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Adams, Edward Dean (09 April 1846–20 May 1931), banker, engineer, and financier, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Adoniram Judson Adams, a businessman, and Harriet Lincoln Norton. He graduated with a B.S. degree from Norwich University, Northfield, Vermont, in 1864. After spending a year in Europe, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1865–1866. In 1867 he joined the Boston firm of T. J. Lee & Hill, stockbrokers, where he served as bookkeeper and cashier. In 1871 he was a founding partner of Richardson, Hill & Company of Boston, private bankers. The following year he married Frances Amelia Gutterson; the couple had three children....

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Aldrich, Winthrop (02 November 1885–25 February 1974), lawyer, banker, and legal and political adviser, was born Winthrop Williams Aldrich in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, a U.S. senator, and Abby Chapman. Aldrich graduated from Harvard College in 1907 and Harvard Law School in 1910. Upon graduation from law school Aldrich joined the New York City law firm of Byrne, Cutcheon & Taylor, specializing in finance and commercial law. In 1916 Aldrich was named a junior partner in the firm, and in December of that year he married Harriet Alexander, the granddaughter of California railroad and banking magnate ...

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Babson, Roger Ward (06 July 1875–05 March 1967), businessman, author, and philanthropist, was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Babson, a dry-goods merchant and wholesaler, and Ellen Stearns. As a child, Babson spent his summers in Gloucester on his paternal grandfather’s farm, an experience that later prompted him to write that he “owed more to that farm than any educational institution.” Off the farm, the young Babson, who was a rowdy albeit “nervous” boy, worried his mother by associating not with other middle-class Yankee children but with the “Gould Courters,” an Irish street gang....

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Bacon, Robert (05 July 1860–29 May 1919), banker, diplomat, and soldier, was born in Jamaica Plain near Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Benjamin Bacon and Emily Crosby Low. Raised in an old Massachusetts family long prominent in business, he was educated at Hopkinson’s School and at Harvard, graduating in 1880. Although his intellectual abilities were considerable, he won attention for his athletic ability, personality, and good looks, as he would throughout life. After graduation he traveled around the world, then joined the banking firm of Lee, Higginson, and Company. In 1883 he became a member of E. Rollins Morse and Brother. That year he married Martha Waldron Cowdin; they were the parents of three sons and a daughter....

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Baker, George Fisher (27 March 1840–02 May 1931), banker, was born in Troy, New York, the son of George Ellis Baker, a clerk, and Eveline Stevens. The family’s roots were in Massachusetts, and Baker spent much time with his grandmother in Dedham. He attended school there until 1854, when he enrolled in the Seward Institute in Florida, New York. In 1856 he became a clerk in the New York Banking Department in Albany. In 1861 he served briefly as secretary to Governor ...

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Banks, Charles (25 March 1873–1923), banker and businessman, was born in a log cabin in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the son of Daniel Banks and Sallie Ann (maiden name unknown), poor African-American farmers. Banks grew up in extreme poverty but was educated in the local public schools and later attended Rust University in nearby Holly Springs. Returning to Clarksdale, he speculated in land and cotton. After marrying Trenna A. Booze of Natchez, Mississippi, in 1893, Banks engaged her brother, Eugene P. Booze, as his apprentice, teaching him how to trade cotton and to work his general store, Banks & Co. In 1904 Banks and Booze resettled in the black-owned town of Mound Bayou. Temporarily leaving the merchandising business, Banks established the Bank of Mound Bayou, owning roughly two-thirds of its stock and serving as cashier as well as operating head. Several years later, in 1909, Banks and Booze founded the Farmer’s Cooperative Mercantile Company. Capitalized at $10,000, the firm, which Booze managed, sold reasonably priced goods to area farmers until, for a variety of demographic as well as economic reasons, it closed its doors in 1922....

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Barron, Clarence Walker (02 July 1855–02 October 1928), financial journalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Henry Barron, a teamster, and Elana Noyes. He was educated at the Prescott Grammar School in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and Boston’s English High School, where he distinguished himself by writing prize-winning essays on railways and civil service reform. Preparing for a journalism career, Barron supplemented his writing talents by teaching himself shorthand, an activity he later would call “the best training for young men in practical life” ( ...

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Bates, Joshua (10 October 1788–24 September 1864), merchant and banker, was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Colonel Joshua Bates and Tizrah Pratt. Bates’s father served as an officer during the Revolution. Joshua suffered from ill health as a child. He was educated by a private tutor and at the public school. When he was fifteen his father apprenticed him in the counting house of William R. Gray, the son of ...

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Nicholas Biddle. Watercolor on paper, c. 1830, by James Barton Longacre. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Biddle, Nicholas (08 January 1786–27 February 1844), banker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Biddle, a successful merchant and the vice president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, and Hannah Shepard. A precocious young man, serious beyond his years, Biddle hardly had a boyhood at all, entering the University of Pennsylvania at ten. Although he was ready to graduate at thirteen, his family sent him for further study to the College of New Jersey at Princeton, from which he graduated in 1801, the valedictorian of his class. He returned to Philadelphia to study law with his elder brother William Biddle and the well-known jurist William Lewis....

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Binga, Jesse (10 April 1865–13 June 1950), Chicago businessman, banker, and real estate investor, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Binga, Jr., a barber, and Adelphia Powers, a builder and real estate owner. (Nearly all sources cite William W. Binga as Jesse Binga’s father, but all are based on a Dec. 1927 article by Inez V. Cantley in ...

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Bishop, Charles Reed (25 January 1822–07 June 1915), banker, cabinet minister, and philanthropist, was born near Glens Falls, New York, the son of Samuel Bishop, a toll collector on the Hudson River, and Maria Reed. Charles’s mother died when he was two years old, and his father remarried. He was cared for first by an aunt and then by his paternal grandfather on whose farm he received an education in hard work and practical business. His only formal education was at Glens Falls Academy, which he attended in the seventh and eighth grades. Around 1838, after leaving school, he became a clerk in a mercantile house in Warrensburgh, New York, where he learned the intricacies of bookkeeping, inventory, and other business skills. In 1842 he moved to Sandy Hill, New York, to take a job as a bookkeeper and head clerk....

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Black, Eugene Robert (01 May 1898–20 February 1992), banking executive, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Eugene Robert Black, a lawyer and banker, and Gussie King Grady. Black was the scion of a family that was both wealthy and well connected; his father served as president of the Atlanta Trust Company before becoming a governor of the Federal Reserve Board, and his mother was the daughter of ...

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Bloomingdale, Alfred Schiffer (15 April 1916–20 August 1982), cofounder of Diners Club and adviser to President Ronald Reagan, cofounder of Diners Club and adviser to President Ronald Reagan, was born in New York City, the son of Hiram Bloomingdale and Rosalind Schiffer. Alfred Bloomingdale attended Brown University, where he played varsity football, graduating in 1938 after spending a year in a hospital recovering from a football-related back injury. He began his business career working as a salesman at Bloomingdale Brothers, the firm founded by his grandfather Lyman and great-uncle Joseph in 1872. In 1941 he switched careers and became a theatrical agent, producer, and financial backer of Broadway shows and Hollywood movies. Among his clients were ...

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Brown, Alexander (17 November 1764–04 April 1834), founder of an Anglo-American mercantile and financial services firm, was born in Ballymena, Ireland, the son of William Brown and Margaretta Davison. As a young adult he moved to Belfast, where he became involved in the linen trade, reportedly working as an auctioneer on occasion. His brother Stewart left for Baltimore in the mid-1790s, and Alexander followed in 1800. He had married Grace Davison in 1783, and after his arrival in Baltimore he opened a shop that featured linen goods supplied primarily by his in-laws and business associates in Ireland. The mercantile business prospered, and Brown soon widened the scope of his activities. He typified the all-purpose merchant of the early national era (c. 1790–1820), dabbling in various goods and services, including insurance and shipping. When his second son, ...

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Browne, William Washington (20 October 1849–21 December 1897), fraternal society leader and banker, was born in Habersham County, Georgia, the son of Joseph Browne and Mariah (maiden name unknown), field slaves. As a young child he was called Ben Browne and was chosen to be the companion of his owner’s son. A subsequent owner who lived near Memphis trained Browne as a jockey for race circuits in Tennessee and Mississippi. During the Civil War he plotted an escape with fellow slaves. When his owner learned about the conspiracy, he transferred Browne to a plantation in Mississippi. Despite the difficulties of tramping fifty miles without a compass, Browne persuaded three other young slaves to join him in a successful escape to the Union army at Memphis. After learning that his owner could demand his return, Browne fled upriver as a stowaway....

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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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Butler, Ellis Parker (05 December 1869–13 September 1937), author and humorist, was born in Muscatine, Iowa, the eldest of eight children of Audley Gazzam Butler, a pork packer, and Adela Vesey. At the age of seventeen he left Muscatine High School after one year for a job as a billing clerk and salesman at Muscatine Spice Mill to help support his family. He later held similar jobs at an oatmeal mill, a crockery shop, and, for his last years in Muscatine, a wholesale grocery store where his father, whose pork business had failed, was a bookkeeper....

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Ellis Parker Butler. Ellis Parker Butler, no date. Glass negative by Bain News Service. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ggbain-50425).