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Addicks, John Edward O’Sullivan (21 November 1841–07 August 1919), promoter and aspiring politician, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Edward Addicks, a politician and civil servant, and Margaretta McLeod. Addicks’s father achieved local political prominence and arranged for his son to take a job at age fifteen as a runner for a local dry goods business. Four years later Addicks took a job with a flour company and, upon reaching his twenty-first birthday, became a full partner in the business. Like many Quaker City merchants, Addicks speculated in local real estate in the booming port town, avoided service in the Civil War, and achieved a modicum of prosperity in the postwar period. He became overextended, as he would be most of his career, however, and went broke in the 1873 depression....

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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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Baruch, Bernard Mannes (19 August 1870–20 June 1965), financier and statesman, was born in Camden, South Carolina, the son of Dr. Simon Baruch and Belle Wolfe. Place played a large role in his life. In 1881 the family moved to New York City, where his father became a prominent physician and leader in public health. Baruch graduated from the City College of New York and made his career in Wall Street, but he shrewdly maintained an identification with South Carolina through ownership of a plantation, “Hobcaw,” where he entertained people with political connections that enhanced his influence in the national Democratic party. By transcending local politics, Baruch became one of the most powerful Democrats in the first half of the twentieth century....

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Belmont, August (08 December 1813–24 November 1890), financier, politician, and sportsman, was born in Alzey, a German Rhineland village, the son of Simon Belmont, a moneylender and landowner, and Frederika Elsass. He attended a Jewish school, the Philanthropin, in Frankfurt and in 1828 began work as an office boy for the local branch of the Rothschild banking family, to which he was distantly related through marriage. He was soon promoted to confidential clerk and in 1837 was sent to Cuba to investigate that Spanish colony’s stability. A stopover in New York changed the course of his life. The panic of 1837 had just struck, and the Rothschilds’ New York agent had declared bankruptcy. Belmont decided to stay and established August Belmont and Company, a private banking firm that would maintain a close, long-term working relationship with the Rothschilds. Belmont’s rise on Wall Street was rapid. He profited from foreign exchange transactions; commercial and private loans; corporate, real estate, and railroad investments; and as a U.S. government fiscal agent during the Mexican War. In 1849 he married Caroline Slidell Perry, with whom he had six children....

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Benton, William (01 April 1900–18 March 1973), advertising executive, educator, and politician, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Charles Benton, a Congregationalist clergyman and professor of romance languages, and Elma Hixson, a schoolteacher. After brief military service in World War I, Benton attended Yale University and graduated in 1921. In 1928 he was married to Helen Hemingway. They had four children....

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Bingham, William (08 April 1752–07 February 1804), businessman and public official, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Bingham, a saddler and merchant, and Mary “Molly” Stamper. Bingham graduated cum laude from the College of Philadelphia in 1768. Sometime after the death of his father in 1769, he served an apprenticeship with Philadelphia merchant ...

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Bowles, Chester Bliss (05 April 1901–25 May 1986), businessman, politician, and diplomat, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Allen Bowles, a paper manufacturer, and Nellie Harris. His grandfather, Samuel Bowles (1826–1878), a man Chester frequently identified as his inspiration and role model, transformed the Springfield ...

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Bush, John Edward (15 November 1856–11 December 1916), businessman and politician, was born a slave in Moscow, Tennessee. In 1862 his master moved him and his mother to Arkansas to keep them from being freed when the Union army moved into western Tennessee. His mother died when Bush was only seven years old. He was educated in the freedmen’s and public schools of Little Rock and was considered a good student by his teachers. He paid his school tuition by molding bricks. In 1876 he graduated from high school with honors and was immediately appointed principal of Capital Hill School, a public institution for African Americans in Little Rock. In 1878 he moved to Hot Springs, where he was named to head that city’s African-American high school....

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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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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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English, James Edward (13 March 1812–02 March 1890), businessman and politician, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of James English, a customs collector and shipowner, and Nancy Griswold. When he was eleven, English persuaded his parents to allow him to live with and work for a local farmer. After three years his father enrolled him in a private school. At sixteen he became an apprentice to a New Haven carpenter and joiner and grew adept at creating architectural designs and drawing up contracts. Subsequently, he worked as an independent contractor and master builder, planning and constructing several of New Haven’s more imposing houses. English had accumulated enough money by 1835 to form a lumber company in New Haven with a partner, Harmanus M. Welch. However, in the wake of the panic of 1837, he decided that it would be prudent to diversify his business. He purchased and constructed ships to serve the Philadelphia–New England trade and over the next two decades built a considerable fortune....

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Evans, John (09 March 1814–03 July 1897), physician, businessman, and politician, was born near Waynesville, Ohio, the son of David Evans and Rachel Burnet, farmers. His Quaker father left their modest farm and became a successful real estate investor. John completed his education at the Medical Department of the Cincinnati College in 1838. That year he married Hannah Canby. They moved to Attica, Indiana, where, after hearing the stirring sermons of Bishop ...

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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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Hagar, Jonathan (1714–06 November 1775), land speculator, assemblyman, and town developer, was born in the duchy of Westphalia, Germany; the names of his parents are unknown. Hagar (also spelled Hager) arrived as a freeman in Philadelphia from Rotterdam on the ship Harle on 1 September 1736, at the age of twenty-two. He was one of the many German-speaking settlers who began to migrate to the western areas of Maryland in the 1730s and 1740s. While most of these settlers first spent a few years in eastern Pennsylvania (sometimes as indentured servants to pay for their passage), high land prices in that settled land forced new arrivals to establish their own homes farther west and south....

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Henderson, Richard (20 April 1735–30 January 1785), land speculator, judge, and politician, was born in Hanover County, Virginia, the son of Samuel Henderson and Elizabeth Williams. Samuel Henderson, who had served for a time as sheriff of Hanover County, moved his family to North Carolina around 1742 and settled on Nutbush Creek in Granville County; within a few years he became sheriff. Little is known of Richard Henderson’s childhood, but it must have been a happy one. Under the watchful eye of his mother his education was guided toward a law career. He studied under a private tutor before getting his first job as a deputy sheriff under his father. He then read law under John Williams, his mother’s cousin and a gifted attorney who became a lifelong friend. After being admitted to the bar, Henderson joined Williams in law practice. Their association grew closer after 1763, when Henderson married Elizabeth Keeling, Williams’s stepdaughter who was the daughter of an English peer, Lord Keeling. They had six children....

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Hoffmann, Francis Arnold (05 June 1822–23 January 1903), German-American political leader, businessman, and agricultural writer, was born in Herford, Westphalia, Prussia, the son of Frederick William Hoffmann, a bookbinder, and Wilhelmina Groppe. Educated at the Gymnasium in Herford, he left home in 1840 to emigrate to the United States. He traveled first to Chicago, where he worked briefly as a hotel porter then took a position as teacher for a German congregation in Addison township, Du Page County, Illinois, west of Chicago. He also led hymns and read sermons in the church services. In 1841 he went to Michigan to study under clergy of the Lutheran Michigan Synod and was ordained. He returned to Addison to serve as pastor and also served other congregations in northeastern Illinois. In 1844 he married Cynthia Gilbert, a native of Ohio. The exact number of their children is unknown; four survived Hoffmann. He acquired citizenship by naturalization in 1846....