Frank Algernon Cowperwood
Frank Algernon Cowperwood, a financial genius. Freed from prison in Pennsylvania, where he served a term for embezzlement, he goes to Chicago to make a new fortune. Amoral in business and love, he gains control of many lives and many businesses. He becomes the force behind the Chicago transit system until his greed causes him to lose his power to obtain franchises through bribery. Defeated, he sells his interests and leaves Chicago.
Aileen Butler Cowperwood
Aileen Butler Cowperwood, a beautiful young woman, the daughter of an Irish politician in Philadelphia. She becomes Cowperwood’s mistress and, later, his wife. In her attempts to enter high society, she is frustrated by her own lack of social poise and by the enmity her husband evokes by his business dealings. Her husband’s marital infidelities drive her to take a lover herself. She and Cowperwood are finally divorced to clear the way for a marriage between Cowperwood and Berenice Fleming.
Stephanie Platow, a dark, lush young woman ten years younger than Aileen. She becomes Cowperwood’s mistress. She eventually disappoints Cowperwood by taking another lover.
Berenice Fleming, another of Cowperwood’s lovers. Although she is the daughter of a procuress, she is educated in a fashionable boarding school, in preparation for a life in high society as Cowperwood’s wife.
Peter Laughlin, a Chicago businessman who takes Cowperwood as a business partner, thus giving the Philadelphian his start in the Midwest. Laughlin is left behind, however, as Cowperwood becomes a great force in financial circles.