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Armstrong, John (13 October 1717–09 March 1795), soldier, surveyor, and member of the Continental Congress, was born in County Fermanagh, Ulster, Ireland. The identities of his Scotch-Irish parents and circumstances of his youth are unclear, but his father may have been named James. A trained surveyor, John Armstrong evidently received some education fairly early in life. Sometime in the mid-1740s Armstrong immigrated to America, settling initially in Delaware and then in Pennsylvania, where he worked as a surveyor. It was probably at some point after his arrival in America that he married Rebeckah Armstrong. The couple had two sons (the younger, ...

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Bradley, William Czar (23 March 1782–04 March 1867), politician and attorney, was born in Westminster, Vermont, the son of Stephen Row Bradley, an attorney and U.S. senator, and Merab Atwater, who died soon after his birth. He contracted scarlet fever at age two, and it is likely that the disease resulted in hearing loss, which became pronounced. During his early years Bradley lived with his grandparents in Cheshire, Connecticut, and began school at Charlestown, New Hampshire....

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Bulfinch, Charles (08 August 1763–15 April 1844), civil servant and architect, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Bulfinch, a physician, and Susan Apthorp. Scion of long-established and wealthy colonial families, some members of which had been recognized amateur architects whose books were available to him, Bulfinch graduated from Harvard College in 1781. Apparently it was at Harvard that he learned drafting and the geometrical construction of linear perspective. After a period in the counting house of Joseph Barrell, where, as he later wrote, the “unsettled state of the time” produced “leisure to cultivate a taste for Architecture,” he spent the period from June 1785 to January 1787 on a grand tour of England, France, and Italy, “observing … the wonders of Architecture, & the kindred arts of painting and sculpture.” Described by Louis XVI’s director general of gardens and buildings as “un gentilhomme américain” who was already “plein de goût et de connaissance dan [ ...

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Clark, Abraham (15 February 1726–15 September 1794), surveyor, politician, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey, the son of Thomas Clark, a farmer, town alderman, and county judge, and Hannah Winans. Although he was referred to as “the poor man’s counsellor,” as far as is known he had no formal education or legal training, having turned as a young man to surveying and writing land conveyances because a “frail” constitution made him unfit for active farming. He did transact a good deal of legal business, including drawing up deeds, mortgages, and other papers. He married Sarah Hatfield (or Hetfield), probably in 1749. They had ten children, six or seven of whom survived childhood....

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Leeds, John (18 May 1705– March 1790), public official, surveyor, and mathematician, was born at Bay Hundred, Talbot County, Maryland, the son of Edward Leeds and Ruth Ball. Leeds, apparently self-educated, developed an expertise in mathematics and an interest in astronomy. He married Rachel Harrison in a Quaker ceremony in 1726; the couple had three daughters. He resided in Talbot County for his entire life and held a variety of public offices, beginning in 1734 as a justice of the peace....

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Maclay, Samuel (17 June 1741–05 October 1811), surveyor and politician, was born in Lurgan Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Maclay and Eleanor Query, both immigrants from Ireland. The details of his childhood are unknown, except that he was educated at the classical school of the Reverend Dr. Alison. During 1767–1768 Maclay was an assistant to his brother ...

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Maclay, William (20 July 1737–16 April 1804), surveyor, legislator, and diarist, was born in New Garden Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Maclay and Eleanor Query, farmers, both of whom had emigrated from Lurgan in County Antrim, Ireland, three years earlier. In 1742 the family moved to what became Lurgan Township in Franklin County, three miles north of what is now Shippensburg. John Blair presided over an academy there at which William began his formal education. To further his studies he was sent to ...

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Meem, John Gaw (17 November 1894–04 August 1983), architect and preservationist, was born in Pelotas, Brazil, the son of John Gaw Meem III and Elsa Krishke, Episcopalian missionaries. From 1910 until 1914 Meem attended the Virginia Military Institute, graduating with a degree in civil engineering. He was an infantry captain in Iowa from 1917 until 1919. After World War I Meem worked as a banker in Brazil, but he had to return to the United States to be treated for tuberculosis. He was admitted as a patient at Sunmount Sanatorium near Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the spring of 1920. Although Santa Fe had a population of only 10,000 in 1920, there was a vocal group of people who wanted any growth in the area to occur within the architectural traditions of the native Pueblos and the Spanish settlers. Meem immediately was drawn into this circle in part because the founder and head of the sanatorium, Frank Mera, and several patients (like the painter Carlos Vierra) were advocates for preserving the distinctive character of Santa Fe....

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Robert Moses. With model of proposed Battery Bridge. Photograph by C. M. Spieglitz, 1939. Courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection: LC-USZ62-136065).

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Moses, Robert (18 December 1888–29 July 1981), public official, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Emanuel Moses, a department store owner, and Bella Silverman. His family moved to Manhattan when he was nine. He attended various private schools, including the Ethical Culture School and the Dwight School, supplemented by private tutoring. At fifteen he was sent to the Mohegan Lake Academy, a boarding school near Poughkeepsie, before he returned to New Haven to attend Yale in 1905. Moses graduated in 1909, one of only five Jews in his class. An avid reader and reportedly a brilliant student, he continued his education first at Oxford and then later at Columbia University, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in political science in 1914. His doctoral dissertation, which he had started at Oxford, was titled ...

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Smith, Daniel (17 October 1748–16 June 1818), revolutionary soldier, statesman, and surveyor, was born near Aquia Creek in Stafford County, Virginia, the son of Henry Smith and Sarah Crosby. The eldest of twelve children, he attended the College of William and Mary and then studied both law and medicine. However, he also learned the use of surveying instruments while still a teenager, and the demand for frontier surveys kept him occupied principally in that profession for most of his life....

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Stewart, John George (02 June 1890–24 May 1970), congressman and architect of the U.S. Capitol, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Hamilton Stewart, a stonecutter turned successful contractor, and Marie Schaefer. Stewart studied civil engineering at the University of Delaware, leaving during his third year of study in 1911 to assume a clerkship in his father’s contracting firm, Stewart and Donahue, and to marry Helen Tabor Ferry of Norristown, Pennsylvania. As Stewart rose through the ranks of the company, achieving a partnership in 1919 and the presidency in 1929, the firm grew to be one of the largest of its type on the East Coast. Under his direction Stewart’s company obtained numerous federal and commercial contracts for the construction of roads, bridges, and factories. The firm’s restoration of the original Du Pont black powder plant at Hagley, Delaware, led to commissions to supervise construction of the ...

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Thornton, William (20 May 1759–28 March 1828), architect, civil servant, and essayist, was born on the island of Tortola in the West Indies, the son of William Thornton, a planter, and Dorcas Zeagers. The senior Thornton died when his son was five years old, and the boy went to live with relatives in Lancashire, England. He served a medical apprenticeship in Lancashire, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and received a medical degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1784. After his graduation he traveled in France and the British Isles before returning to Tortola in 1786. Enamored of the republican ideals of the American Revolution, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1786 and became a citizen of the United States in 1788. He established a medical practice in Philadelphia but soon abandoned it, finding the practice boring and the fees unsatisfactory. Thornton enjoyed a creditable income from his West Indies plantation, which allowed him to pursue his intellectual and artistic interests. His education and European background won him admittance to intellectual circles in Philadelphia, including election to the American Philosophical Society. Thornton married Anna Marie Brodeau, a well-educated and cultured girl of fifteen, in 1790. They spent two years on Thornton’s plantation on Tortola, returned to Philadelphia, and in 1794 made their home in the new city of Washington, where they resided for the remainder of their lives. They had no children....