Leonwood Bean in Greenwood, Maine, the son of Benjamin Warren Bean and Sarah Swett, farmers. Orphaned at age twelve, he lived with his brother and four sisters in South Paris, Maine, and briefly attended Kent Hill Academy and Hebron Academy. Lennie Bean worked in his brother’s retail store in Freeport and in an Auburn clothing store from 1892 to 1907. In 1898 Bean married Bertha Porter, and they had two sons and a daughter. After his wife died in 1939, he married Claire L. Boudreau in 1940. Achieving little success in various business ventures, from selling soap to working in a creamery, in 1907 Bean moved to his wife’s hometown, Freeport, Maine, to take over his brother Ervin’s retail store....

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Burpee, David (05 April 1893–24 June 1980), businessman and horticulturist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of W. Atlee Burpee, the founder of the W. Atlee Burpee Seed Company, and Blanche Simons. His father founded the company in Philadelphia in 1878 as a catalog and mail-order retailer of poultry and livestock. The company met with success when it shifted its emphasis from animals and fowl to seeds. Burpee’s father actively encouraged his sons to follow him in the seed business. When his father became ill with a liver ailment, Burpee ended his studies in agriculture at Cornell University and served as his assistant until the elder Burpee’s death in 1915....

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Lubin, David (10 June 1849–01 January 1919), merchant, agricultural reformer, and pioneer internationalist, was born in the Jewish settlement of Klodowa in Russian Poland, the son of Simon Lubin and Rachel Holtz. While David was still an infant, his father died of cholera. His mother soon married Solomon Weinstock, a peddler, who, following an anti-Jewish pogrom, fled with his new family to London, England, before eventually coming to the United States in 1855. Settled in New York City, Lubin attended public schools until the age of twelve, when he became an apprentice jeweler in North Attleboro, Massachusetts....

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Richard Warren Sears. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111650).

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Sears, Richard Warren (07 December 1864–28 September 1914), businessman, was born in Stewartville, Minnesota, the son of James Warren Sears, a blacksmith, and Eliza Benton. Sears spent his childhood in several small Minnesota towns. He attended high school but never graduated. When he was fourteen his father bought a farm, but James Sears suffered from mental and physical illness and had to leave the operation of the farm to his son. Two years later his father died, and Richard became the family breadwinner....

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Vick, James (23 November 1818–16 May 1882), publisher of horticultural journals and mail-order seed merchant, was born in Chichester, England, the son of James Vick and Elizabeth Prime. His father, whose principal occupation is unknown, is reported to have been an enthusiastic amateur gardener; Vick’s English boyhood is otherwise obscure. He moved to New York City with his parents in 1833, learned the printing trade, and worked on publications including the ...

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Ward, Aaron Montgomery (17 February 1844?–07 December 1913), mail-order merchant, was born in Chatham, New Jersey, the son of Sylvester A. Ward and Julia Laura Green. When Monty, as he was called, was eight or nine, his father sold the family farm and bought what was advertised as a well-stocked general store in Niles, Michigan, a boom town on the St. Joseph River. But when the family arrived in the town they discovered that the store had no merchandise. While his family had to live in their store, Sylvester Ward worked as a clerk in another shop. To help support the family, Monty quit school at fourteen and went to work for a while in a barrel-stave factory and later in a brickyard. In 1861 he moved to nearby St. Joseph, a larger and flourishing port town on Lake Michigan, and found work in a general store for $5 a month and board; three years later he became its manager at a salary of $100 a month....

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Wells, Samuel Roberts (04 April 1820–13 April 1875), publisher, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Russell Wells, a farmer (mother’s name unknown). Shortly after his birth the family moved to a farm near Little Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario in Wayne County, New York. Samuel was apprenticed to a tanner and currier, but, planning to study medicine at Yale, he pursued some preliminary work by reading medical texts....

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Wood, Robert Elkington (13 June 1879–06 November 1969), army officer and businessman, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of Robert Whitney Wood, a merchant, and Lillie Collins, a former schoolteacher. Wood’s mother instilled in him a love of learning, and the young man hoped to attend Yale University, but his family could not afford an Ivy League education. Instead, in 1896 Robert entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York....