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du Pont, Henry Francis (27 May 1880–11 April 1969), art collector and horticulturist, was born in Winterthur, Delaware, the son of Henry Algernon du Pont, an army officer and U.S. senator, and Mary Pauline Foster. After taking an A.B. at Harvard College in 1903, the young du Pont spent a number of years traveling throughout the United States and Europe, the du Ponts’ financial success having released him from career obligations. In 1914, however, his father asked that he take over the day-to-day management of the dairy farming operation at “Winterthur Farms,” the family farm in rural Delaware. Under du Pont’s meticulous direction the farm developed a nationally famous and prize-winning herd of Holstein-Friesian cattle, specimens of which were consistently voted among the best of breed in the country, serving as the foundation for many other registered Holstein herds throughout the United States. The spectacular success of the cattle herd, in combination with du Pont’s unusual willingness to experiment with innovative new practices in soil conservation and crop production, allowed Winterthur Farms to develop a reputation as the model of a modern American dairy farm....

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Favill, Henry Baird (14 August 1860–20 February 1916), physician, civic leader, and farmer, was born in Madison, Wisconsin, the son of John Favill, a physician, and Louise Sophia Baird. Through his mother, Favill descended from the Ottawa chief, Kewinoquot (“Returning Cloud”), and took pride in this ancestry. Henry received his early education in the Madison schools, graduating from high school in 1876. He entered the University of Wisconsin that fall, took the classical course, and received his B.A. in 1880. Although his father had taken his M.D. at the Harvard Medical School, Favill entered Rush Medical College in the fall of 1880. For two years he served as prosector to Charles T. Parkes, professor of anatomy. His grades were so high that in his senior year he filled in at Cook County and St. Luke’s hospitals for several interns when they were ill or on vacation and so obtained valuable practical experience. He received his M.D. in 1883....

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Kolb, Reuben Francis (16 April 1839–23 March 1918), scientific farmer and leader in the Populist movement, was born in Eufaula, Alabama, the son of Davis Cameron Kolb, a merchant and cotton factor, and Emily Frances Shorter. Both of Kolb’s parents died within two years of his birth, and his maternal grandfather, General Reuben C. Shorter, and his uncle, John Gill Shorter, who served as governor during the Civil War, reared him. The public service of his ancestors impressed Reuben Francis. He attended Howard (Samford) College and the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1859. In 1860 he married Mary Caledonia Cargile; they had three children....

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McFarland, J. Horace (24 September 1859–02 October 1948), printer, civic reformer, and rosarian, was born John Horace McFarland in McAlisterville, Pennsylvania, the son of George Fisher McFarland, a schoolteacher, and Adeline Dellicher Griesemer. Following the Civil War, the family moved to Harrisburg, where Horace’s father bought and operated the Riverside Nurseries, a large property along the Susquehanna River. When he was sixteen, McFarland started setting type for the ...

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Edmund Ruffin. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-123816).

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Ruffin, Edmund (05 January 1794–17 June 1865), agricultural reformer and southern nationalist, was born in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of James River planter George Ruffin and Jane Lucas. As a consequence of the early demise of his parents and the absence of siblings near his own age, Ruffin grew up in an atmosphere of emotional isolation. He became a voracious reader, digesting, for example, all of Shakespeare’s plays before reaching the age of eleven. He also developed a fierce sense of independence and a determination to control his own destiny. During these formative years Ruffin was profoundly influenced by Thomas Cocke, who became his legal guardian following the death of his father in 1810 and remained his closest friend for the next thirty years. Ruffin enrolled in the College of William and Mary shortly before his father’s death but withdrew after little more than a year of study. During his brief residence in Williamsburg, he formed an amorous attachment to a local belle, Susan Hutchings Travis, whom he married in 1813. After six months’ service as a militia private during the War of 1812, Ruffin returned home to claim his inheritance, a 1,600-acre farm at Coggin’s Point on the south side of the James River, bequeathed to him by his grandfather. There, in company with the bride who would bear him eleven children within a span of eighteen years, Ruffin embarked upon a career as a gentleman-farmer....

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Strong, Harriet Williams Russell (23 July 1844–16 September 1926), agribusinesswoman, inventor, and engineer, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Henry Pierrepont Russell and Mary Guest Musier. Her family moved to California in the 1850s, and Harriet attended the Mary Atkins...

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Wharton, William Harris (1802–14 March 1839), lawyer, planter, and activist for Texas independence, was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, the son of William Wharton and Judith Harris. His father, who combined planting with milling and distilling, followed his lawyer brothers to Nashville, Tennessee, in the early 1800s. Both parents died in 1816, and William, his brother John Austin Wharton, and two sisters were raised by their uncle, Jesse Wharton, a prominent lawyer and briefly a U.S. senator. The uncle, a supporter of ...