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Potter Palmer's youth

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Another prominent Chicagoan and his family survived the Panic of 1873 and the Long Depression that followed. His name was Potter Palmer, and he survived because of his integrity, courage and willingness to accept assistance.

Potter Palmer was born on a farm near Potter Hollow in Albany County, New York on May 20, 1826. His parents were Rebecca Potter Palmer and Benjamin Palmer, and he was fourth in the family of seven. As a youth, he explored the rolling hills, impressive mountains, bubbling creeks and small valleys that marked the land surrounding his father’s farm. His parents were Quakers and made sure he received a good education in the common schools of the area.

Palmer also learned at an early age the difficulties and rigors of farming a remote area. Even though his family was prosperous, he decided that farming was not his career of choice. He decided that commerce was for him. At 18, he became an apprenticed clerk in Platt Adams’ dry goods store in the village of Durham, Greene County, New York. He learned quickly, borrowed $5,000 from his father and opened a store of his own in Oneida, New York. His sales the first year reached $47,000. One year later, he opened a store in Lockport, New York.

Like many young men of the 19th Century, Potter Palmer was captivated by the adventure and romance of the West. He sold his store in Lockport, and with a grub stake of $6,000, he decided to move to California. His westward journey required him to travel through Chicago. Chicago was an exciting place in 1851, and Palmer decided to stay when he realized the possibilities and promise of success it offered.

To be continued…

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