Anson Burlingame was born in New Berlin, New York, on November 14, 1820, and graduated from the University of Michigan's Detroit campus in 1841. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1846, he joined a Boston law firm. An ardent Free Soiler, he served in the Massachusetts Senate and in the United States House of Representatives (1855-1860), and received an appointment from Abraham Lincoln to be a diplomat to Austria, though the Austrian government refused to accept him because of his associations with Hungarian nationalists. In 1862, he was reassigned as the United States minister to China, where he oversaw alterations in trade policies between China and the major European economic powers. Following his 1867 resignation, he negotiated the Burlingame Treaty (1868) between the United States and China, with positive consequences for China's trade and emigration policies. He died in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 23, 1870, while attempting to forge a similar treaty between Russia and China. He and his wife, Jane Cornelia Livermore, had three children.
Elliot C. Cowdin was born in Jamaica, Vermont, in August 1819, and received his education in Boston, where he lived until moving to New York City in 1852. In New York, he founded the importing firm of Elliot C. Cowdin & Co., and became involved in the Union League Club shortly after the beginning of the Civil War. He also served as a member of the New York City Chamber of Commerce, and spent time in France and Germany during the Franco-Prussian War. A close friend of Anson Burlingame, he organized a celebratory banquet for the diplomat in 1868, and spoke at a memorial service held in Burlingame's honor in 1870.