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Charles Francis Adams, Jr. During his Civil War service. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8171-7390).

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Adams, Charles Francis (27 May 1835–20 March 1915), railroad official, civic leader, and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), a diplomat and politician, and Abigail Brown Brooks. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) and great-grandson of ...

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Nelson W. Aldrich. Drawing by Arthur Dove, published in Success, 1909. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54138).

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Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth (06 November 1841–16 April 1915), U.S. senator, congressman, and businessman, was born in Foster, Rhode Island, the son of Anan Aldrich and Abby Burgess, farmers. Having received a modest education in East Killingly, Connecticut, and at the East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island, Aldrich was by age seventeen working in Providence. Eventually a large wholesale grocery firm, Waldron, Wightman & Co., hired him as a clerk and bookkeeper. His career there was briefly interrupted in 1862 by service with the Tenth Rhode Island Volunteers garrisoning Washington, D.C. After contracting typhoid that same year he returned to Providence and, by 1866, had been elevated to junior partner at Waldron, Wightman. He married Abby Chapman that year; the couple would have eleven children. His wife was of independent means, but Aldrich insisted on accumulating a fortune on his own account and gradually did so. He worked his way up to full partner at Waldron, Wightman, was a director of the Roger Williams Bank by 1872, and by 1877 was president of Providence’s First National Bank. He also headed the city’s Board of Trade in these years....

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Alexander, Edward Porter (26 May 1835–28 April 1910), Confederate soldier and author, was born in Washington, Georgia, the son of Adam Leopold Alexander, a planter and banker, and Sarah Hillhouse Gilbert. Educated by tutors in his wealthy family’s household, Alexander entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1853 and graduated third in the class of 1857. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant of engineers on 1 July 1857 and was promoted to second lieutenant on 10 October 1858. Marked from the first as a promising officer, he taught at West Point immediately upon graduation, accompanied ...

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Ames, Oliver (05 November 1807–09 March 1877), manufacturer and railroad promoter and official, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a pioneer manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. Early in his childhood the family returned to their home in North Easton, twenty miles south of Boston. Ames attended the local schools and also became an adept worker in his father’s shovel works. At the age of twenty-one, having been temporarily disabled by a severe fall, he entered Franklin Academy at North Andover, Massachusetts. He was interested in debating clubs and intended to ultimately study law....

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Andrews, Alexander Boyd (23 July 1841–17 April 1915), railroad executive, was born near Franklinton, North Carolina, the son of William J. Andrews, a small planter and merchant, and Virginia Hawkins. The family soon moved to Henderson, North Carolina. After the death of his mother in 1852 and his father the next year, young Andrews passed into the care of his mother’s family. In 1859, not yet eighteen years old, he left the Henderson Male Academy to work for his uncle Philemon B. Hawkins, who had a construction contract on the Blue Ridge Railroad in South Carolina. In short order he was promoted to superintendent, paymaster, and purchasing agent of his uncle’s operation....

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Atterbury, William Wallace (31 January 1866–20 September 1935), railroad executive, was born in New Albany, Indiana, the son of John G. Atterbury, an attorney and Presbyterian home missionary, and Catherine Larned. After graduating from Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School in 1886, Atterbury entered the mechanical engineering department of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) as an apprentice in the Altoona, Pennsylvania, shops. In 1889, he was named road foreman of engines and in 1892 was promoted to assistant engineer of motive power for PRR Lines West (of Pittsburgh). Three years later he became master mechanic of the road’s Fort Wayne, Indiana, shops—the second-largest on the system, after Altoona. In 1896 Atterbury returned to Altoona as superintendent of motive power for PRR Lines East and five years later became general superintendent of motive power for the entire PRR, then the nation’s largest railroad by nearly every measure....

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Austell, Alfred (14 January 1814–07 December 1881), businessman and financier, was born in Dandridge, Tennessee, the son of William Austell and Jane Wilkins, farmers. Austell was reared in the East Tennessee foothills and received little formal education. At the age of seventeen he left Tennessee to join his older brother William’s cotton business in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The business was heavily encumbered by debts, but Austell and his brother were able to turn it into a success and pay off their $20,000 liability in just three years....

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Baer, George Frederick (26 September 1842–26 April 1914), lawyer and railroad president, was born in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, the son of Major Solomon Baer and Anna Baker, farmers. George spent his early years on the family farm until the Baers moved to the village of Somerset in 1848. Family resources enabled him to acquire his early education at the Somerset Institute. At age thirteen he served as an apprentice at the ...