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De Witt Clinton. Lithograph of a painting by Henry Inman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-UXZ62-50394).

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Clinton, De Witt (02 March 1769–11 February 1828), New York City mayor and New York State governor, was born in Little Britain, New York, the son of James Clinton, a career military man who became a brigadier general in the American army, and Mary De Witt. He was educated by a neighboring Presbyterian minister until he reached age thirteen and then spent two years at the Kingston Academy. After the revolutionary war came to an end, and the city of New York was liberated, Clinton was among the first to enroll at the newly named Columbia College, formerly known as King’s College, which reopened in 1784. On graduating, with honors, in April 1786, he read law in the Manhattan office of ...

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Curley, James Michael (20 November 1874–12 November 1958), mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Boston, the son of Irish immigrants Michael Curley, a laborer, and Sarah Clancy, a washerwoman. The death of his father, when Curley was ten, marked the boy’s childhood. Forced to enter the paid workforce in his teens, Curley worked as a store clerk and in a variety of other jobs before becoming active in the ward politics of his Roxbury neighborhood. To advance his political career, he joined a series of Irish fraternal organizations, became active in Catholic lay affairs, and developed his skills as a public speaker. In 1897 he failed on his first attempt to win a seat on the Common Council of Boston, but he prevailed two years later....

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DiSalle, Michael Vincent (06 January 1908–15 September 1981), attorney and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Anthony DiSalle, an entrepreneur, and Assunta D’Arcangelo. In 1911 his family moved to Toledo, Ohio, where DiSalle grew up. After graduating from Central Catholic High School, he attended Georgetown University to study law. In 1930 he married Myrtle Eugene England; they had five children. He graduated in 1931 and returned to Toledo to practice law....

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Dunne, Edward Fitzsimmons (12 October 1853–24 May 1937), mayor of Chicago and governor of Illinois, was born in Waterville, Connecticut, the son of Patrick W. Dunne, the owner of a flour mill, and Delia M. Lawler. Patrick and Delia, Irish-Catholic immigrants, moved with their young son to Peoria, Illinois, in 1855. In Peoria the elder Dunne prospered in business and was elected a member of the city council and the state house of representatives. Edward graduated from high school in 1870 and then attended Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, for three years. In 1876 the family moved to Chicago, where Edward graduated from Union College of Law the following year. He established a private practice in Chicago and in 1881 married Elizabeth J. Kelly. They had thirteen children....

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Gaston, William (03 October 1820–19 January 1894), lawyer, mayor of Boston, and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Killingly, Connecticut, the son of Alexander Gaston, a merchant, and Kesia Arnold. After graduating from Brown University in 1840 he moved to Roxbury, Massachusetts, where his parents had settled two years earlier. In 1844 he passed the bar examination and opened a practice. He married Louisa A. Beecher in 1852; they had three children....

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Hoffman, John Thompson (10 January 1828–24 March 1888), mayor of New York City and governor of New York, was born in Sing Sing (subsequently renamed Ossining), New York, the son of Adrian Kissam Hoffman, a physician, and Jane Ann Thompson. Hoffman graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1846 and returned to his home town to study law with two local attorneys. Admitted to the bar in early 1849, he moved to New York City later that year to form a legal partnership with Samuel M. Woodruff and Judge William Leonard. In 1854 Hoffman married Ella Starkweather of New York City; the couple had one child....

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Pingree, Hazen S. (30 August 1840–18 June 1901), mayor of Detroit and governor of Michigan, was born on a hardscrabble farm near Denmark, Maine, the son of Jasper Pingree, a toil-worn farmer and itinerant cobbler, and Adeline Bryant, both of New England ancestry. The fourth of eight children, Hazen, when not doing farm chores or helping his father mend shoes, attended the Maine rural schools in the winter, not going beyond eighth grade. Seeking to better his life Pingree went to Saco, Maine, to work in a cotton factory and in 1860 to Hopkinton, Massachusetts, to learn the trade of leather cutter in a shoe factory. (It was while he worked in the shoe factory that he added the middle initial S. to his name.) With the Civil War underway he enlisted in the First Massachusetts Heavy Artillery and was later captured and imprisoned in the infamous Andersonville stockade....

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James Rolph, Jr. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106918).

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Rolph, James, Jr. (23 August 1869–02 June 1934), mayor of San Francisco and governor of California, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of James Rolph, an English-born bank clerk, and Margaret Nicol, an immigrant from Scotland. After graduating from Trinity School, a private secondary school headed by an Episcopal priest, Rolph worked in a commission house then formed his own shipping and commission company in 1898. After 1900 he engaged in several additional business activities, including banking, shipbuilding, importing, and insurance. In his shipping and shipbuilding enterprises, he dealt only with union labor, a fairly common practice in San Francisco at the time. During the early twentieth century, Rolph became prominent in civic affairs, serving as chairman of the Mission Relief Committee after the earthquake of 1906, president of the Merchant’s Exchange, trustee of the Chamber of Commerce, and vice president of the association sponsoring the Panama Pacific International Exposition....

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Swann, Thomas (03 February 1809–24 July 1883), governor of Maryland, mayor of Baltimore, and railroad executive, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the son of Thomas Swann, a wealthy Washington lawyer, and Jane Byrd Page, a member of a prestigious Virginia family. Swann attended preparatory school at Columbian College in Washington and studied law at the University of Virginia in 1826–1827, continuing his studies in his father’s office. Talented and energetic, he caught the eye of ...