John Hartford was born on February 10, 1872 in Orange, New Jersey, United States. He was the fourth child of George Huntington Hartford and Marie Josephine Ludium. Hartford's father was already an executive at the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company which his father would then own. He was also elected Mayor of Orange when Hartford was six, and served as both Mayor and partner of George Gilman, the founder of A&P. At an early age, Hartford demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit when on St. Patrick's day he parked his father's buggy along the parade route and charged people to climb up to get a better view.