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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 ...

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Baldwin, William Henry, Jr. (05 February 1863–03 January 1905), railroad executive and philanthropist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Henry Baldwin, a dry goods merchant, and Mary Chaffee. A direct descendant of an English settler who had arrived in Massachusetts before 1640, Baldwin grew up in a family noted for its commitment to abolition and other reforms. His father founded the Young Men’s Christian Union of Boston, an adult social service organization. When Baldwin was five years old, his father retired from his successful mercantile career to serve as the union’s president....

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Ball, George Alexander (05 November 1862–22 October 1955), glassmaker and railroad tycoon, was born on a farm near Greensburg, Trumbull County, Ohio, the son of Lucius Styles Ball, a farmer and inventor, and Maria Polly Bingham, a teacher. Young George attended the common schools and then Canandaigua Academy in upstate New York, an institution that was probably the equivalent of a modern junior college. In 1893 he married Frances E. Woodworth, with whom he would have one child....

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Barnes, James (28 December 1801–12 February 1869), railroad executive and soldier, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Captain William Barnes and Jane (maiden name unknown). He was educated at the Latin School of Boston and went into business after graduation; but he desired a military life and in 1825 secured an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Barnes was an excellent student and graduated fifth in the illustrious class of 1829, which included ...

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Billings, Frederick (27 September 1823–30 September 1890), lawyer and railroad president, was born in Royalton, Vermont, the son of Oel Billings, a farmer and later register of probate, and Sophia Wetherbee. In 1835 Billings’s father, a debtor, was instructed by the court to move to Woodstock, Vermont, as the law required that he live within a mile of a jail. Frederick Billings found schooling in Woodstock inadequate and persuaded his parents to send him to Kimball Union Academy. In 1840 he entered the University of Vermont, graduating in 1844. He studied law as an apprentice to Oliver Phelps Chandler in Woodstock and in 1846 became secretary of civil and military affairs to Horace Eaton, the Whig governor of the state. Eaton and Billings pressed in particular for school reform....

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Boteler, Alexander Robinson (16 May 1815–08 May 1892), congressman and businessman, was born in Shepherdstown, Virginia (now W.Va.), the son of Henry Boteler, a physician, and Priscilla Robinson. His mother died when he was only four, so Boteler was raised by his grandmother in Baltimore. He graduated from Princeton College in 1835 and married Helen Macomb Stockton the next year; they had at least one child. After his father’s death in 1836, Boteler moved to the family farm, where he earned recognition for agricultural experimentation, including the development of farm machinery. He also operated a flour and cement mill. He soon became a man of some wealth and was reported as owning an estate worth $41,000 in the 1860 census, including fifteen slaves....

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Boyle, Jeremiah Tilford (22 May 1818–28 July 1871), soldier and railroad entrepreneur, was born in Mercer County, Kentucky, the son of John Boyle, a judge, and Elizabeth Tilford. His father was described as “one of the most conspicuous figures in the public life of Kentucky for more than a third of a century” (Levin, p. 157). Boyle was educated at Centre and Transylvania colleges in his native state and in 1839 graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1841, he practiced law in Harrodsburg and later that year in Danville. In 1842 he married Elizabeth Owsley Anderson; they had twelve children....

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Diamond Jim Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Brady, Diamond Jim (12 August 1856–13 April 1917), businessman and cultural icon, was born James Buchanan Brady in New York City, the son of Daniel Brady, a saloonkeeper, and his wife, whose name is not recorded. After attending local schools until the age of eleven, he left home and became a bellboy at the nearby St. James Hotel. While working there he befriended John M. Toucey, an official with the New York Central Railroad, who offered Brady (by then fifteen) a job in the firm's baggage department. After a few months of moving baggage by day and studying bookkeeping, at Paine's Business College, by night, he became a ticket agent at the Central's Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. In 1874 Brady became a clerk in the home office, and in 1877 he was promoted to the position of Toucey's chief clerk. It was here that Brady began to display his love of fine clothing and nightlife, personal indulgences that would characterize his later lifestyle....

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Brice, Calvin Stewart (17 September 1845–15 December 1898), U.S. senator, railroad builder, and financier, was born in Denmark, Ohio, the son of William Kilpatrick Brice, a Presbyterian minister, and Elizabeth Stewart. He received his earliest education at home and in the public schools of Columbus Grove, Putnam County, where his family moved after his third birthday. When Brice turned thirteen years old, his parents placed him in the preparatory program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where because of his father’s limited means he had to work his way through school. He required only one year of preparatory work before being granted admission as a freshman....

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Brown, William Carlos (29 July 1853–06 December 1924), railroad executive, was born in Norway, Herkimer County, New York, the son of Charles E. Brown, a Baptist minister, and Frances Lyon. The family moved to Vernon Springs, Iowa, in 1857. Brown attended public schools briefly and was then tutored at home. In 1869 he joined a section gang on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway (St. Paul Road) in Illinois. He advanced to fireman and telegrapher, and in 1876 he was hired by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. During the next twenty-five years Brown moved up through the ranks of the CB&Q, which served as a training ground for several generations of railroad leaders. Ambitious and hardworking, Brown was noticed by CB&Q executives when, in the midst of a blizzard, he completed his telegrapher’s shift and then voluntarily helped to unload cattle trapped in stockcars. Determined to find better methods of operating the railroad, Brown offered many suggestions and initiatives, leading to his promotion in 1896 to general manager at Chicago, where he served for five years....