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Brown, John (27 January 1736–20 September 1803), merchant and congressman, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of James Brown, a merchant and shipowner, and Hope Power. The Brown family was long dominant in the mercantile life of Rhode Island, and during the Revolution Brown and his brothers ...

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Findlay, James (12 October 1770–28 December 1835), congressman, lawyer, and merchant, was born in Mercersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Findlay and Jane Smith. Little is known about Findlay’s early life, including his father’s occupation. Apparently, he grew up in comfortable circumstances and had some formal education. But when his father suffered a major financial setback, probably as the result of a fire, James and his two older brothers had to fend for themselves. Like many other young Americans in postrevolutionary America, Findlay decided to seek fame and fortune elsewhere. In 1793 he and his wife, Jane Irwin, moved to Virginia and then to Kentucky, before finally settling in Cincinnati....

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Fitzsimons, Thomas (1741–26 August 1811), congressman and merchant, was born in Ireland. No information about his parents or his early life is available. He emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1760 and found work as a clerk in a countinghouse. In 1763 he married Catharine Meade, daughter of wealthy merchant Robert Meade; he became a partner with his brother-in-law in George Meade & Company, which conducted a considerable business in the West Indies....

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Habersham, Joseph (28 July 1751–18 November 1815), revolutionary leader, merchant, and politician, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of James Habersham and Mary Bolton. His father had followed George Whitefield to Georgia and eventually became the young colony’s leading merchant. He was acting governor in the early 1770s and a Loyalist until his death in 1775. Out of concern for Joseph’s health, his father sent him to Princeton, New Jersey, at age eight. Joseph attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) from 1763 to 1767. The elder Habersham was disappointed in the results of this education and sent his son to England to be a merchant apprentice under Graham, Clark, and Company in 1768. James Habersham’s friends enrolled the boy in Woolwich Academy for several months to improve his handwriting and mathematics before putting him to work. Although Joseph’s English career was reasonably successful, he was unhappy and disliked the English. He returned to Savannah in 1771....

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Hillegas, Michael (22 April 1729–29 September 1804), colonial merchant, revolutionary, and first treasurer of the United States, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Michael Hillegas, a naturalized Palatine German and Philadelphia merchant, and Margaret (maiden name unknown). Orphaned at age twenty-one, Hillegas by the following year had taken control of his father’s business interests and begun a career that continued to expand and prosper throughout his life. He sold metal goods, including stoves and stills; had interests in iron manufacturing, sugar refinement, and real estate; and owned at least partial interest in the ship ...

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Samuel Hooper. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93108 ).

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Hooper, Samuel (03 February 1808–14 February 1875), merchant and legislator, was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, the son of John Hooper and Eunice Hooper. Through both his mother and his father, Samuel was descended from the early and influential settlers of Marblehead, and he carried on the family tradition in trade and shipping. As a boy he learned the business firsthand, sailing on his father’s ships to Europe, Russia, and the West Indies. In the counting room of the Marblehead Bank, of which his father was president, Hooper received his first lessons in finance. Although the family lived in a mansion, called the “Hooper House,” Hooper attended Marblehead common schools....

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Morrill, Justin Smith (14 April 1810–28 December 1898), businessman, politician, and legislator, was born in Strafford, Vermont, the son of Nathaniel Morrill, a blacksmith, and Mary Hunt. Morrill left school at fifteen after studying at the common school in Strafford and at Thetford and Randolph Academies. He wrote later, with obvious regret, “I desired to obtain a college education, but my father said he was unable to send all his boys to college and felt that he ought to give all an equal chance” (Parker, p. 23)....

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Shaw, Nathaniel, Jr. (05 December 1735–15 April 1782), merchant and naval official, was born in New London, Connecticut, the son of Nathaniel Shaw, a ship captain and merchant, and Temperance Harris. He probably received his elementary education at the local town school. There is no record of Shaw’s secondary level training, but it can be assumed that he acquired his knowledge of maritime and business matters on an apprenticeship basis or from working at the trade. In 1758 Shaw married Lucretia Rogers; they had no children. During the 1760s Shaw assumed direction of his father’s extensive mercantile enterprises, which included commerce with England and other continental colonies but centered primarily on West Indian trade. Under his shrewd management, business flourished to such an extent that he was able to provide New London with an imported fire engine and the seaport’s first lighthouse. During this period Shaw became increasingly involved in colonial opposition to Britain’s restrictive trade legislation and royal customs collection. In 1769 he was accused of abetting the sinking of the customs ship ...

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Smith, John (1735–30 July 1824), minister, merchant, and U.S. senator, was born in Virginia. Nothing is known about his parents, and very little is known about his early life. Smith appeared in the new settlement of Columbia (just east of Cincinnati) in May 1790. He had traveled from the forks of the Cheat River in what is now West Virginia, where he had been a Baptist minister. Apparently, he had had no education, was relatively poor, and was looking to improve the situation of his household. Described by contemporaries as large, handsome, and dark complected, he had as his only assets a talent for public speaking and a winning personality that expertly balanced seriousness and gregariousness. But they were enough to win the confidence of a small Baptist congregation who engaged him as their pastor. In 1791 Smith established his wife, Elizabeth Mason Hickman, and seven children in Columbia. With characteristic enthusiasm, the new preacher went to work to spread the gospel: he helped to design and construct the first Protestant church in the region in 1793, ordained other men as Baptist preachers, and led in the formation of the Miami Baptist Association in 1797....

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Swanwick, John (09 June 1759?–31 July 1798), merchant, banker, and congressman, was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Richard Swanwick and Mary Bickerton. Around 1770 the Swanwicks, a family of middling origins, came to America and settled in Caln Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. Appointed commander of a British revenue cutter at the Customs House, his father moved the family to Philadelphia. When the Revolution broke out, his father became known for the fervor with which he pursued his role as a wagon master for the Loyalists. In contrast, young John Swanwick committed himself to the patriot cause by taking the oath of allegiance and by joining the second militia company of the Sixth Battalion in Philadelphia....