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Abernethy, George (07 October 1807–02 May 1877), businessman and provisional governor of Oregon, was born in New York City, the son of William Abernethy, a shoemaker; the name of his mother is unknown. He attended school in New York. In 1830 he married Anne Cope, with whom he would have two children. As a young man, he entered a mercantile business and continued in it until his firm failed in the panic of 1837, an event that ruined him financially. He sold his property in Brooklyn, New York, and repaid his debts....

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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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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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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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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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Ames, Oliver (04 February 1831–22 October 1895), industrialist and governor of Massachusetts, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oakes Ames (1804–1873), a manufacturer and congressman, and Evelyn Gilmore. Ames came from a long line of Massachusetts capitalists. The family gained notoriety in 1872, when the House of Representatives censured Oliver’s father because of his part in the Credit Mobilier scandal. Oliver was to fight throughout his life to clear his father’s besmirched image....

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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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Barnum, P. T. (05 July 1810–07 April 1891), showman, was born Phineas Taylor Barnum in Bethel, Connecticut, the son of Philo F. Barnum, a farmer and storekeeper, and Irena Taylor. While attending public school in Bethel, Barnum peddled candy and gingerbread. He later wrote that he had always been interested in arithmetic and money....

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Barton, Bruce Fairchild (05 August 1886–05 July 1967), advertising executive, writer, and congressman, was born in Robbins, Tennessee, the son of William Eleazar Barton, a Congregationalist minister, and Esther Treat Bushnell, an elementary school teacher. His father brought the family from Tennessee, where he had been an itinerant preacher, to Oak Park, Illinois, before Bruce was a year old, and there William Barton became pastor of the First Congregational Church. He held this post for twenty-five years, serving for a time as moderator of the National Council of Congregational Churches, and he published a distinguished biography of ...

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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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Bedinger, George Michael (10 December 1756–08 December 1843), soldier, legislator, and businessman, was born in York County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Bedinger and Magdalene von Schlegel, innkeepers. In 1737 his grandfather had moved to Pennsylvania from the vicinity of Strasbourg in Alsace-Lorraine. At the time of George Michael’s birth, the family name was spelled Biedinger and German was the language spoken at home. Late in life Bedinger was described by a contemporary as a “full blooded Virginia Dutchman.”...

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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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Bissell, Richard Mervin, Jr. (18 September 1909–07 February 1994), economics professor and government administrator, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Richard Bissell, a wealthy insurance executive, and Marie Truesdel. As a young man, Bissell studied at elite educational institutions, including Groton School; Yale University, where he received a B.A. in 1932; and the London School of Economics, where he began his postgraduate work. In 1933 he returned to Yale as an instructor and was promoted to assistant professor before earning his Ph.D. in economics in 1939. In 1940 he married Ann Cornelia Bushnell; they had five children. Described by one friend as “desperately shy,” Bissell seemed destined in 1941 to remain a university educator and scholar. However, the outbreak of World War II dramatically changed his life, as he left Yale to become a member of ...

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Sol Bloom. With his daughter, Vera. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (George Grantham Bain Collection: LC-B2-6405-7).

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Bloom, Sol (c. 9 Mar. 1870–07 March 1949), music and entertainment entrepreneur and longtime congressman, was born in Pekin, Illinois, the son of Gershon (later anglicized to Garrison) Bloom and Sara Bloom, Jewish immigrants from Szyrpez, Prussian Poland, who emigrated to the United States before the Civil War. Although legal papers maintain that he was born on 9 March, Bloom acknowledged in his autobiography that his exact date of birth is unknown. Never well-off, the Blooms moved to San Francisco in 1873. According to Bloom his formal education lasted one day, but his mother—the family force—taught him to read and write....

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Bloomingdale, Alfred Schiffer (15 April 1916–20 August 1982), 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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Blow, Henry Taylor (15 July 1817–11 September 1875), entrepreneur and congressman, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, the son of Peter Blow, a planter, and Elizabeth Taylor. Depressed conditions in Virginia forced the family to move to northeastern Alabama in 1820. Ten years later they migrated farther west to St. Louis. Henry graduated from St. Louis College (now University) in 1835. He briefly studied law but gave that up to enter the retail drug business in 1836 with Joseph Charless, who had married his older sister. Blow married Minerva Grimsley in 1840; they had 12 children....