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Altman, Benjamin (12 July 1840–07 October 1913), merchant and art collector, was born in New York, New York, the son of Philip Altman, a dry goods merchant, and Cecilia (maiden name unknown). His father, a Jewish immigrant from Bavaria who had come to the United States in 1835, operated a small dry goods store named Altman & Co. on Third Avenue near Tenth Street. Young Altman worked with his brother Morris in his father’s shop in the afternoons. He left school at the age of twelve to work there full time and later held a variety of sales jobs with other dry goods shops in New York City and in Newark, New Jersey. When his father died in 1854, Altman and his brother took over the store, changing its name to Altman Bros. The business prospered, and by 1865 they moved to Third Avenue and Tenth Street; they moved again to a larger building on Sixth Avenue between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets in 1870. Morris left the business but remained a partner, and when he died in 1876, Altman became sole owner, later changing the name of the firm to B. Altman & Co....

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Avery, Sewell Lee (04 November 1874–31 October 1960), business executive, was born in Saginaw, Michigan, the son of Waldo Allard Avery, a prosperous lumberman, and Ellen Lee. He attended Michigan Military Academy and the University of Michigan Law School, where he received his LL.B. in 1894. After graduation he worked as manager of the Western Plaster Works plant in Alabaster, Michigan, a position he secured through his father, who was part owner of the plant. In 1899 he married Hortense Lenore Wisner, with whom he had four children....

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Bamberger, Louis (15 May 1855–11 March 1944), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Elkan Bamberger, a wholesale notions merchant, and Theresa Hutzler. Bamberger attended public school in Baltimore until he quit at fourteen to become a $4-a-week clerk and errand boy in his uncles’ dry-goods store, Hutzler Brothers. After two years he joined his brother Julius to work for their father, buying E. Bamberger & Company when their father retired in the mid-1870s. Leaving the position as business manager, Louis Bamberger relocated to New York City in 1887 to accumulate capital for his own retail business while working as a buyer for West Coast wholesalers....

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Paul Bonwit. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Bonwit, Paul J. (29 September 1862–11 December 1939), retail merchant, was born Paul Joseph (or Josef) Bonwit near Hanover, Germany, the son of Bernard Bonwit. His father's occupation and mother's name are unknown. He attended the local Gymnasium before moving to Paris at age sixteen, where he found work with a local export house as a clerk while continuing his academic studies at night. In 1883 Bonwit came to the United States. After a brief stay in New York City, he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he worked in a department store. By now determined to enter the retail business world, he returned to New York and became affiliated with Rothschild & Company. Bonwit eventually became a partner in the firm, which was renamed Bonwit, Rothschild & Company. He married Sarah Woolf in 1893. The couple had two sons....

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Farkas, Alexander S. (1930–28 July 1999), department store executive, was born Alexander Spencer Farkas in New York City, the son of George Farkas, department store owner, and Ruth Lewis Farkas, a sociologist and ambassador to Luxembourg.

Known as “Sandy” Farkas, he attended Choate and the Bronx High School of Science. He graduated in 1949 from the University of Chicago in three years with an A.B., then studied business at Cornell University. He loaded freight and worked in advertising, with a dream of becoming a college sociology professor. But in 1951 his father brought him into the family business....

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Filene, Edward Albert (03 September 1860–26 September 1937), merchant, reformer, and philanthropist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of William Filene, a merchant, and Clara Ballin. His father emigrated from Poznan, Prussia (now Poland), in 1848 and, upon arriving in the United States, worked as a tailor in Boston. In 1856 he set up a small retail shop for women’s goods in Salem, Massachusetts. Encouraged by the prosperity of the Civil War years, William Filene moved his family and business to New York City in 1863, but the postwar downturn forced him into bankruptcy by 1870. The family retraced their steps and returned to small shopkeeping in industrial Lynn, Massachusetts....

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Bernard Gimbel Right, looking at a Della Robbia statue of the Madonna and Christ child, with Frederic Gimbel, center, and Adam Gimbel, left. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106305).

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Gimbel, Bernard Feustman (18 April 1885–29 September 1966), retailer, was born in Vincennes, Indiana, the son of Isaac Gimbel, a and Rachel Feustman. He grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Educated at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1907. In 1912 he married Alva Bernheimer. They had five children....

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Goldman, Sylvan Nathan (15 November 1898–25 November 1984), inventor of the folding shopping cart and businessman-philanthropist, was born in Ardmore, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma), the son of Michael Goldman and Hortense Dreyfus, owners of a general store. He received eight years of education in local public schools and in 1912 underwent his bar mitzvah in a Jewish Reform temple....

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Grant, W. T. (27 June 1876–06 August 1972), founder of the retail store chain named for him, was born William Thomas Grant in Stevensville, Pennsylvania, the son of William T. Grant and Amanda L. Bird. After failing as the owner of a small flour mill there, his father moved the family back to his native Massachusetts when Grant was about five years old. After the tea shop he owned in Fall River also failed, he supported his family with jobs as a salesman around the Boston area. Despite the family’s meager income, Grant’s thrifty mother managed to keep her three children in school....

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Hartford, George Huntington (05 September 1833–29 August 1917), cofounder of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) grocery store chain, cofounder of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) grocery store chain, was born in Augusta, Maine, the son of J. Brackett Hartford, a farmer and merchant, and Martha Soren. His schooling was sparse, and he never pursued higher education. His Roman Catholic parents were active in the small fledgling Catholic community in southwest Maine and helped to purchase a former Unitarian church building for the first Catholic church in Augusta, St. Mary’s....

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Hartford, George Ludlum (07 November 1864–23 September 1957), and John Augustine Hartford (10 February 1872–20 September 1951), chain store executives, were born, respectively, in Brooklyn, New York, and Orange, New Jersey, the sons of George Huntington Hartford, a partner with George F. Gilman in a tea store in New York, and Josephine Ludlum. Begun in 1859, Hartford and Gilman’s tea store had become by 1869 a chain known as the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P). The brothers worked in their father’s store part-time and during the summers until they turned sixteen, when each left school to work full-time in the business. In 1901 Gilman died, and the Hartfords purchased complete ownership of the firm, which then numbered about 200 stores. The senior George Hartford wanted to expand the firm and increase the variety of goods sold. John Hartford supported even greater expansion, although his brother George opposed it. The stores gradually began to offer credit and delivery services....

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See Hartford, George Ludlum

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Walter Hoving Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102502 ).

Article

Hoving, Walter (02 December 1897–27 November 1989), corporate executive, was born in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of Johannes Hoving, a surgeon, and Helga Adamsen, an opera singer. In 1903 he went with his parents to New York City, where he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School before earning his Ph.B. from Brown University in 1920. Four years later he found his metier while in a training program for R. H. Macy & Company, where by 1928 he had become a vice president. During this period he refined his artistic tastes by attending Metropolitan Museum classes for four years in areas such as textile design, painting, and antique silver and furniture. In 1924 he married Mary Osgood Field, with whom he had two children, one of whom, Thomas Hoving, became a director of the Metropolitan Museum. In 1937, a year after his first marriage had ended in divorce, Walter Hoving married Pauline Vandervoort Rogers. They had no children....

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Edward L. Lach, Jr.

Hudson, J. L. (17 October 1846–05 July 1912), merchant, was born Joseph Lowthian Hudson in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, the son of Richard Hudson, a businessman, and Elizabeth Lowthian Hudson. In 1855 he immigrated with his family to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where his father—who had previously run a tea and coffee business—entered the employment of the Grand Trunk Railway Company of Canada as a telegrapher. The younger Hudson began his schooling in Hamilton and briefly continued his education when his family again relocated, this time to Grand Rapids, Michigan. At age thirteen he became a telegraph messenger for the Grand Trunk, and he later worked nearby as a grocery store clerk and an orchard laborer....

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Kaufmann, Edgar Jonas, Sr. (01 November 1885–14 April 1955), retailer and patron of architecture, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Morris Kaufmann, a merchant, and Betty Wolf. Kaufmann’s grandfather was a horse trader in the Rhineland town of Viernheim, Germany. Two of his uncles left Germany in 1868 for Pittsburgh, where they were first peddlers and then tailors. In 1872 the two brothers were joined by Kaufmann’s father and another uncle. In 1877 the four Kaufmann brothers opened a department store in downtown Pittsburgh, doors away from the cast-iron Mellon Bank. In 1905 Edgar Kaufmann attended the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, after which he spent two years as an apprentice at the Marshall Field store in Chicago, at Les Galeries Lafayette in Paris, and at the Karstadt store in Hamburg. He returned from Europe in 1908, and by 1913 he held or controlled a majority interest in the family store. In 1909 he married his cousin Lilianne Kaufmann; they had one child....

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Kirstein, Louis Edward (09 July 1867–10 December 1942), retailing executive and civic leader, was born in Rochester, New York, the son of Edward Kirstein, an eyeglass manufacturer, and Jeanette Leiter. After completing grammar school, Kirstein engaged in a number of business occupations. He managed the business affairs of minor league baseball teams in the South and later owned the American Association team in Rochester. Early in his career, he experienced a series of financial mishaps and reportedly turned down an offer from ...

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Kresge, Sebastian Spering (31 July 1867–18 October 1966), founder of the retail store chain named for him, was born in Bald Mount, Pennsylvania, the son of Sebastian Kresge and Catherine Kunkle, poor farmers. Extremely frugal and religiously devout, his parents encouraged hard work and money-making activities. In childhood Sebastian earned money keeping bees, and he continued that activity as an adult hobby....