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Kate Tuttle

James P. Beckwourth, born of mixed-race parentage in Fredericksburg, Virginia, escaped an apprenticeship to a St. Louis, Missouri blacksmith and went west, taking a job with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He became an experienced trapper and fighter in the sparsely settled western territories. In 1824 the Crow Indian tribe adopted Beckwourth, who then married the daughter of the chief and earned such renown in battle that he was renamed Bloody Arm. Although he left the tribe after several years—and after earning honorary chief status—he continued a lifelong friendship with the Crows.

Criss-crossing the western and southern frontiers, Beckwourth worked as a guide, prospected for gold, served as a United States Army scout during the third Seminole War and was a rider for the Pony Express He also worked with California s Black Franchise League in an effort unsuccessful at the time to repeal a law barring blacks from ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

mountain man, fur trapper and trader, scout, translator, and explorer, was born James Pierson Beckwith in Frederick County, Virginia, the son of Sir Jennings Beckwith, a white Revolutionary War veteran and the descendant of minor Irish aristocrats who became prominent Virginians. Little is known about Jim's mother, a mixed-race slave working in the Beckwith household. Although he was born into slavery, Jim was manumitted by his father in the 1820s. In the early 1800s, Beckwith moved his family, which reputedly included fourteen children, to Missouri, eventually settling in St. Louis. Some commentators suggest that Beckwith, an adventurous outdoorsman, was seeking an environment less hostile to his racially mixed family.

As a young teenager, after four years of schooling, Jim Beckwourth as his name came to be spelled was apprenticed to a blacksmith Unhappy as a tradesman he fled to the newly discovered lead mines in Illinois s Fever ...

Article

Richard C. Lindberg

explorer and merchant, was born in San Marc, Haiti, the son of a slave woman (name unknown) and Dandonneau (first name unknown), scion of a prominent French Canadian family active in the North American fur trade. Surviving historical journals record the name of Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (Pointe au Sable by some accounts), a Haitian of mixed-race ancestry, as the first permanent settler of Chicago. In her 1856 memoir of frontier life in the emerging Northwest Territory, Juliette Kinzie, the wife of the fur trader John Kinzie makes note of the fact that the first white man who settled here was a Negro Several of the voyageurs and commercial men who regularly traversed the shores of southern Lake Michigan in the last decade of the eighteenth century kept accurate records of their encounters in journals and ledger books One such entry describes du Sable as a ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Portuguese explorer who helped open up European commercial links to both western and eastern Africa, was born sometime between 1460 and 1469. He probably was born at Sines, a town on the southwestern coast of Portugal. His father was Estêvão da Gama, a knight in the court of the Duke of Viseu. Da Gama’s mother was Isabel Sodré, a woman of noble descent. It is a paradox that so little is known of da Gama’s life, given his fame as the first Portuguese sea captain to reach India. Since da Gama was a younger son, he may have entered Atlantic exploration to make up for losing out on his father’s inheritance.

At some point da Gama became an agent of King João II of Portugal who sought to promote Atlantic trade and exploration like his more famous predecessor Henry the Navigator Gama joined the Order of Santiago a brotherhood ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

important trader and a promoter of Portuguese ties to West Africa, was apparently born to a well-off family in Lisbon sometime in the opening decades of the fifteenth century. Little is known of his early life, personal family history, or even death. It is known, however, that Gomes apparently fought in Morocco and learned North African dances there. It is ironic that such obscurity surrounds a man who played a pivotal role in expanding Portuguese influence on the coast of West Africa.

Gomes first clearly enters the historical record in 1469. After the death in 1461 of Henry the Navigator the legendary supervisor of Portuguese maritime exploration of West Africa and the Atlantic Ocean the Portuguese crown became so distracted by its wars with the Islamic sultanate of Morocco and its Christian neighbor of Castile that efforts to develop trade with West African coastal communities slowed down King ...

Article

Leland Conley Barrows

Franco-Senegalese habitant from Gorée, explorer of the Mauritanian Sahara, was born on Gorée Island in Senegal to a poor family. Although orphaned very young, he obtained a good education that included accounting. When choosing a career, he vacillated, like many of his habitant peers from Gorée and Saint-Louis, between work as a gum trader or a modest position in the colonial bureaucracy of Senegal. Taking employment in 1838 as a clerk in the French naval administration in Saint-Louis, he resigned a few months later to become a gum trading agent for François-Michel Pellegrin, the former mayor of Saint-Louis, who was one of the wealthiest habitants of Senegal. Not being very successful, Panet reentered the naval administration in 1845, first as a clerk and then as an accountant.

Between 1838 and 1854 Panet seems to have been won over to certain new ideas about the commercial future of Senegal ...

Article

Trevor Hall

was born on 9 March 1454, but became a naturalized citizen of Spain in 1505. His father, Nastagio Vespucci, and mother, Lisabetta Mani, were friends of the powerful Medici family who governed much of Italy. Vespucci’s reason for renown is that he was the first to recognize South America was a continent separate from Asia, and one of the first to sail from Europe to West Africa then directly to South America, before returning to Europe. He completed the triangular transatlantic trade, without transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic. In 1502, while sailing with the Portuguese, Vespucci navigated from Portugal to West Africa and then directly to South America. Four years before Vespucci sailed from Portugal, another Italian, Christopher Columbus had sailed from the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands to South America, also without enslaved Africans. Two decades later in 1518 the Spanish king authorized merchants to ...

Article

Mary Karasch

alternatively spelled Thomaz de Souza Villa Real, pardo sertanista who led voyages of exploration of the Araguaia and Tocantins rivers in central Brazil. As a sertanista, a man of the backlands skilled in the ways of the frontier, he commanded state-sponsored canoe expeditions that contacted indigenous peoples along the great rivers. Although the Portuguese governor regarded him as a pardo (brown-skinned man), he entrusted Vila Real with men and resources. It is possible that he had indigenous ancestry, but the terms pardo and mulato were used interchangeably in census records from the mining town of Natividade where he died.

In 1789 Vila Real served as a pilot with an expedition of eight hundred men and fourteen riverboats or large canoes sent to the aid of the captaincy of Pará. Accompanying Vila Real was a small troop of sixteen pedestres indigenous soldiers led by Sergeant José Luis Pereira who ...