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Oakes Ames. Photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-B-1245).

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Ames, Oakes (10 January 1804–08 May 1873), businessman and politician, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. He was educated in local schools and, for a few months, at Dighton Academy. At the age of sixteen, he entered his father’s shovel factory as an apprentice, rising quickly to become the works superintendent and then his father’s assistant. In 1827 he married Evelina Orvile Gilmore, and for the next three decades lived with her and their four children in one wing of his father’s house opposite the factory....

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Brice, Calvin Stewart (17 September 1845–15 December 1898), U.S. senator, railroad builder, and financier, was born in Denmark, Ohio, the son of William Kilpatrick Brice, a Presbyterian minister, and Elizabeth Stewart. He received his earliest education at home and in the public schools of Columbus Grove, Putnam County, where his family moved after his third birthday. When Brice turned thirteen years old, his parents placed him in the preparatory program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where because of his father’s limited means he had to work his way through school. He required only one year of preparatory work before being granted admission as a freshman....

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Prescott S. Bush. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102504).

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Bush, Prescott Sheldon (15 May 1895–08 October 1972), banker and U.S. senator, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of Samuel Prescott Bush, a manufacturer of railway equipment, and Flora Sheldon. Raised in comfortable circumstances, Bush attended Columbus public schools, St. George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, and Yale College, where he earned a B.A. in 1917. At Yale, he was a three-sport athlete (baseball, football, golf), president of the glee club, and a member of the prestigious secret society, Skull and Bones. The quintessential “big man on campus,” he seemed headed for a career in law and politics....

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Cheves, Langdon (17 September 1776–26 June 1857), lawyer, congressman, and financier, was born in Bull Town Fort, South Carolina, the son of Alexander Chivas (or Chivis) of Buchan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and Mary Langdon. It is not known when or why he changed the spelling of his last name. Alexander Chivas had migrated to America in 1762 and established himself as a frontier trader. A Loyalist supporter, he lost his livelihood during the Revolution and moved to the low country. Cheves’s mother, daughter of supporters of the colonial rebellion, died in 1779, and Langdon’s aunt, Mrs. Thomas Cheves, cared for young Langdon. He attended Andrew Weed’s school, and in 1785 his father took him to Charleston. He continued his formal schooling briefly but then pursued vigorous independent study. He apprenticed in a shipping merchant’s office, gaining experience in business and finance by keeping the firm’s accounts. He read for the law with Judge William Marshall and was admitted to the bar in 1797. Successful as a Charleston lawyer, he moved into the political arena. His first elected office was as warden of his city ward in 1802; he then served from 1802 to 1809 in the state legislature and became attorney general in 1809. He won national office in 1810 when he ran for Congress on the Republican ticket. In 1806 he married Mary Elizabeth Dulles; they had fourteen children. In addition to the law and politics, Cheves enjoyed success in designing and building houses and in farming....

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Georgia Neese Clark. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Clark, Georgia Neese (27 January 1898–26 October 1995), U.S. treasurer, was born Georgia Neese in Richland, Kansas, the daughter of Albert Neese, a farmer and businessman, and Ellen O'Sullivan Neese. Her father, a self-made man, had prospered in the years before her birth and become the town's leading citizen, owning much of its property as well as the bank and general store. Although a Presbyterian, Georgia Neese briefly attended a small Catholic college in nearby Topeka after graduating from high school in 1917, then transferred to Washburn University in that city. She majored in economics at Washburn and was also active on campus, serving as president of several student organizations, including the drama club. Determined to become an actress, she moved to New York City following graduation in 1921 and enrolled at Sargent's Dramatic School....

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Charles G. Dawes. [left to right] Calvin Coolidge and Charles G. Dawes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111450).

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Dawes, Charles Gates (27 August 1865–23 April 1951), banker and vice president of the United States, was born in Marietta, Ohio, the son of General Rufus R. Dawes and Mary Beman Gates. His father served gallantly in the Civil War and later went into the lumber business and served one term in Congress. Dawes earned his B.A. (1884) and M.A. (1887) from Marietta College and his LL.B. (1886) from the Cincinnati Law School. In 1887 he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, to practice law. He was an earnest opponent of the entrenched railroad powers, spending hours in court fighting discriminatory rail rates. His initial investments in real estate paid off, however, and he gradually became more sympathetic to conservative business views. For the rest of his life he would promote and defend the contribution of business and businessmen to the increasing wealth of the United States. He married Caro Blymyer of Cincinnati in 1889, and they had two children. After their son drowned in 1912, the couple adopted two more children. Although conservative, Dawes was always willing to hear opposing viewpoints. In Lincoln, Dawes became lifelong friends with ...

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Joseph M. Dodge Right, receiving the Medal for Merit from Secretary of War Robert Patterson, 1946. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113821).

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Dodge, Joseph Morrell (18 November 1890–02 December 1964), banker and government financial official, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Joseph Cheeseman Dodge, an artist, and Gertrude Hester Crow. After graduating from Central High School in Detroit in 1908, Dodge became a clerk for the Standard Accident Insurance Company. In 1909 he joined the Central Savings Bank, where he advanced from messenger to general bookkeeper. After brief employment as an accountant, Dodge spent five years beginning in 1911 as a bank and securities examiner for the state of Michigan. He then went to work for the Bank of Detroit as an operating officer in 1916. In that same year he married Julia Jane Jeffers, and they had one son....

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Eccles, Marriner Stoddard (09 September 1890–18 December 1977), banker and chair of the Federal Reserve Board, was born in Logan, Utah, the son of David Eccles, a lumber supplier and mill owner, and Ellen Stoddard. Marriner, the oldest of nine children, was raised in a family of converts to Mormonism. He attended Brigham Young College, which doubled as a high school and junior college, from which he graduated in 1909....

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Fair, James Graham (03 December 1831–28 December 1894), miner, financier, and U.S. senator, was born near Belfast, Ireland, the son of Scotch-Irish parents. His father’s name was James Fair; only his mother’s maiden name, Graham, is known. In 1843 Fair’s parents left Ireland with their son and emigrated to the United States. The family settled in Geneva, Illinois. After attending public schools, Fair continued his studies, primarily in business, chemistry, and mathematics in nearby Chicago....

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Marcus Alonzo Hanna. Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103995 ).

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Hanna, Marcus Alonzo (24 September 1837–15 February 1904), businessman, presidential campaign manager, and U.S. senator, known as Mark Hanna, was born above his family’s grocery store in New Lisbon, Ohio, the son of Samantha Converse, a schoolteacher, and Leonard Hanna, who practiced medicine before joining his father and brothers in the grocery business. A proposed canal to link New Lisbon to the Ohio River failed, wiping out Hanna’s grandfather’s investment and pushing the town into commercial decline. Hanna’s father established a new wholesale grocery and shipping business in Cleveland, where he moved his family in 1852. Mark Hanna attended public schools and Western Reserve College, leaving college after getting caught in a student prank. As a traveling salesman for the family business, the gregarious Hanna proved a resourceful competitor. Elected second lieutenant in a Cleveland-based infantry in 1861, he instead became managing partner of the business following his father’s illness and December 1862 death. Called to defend Washington, D.C., during the summer of 1864, he served briefly in uniform but saw no combat....

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Harding, William Proctor Gould (05 May 1864–07 April 1930), banker and governor of the Federal Reserve Board, was born in Greene County, Alabama, the son of Horace Harding, a civil engineer, and Eliza Proctor Gould. After receiving both his A.B. (1880) and his A.M. (1881) from the University of Alabama, Harding became a bookkeeper in the private bank J. H. Fitts & Co. in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1882. He moved to Birmingham in 1886 and worked as bookkeeper, assistant cashier, and cashier at Berney National Bank until 1896, when he became vice president of First National Bank of Birmingham. In June 1902 he was promoted to president, a position he held until 1914. As president of a large southern bank, Harding became familiar with the problems of cotton farmers, steel manufacturers, and merchants. He married Amanda Perrine Moore in Birmingham in 1895, and they had three daughters before her death in 1910....

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Jesse H. Jones Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90437).

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Jones, Jesse Holman (05 April 1874–01 June 1956), businessman, federal agency head, and cabinet member, was born in Robertson County, Tennessee, the son of William Hasque Jones and Anne Holman, farmers and merchants. Jones’s mother died when he was six. In 1883 the family moved to Dallas, Texas, where his father helped manage the expanding lumber business of his brother M. T. Jones. In 1886 the family returned to north central Tennessee, where his father purchased a 600-acre farm and resumed an active interest in the tobacco business. Despite the family’s modest wealth and comfortable home life, at age fourteen Jones left school and began grading, buying, and selling tobacco for his father and uncles. His father offered to send him to college, but Jones was anxious to make money. When his father died in 1894, Jones became the Dallas branch manager for M. T. Jones Lumber Company. When M. T. Jones died in 1898, Jones moved to Houston to become general manager of the company and an executor of the $1 million estate....

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Kennedy, Joseph Patrick (06 September 1888–18 November 1969), businessman and public official, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Patrick Joseph Kennedy, a saloonkeeper and politician, and Mary Hickey. Kennedy’s perspective on life grew out of his origins in the Irish districts of Boston at the turn of the century. Grandson of an Irish immigrant and son of a prosperous ward leader of the Democratic party, his childhood swirled about friends and relatives, the culture of the Roman Catholic church, and politics. While he was proud of his Irish heritage and profited mightily from family and group associations, he came to understand that advancement to a higher level of power and status necessitated moving beyond an Irish identity....