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Alsop, Richard (23 January 1761–20 August 1815), poet and businessman, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Richard Alsop, Sr., a merchant, and Mary Wright Alsop. When Alsop was fifteen, his father died, leaving his wife, Mary, a strict Episcopalian, in comfortable circumstances but with eight children. Alsop was a precocious reader and enjoyed impersonating heroes of Homer's ...

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Bowen, Henry Chandler (11 September 1813–24 February 1896), editor-publisher and merchant, was born in Woodstock, Connecticut, the son of George Bowen, a store and tavern keeper, and Lydia Wolcott Eaton. He received his formal education at schools in Woodstock and nearby Dudley, Massachusetts, and worked for four years in his father’s store. At age twenty he went to New York and became a clerk in the firm of ...

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Galt, John (02 May 1779–11 April 1839), author, lobbyist, and businessman, was born in Irvine, Scotland, the son of John Galt, a shipmaster and trader, and Jean Thomson. Galt left school to begin a career as a merchant at about age sixteen (one of his schoolmates was ...

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Green, Joseph (1706–11 December 1780), poet and merchant, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Green and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown). Information about his parents’ employment could not be obtained. He was educated at the South Grammar School and entered Harvard College in 1722, graduating in 1726. Few details of his life have been preserved, but it is known that he was part of the prosperous Boston merchant class and was said to own the largest private library in New England. He was also a pew-holder in the First Church of Boston, a man of Loyalist political sympathies, and a noted wit. He married Elizabeth (maiden name unknown) after 1742, but there is no evidence of their having any children....

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Hammett, Samuel Adams (04 February 1816–24 December 1865), merchant and writer, was born probably in Connecticut or New York, though the precise location remains uncertain, the son of Augustus J. Hammett, a merchant, and Mary Wright. In the fall of 1832 Hammett entered the newly formed University of the City of New York. His father’s declining health and business demanded much of Hammett’s time, however, and he discontinued his studies in 1835. Hammett soon left for the Southwest and arrived in present-day Texas toward the end of the year. He lived there for over a decade, as it won independence, established a republic, and eventually became a state. Hammett probably engaged in a variety of business activities during this time, most possibly land speculation or traveling sales. Either would have given him ample opportunity to observe the area’s people and customs, a background he drew on for later writings. Hammett joined other businessmen and set up general stores in Galveston and Houston during 1846. Following severe financial difficulties just a year later, he closed the last shop and returned to the East....

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Joseph Heco. As pictured in Hutching's California Magazine, c. 1856–1860. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93843).

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Heco, Joseph (1837–1897), government interpreter, merchant, and publisher, was born Hamada Hikozō in the village of Komiya, near Kobe, Japan, on the eastern shore of the Inland Sea, the second son of a well-to-do farmer. After his father’s death his mother remarried, to a sea captain who adopted him. While on what should have been a brief internal voyage in late 1850, his ship was blown into the Pacific. He and sixteen other persons, after drifting for fifty-two days, were picked up by a U.S. ship that landed at San Francisco in February 1851. The American authorities, planning for Commodore ...

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King, Charles (16 March 1789–27 September 1867), editor, merchant, and college president, was born in New York, New York, the son of Rufus King, a diplomat, and Mary Alsop. His father, having succeeded Thomas Pinckney as minister plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James, moved with his family to London, England, in 1796. After a few years at a local school, Charles and his older brother John Alsop King were sent in December 1799 to Harrow, a private secondary school in Middlesex, where they had Lord Byron and Robert Peel as classmates. Leaving Harrow in December 1804, King and his brother then attended a branch of the École Polytechnique in Paris, France, for a few months, after which Charles King took a clerking position with Hope & Company, a banking firm in Amsterdam, the Netherlands....

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Sewall, Samuel (28 March 1652–01 January 1730), colonial merchant, judge, and philanthropist, was born at Bishop Stoke, Hampshire, England, the son of Henry Sewall, a pastor, and Jane Dummer. Sewall’s father had immigrated to Newbury, Massachusetts, in 1634, and although he was admitted to freemanship in 1637, he returned to England in 1646 and subsequently took the pulpit of North Baddesley. The family returned to Massachusetts in 1659....

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Steendam, Jacob (1616–1672), merchant and poet, is believed to have been born in Enkhuizen, Holland, though his parentage is unknown. Much about his life is obscure. He grew up in Amsterdam and was a member of the Dutch Reformed church. In 1638 he was a member of the Segbloem, an institute of rhetoric, at Zegwaard, and much of his poetry reveals the influence of rhetorical training....

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Steere, Richard (1643–20 June 1721), colonial merchant and religious poet, was born in Chertsey, England, the son of Richard Steere, a leather worker, and Annis Springall. Educated in Latin and literature at the Free Grammar School at Kingston-upon-Thames, he was apprenticed in 1658 as a cordwainer in the city of London. Granted the freedom of the Company of Cordwainers in 1666, he seems to have engaged in foreign trade with Barbados and the Americas as early as this period. In London, Steere became a member of the General Baptists, a group persecuted after the Restoration....