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Allen, Paul Gardner (21 January 1953–15 October 2018), software pioneer, investor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist  

Carl Abbott

Allen, Paul Gardner (21 January 1953–15 October 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 ...


Altman, Benjamin (1840-1913), merchant and art collector  

Dennis Wepman

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....


Anderson, Larz (1866-1937), diplomat and philanthropist  

Richard H. Gentile

Anderson, Larz (15 August 1866–13 April 1937), diplomat and philanthropist, was born in Paris, France, the son of Nicholas Longworth Anderson, a highly decorated Civil War officer, and Elizabeth Coles Kilgour. Anderson grew up in a socially prominent and public-spirited Virginia and Ohio family known primarily for its military exploits and philanthropy. His notable forebears included soldier ...


Annenberg, Walter H. (1908-2002), publisher and philanthropist  

Ann T. Keene

Annenberg, Walter H. (13 March 1908–01 October 2002), publisher and philanthropist, was born Walter Hubert Annenberg in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the son of Moses Louis Annenberg, a newspaperman, and Sadie Friedman Annenberg. In 1885, at the age of seven, Moses “Moe” Annenberg came to America from East Prussia with his penniless, Orthodox Jewish family and settled in Chicago. Around the turn of the century he began working in the newspaper circulation business, which encouraged and tolerated extreme methods, including violence, among competitors. By the time of Walter's birth the Annenbergs were living in Milwaukee, where Moses had established a news agency....


Archbold, John Dustin (1848-1916), oil industry executive and philanthropist  

Edward L. Lach, Jr.

Archbold, John Dustin (26 July 1848–05 December 1916), oil industry executive and philanthropist, was born in Leesburg, Ohio, the son of Israel Archbold, a minister, and Frances Dana. His education at local schools ended when his father died. Not yet in his teens, Archbold took a clerking position in 1859 at a country store in Salem, Ohio, to help support his family. In that same year he noted the excitement surrounding the discovery of oil in nearby Titusville, Pennsylvania. After several years of hard work, he journeyed to the oil fields of western Pennsylvania with $100 in savings. Upon arriving in Titusville, Archbold obtained a position in the office of William H. Abbott, one of the leading oilmen in the fast-growing region. He used every moment not spent in the performance of his duties to study and was soon familiar with oil refinement, transportation, brokering, and production. Recognition of his ability came in the form of a partnership in the firm before he reached the age of nineteen. Archbold’s efforts, however, failed to save the badly overextended firm from collapse in 1869. Undaunted, he scraped together additional savings and became a partner in the local refining firm of Porter, Moreland & Company. In 1870 he married Annie Mills of Titusville; the couple had four children. By the early 1870s Archbold also established a sales office in New York City, where he sold oil on behalf of his own firm and outside producers as well....


Arnold, Richard Dennis (1808-1876), physician  

John H. Ellis

Arnold, Richard Dennis (19 August 1808–10 July 1876), physician, was born in Savannah, Georgia, the son of Joseph Arnold and Eliza Dennis, occupations unknown. Despite hardships accompanying the deaths of both parents during childhood, Arnold, who had been an only child, received an excellent preliminary education and graduated with distinction from Princeton in 1826. He immediately began a medical apprenticeship under William R. Waring, a distinguished preceptor and member of an illustrious Charleston and Savannah family of physicians. After receiving his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1830, Arnold served for two years as a resident house officer in Philadelphia’s old Blockley Hospital before returning to Savannah where in 1833 he married Margaret Baugh Stirk. Their only child, Eleanor, born the next year, became the lifelong object of her father’s loving solicitude following her mother’s untimely death from pulmonary tuberculosis in 1850....


Astor, Brooke (1902-2007), philanthropist and socialite  

Valerie Paley

Astor, Brooke (30 March 1902–13 August 2007), philanthropist and socialite, was born Roberta Brooke Russell in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the only child of John Henry Russell, Jr., a major general in the U.S. Marine Corps, and Mabel Cecile Hornby Howard. Her father, who ultimately became commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, rose in professional responsibility while serving in several important assignments after his daughter’s birth, beginning with his command of the battleship USS ...


Astor, John Jacob, III (1822-1890), capitalist and philanthropist  

Jerome Mushkat

Astor, John Jacob, III (10 June 1822–22 February 1890), capitalist and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the son of William Backhouse Astor and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong. The family was noted for great wealth and public charity. Astor graduated from Columbia College in 1839, and after studying at the University of Göttingen for a short time and traveling through Europe he earned a law degree at Harvard in 1842. He practiced briefly as an attorney specializing in commercial transactions and then entered his father’s burgeoning real estate office. In 1846 Astor married the socially prominent Charlotte Augusta Gibbes of South Carolina. They had one child, ...


Astor, William Waldorf (1848-1919), businessman and philanthropist  

Bonnie Marie Sykes

Astor, William Waldorf (31 March 1848–18 October 1919), businessman and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the son of John Jacob Astor, a businessman, and Charlotte Gibbes. Astor received his education at home under private tutors and studied law at Columbia University. He worked at law for a short while but found his first real calling in Republican politics. He served a term as a New York State assemblyman beginning in 1877, and two years later he was elected to the state senate. Twice he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, but he was defeated each time. The press and his political enemies found Astor’s inherited wealth an easy target for excoriation, and the public humiliation he suffered at their hands was the first step on the path toward his alienation from everything American. By all accounts Astor was extremely sensitive and simply could not endure criticism. Nor did he find satisfaction in his 1878 marriage to Mary Dahlgren Paul, although the union produced four children. The marriage suffered as shy Mary Astor was forced into a contest with her husband’s Aunt Caroline for the position of most important society matron in New York’s upper crust—the famous “Four Hundred Families.” In addition, the Astors were concerned for the safety of their children, whom they feared might become victims of a kidnapping for ransom....


Cover Astor, William Waldorf (1848-1919)

Astor, William Waldorf (1848-1919)  


William Waldorf Astor. Second from right, with Lady Astor, far right, and Henry Ford and Clara Ford. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98997).


Babson, Roger Ward (1875-1967), businessman, author, and philanthropist  

Clifford Putney

Babson, Roger Ward (06 July 1875–05 March 1967), businessman, author, and philanthropist, was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Babson, a dry-goods merchant and wholesaler, and Ellen Stearns. As a child, Babson spent his summers in Gloucester on his paternal grandfather’s farm, an experience that later prompted him to write that he “owed more to that farm than any educational institution.” Off the farm, the young Babson, who was a rowdy albeit “nervous” boy, worried his mother by associating not with other middle-class Yankee children but with the “Gould Courters,” an Irish street gang....


Bacon, Georgeanna Muirson Woolsey (05 November 1833–27 January 1906), Civil War nurse and philanthropist  

Barbara L. Ciccarelli

Bacon, Georgeanna Muirson Woolsey (05 November 1833–27 January 1906), Civil War nurse and philanthropist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Charles William Woolsey, a merchant, and Jane Eliza Newton. Raised on fashionable Sheafe Street in Boston, “Georgy” attended Misses Murdock’s School. After her father’s death on a river steamer, the ...


Bailey, Hannah Clark Johnston (1839-1923), philanthropist, reformer, and peace advocate  

Barbara L. Ciccarelli

Bailey, Hannah Clark Johnston (05 July 1839–23 October 1923), philanthropist, reformer, and peace advocate, was born in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, New York, the daughter of David Johnston, a tanner, and Letitia Clark. In 1853 her father moved the family to Plattekill, New York, where he became a farmer and minister of the Society of Friends (Quakers). She attended public school and a Friends’ boarding school and taught in rural New York from 1858 to 1867. Accompanying a female Quaker preacher on a mission to New England churches, almshouses, and prisons, Bailey met her future husband, Moses Bailey, a fellow Society member and prosperous manufacturer of oil cloth. They were married in 1868 and settled at his Winthrop, Maine, home. They had one child....


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....


Baldwin, William Henry, Jr. (1863-1905), railroad executive and philanthropist  

Eric Anderson

Baldwin, William Henry, Jr. (05 February 1863–03 January 1905), railroad executive and philanthropist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Henry Baldwin, a dry goods merchant, and Mary Chaffee. A direct descendant of an English settler who had arrived in Massachusetts before 1640, Baldwin grew up in a family noted for its commitment to abolition and other reforms. His father founded the Young Men’s Christian Union of Boston, an adult social service organization. When Baldwin was five years old, his father retired from his successful mercantile career to serve as the union’s president....


Ball, Frank Clayton (1857-1943), businessman and philanthropist  

Dwight Hoover

Ball, Frank Clayton (24 November 1857–19 March 1943), businessman and philanthropist, was born at “Bascomb Farm” near Greensburg, Ohio, the son of Lucius Styles Ball, a farmer, and Maria Polly Bingham, a teacher. In 1868 the family moved to Canandaigua, New York, where Ball first attended Canandaigua Academy. In 1878 he moved to Buffalo, where he lived with his uncle, a Baptist minister, who had learned of an opportunity to construct fish kits (wooden boxes used by fishermen to hold their catch) out of lumber left over from making barrels. Ball and his brother Ed entered the business and had just begun production when the building burned down, causing them to lose everything. Ball then returned to Canandaigua for another term at the academy....


Bamberger, Louis (1855-1944), merchant and philanthropist  

Susan Hamburger

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....


Bancroft, Frederic A. (1860-1945), historian, librarian, and philanthropist  

John David Smith

Bancroft, Frederic A. (30 October 1860–22 February 1945), historian, librarian, and philanthropist, was born Frederic Austin Bancroft in Galesburg, Illinois, the son of Addison Newton Bancroft, a businessman, and Catherine Blair. Bancroft, raised in abolitionist surroundings, attended school at Knox Academy, Knox College (1878–1881), transferred to Amherst College in 1881, and graduated a year later. He entered Columbia University’s School of Political Science in 1882 to study southern history with ...


Barnett, Jackson (01 January 1856?–29 May 1934), wealthy American Indian  

Tanis C. Thorne

Barnett, Jackson (01 January 1856?–29 May 1934), wealthy American Indian, was born in the Creek Nation, Indian Territory, the son of Siah Barnett, an African-Creek farmer, and Thlesothle, a Creek woman. During his childhood the Civil War violently split the Creek people, and the countryside was ravaged. Siah Barnett fled to Kansas with the Loyal Creeks. Thlesothle died in a refugee camp near Fort Gibson as the war ended. Given into the care of maternal relatives, the orphaned Jackson spent much of his youth and early adulthood transporting people and goods across the Arkansas River at John Leecher's ferry above Muskogee. While working as a ranch hand, Barnett fell from a horse and sustained a head injury. In the 1880s or early 1890s, Barnett relocated westward to the central Creek Nation, where he built a small cabin and established himself in a network of paternal kin. A shy man with a beaming smile, Barnett formed no romantic relationships with women. He spoke both English and Creek, but he had no schooling and led an obscure life as an unskilled laborer....


Barron, Julia Tarrant (18 December 1805–5 February 1890), philanthropist and college founder  

Rachel Basinger Lane

Barron, Julia Tarrant (18 December 1805–5 February 1890), philanthropist and college founder, was born Julia Tarrant in Abbeville, South Carolina, to Thomas Tarrant and Malinda Nash Tarrant. She had several siblings. According to her grandfather’s January 1805 will, Julia’s father was supposed to receive a two-hundred-acre plantation in the area near Abbeville upon her grandfather’s death. However, the family did not stay in Abbeville long after Julia’s birth. As a young child, Julia moved with her family to the Alabama Territory as part of a migration to claim and settle the area....