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Belknap, William Worth (22 September 1829–12 or 13 Oct. 1890), secretary of war, was born in Newburgh, New York, the son of William Goldsmith Belknap, a career army officer, and Ann Clark. Following his graduation from Princeton in 1846, he studied law at Georgetown University. Belknap moved to Keokuk, Iowa, in 1851 and became the law partner of Ralph P. Lowe, who later became the governor of Iowa and a state supreme court justice....

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William W. Belknap. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2034).

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Christopher D. O’Sullivan

Dern, George Henry (08 September 1872–27 August 1936), secretary of war, was born in Dodge County, Nebraska, the son of John Dern, a pioneer Nebraska farmer, mine operator, and industrialist, and Elizabeth, whose maiden name was the same as her married name, Dern. Both parents were German immigrants. Dern graduated from Nebraska’s Fremont Normal College in 1888 and from 1893 to 1894 attended the University of Nebraska, where he was captain of the football team. In 1894 he accompanied his family to Salt Lake City, joining the Mercur Gold Mining and Milling Company, which his father served as president. Rising rapidly from bookkeeper to company treasurer, he was promoted in 1901 to general manager of the company, which had been reorganized as the Consolidated Mercur Gold Mines Company. Dern was coinventor of the Holt-Dern roaster, a furnace for carrying out the Holt-Christenson roasting process, a technique for recovering silver from low-grade ores. In 1899 he married Charlotte “Lottie” Brown; they had seven children....

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Matthews, Francis Patrick (15 March 1887–18 October 1952), secretary of the navy, was born in Albion, Nebraska, the son of Patrick Henry Matthews, a merchant, and Mary Ann Sullivan. Although his father died when Matthews was eleven, he was able to complete his secondary schooling in Albion and then work his way through Creighton University in Omaha by waiting on tables and doing janitorial chores. He graduated in 1910 and completed his legal studies at Creighton three years later. Matthews was admitted to the bar in 1913 and practiced law in Omaha, where he became a partner in the firm of Frandenburg and Matthews. He was also active in several business ventures. In 1914 he married Mary Claire Hughes; they had six children....

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Smith, Robert (03 November 1757–26 November 1842), U.S. secretary of state and secretary of the navy, was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the son of John Smith, a merchant, and Mary Buchanan. When he was two, he moved with his family to Baltimore. During the Revolution he served briefly in the Continental army as a private, seeing action at Brandywine, but he graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) with the class of 1781. After the war he studied law in Baltimore and was admitted to the bar. Baltimore emerged in these years as an important American port, and Smith took up the practice of admiralty law, aided by good family connections. In 1790 he married Margaret Smith. The couple had eight children....

Article

Stoddert, Benjamin (1751–17 December 1813), first secretary of the Naval Department, was born in Charles County, Maryland, the son of Thomas Stoddert, a tobacco planter, and Sarah Marshall, daughter of a prominent family in the same colony. Nothing is known of his early education, but as a young man he served an apprenticeship in the merchant community of Philadelphia, where his friends included the young ...