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Joel Barlow. Watercolor on ivory, 1806, by William Dunlap. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joel Barlow.

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Barlow, Joel (24 March 1754–26 December 1812), businessman, diplomat, and poet, was born in Redding, Connecticut, the son of Samuel Barlow and Esther Hull, fairly well-to-do farmers. Barlow was born the second-to-last child in a large family. Given the size of the family and their farm, Barlow could receive formal education only from the local minister, an education probably interspersed with farm chores. When Barlow was eighteen, his father arranged for his schooling at Moor’s Indian School (now Dartmouth) in Hanover, New Hampshire. Barlow began his studies there in 1772, yet his father’s death shortly thereafter made it necessary for Barlow to return home. He entered Yale College with the class of 1778. At Yale Barlow began to give evidence of an interest in poetry, in moral and political philosophy, and in science as a key to the improvement of the human condition. His first published poem, a broadside publication, was a satire in pseudobiblical verse about the bad food served in Yale commons. Although he wrote poems throughout his college days, Barlow’s best-known college verses were verse orations delivered at two Yale commencements, ...

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Grady, Henry Francis (12 February 1882–14 September 1957), diplomat, economist, and businessman, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of John Henry Grady and Ellen Genevieve Rourke. He earned his A.B. in 1907 from St. Mary’s University in Baltimore, Maryland, and his doctorate in economics in 1927 from Columbia University. As a young man, Grady studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood, but his interest in economics and finance led him to overlapping careers in business, academia, and government. In 1917 he married Lucretia del Valle; they had four children....

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Low, Frederick Ferdinand (30 June 1828–21 July 1894), businessman, politician, and diplomat, was born in Frankfort (present-day Winterport), Maine, into a Penobscot Valley farming family. His parents’ names are not known. Frederick Low attended public schools and Hampden Academy. At age fifteen he was apprenticed to Russell, Sturgis and Company, a Boston firm with a large China trade. He enriched his education by attending Fanuiel Hall and Lowell Institute lectures. Low completed his apprenticeship in 1849 and joined other Forty-niners in California. For three months he panned gold on the American River. Taking some $1,500 from his claim, he declared himself “satisfied” and returned to San Francisco to commence successful careers in business and government....

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Merry, William Lawrence (27 December 1842–11 December 1911), sea captain, merchant, and diplomat, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Henry Merry, a merchant and sea captain, and Candida Isbina Xavier, apparently Brazilian. Merry attended the Collegiate Institute in New York City during the 1850s. He became a junior officer on the ...