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Ames, Oakes (10 January 1804–08 May 1873), businessman and politician, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. He was educated in local schools and, for a few months, at Dighton Academy. At the age of sixteen, he entered his father’s shovel factory as an apprentice, rising quickly to become the works superintendent and then his father’s assistant. In 1827 he married Evelina Orvile Gilmore, and for the next three decades lived with her and their four children in one wing of his father’s house opposite the factory....

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Anderson, Joseph Reid (16 February 1813–07 September 1892), industrialist and Confederate soldier, was born in Botetourt County in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the son of William Anderson and Anna Thomas, farmers. Anderson received his early education in the local schools. After having been rejected twice, he entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1832 at age nineteen. Graduating fourth of forty-nine in 1836, he preferred a post in the elite Corps of Engineers but was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Third Artillery. Soon he was assigned to Fort Monroe, where he met his first wife, Sally Archer, daughter of the post physician, Dr. Robert Archer. They were married in the spring of 1837 and eventually had five children....

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Arden, Elizabeth (31 December 1878?–18 October 1966), businesswoman, was born Florence Nightingale Graham (her legal name throughout life) in Woodbridge, near Toronto, Canada, the daughter of William Graham and Susan Tadd, farmers. Florence would remain a citizen of Canada until she married an American, Thomas Jenkins Lewis, in 1915. Her mother died when Florence was a small child. Unable to finish high school because of her straitened finances, she entered nursing but found that she disliked working with sick people. She moved quickly through jobs as dental assistant, stenographer, and cashier and finally followed her brother William to New York City. By then she was about thirty, although her youthful complexion made her look about twenty. In 1908, as a cashier in a New York beauty salon, she persuaded her employer, Eleanor Adair, to teach her how to give facials, and she quickly mastered this “art of the healing hands.”...

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Ash, Mary Kay (12 May 1918–22 November 2001), founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, known as Mary Kay, was born Mary Kathlyn Wagner in Hot Wells, Texas, north of Houston, the daughter of Edward Alexander Wagner, an invalid, and Lula Vember Hastings, a restaurant manager. Texas has no record of Mary Kathlyn Wagner's birth for 1918—the year she usually claimed—nor for 1916, the date cited second most often; she may have been born as early as 1915. By 1920, her family moved to Houston's bleak Sixth Ward....

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Astor, John Jacob, IV (13 July 1864–15 April 1912), businessman, was born at “Ferncliff,” his father’s estate at Rinebeck-on-Hudson, New York, the son of William Backhouse Astor, Jr., and Caroline Webster Schermerhorn ( Caroline Astor). As the great-grandson and namesake of fur trade magnate ...

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Barbour, W. Warren (31 July 1888–22 November 1943), businessman and U.S. senator from New Jersey, was born William Warren Barbour in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, the son of Colonel William Barbour, president of The Linen Thread Company, and Julia Adelaide Sprague. Barbour was educated at the Browning School in New York City. Though admitted to Princeton in 1906, he instead entered the family's thread business. In 1908 Barbour enlisted in Squadron A of the New York National Guard....

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Barnes, Albert Coombs (02 January 1872–24 July 1951), collector, educator, and entrepreneur, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jesse Barnes, a butcher, and Lydia A. Schafer. Barnes’s father lost his right arm in the Civil War, and his ability to support his family proved sporadic. However, Albert’s mother, to whom he was devoted, was hardworking and resourceful. Among his most vivid childhood memories were the exuberant black religious revivals and camp meetings he attended with his devout Methodist parents. Accepted at the academically demanding Central High School, which awarded bachelor’s degrees, his early interest in art was stimulated by his friendship with the future artist ...

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Barnes, Julius Howland (02 February 1873–17 April 1959), industrialist and government official, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Lucien Jerome Barnes, a banker, and Julia Hill. Moving with his family, he attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Duluth, Minnesota. Following his father’s death in 1886, Barnes left school to take a job as office boy with the Duluth grain brokerage firm of Wardell Ames. There he rose rapidly, becoming president of the company in 1910 and subsequently reorganizing it as the Barnes-Ames Company. By 1915 Barnes-Ames was the world’s largest grain exporter, and Barnes acquired other business interests, principally in shipbuilding and Great Lakes shipping. In 1896 he married Harriet Carey, with whom he had two children....

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Beck, Dave (16 June 1894–26 December 1993), labor union leader, was born David Daniel Beck in Stockton, California, the son of Lemuel Beck, a carpet cleaner and part-time auctioneer, and Mary Tierney, a laundress. His father, who had migrated to California from his native Tennessee in search of work, moved his family to Seattle, Washington, when Beck was four years old. Beck had dreams of becoming a lawyer but dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen to help support his chronically impoverished family. After four years of odd jobs, he found steady work driving a truck for the laundry where his mother was employed and developed a lucrative route of his own. At night he took extension courses in law, economics, and business administration at the University of Washington. Beck enlisted in the navy in 1917 and saw action as a gunner on anti-zeppelin patrols over the North Sea. While on furlough the next year, he married Dorothy E. Leschander of Seattle. The couple had one child, Warren David, who later legally changed his name to Dave Beck, Jr....

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Benedum, Michael L. (16 July 1869–30 July 1959), oilman, was born Michael Late Benedum in West Virginia, the son of Emanuel Benedum, farmer and merchant, and Caroline Southworth Benedum. As a boy Michael worked on his father's farm and also at a general store his father owned in Bridgeport, West Virginia. He never had much formal schooling, but he did have access to many books at home, including the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton. Emanuel Benedum dreamed of one day sending his son to West Point....

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Bishop, Hazel (17 August 1906–05 December 1998), cosmetics executive, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the daughter of Henry Bishop, an entrepreneur who operated several small businesses, including a motion-picture distributorship, and Mabel Billington Bishop, who assisted in the businesses. Both parents were Jewish. Business discussions around the dinner table were typical family fare, and young Bishop and her brother were encouraged to participate. However, as a bright student with a scientific bent, she was not expected to choose a business career. Upon graduating from the Bergen School for Girls in Jersey City, Bishop enrolled at Barnard College in New York City in 1925 with the intention of becoming a physician. After successful completion of a pre-med program, she graduated in 1929 and planned to pursue medical studies at Columbia University. She began taking evening graduate school courses that fall at Columbia, but the collapse of the stock market in October and the ensuing economic depression put an end to her plans for medical school....

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Bly, Nellie (05 May 1864–27 January 1922), reporter and manufacturer, was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Michael Cochran, a mill owner and associate justice of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and Mary Jane Kennedy Cummings. Judge Cochran, the father of fifteen children by two wives, died suddenly without a will in 1870, leaving Mary Jane with little money. Mary Jane’s abusive third marriage to John Jackson Ford ended in divorce in 1878, and “Pink,” as Elizabeth Jane was known, at age fifteen, went off to Indiana (Pa.) Normal School, adding a final ...

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Bonwit, Paul J. (29 September 1862–11 December 1939), retail merchant, was born Paul Joseph (or Josef) Bonwit near Hanover, Germany, the son of Bernard Bonwit. His father's occupation and mother's name are unknown. He attended the local Gymnasium before moving to Paris at age sixteen, where he found work with a local export house as a clerk while continuing his academic studies at night. In 1883 Bonwit came to the United States. After a brief stay in New York City, he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he worked in a department store. By now determined to enter the retail business world, he returned to New York and became affiliated with Rothschild & Company. Bonwit eventually became a partner in the firm, which was renamed Bonwit, Rothschild & Company. He married Sarah Woolf in 1893. The couple had two sons....

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Bruce, Blanche Kelso (01 March 1841–17 March 1898), black political leader and U.S. senator during the Reconstruction era, was born in Farmville, Virginia, the son of Polly (surname unknown), a slave. The identity of his father is unknown, but he took the surname of the man who owned his mother before he was born. His childhood as a slave on a small plantation, first in Virginia, then briefly in Mississippi, and finally in Missouri did not significantly differ, as he later recalled, from that of the sons of whites. This relatively benign experience in slavery perhaps owed a great deal to the fact that he was a light-skinned mulatto and the favorite of a benevolent master and mistress. He shared a tutor with his master’s son and thus obtained the education that prepared him for later success. During the Civil War, despite the benevolence of his owner, he fled to freedom in Kansas, but after slavery was abolished he returned to Missouri where he reportedly established the first school in the state for blacks, at Hannibal....

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Buell, Don Carlos (23 March 1818–19 November 1898), soldier and businessman, was born near Marietta, Ohio, the son of Salmon D. Buell and Eliza (maiden name unknown), farmers. After his father’s death in 1823, the boy lived mostly in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, with an uncle, George P. Buell, who got him an appointment to West Point in 1837. Graduating in the lower half of his 1841 class, Buell was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Third Infantry. He served in the Seminole War and was promoted to first lieutenant on 18 June 1846. In November 1851 he married Margaret Hunter Mason, a widow. They had no children....

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Burns, Anthony (31 May 1829?–27 July 1862), fugitive slave and pastor, was born in Stafford County, Virginia; his parents (names unknown) were slaves of the Suttle family. Burns’s father had died during his infancy. Influenced by his devout mother, he converted to the Baptist faith and later became an unofficial preacher to other slaves. Burns’s owner, Charles F. Suttle, farmed in Stafford until 1852, when he moved to Alexandria to become a commission merchant. Suttle prospered and sufficiently distinguished himself that both communities elected him to various offices....

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Butts, Alfred Mosher (13 April 1899–04 April 1993), board game inventor and architect, was born Alfred Mosher Butts in Poughkeepsie, New York, the son of Allison Butts, a lawyer, and Arrie Elizabeth Mosher, a high school teacher. An earnest, diligent student, Butts was also the editor of his school yearbook. He graduated from Poughkeepsie High School in 1917; went on to the Pratt Institute, in New York City; and in 1924 took a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was also a member of the school's chess team. The next year he married Nina Ostrander, a biological technician who had been one of his teachers in high school; the couple had no children. Immediately after graduation, Butts got a job as a draftsman with the architecture firm of Arthur C. Holden and Associates (later Holden, McLaughlin and Associates), for whom he designed suburban homes in Westchester and nearby counties....

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Camden, Johnson Newlon (06 March 1828–25 April 1908), oil company executive, pioneer industrialist, and U.S. senator, was born in Collins Settlement, Lewis County, Virginia (now Jacksonville, W.Va.), the son of John Scrivener Camden, a justice of the peace, and Nancy Newlon. Camden’s father bought a house and tavern in Sutton, Braxton County, and moved the family there in 1837....

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Carnegie, Andrew (25 November 1835–11 August 1919), industrialist and philanthropist, was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, the son of William Carnegie, a handloom weaver, and Margaret Morrison. William Carnegie was sufficiently prosperous to have four looms in his shop and to employ three apprentices. Although shunning political activism, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the political views of his wife’s father, Thomas Morrison, Sr., an early leader of the Chartist movement and a friend of William Cobbett to whose journal, ...

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Carnegie, Hattie (15 March 1886–22 February 1956), fashion designer and merchandiser, was born Henrietta Könengeiser in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Isaac Könengeiser and Hannah Kraenzer. The family emigrated to the United States, settling on New York’s Lower East Side in 1892. Hattie’s first job was as a messenger at R. H. Macy’s, where she encountered the heady new world of modern retailing and the lifestyle of affluent New York. That experience may have inspired her to assume the name Carnegie; ...