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Bancroft, Hubert Howe (05 May 1832–02 March 1918), businessman and historian, was born in Granville, Ohio, the son of Azariah Ashley Bancroft, a farmer, and Lucy Howe, a teacher. His formal education stopped short of college, and at age sixteen Bancroft left home to learn the book trade from his brother-in-law in Buffalo, New York. Sent to California with a valuable consignment of books, Bancroft opened his own bookstore in San Francisco in December 1856, with capital supplied by his sister and credit from several New York firms. Efficiently run, and favored by a margin between California gold and depreciated eastern currency during the Civil War, Bancroft’s store proved phenomenally profitable. Within a decade, H. H. Bancroft & Co. supported extensive European travel for its proprietor and permitted him the luxury of semiretirement at age thirty-seven. In 1869–1870 he built a five-story building for his business, which expanded to include stationery, office supplies, printing, and bookbinding. He turned over the day-to-day operations to his younger brother, Albert, while he moved into the fifth floor and devoted himself to the study of history....

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Drake, Samuel Gardner (11 October 1798–14 June 1875), bookseller and historian, was born in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, the son of Simeon Drake and Love Muchmore Tucke, farmers. Drake was a slender and delicate child who loved the woods near his home more than he did the local school. In 1816 he joined his older brother John Drake and worked as an underclerk for his uncle Samuel J. Tucke, an importer of paints and oils, in Boston. Following a six-month stay in Baltimore on business for his uncle, Drake returned to New Hampshire and taught in a school in Loudon, New Hampshire. This was followed by a schoolteaching stint in New Jersey (1819–1820), a study of medicine in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, and then a return to teaching (1820–1823). Although he did not “find himself” in these endeavors, Drake brought the purposefulness that he had developed to what would become the great passions of his life: collecting antiquarian materials and bookselling....