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Bullock, Rufus Brown (28 March 1834–27 April 1907), businessman and Reconstruction governor of Georgia, was born in Bethlehem, New York, the son of Volckert Veeder Bullock, a foundry operator and early promoter of the telegraph through his House Printing Telegraph Company, and Jane Eliza Brown. The family moved to Albion, New York, in 1840; Bullock was educated at Albion Academy....

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Burns, Otway, Jr. (1775–25 October 1850), privateer, shipbuilder, and state legislator, was born on Queen’s Creek, Onslow County, North Carolina, the son of Otway Burns and Lisanah (maiden name unknown), farmers. Little is known of Burns’s education or youth. Apparently he went to sea at an early age and became a skilled seaman. In 1806 the Onslow County Court apprenticed an orphan lad to Burns to learn navigation. Prior to the War of 1812, Burns was master of a merchantman engaged in the coastwise trade between North Carolina and New England....

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Ambrose E. Burnside Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1625).

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Burnside, Ambrose Everett (23 May 1824–13 September 1881), soldier and businessman, was born in Liberty, Indiana, the son of Pamelia Brown and Edghill Burnside, a law clerk and farmer. The Burnsides had nine children and only a modest income, so Ambrose received no more than a rudimentary education before starting work as an apprentice tailor in 1840. His father took advantage of a term in the state legislature to have the boy appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which he entered on 1 July 1843. He graduated eighteenth out of thirty-eight cadets in the class of 1847 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Artillery. His battery was serving in the Mexican War, and he joined it in Mexico City, too late to see action. Bored, he gambled away six months’ pay. Further embarrassment was prevented by a posting, in spring 1848, to Fort Adams, Rhode Island....

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James Couzens. [left to right] C. C. Dill, Owen Young, and James Couzens, before the Senate Interstate Commerce Commission. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98142).

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Couzens, James (26 August 1872–22 October 1936), businessman, mayor of Detroit, and U.S. senator, was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, the son of James J. Couzens and Emma Clift, an immigrant couple from England. Raised in a stern Presbyterian household and a lower-income family that lived on the “muddiest” street in town, young Couzens’s education was capped by two years of bookkeeping study at Chatham’s Canada Business College. He worked as a newsboy and then stirring smelly, boiling vats for his father, who had parlayed his skills as a soapmaker and salesman into ownership of a small soap-making factory. Displaying an assertive independence, which contemporaries noted that he had inherited from his stern-willed father, young Couzens set off for Detroit to test his mettle in the larger world and in 1890 was taken on as a railroad car–checker for the Michigan Central. Five years later he became an assistant bookkeeper for Alex Malcomson’s coal business, which brought him into contact with a mechanical tinkerer and automobile pioneer named ...

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Drake, Francis Marion (30 December 1830–20 November 1903), army officer, railroad promoter and executive, and governor of Iowa, was born in the western Illinois hamlet of Rushville, the son of John Adams Drake, a merchant and small-time capitalist, and Harriet Jane O’Neal. Drake grew up in a family of modest means. In 1837 his father relocated the family to the raw frontier settlement of Fort Madison, Iowa, then part of Wisconsin Territory. The Drakes stayed in this Mississippi River community until March 1846, when they moved to inland Davis County. There Francis’s father founded the town of Drakesville and pursued agricultural and banking interests. Like his thirteen brothers and sisters Francis received rudimentary formal education. He attended public schools in Fort Madison, although he never graduated from high school. But Drake expanded his knowledge through his own initiative; he read widely and enthusiastically and associated with “learned” people....

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Fargo, William George (20 May 1818–03 August 1881), business leader and mayor of Buffalo, New York, was born in Pompey, New York, the son of William C. Fargo, a farmer and mail contractor, and Tacy Strong, a farmer. The eldest of twelve children, Fargo grew accustomed to steady work at an early age. He had little formal education and at the age of thirteen secured a job carrying the mail on horseback twice a week over a thirty-mile route. Since Fargo’s father was also a mail carrier, Fargo may well have owed this opportunity to his father’s influence. He supplemented his income as a mail carrier by running a variety of errands for his neighbors, for which he was paid a small commission. These errands included carrying parcels and messages and purchasing goods at local stores. It is likely that this experience helped to shape Fargo’s later determination to establish a business that would perform these tasks on a regular basis and on a greatly extended geographical scale....

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Fuller, Alvan Tufts (27 February 1878–30 April 1958), automobile dealer, congressman, and governor of Massachusetts, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Alvan Bond Fuller, a Civil War veteran who worked in the composing room of the Boston Globe, and Flora Arabella Tufts. He grew up in an old New England family of modest means in the Boston suburb of Malden, where he attended public schools. A champion bicycle racer, he went to work in the shipping department of the Boston Rubber Shoe Company factory and sold rubber boots evenings and weekends to earn money to build his own bike shop. After Fuller opened the shop in Malden in 1895 his ebullient personality and flair for salesmanship made it an immediate success. A notable Fuller innovation was his Washington’s Birthday open house, which gave customers an opportunity to view new models on a winter holiday and to plan their spring purchases. He moved his business to Boston in 1898....

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W. Averell Harriman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105320 ).