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Ellison, William (1790–05 December 1861), cotton-gin maker and planter, was born a slave in Fairfield District, South Carolina. His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William, and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown. Originally named April, the mulatto child received exceptional treatment. His master apprenticed him to William McCreight, a white cotton-gin maker in Winnsboro. From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight’s gin shop, learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman. During his training, he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic bookkeeping skills. He also became well versed in interracial social skills as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins. These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts. Ellison’s owner, William Ellison, allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to purchase his freedom on 8 June 1816....

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Peek, George Nelson (19 November 1873–17 December 1943), businessman, farm leader, and New Deal administrator, was born at Polo, a small village in northern Illinois, the son of Henry Clay Peek, a livestock merchant and local sheriff, and Adeline Chase. In 1885 the family moved to a farm near Oregon, Illinois. In 1891 Peek attended Northwestern University, remaining there one academic year. After briefly working as an office assistant for a furniture company, he was hired in January 1893 in Minneapolis by Deere and Webber, a branch of the John Deere Plow Company. He rose from credit manager and salesman to head of the collections department....