Before he was President: Ulysses Grant

Ulysses Simpson Grant, 1869-1877 sold firewood in the streets
Ulysses Grant's first lesson in business negotiations didn't go exactly as planned. Ulysses' father, Jesse, told 10 year old Ulysses to go to the neighbor's farm and buy the horse that was for sale. Partly looking for a better deal and also trying to teach his young son new business skills, Jesse's instructions were, "Offer Mr. Ralston $50 for the horse he has for sale. However, if he doesn't take $50 then offer him $55.00. If he will not take the $55.00 then you may pay him the full $60.00."

Ulysses went to the neighbor's home with $60.00 in his pocket. He certainly didn't want to disappoint his father considering the trust he had put in him so he rehearsed in his mind what his father had told him to say. When he arrived at Mr. Ralston's farm he was surprised by the first question he was asked. "How much did your father tell you to pay for my horse?", asked Mr. Ralston. Ulysses answer not only demonstrated his honesty and integrity, but also his newness at negotiations. "Father told me to offer you $50.00, and if you don't take that then I should offer you $55.00. However, if you still don't accept that price I should offer you the $60.00 he gave me." Of course, Mr. Ralston sold the horse to Ulysses for $60.00, but Ulysses learned a valuable lesson when he got home with the new horse and discussed his day with his father.

After resigning from the Army it took all of Grant's efforts to survive. He cleared trees from his fields and sold the chopped wood on the streets of St. Louis. Source

From About.com: After Grant retired from the presidency, he and his wife traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. He then retired to Illinois in 1880. He helped his son by borrowing money to set him up with a friend named Ferdinand Ward in a brokerage firm. When they went bankrupt, Grant lost all his money.


Rutherford Birchard Hayes, 1877-1881 lawyer, soldier, U.S. congressman, governor of Ohio
Hayes's first law firm, Hayes and Buckland,in Lower Sandusky, Ohio got off to a sputtering start. Business was slow and the young lawyer was bored, restless, and—though he denied it—had symptoms of tuberculosis. After visits to New England and Texas, and seeking a fresh start, he moved to Cincinnati on Christmas Eve, 1849. In time, he made a name for himself in criminal law. Using his natural charm and his elite training, he defended society's outcasts, often managing to free them or save them from the gallows. Source


James Abram Garfield, 1881 canal boy
At age sixteen, Garfield ran away to work on the canal boats that shuttled commerce between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. During his six weeks on the boats, he fell overboard fourteen times, finally catching such a fever that he had to return home. While recovering, Garfield vowed to make his way in the world using brains rather than brawn.
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More stories: Duncan Hines   George Washington   Thomas Jefferson   Benjamin Franklin   Dolly Madison   James Garfield   Harry Truman   Henry Ford

 
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