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Oakes Ames. Photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-B-1245).

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Ames, Oakes (10 January 1804–08 May 1873), businessman and politician, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. He was educated in local schools and, for a few months, at Dighton Academy. At the age of sixteen, he entered his father’s shovel factory as an apprentice, rising quickly to become the works superintendent and then his father’s assistant. In 1827 he married Evelina Orvile Gilmore, and for the next three decades lived with her and their four children in one wing of his father’s house opposite the factory....

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Draper, William Franklin (09 April 1842–28 January 1910), textile machinery manufacturer and inventor, congressman, and ambassador to Italy, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of George Draper and Hannah Thwing. His grandfather, Ira Draper, had patented the first self-acting rotary temple for cotton looms in 1816 and had established a plant to manufacture the new machine part in Weston, Massachusetts. By 1842 Ira’s son Ebeneezer had taken control of the business and had moved the plant from Weston to Hopedale, Massachusetts, where he became a member of the Reverend ...

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Hartness, James (03 September 1861–02 February 1934), inventor, business leader, and governor, was born on a farm near Schenectady, New York, the son of John Williams Hartness, a mechanic, and Ursilla Jackson. In 1863 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Hartness’s formal education ended after elementary school. The Hartness family lived a comfortable life in Cleveland, as Hartness’s mother doted on her three surviving sons while his father succeeded as a foreman and then superintendent....

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Edward Nash Hurley [left to right]Charles M. Schwab and Edward Nash Hurley, 1918. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116287 ).

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Hurley, Edward Nash (31 July 1864–14 November 1933), manufacturer, was born in Galesburg, Illinois, the son of Jeremiah Hurley, a railroad mechanic, and Ellen Nash. Both parents were Irish Catholic immigrants. Hurley had little formal education. He quit high school at age fifteen and joined his father and older brothers in the Galesburg machine shops of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. Two years later, in Chicago, he became fireman on a switching engine....

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Peek, George Nelson (19 November 1873–17 December 1943), businessman, farm leader, and New Deal administrator, was born at Polo, a small village in northern Illinois, the son of Henry Clay Peek, a livestock merchant and local sheriff, and Adeline Chase. In 1885 the family moved to a farm near Oregon, Illinois. In 1891 Peek attended Northwestern University, remaining there one academic year. After briefly working as an office assistant for a furniture company, he was hired in January 1893 in Minneapolis by Deere and Webber, a branch of the John Deere Plow Company. He rose from credit manager and salesman to head of the collections department....