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Delafield, John (16 March 1748–03 July 1824), merchant and underwriter, was born in Aylesbury, Bucks, England, the son of John Delafield, a cheese merchant, and Martha Dell. Most historians claim John Delafield accumulated considerable property in England as a young brewer from an ancient, distinguished family. Though obviously a man of means by American standards, Delafield may not have been as well off as supposed and could have moved to the newly independent United States at age thirty-five to better his business prospects. Delafield arrived in British-occupied New York City on 4 April 1783, bearing the first copy of the provisional treaty of peace to reach the new republic. He immediately joined the Chamber of Commerce and started a mercantile, insurance, financial brokerage, and real estate business. He was so successful that he was soon one of the richest men in New York and was able to retire from active mercantile pursuits in 1798, though he continued in marine insurance....

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A. G. Gaston, 8 September 1963. Outside of his home in Birmingham, Ala., the same day it was torched in protest of his work in the Civil Rights Movement. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Gaston, A. G. (04 July 1892–19 January 1996), entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation, he worked at a variety of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the ...

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George W. Perkins Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99094).

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Perkins, George Walbridge (31 January 1862–18 June 1920), banker and political leader, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of George W. Perkins, a prison official, and Sarah Louise Mills. In 1872 his father left prison work to run an agency of the New York Life Insurance Company. George had only a grammar school education. In 1877 he began working for his father as an office boy, and by 1886 he had become agency cashier at $100 a month. In that year the elder Perkins died. George hoped to take over the agency, but the company considered him too young for the position and offered him a job as salesman. He accepted reluctantly but was a phenomenal success. Between February 1887 and the end of the year he sold nearly $3 million in policies in Kansas and Colorado. The company then made him district supervisor in charge of business in the Southwest....

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Perry, Heman Edward (05 March 1873–03 January 1929), entrepreneur and bank and insurance company founder, was born in Houston, Texas, the son of John Perry and Lucy Compton. Heman Perry, the second of nine children, grew to manhood in post-Reconstruction Texas. His father, a former Georgia slave, reputedly ran away to Texas where he dabbled in various entrepreneurial activities; at times he operated a farm, dabbled in the trading of cotton and other commodities, rented out drays, and worked as an insurance agent. Although without formal training himself, John Perry believed firmly in the value of education for his children. Heman completed only a few years of formal schooling, but his father encouraged his self-education through reading and practical business experience....