William Playfair

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William Playfair (1759-1823) was a real estate speculator in the Northwest Territory.

Beginning in 1789, English businessman Playfair, as a representative of the Scioto Company, sold lands to French families wishing to immigrate to the Ohio Country. Playfair and his partner, Joel Barlow, misrepresented the company's land claims. The land did not actually belong to the company, and it was not nearly as productive as what the two men had described. Rather than giving the Scioto Company the collected money to purchase the land from the United States government, Playfair was accused of keeping the money for himself. The company was unable to make good on its promises to the French immigrants. Once the French arrived in Ohio, they discovered that the company's representatives had cheated them. Survival was much more difficult than had been anticipated. In addition, the land that the French settlers had purchased belonged to the Ohio Company of Associates rather than to the Scioto Company. Many of the immigrants returned to the East. Most of the people who chose to stay paid the Ohio Company for their land. A smaller number moved to the area set aside for them by the American government known as the French Grant.

Playfair returned to England after the French Revolution and supported himself by writing essays and working as a translator. He often is credited as being the inventor of the pie chart.

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