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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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Ford, Barney Launcelot (1822–14 December 1902), conductor on the Underground Railroad, Negro suffrage lobbyist, and real estate baron, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of a Mr. Darington (given name unknown), a slaveholder and plantation owner, and Phoebe (surname unknown), one of Darington’s slaves. Given simply the name “Barney” at birth, he adopted the name Barney Launcelot Ford as an adult to please his soon-to-be wife and to provide himself with a “complete” name....

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Houston, Henry Howard (03 October 1820–21 June 1895), entrepreneur and early suburban developer, was born in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Nelson Houston, a small landowner and farmer, and Susan Strickler. Houston’s father was an inadequate provider and may have suffered from alcoholism. Henry attended public school, discontinuing his formal education at age fourteen in large part because the local system did not continue beyond the eighth grade, and there were insufficient family funds to send him for further education. Houston then worked for several years at a general store in Wrightsville, and in 1840 he became the clerk of the Lucinda iron furnace in Clarion County, Pennsylvania, which was owned by his father’s friend (and future president of the United States), ...

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Nail, John E. (22 August 1883–06 March 1947), real estate entrepreneur, was born in New London, Connecticut, the son of John Bennett Nail, a businessman, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Nail was raised in New York City and was graduated from a New York City public high school. His father was the role model on which he based his own business career. The elder Nail was an entrepreneur who prospered from the growth of Harlem and its inflated real estate market. He was one of several blacks who prior to the turn of the century recognized the potential of Harlem’s housing market and profited from his prescience. Nail, known to friends and family as Jack, worked for a time in his father’s business, where he first entered into the real estate profession in the 1900s. After a brief stint as a self-employed real estate agent in his own Bronx office, Nail accepted employment with ...

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Putnam, Gideon (17 April 1763–01 December 1812), entrepreneur and developer, was born in Sutton, Massachusetts, the son of Stephen Putnam and Mary Gibbs (occupations unknown). He was a cousin of revolutionary war general Israel Putnam. Gideon Putnam married Doana Risley of Hartford, Connecticut (c. 1783), and moved to Vermont, where they established a farm at the present site of Middlebury College. Dissatisfied with the region, they moved to Rutland, Vermont, and then to Bemis Heights in New York. A major flood caused them to move once again, this time to Saratoga Springs, in 1789. Putnam leased 300 acres in the Kayaderosseras Patent from Derick Lefferts. Starting a farm, he also began to cut lumber and manufacture shingles and staves, which he shipped to New York City. By 1791 he had accumulated enough wealth to purchase the leased land and build a sawmill. A year later the mineral water source, subsequently named Congress Spring, was discovered by ...

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Savage, Henry Wilson (21 March 1859–29 November 1927), real estate entrepreneur and theatrical manager, was born in New Durham, New Hampshire, the son of Captain M. Henry Savage and Betsey Woodhouse. He graduated from Harvard University in 1880 with an A.B. degree and entered the field of real estate. For fifteen years he built up a thriving real-estate business before he switched careers almost accidentally. In 1894 Savage built the Castle Square Theatre in Boston as an investment. The following year the manager of a light opera troupe deserted his company, and the desperate performers turned to Savage for assistance. Savage took over the operation and began his managerial career on 6 May 1895 with his company presenting light opera in English. The Castle Square Opera Company soon gained a large following and a reputation for high-quality musical productions offered at reasonable prices. Savage arranged extensive nationwide tours for his company, and eventually it branched out to Romantic opera and grand opera, presenting ...

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Torrence, Joseph Thatcher (15 March 1843–31 October 1896), industrial engineer, entrepreneur, and developer, was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, the son of James Torrence and Rebecca (maiden name unknown). He began his career working for a blast-furnace operator outside of Pittsburgh at Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. From there he moved west to Youngstown, Ohio, where he became a blacksmith, and by the time of the Civil War, he had worked his way up to assistant foreman at a blast furnace....