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Nick grew up as a well-to-do son of business owners in a Midwestern city. Nick's great-uncle "started the wholesale hardware business" which made financially possible the comfortable and somewhat privileged upbringing Nick enjoyed. As he was growing up, one of the most important lessons Nick's father impressed upon him was the realization that "all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
Nick attended college at New Haven, graduating in 1915, and spent some time in Europe as part of the United States military forces during World War I. Upon returning from the War, Nick "decided to go East and learn the bond business." Nick's extended family supported this decision. He moved to New York City "in the spring of" 1922.
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