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Allen, Ira (01 May 1751–15 January 1814), frontier entrepreneur and Vermont political leader, was born in Cornwall, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Little is known of his youth, but in 1770 he followed his five elder brothers north to the New Hampshire Grants region and joined the Yankee versus Yorker struggle, which stemmed from the 1764 Crown decree that New York rather than New Hampshire owned the area that would become Vermont. While brother ...

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Cohen, Walter L. (22 January 1860–29 December 1930), businessman and politician, was born a free person of color in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Bernard Cohen and Amelia Bingaman, a free woman of color. Although Cohen’s father was Jewish, he was raised as and remained throughout his life a Roman Catholic. His parents died when he was in the fourth grade, whereupon he had to quit school, though he later attended Straight University in New Orleans for several years. As a boy Cohen became a cigar maker and later worked in a saloon. His entrée into the world of politics came during the post–Civil War period of Reconstruction, when he worked as a page in the state legislature, then meeting in New Orleans. In the legislature, Cohen became acquainted with several influential black Republicans, among them, ...

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Connor, Patrick Edward (02 March 1820?–17 December 1891), soldier, entrepreneur, and politician, was born Patrick Edward O’Connor in County Kerry, Ireland. His exact birth date and the names of his parents are in question. As a teenager, he emigrated with his parents to New York City, where he probably briefly attended public school....

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Cooper, William (02 December 1754–22 December 1809), land developer and politician, was born in Byberry (now part of Philadelphia), Pennsylvania, the son of James Cooper and Hannah Hibbs, farmers. Only modestly schooled, in 1774 young Cooper eloped with Elizabeth Fenimore, daughter of the well-to-do Quaker Richard Fenimore of Rancocas, New Jersey. They had twelve children, of whom seven lived to adulthood....

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Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar (17 April 1823–11 July 1915), businessman, politician, and race leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister, and Maria Jackson. His parents were free blacks. His father died when Mifflin was seven years old, and his mother was an invalid. As a teenager, Mifflin attended the Philomathean Institute, a black men’s literary society, and, like his brother ...

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William McKendree Gwin. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110003).

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Gwin, William McKendree (09 October 1805–03 September 1885), politician and entrepreneur, was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, the son of James Gwin, a Methodist minister, and Mary (maiden name probably Adair). He pursued legal studies in Gallatin, Tennessee, and gained admittance to the state bar. Gwin matriculated at Transylvania University in Kentucky in 1825 for the purpose of studying medicine. He received his medical degree on 5 March 1828 and practiced medicine for several years....

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Johnson, James (01 January 1774–13 August 1826), soldier, entrepreneur, and political leader, was born in Orange County, Virginia, the son of Robert Johnson, a frontier planter and political leader, and Jemima Suggett. Emigrating to Kentucky, the family experienced the dangers of frontier life. According to Leland W. Meyer’s description, during a battle with American Indians at Bryant’s Station (Lexington) in 1782, eight-year-old James extinguished fire arrows on cabin roofs while his mother led a group of women to resupply the station with water....

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Napier, James Carroll (09 June 1845–21 April 1940), politician, attorney, and businessman, was born on the western outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee. His parents, William C. Napier and Jane E., were slaves at the time of his birth but were freed in 1848. After manumission and a brief residency in Ohio, William Napier moved his family to Nashville, where he established a livery stable business. James attended the black elementary and secondary schools of Nashville before entering Wilberforce University (1864–1866) and Oberlin College (1866–1868), both in Ohio....

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Ogden, Aaron (03 December 1756–19 April 1839), soldier, public official, and entrepreneur, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Robert Ogden II, a lawyer, and Phebe Hatfield. He attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and graduated with the class of 1773. Over the next three years he taught school, first in Princeton, then in Elizabethtown, but with the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and its American colonies, he was quickly drawn into the revolutionary confrontation....

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P. B. S. Pinchback. Courtesy of the National Afro-American Museum.

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Pinchback, P. B. S. (10 May 1837–21 December 1921), politician, editor, and entrepreneur, was born Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback in Macon, Georgia, the son of William Pinchback, a Mississippi plantation owner, and Eliza Stewart, a former slave of mixed ancestry. Because William Pinchback had taken Eliza to Philadelphia to obtain her emancipation, Pinckney was free upon birth....

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Pynchon, John (1626–17 January 1703), entrepreneur and politician, was born in Springfield, Essex, England, to William Pynchon and Anna Andrew. He sailed with his parents in 1630 to Massachusetts, living with them first in Dorchester and then Roxbury, near Boston. In 1636 the family moved to the Connecticut River, where William Pynchon founded the town of Springfield, which he governed and used to dominate New England’s fur trade. In 1645 John Pynchon married Amy Wyllys, daughter of George Wyllys of Hartford, Connecticut. His future trading partners, Samuel Wyllys and John Allyn, were his wife’s cousins. The Pynchons had five children, three of whom survived infancy....

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Worthington, Thomas (16 July 1773–20 June 1827), entrepreneur, politician, and U.S. senator, was born near Charlestown, Berkeley County, Virginia (now Jefferson County, W.Va.), the son of Robert Worthington, a prominent planter, and Margaret Matthews, from Frederickton, Maryland, who was of Irish background. Orphaned by the age of seven, he received little formal education and in May 1791 went to sea for two years. On his return he farmed the Berkeley County estate, took up surveying, and bought up Virginia military land warrants that he located near Chillicothe in the Northwest Territory. In December 1796 he married Eleanor Van Swearingen of Shepherdstown, Virginia, herself an orphan with a rich property. The couple had ten children. In spring 1798 Worthington freed his slaves and moved his family to Chillicothe; they were joined by his brother-in-law and lifelong political ally, ...