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Alger, Russell Alexander (27 February 1836–24 January 1907), businessman and politician, was born in Lafayette Township, Medina County, Ohio, the son of Russell Alger and Caroline Moulton, farmers. Orphaned at eleven years of age, he worked as a laborer and taught school before reading law in Akron, Ohio, where he was admitted to the bar in 1859. Moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan, he involved himself in the lumber industry. In 1861 he married Annette Henry; they had nine children....

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Jacob Coxey. "'Coxey's Army' approaching Washington, April 30th. 'General' Coxey, accompanied by reporters with bicycles … From sketches by T. Dart Walker." Illustration from Harper's Weekly, 12 May 1894. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105022).

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Coxey, Jacob Sechler (16 April 1854–18 May 1951), businessman, politician, and head of "Coxey's Army" of the unemployed, businessman, politician, and head of “Coxey’s Army” of the unemployed, was born in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Coxey, a stationary engineer, and Mary Sechler. Six years later his family moved twenty miles farther north to Danville, in Montour County, where his father worked in an iron-rolling mill. Young Jake attended public school for eight years and, at age sixteen, took a summer job as a water boy in the mill with his father. He quickly advanced to machine oiler and then boiler tender. By the time he left the mill at the age of twenty-four he had become a stationary engineer like his father....

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Joseph W. Fordney [left to right] Gilbert M. Hitchcock, Henry Cabot Lodge, Joseph W. Fordney , Frank W. Mondell, and George B. Christian, c. 1921. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97866).

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Fordney, Joseph Warren (05 November 1853–08 January 1932), lumberman and congressman, was born on a farm near Hartford City, in Blackford County, Indiana, the son of John Fordney, a farmer and mill owner, and Achsah Cotton. The youngest of ten children, Joseph Warren Fordney spent his childhood caring for his chronically ill mother and felling trees for his father’s sawmill. At age thirteen he hired out as a farmhand, receiving ninety dollars a year and three months of schooling in return for his labor. Although Fordney had an affinity for mathematics, his formal education ended after a single summer. In 1867 he left the farm to serve as the water boy on a railroad construction crew....

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Pope, Generoso (01 April 1891–28 April 1950), businessman, newspaper publisher, and political power broker, was born in Pasquarielli (province of Benevento), Italy, the son of Fortunato Papa and Fortuna Covino, farmers. He completed his elementary education in local schools in Italy. After his mother’s death and father’s remarriage, Pope emigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City in May 1906. He worked a number of unskilled construction jobs and in 1907 found employment in the Long Island sand pits. In 1911, after having been a driver and then foreman for the Manhattan Sand Company, he joined the newly formed Colonial Sand and Stone Company, rising to superintendent by 1914. He became an American citizen on 20 September 1915, and in June 1916 he married Catherine Richichi. They had three sons. He anglicized his last name at about this time....

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Sawyer, Philetus (22 September 1816–29 March 1900), lumber merchant and U.S. senator, was born in Whiting, Vermont, the son of Ephraim Sawyer, a farmer and blacksmith, and Mary Parks. When Philetus was an infant, his family migrated across Lake Champlain to Crown Point, New York. The fifth of ten children in a struggling family, Sawyer acquired such cursory schooling that political opponents later gibed him unmercifully for his awkward writing and speaking. As a teenager, he worked in a Crown Point sawmill, which he then rented and operated on his own before he turned twenty-one. In 1841 Sawyer married Melvina Hadley, a neighbor. Three of the couple’s five children survived to adulthood....

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Washburn, William Drew (14 January 1831–29 July 1912), U.S. congressman and businessman, was born in Androscoggin County, Maine, the son of Israel Washburn and Martha Benjamin, farmers. He worked on the family farm and attended public schools in Gorham, Paris, and Farmington before entering Bowdoin College at age nineteen. After graduation in 1854, he read law with his brother ...