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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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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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Julius H. Barnes. Right, with Thomas Lamont, left, and Silas Strawn. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92371).

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Barnes, Julius Howland (02 February 1873–17 April 1959), industrialist and government official, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Lucien Jerome Barnes, a banker, and Julia Hill. Moving with his family, he attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Duluth, Minnesota. Following his father’s death in 1886, Barnes left school to take a job as office boy with the Duluth grain brokerage firm of Wardell Ames. There he rose rapidly, becoming president of the company in 1910 and subsequently reorganizing it as the Barnes-Ames Company. By 1915 Barnes-Ames was the world’s largest grain exporter, and Barnes acquired other business interests, principally in shipbuilding and Great Lakes shipping. In 1896 he married Harriet Carey, with whom he had two children....

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Jacqueline Cochran Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105221).

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Cochran, Jacqueline (1910?–09 August 1980), pioneer aviator and business executive, was born in Muscogee, Florida, near Pensacola. Her parents both died during her infancy, and she was raised by foster families with whom she worked in the lumber mills of the Florida panhandle. By the age of fifteen she had also worked in a Columbus, Georgia, cotton mill and learned how to cut hair in a beauty shop. Cochran took nursing training at a hospital in Montgomery, Alabama, from 1925 to 1928, but by 1930 she had returned to Pensacola to work in a beauty salon. In 1932 she traveled to Philadelphia to work in a beauty shop and then moved in the same year to New York City, where her skill earned her a job at Antoine’s, a well-known Saks Fifth Avenue beauty shop. For the next four years she worked for this business, spending every winter working in Antoine’s branch in Miami Beach, Florida. She met ...

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Edward Knight Collins. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109875).

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Collins, Edward Knight (05 August 1802–22 January 1878), merchant and shipping operator, was born in Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the son of Israel Gross Collins, a sea captain, merchant trader, and ship owner, and Mary Ann Knight, an Englishwoman who died soon after Edward’s birth. After his mother’s death, his father moved to New York City, leaving Edward to be raised by the Collins family. Edward’s uncle (and later business associate), John Collins, was an important influence....

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Erastus Corning. Illustration from Harper's Weekly, 27 April 1872. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102401).

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Corning, Erastus (14 December 1794–09 April 1872), manufacturer and railroad executive, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Bliss Corning and Lucinda Smith. About 1805 the family moved to Chatham, New York, a few miles southeast of Albany. Erastus completed a common school education and, at about age thirteen, moved to nearby Troy to work in his uncle Benjamin Smith’s hardware business. Smith was particularly helpful to Erastus, perhaps because an injury in infancy had left the boy with a lifelong reliance on crutches....

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Crocker, Alvah (14 October 1801–26 December 1874), manufacturer, railroad promoter, and congressman, was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Crocker and Comfort Jones. His parents were among the founders of the Baptist church in Leominster, and they imparted a strong work ethic to their seven sons, of whom Alvah was the eldest. He went to work at the age of eight in a Leominster paper mill, where he earned twenty-five cents for each twelve-hour day. He received little formal education (one year at Groton Academy at age sixteen), but he read widely on his own, and his letters displayed a bent toward literature and rhetoric. He subsequently worked in other paper mills in Franklin, New Hampshire, and Fitchburg, Massachusetts, before he started his first industrial concern, a paper manufactory in Fitchburg in 1826....

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Crown, Henry (13 June 1896–14 August 1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born Henry Krinsky in Chicago, the son of Arie Krinsky, a Lithuanian immigrant garment worker, and his wife Ida Gordon. At some point they changed their name to Crown. To help his poor family, Crown took a job at age fourteen as clerk at the Chicago Firebrick Company. In 1912 he began work at the Union Drop Forge Company, while taking night courses in accounting. In 1915 he and his two older brothers, Sol and Irving, formed a small steel-brokerage company, S. A. Crown and Company, and Crown quickly established a local reputation as an aggressive and reliable deal maker with a discerning eye for opportunity, a striking power of recall, and an acute sense of timing....

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du Pont, Henry Belin (23 July 1898–13 April 1970), executive and engineer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Henry Belin du Pont, a businessman, and Eleuthera du Pont Bradford, an executive. He earned a B.A. in history from Yale University in 1920 and a B.S. in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1923....

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Fink, Mike (1770–1823), scout, keelboatman, and trapper, was born at Fort Pitt, part of present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His ancestry was probably Scotch-Irish and Pennsylvania German. It is hard to separate fact from fiction concerning Mike Fink. Early in his life he was an expert marksman with his Kentucky rifle. While still a teenager, he was probably a hunter who sold meat to Pittsburgh butchers and was surely a scout who gathered information for the settlements about Indian activities beyond the western frontier. The battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, followed by the Treaty of Greenville a year later, guaranteed the security of the Northwest frontier and established a boundary in the Northwest Territory between Indian lands and areas open to further white settlement. So Fink moved into his second career, that of a keelboatman....

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Flagler, Henry Morrison (02 January 1830–20 May 1913), businessman and railroad promoter, was born in Hopewell, just outside of Canadaigua, New York, the son of the Reverend Isaac Flagler, a Presbyterian minister, and Elizabeth Morrison. As a pioneer missionary preacher, Isaac Flagler earned no more than $300 to $400 a year. Henry attended the local district school until he was fourteen, when he decided to strike out on his own. He walked to the Erie Canal and worked his way west on a canal boat until he reached Buffalo, New York, where he took a lake boat to Sandusky, Ohio. South of Sandusky in the small town of Republic, Flagler joined a half brother, Daniel M. Harkness, who helped him get a clerkship in a country store at five dollars a month plus board. He saved his money both at Republic and at another store in Fostoria, Ohio. Having gained both experience and capital, Flagler in about 1850 moved to Bellevue, south of Sandusky, where he became a grain commission merchant. Some of the other Harknesses, relatives of his mother, lived in Bellevue. In 1853 Flagler married Mary Harkness, niece of Stephen V. Harkness, a leading citizen of Bellevue. The couple had three children. Flagler shipped grain to ...

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Forbes, John Murray (23 February 1813–12 October 1898), merchant, capitalist, and railroad developer, was born in Bordeaux, France, and raised in Milton, Massachusetts, the son of Ralph Bennet Forbes, a merchant, and Margaret Perkins. Through the generosity of his elder brother, Thomas Tunno Forbes, young John enjoyed five years of schooling at the experimental Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts, before taking up a place in 1828 as a clerk to his uncles in Boston, the China traders James and ...

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Green, John Cleve (04 April 1800–29 April 1875), philanthropist, railroad entrepreneur, and China trader, was born in Lawrenceville (formerly Maidenhead), New Jersey, the son of Caleb Smith and Elizabeth Green. His great-great-grandfather, Jonathan Dickinson, was first president of the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University; this family connection would later play a great part in Princeton’s future....

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Higgins, Andrew Jackson (28 August 1886–01 August 1952), industrialist and shipbuilder, was born in Columbus, Nebraska, the son of John Gonegal Higgins and Annie Long O’Conor. His father, a judge and newspaper editor, was a close friend of Grover Cleveland. Intense loyalty to the Democratic party inspired Judge Higgins to name his son after the seventh president. Andrew Jackson Higgins attended public schools in Columbus and Omaha and then Creighton Preparatory School from 1900 to 1903....

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Johnson, Philip Gustav (05 November 1894–14 September 1944), aviation industrialist, was born in Seattle, Washington, the son of recent Swedish immigrants Charles S. Johnson, a laundry owner, and Hanna Gustavson. In 1913, rebuffing pressure to join the family laundry business, Johnson began studying mechanical engineering at the University of Washington. He was recruited in 1917 while still a student to work in ...

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Kimball, Dan Able (01 March 1896–30 July 1970), businessman and secretary of the navy, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of John Harney Kimball, occupation unknown, and Mary Able. He received his early education in the public schools of St. Louis, although accounts differ as to whether he graduated from Soldan High School or dropped out to take a job as a mechanic in a local garage that specialized in the repair of electrically powered automobiles. All sources agree, however, that he took correspondence courses in engineering to further his education....