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developer and owner of extensive amusement businesses in the last years of the Russian Empire, and then in Constantinople/Istanbul, present-day Turkey, was born in Coahoma County, Mississippi, the son of Lewis and Hannah Thomas. His parents, both enslaved prior to the Civil War, had purchased a two-hundred-acre farm in 1869, the second largest of six farms, out of 230 in the county, that were owned by people of African descent.

Twentieth-century references to Thomas generally give his name as George (Fyodor) Thomas. The reason for assigning the name “George” are obscure, possibly originating with a wealthy American traveler in Europe, employing the common paradigm that Pullman porters were commonly called “George” whatever their real name. Only when Vladimir Alexandrov, professor of Slavic languages and literature at Yale University, published a comprehensive biography of Thomas in 2013 was his real name established along with his place of birth and ...