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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 ).

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Harriman, W. Averell (15 November 1891–26 July 1986), businessman and government official, was born William Averell Harriman in New York City, the son of the railroad organizer Edward H. Harriman and Mary Averell (Mary Williamson Averell Harriman). He spent his early years in New York and on the family estate of Arden in the nearby Ramapo Mountains. He was educated at Groton and Yale. Harriman did poorly in preparatory studies, which brought admonishment from his father, and it is possible that his stammer, which he carried throughout his long life, resulted from this experience. At Yale he did better academically, and excelled socially....

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Hayne, Robert Young (10 November 1791–24 September 1839), U.S. senator, governor of South Carolina, and railroad president, was born on the Pon Pon rice plantation in the Colleton District of South Carolina, the fifth of fourteen children born to William Hayne, a planter and one of the youngest members of South Carolina’s 1790 constitutional convention, and Elizabeth Peronneau. Owing to the large number of children in the Hayne family, a formal education for Robert was not feasible. After his initial years of educational preparation under Mr. William Mason and Dr. John Smith in Charleston, Hayne studied law in the office of State Senator ...

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Kelley, Alfred (07 November 1789–02 December 1859), promoter of canal, railroad, banking, and taxation systems, was born in Middlefield, Connecticut, the son of Daniel Kelley, a large property owner, and Jemima Stow. When Kelley was nine years old he and his family moved to Lowville, New York. He later attended an academy at Fairfield and read law for three years in Whitesboro, both in that state. In 1810 he went on horseback with his uncle, Joshua Stow (who in 1796 had helped survey the Western Reserve), and a young medical student, ...

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King, William (09 February 1768–17 June 1852), merchant shipper, army officer, and governor of Maine, was born in Scarborough, Maine, the son of Richard King, a merchant and shipowner, and Mary Black. He was educated at home, but he spent one term at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts....

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Lacock, Abner (09 July 1770–12 April 1837), state and national leader and canal builder, was born on Cub Run, near Alexandria, Virginia, the son of William Lacock and Lovey (maiden name unknown), farmers. Around 1780 his family settled in Washington County in western Pennsylvania; there they bought a 120-acre farm in Amwell Township, and Abner helped his parents in planting and in harvesting crops. Between 1782 and 1786 Lacock attended Thaddeus Dodd’s Academy in Amity, Pennsylvania, and studied mathematics, surveying, and the classics. In 1788 he married Hannah Eddy, and the couple had three sons and four daughters....

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Low, Frederick Ferdinand (30 June 1828–21 July 1894), businessman, politician, and diplomat, was born in Frankfort (present-day Winterport), Maine, into a Penobscot Valley farming family. His parents’ names are not known. Frederick Low attended public schools and Hampden Academy. At age fifteen he was apprenticed to Russell, Sturgis and Company, a Boston firm with a large China trade. He enriched his education by attending Fanuiel Hall and Lowell Institute lectures. Low completed his apprenticeship in 1849 and joined other Forty-niners in California. For three months he panned gold on the American River. Taking some $1,500 from his claim, he declared himself “satisfied” and returned to San Francisco to commence successful careers in business and government....

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Ogden, Aaron (03 December 1756–19 April 1839), soldier, public official, and entrepreneur, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Robert Ogden II, a lawyer, and Phebe Hatfield. He attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and graduated with the class of 1773. Over the next three years he taught school, first in Princeton, then in Elizabethtown, but with the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and its American colonies, he was quickly drawn into the revolutionary confrontation....

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Leland Stanford. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93136).

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Stanford, Leland (09 March 1824–21 June 1893), corporation head, governor of California, and U.S. senator, was born Amasa Leland Stanford in Watervliet, New York, the son of prosperous gentry parents Josiah Stanford and Elizabeth Phillips. Josiah Stanford was an innkeeper, landowner, and bridge and road contractor; he was also a strong supporter of the Erie Canal. Leland (he rarely used his first name) Stanford attended local schools until adolescence and then was educated at home under the tutelage of his mother. Legend has it that young Stanford was a voracious reader; books do not seem to have been of much interest to him in later life. In his late teens, Stanford attended the nearby Clinton Liberal Institute and, later, the Cazenovia Seminary. He read law with the Albany firm of Wheaton, Doolittle and Hadley and was admitted to the bar in 1848. That same year Stanford traveled to Port Washington, Wisconsin, to begin his legal practice. Stanford married Jane Lathrop ( ...

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Swann, Thomas (03 February 1809–24 July 1883), governor of Maryland, mayor of Baltimore, and railroad executive, was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the son of Thomas Swann, a wealthy Washington lawyer, and Jane Byrd Page, a member of a prestigious Virginia family. Swann attended preparatory school at Columbian College in Washington and studied law at the University of Virginia in 1826–1827, continuing his studies in his father’s office. Talented and energetic, he caught the eye of ...