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Bachelder, John (07 March 1817–01 July 1906), manufacturer and inventor, was born in Weare, New Hampshire, the son of William Bachelder, a lumberman and blacksmith, and Mary Bailey. Bachelder went to public school and to college for training as a teacher. After teaching school for three years, Bachelder left New Hampshire for Boston. There he found employment as an accountant for a Middlesex Canal transportation firm. Soon he formed a partnership that competed with his former employers. The business closed upon the completion of the Manchester railroad, which eliminated the demand for shipping on the Middlesex Canal. In 1843 Bachelder married Adaline Wason; they had three children. With the demise of his transportation enterprise, he worked in Boston’s dry-goods business until 1846. During the winter of 1846, he traveled to England in an effort to establish himself as an importer. By 1847 he had established his own firm once again in a partnership called Bachelder, Burr and Company....

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Howe, Elias (09 July 1819–03 October 1867), inventor, was born in Spencer, Massachusetts, the son of Elias Howe and Polly Bemis, farmers. Howe’s father also owned a small gristmill and a sawmill, and from an early age young Howe worked at the mills as well as on the family farm. He was able to attend school from time to time each winter, but he was more interested in tinkering with the machinery at the mills. Poverty forced the elder Howe to hire out his son to a neighboring farmer when Elias was twelve years old, but poor health made the boy unsuitable for heavy farmwork. He returned to his family after a year and began working full time in the mills....

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Popeil, Samuel J. (22 January 1915–15 July 1984), inventor and manufacturer, was born in New York City, the son of a garment worker; his parents’ names are unknown. Little else is known about his childhood and early education, but Popeil’s career training came through the family. Several of his uncles worked as product demonstrators in New York department stores and flea markets, selling potato peelers, cheese slicers, and other household gadgets....

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Singer, Isaac Merritt (27 October 1811–23 July 1875), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Pittstown or in nearby Schaghticoke, New York, the son of Adam Singer, a cooper, and Ruth Benson. Singer’s father emigrated from Germany in the late 1760s and shortened the family name from Reisinger soon after his arrival in the United States. Isaac was the couple’s youngest child. In 1821 his parents divorced, and his father remarried shortly thereafter....

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Tupper, Earl Silas (28 July 1907–03 October 1983), inventor, was born in Berlin, New Hampshire, the son of farmers. Soon after his birth the family moved to a farm in Massachusetts where young Tupper enjoyed buying and selling vegetables. After graduating from high school in 1926, Tupper turned his hobby into a small mail-order business for household items such as combs and toothbrushes. During this time the self-described “ham inventor and Yankee trader” found another area in which to tinker—chemical engineering. Tupper’s self-taught skills led him to Du Pont, where he worked as an engineer during the 1930s. While at Du Pont, Tupper became fascinated by plastic, an interest that continued through the remainder of his life....