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Allen, Paul Gardner (21 Jan. 1953–15 Oct. 2018), software pioneer, investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist  

Carl Abbott

Allen, Paul Gardner (21 Jan. 1953–15 Oct. 2018), software pioneer, investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, was born in Seattle, Washington to Kenneth Allen, a University of Washington librarian, and Faye Gardner Allen, a teacher. He attended Lakeside School in Seattle. In ninth grade he met seventh-grader Bill Gates, with whom he shared an enthusiasm for computer programming. During their school years they worked on computers after hours at their school, at a downtown computer center, and at the University of Washington computer science lab. They formed a company that they called Traf-O-Data to count traffic volumes, a very early entry in the “smart city” movement. In the summer of ...


Baldwin, John (1799-1884), manufacturer and philanthropist  

David W. Robson

Baldwin, John (13 October 1799–28 December 1884), manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in North Branford, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Baldwin, a blacksmith, and Rosanna Meloy. Baldwin’s parents, devout Congregationalists, espoused antiliquor, antitobacco, and antislavery beliefs, which he, too, would champion. He had a conversion experience and became an evangelical Methodist at eighteen. After briefly attending an academy during his late teens, Baldwin taught school in New York, Maryland, and finally Litchfield, Connecticut. In January 1828 he married Mary D. Chappel of New London, Connecticut, herself a Methodist of humble station. They had seven children....


Blackwell, Henry Browne (1825-1909), social reformer, editor, and entrepreneur  

Debra Viles

Blackwell, Henry Browne (04 May 1825–07 September 1909), social reformer, editor, and entrepreneur, was born in Bristol, England, the son of Samuel Blackwell, a sugar refiner and antislavery reformer, and Hannah Lane. After business reversals the family moved in 1832 to New York, where their household became a haven for abolitionists, women’s rights advocates, and self-emancipated slaves. In 1838 the debt-ridden Blackwells moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. When his father died a few months later, thirteen-year-old Henry went to work to support the family, initially as a clerk in a flour mill. In 1845 he joined the two illiterate millers as a partner, and two years later his brother made him a partner in a hardware firm. Within a few years the enterprising Henry (“Harry” to his friends) had his finger in many economic pies—among them an agricultural publishing firm, land speculation, and sugar beet production (perhaps after his father, who had sought an alternative to slave-based sugar cane). At the same time Harry moved to the forefront of women’s rights agitation and abolitionism....


Carse, Matilda Bradley (1835-1917), temperance worker, editor, and entrepreneur  

Ruth Bordin

Carse, Matilda Bradley (19 November 1835–03 June 1917), temperance worker, editor, and entrepreneur, was born near Belfast, Ireland, the daughter of John Bradley and Catherine Cleland, Scottish merchants whose ancestors had migrated to Ireland in the seventeenth century. Educated in Ireland, Carse emigrated in 1858 to Chicago. In 1861 she married Thomas Carse, a railroad manager with whom she had three sons. After her husband’s death in 1870, her youngest son was killed by a drunken drayman, propelling Carse into the temperance cause just as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was organizing. She devoted much of the rest of her life to business and volunteer activities related to that organization....


Coker, James Lide (1837-1918), entrepreneur and philanthropist  

Thomas E. Terrill

Coker, James Lide (03 January 1837–25 June 1918), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born on a plantation near Hartsville, South Carolina, the son of Caleb Coker, a planter and merchant, and Hannah Lide. Coker’s father also served as a director of the Chersaw and Darlington (S.C.) Railroad. His wealth afforded Coker considerable advantages that he used and built upon. His education was similar to that of other sons of South Carolina’s planter elite. Schooled in a local, privately supported academy, he then attended The Citadel. However, in 1857 he took the unusual step of going to Harvard to take courses in chemistry and botany, working under ...


Cone, Moses Herman (1857-1908), textile entrepreneur  

Dale L. Flesher

Cone, Moses Herman (29 June 1857–08 December 1908), textile entrepreneur, was born in Jonesboro, Tennessee, the son of Herman Kahn, a Jewish wholesale grocery merchant, and Helen Guggenheimer. Cone’s father was born in Bavaria, and his mother, though born in Virginia, was of German heritage. When Cone’s father moved to the United States, the family name was changed to Cone. Cone was the eldest of thirteen children and spent his formative years in Jonesboro, where his father owned a grocery store. The family moved in 1870 to Baltimore, Maryland, where Cone attended the public schools....


Crown, Henry (1896-1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist  

Jacob A. Vander Meulen

Crown, Henry (13 June 1896–14 August 1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born Henry Krinsky in Chicago, the son of Arie Krinsky, a Lithuanian immigrant garment worker, and his wife Ida Gordon. At some point they changed their name to Crown. To help his poor family, Crown took a job at age fourteen as clerk at the Chicago Firebrick Company. In 1912 he began work at the Union Drop Forge Company, while taking night courses in accounting. In 1915 he and his two older brothers, Sol and Irving, formed a small steel-brokerage company, S. A. Crown and Company, and Crown quickly established a local reputation as an aggressive and reliable deal maker with a discerning eye for opportunity, a striking power of recall, and an acute sense of timing....


DeBaptiste, George (1814?–22 February 1875), abolitionist and businessman  

David F. Herr

DeBaptiste, George (1814?–22 February 1875), abolitionist and businessman, was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of John DeBaptiste, a businessman, and Frances “Franky” (maiden name unknown). Although the details of DeBaptiste’s early life are uncertain, he appears to have traveled to Richmond, Virginia, as a youth, where he learned to barber and where, perhaps in 1829, as a free black, he first helped a slave escape. While still in Virginia, he married his first wife, Maria Lucinda Lee, a slave, and bought her freedom. DeBaptiste subsequently remarried and had two children; his second wife’s name is unknown. As a young man he demonstrated strong loyalty to his family, who remained in Fredericksburg. On two separate occasions in the 1820s he financially secured the property of two sisters when they faced significant debt (Fitzgerald, p. 53)....


Ford, Barney Launcelot (1822-1902), conductor on the Underground Railroad, Negro suffrage lobbyist, and real estate baron  

Maria Elena Raymond

Ford, Barney Launcelot (1822–14 December 1902), conductor on the Underground Railroad, Negro suffrage lobbyist, and real estate baron, was born in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of a Mr. Darington (given name unknown), a slaveholder and plantation owner, and Phoebe (surname unknown), one of Darington’s slaves. Given simply the name “Barney” at birth, he adopted the name Barney Launcelot Ford as an adult to please his soon-to-be wife and to provide himself with a “complete” name....


Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar (1823-1915), businessman, politician, and race leader  

Loren Schweninger

Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar (17 April 1823–11 July 1915), businessman, politician, and race leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jonathan C. Gibbs, a Methodist minister, and Maria Jackson. His parents were free blacks. His father died when Mifflin was seven years old, and his mother was an invalid. As a teenager, Mifflin attended the Philomathean Institute, a black men’s literary society, and, like his brother ...


Hammer, Armand (1898-1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist  

Stephen J. Randall

Hammer, Armand (21 May 1898–10 December 1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of Russian-born Julius Hammer, a pharmacist and physician, and Rose Robinson. Hammer’s childhood economic circumstances were better than those of many of his immigrant contemporaries. When he was still a child, his family moved to the Bronx, where his father balanced a quest for a medical degree with the demands of his drugstores. Hammer attended Morris High School and in 1917 registered at Columbia Heights Premedical School. Two years later he enrolled at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he graduated in June 1921....


Cover Hammer, Armand (1898-1990)
Armand Hammer Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114806 ).


Jonsson, John Erik (1901-1995), co-founder of Texas Instruments and mayor of Dallas  

Edward A. Goedeken

Jonsson, John Erik (06 September 1901–31 August 1995), co-founder of Texas Instruments and mayor of Dallas, was born in Brooklyn, the only child of John Peter and Ellen Charlotte Palmquist, both small merchants. In 1911 Jonsson's family moved to Montclair, New Jersey, where his family operated a stationery and tobacco store. During his school years, Eric worked at a number of small jobs and helped in his parents' shop. He graduated from high school at the age of sixteen and hoped to study journalism at Columbia University but lacked the academic credits necessary for acceptance, so instead Jonsson enrolled in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York....


Kane, Thomas Leiper (1822-1883), lawyer, soldier, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and defender of the Mormons  

David J. Whittaker

Kane, Thomas Leiper (27 January 1822–26 December 1883), lawyer, soldier, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and defender of the Mormons, was born in Philadelphia, the son of John Kintzing Kane, a jurist, and Jane Duval Leiper. He attended school in Philadelphia and from 1839 to 1844 traveled in England and France, studying and visiting relatives. While in Paris he served for a time as an attaché of the American legation. Small in stature and never robust, he would spend most of his life struggling with ill health. In Paris he met Auguste Comte and others who surely encouraged his social conscience, which would be manifested later in his concern for philanthropic causes. In 1844 Kane returned to Philadelphia, where he studied law with his father. Although he was admitted to the bar in 1846 and clerked briefly for his father, who was a federal judge, his interests and activities generally moved in other directions....


Kerr, James Hutchison (1837-1919), educator, entrepreneur, and progressive  

Joe P. Dunn

Kerr, James Hutchison (30 August 1837–10 June 1919), educator, entrepreneur, and progressive, was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the son of John Alexander Kerr, a farmer, and Eliza Jane Hutchison. He was educated in local rural public schools, and at age fourteen when the regular teacher at his school became ill, Kerr was named the teacher to finish the academic year. Beginning in the fall of 1852, at age fifteen, Kerr spent a year at the John Turner Seminary in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and during the next two years he completed the civil engineering course at New London Academy in Pennsylvania. Following his graduation in 1854, he spent four months as an assistant railroad engineer before returning as a half‐day assistant teacher at the New London Academy. In the 1855–1856 academic year he studied mining, chemistry, metallurgy, and geology at Westminster College in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, and also served as a part‐time teacher. In 1857 he operated a tea and spice business in Rochester, New York, and he studied the natural sciences, including geology and paleontology, at the local university. From September 1859 to May 1861 he was the principal of Franklinville Academy in rural Cattaraugus County, New York, and during the summer months he studied geology in New York, New England, Canada, and the American West....


Moore, Amzie (1911-1982), Mississippi civil rights activist and entrepreneur  

Laura Visser-Maessen

Moore, Amzie (23 September 1911–01 February 1982), Mississippi civil rights activist and entrepreneur, was born on the Wilkins plantation near Greenwood, Mississippi, the eldest son of black sharecroppers (names unknown). Although his grandfather, a former slave, had acquired some land after the Civil War, his descendants lived in poverty and lost the land during the economic hardships following World War I. Amzie’s parents tried their luck at a plantation in the Mississippi River Valley, but after their separation around 1922, Amzie, his mother, and his two siblings moved to Grenada County to work on a farm....


Parker, John P. (1827-1900), African-American abolitionist and entrepreneur  

Frank R. Levstik

Parker, John P. (1827–30 January 1900), African-American abolitionist and entrepreneur, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of a slave mother and white father, whose names are unknown. At the age of eight, Parker was sold as a slave to an agent in Richmond, where he in turn was purchased by a physician from Mobile, Alabama. While employed as a house servant for the physician, Parker learned to read and write. In Mobile he was apprenticed to work in furnaces and iron manufactures as well as for a plasterer. Beaten by the plasterer, Parker attempted to escape, only to be captured aboard a northbound riverboat....


Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1812?–1904), legendary African-American woman of influence and political power in Gold Rush and Gilded Age San Francisco  

Lynn Downey

Pleasant, Mary Ellen (1812?–1904), legendary African-American woman of influence and political power in Gold Rush and Gilded Age San Francisco, was born, according to some sources, a slave in Georgia; other sources claim that her mother was a Louisiana slave and her father Asian or Native American. Many sources agree that she lived in Boston, as a free woman, the wife of James W. Smith, a Cuban abolitionist. When he died in 1844 he left her his estate, valued at approximately $45,000....


Pritzker, Abram Nicholas (1896-1986), entrepreneur and financier  

Fred Carstensen

Pritzker, Abram Nicholas (06 January 1896–08 February 1986), entrepreneur and financier, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Nicholas Pritzker, a pharmacist and later a lawyer, and Annie Cohn. He attended public schools and then Northwestern University, but he preferred the University of Chicago, where he transferred and lived on campus, completing his B.A. in philosophy in 1916. He began law school at Harvard but left during the first year to join the navy, where he served as a chief petty officer. When he was mustered out, he returned to Harvard, earning his law degree in 1920. He immediately joined his father and brother in the firm of Pritzker and Pritzker. He married Fanny L. Doppelt in 1921; they had three sons. He practiced law only briefly, drawn instead to real estate investment and finance. He did well in Chicago real estate but lost most of his fortune in the great Florida land boom of the 1920s; he then recovered quickly, in spite of the Great Depression....


Sprunt, James (1846-1924), entrepreneur, philanthropist, and author  

Loren Schweninger

Sprunt, James (09 June 1846–09 July 1924), entrepreneur, philanthropist, and author, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of Alexander Sprunt, an exporter, and Jane Dalziel. Sprunt migrated with his parents to North Carolina in 1852, living first in Duplin County and then Wilmington, New Hanover County, where he attended school until age fourteen. During the Civil War he became a purser on a blockade-runner, but when the ship was captured in 1864, he was imprisoned only to make a daring escape to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He again became a ship’s purser, returned to the South, and was shipwrecked off the coast of Florida. Avoiding Federal troops, he returned to Wilmington....