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Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Lithograph on paper, 1832, by Albert Newsam. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Carroll of Carrollton, Charles (19 September 1737–14 November 1832), planter, businessman, investor, and the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the last of the signers to die, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, a planter, and his common-law wife, Elizabeth Brooke. An only child, Carroll was sent at the age of ten to the Jesuit college of St. Omers, in French Flanders, where Maryland’s Catholic gentry sent their sons because the colony’s laws, which denied “papists” the right to vote, hold office, practice law, and worship publicly, also forbade them to maintain religious schools. Young Carroll studied abroad for sixteen years, ending with a thesis in philosophy at the college of Louis le Grand in Paris in 1757. After reading civil law in Bourges and Paris, he moved to London in September 1759 to pursue the common law at the Inns of Court. However, his antipathy for the discipline, which he regarded as “founded upon and still subsisting by villainy,” became so intense that he ultimately defied his father’s intention that he formally enter the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. Finding the paternal insistence on his acquiring the social graces more to his liking, he became adept at dancing, drawing, and fencing and mastered Italian, bookkeeping, and surveying, practical skills the elder Carroll deemed essential for success as a landowner and man of business....

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Cooper, Edward (26 October 1824–25 February 1905), businessman, philanthropist, and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Peter Cooper, a businessman, philanthropist, and public figure, and Sarah Bedell. After attending public school in New York City, the younger Cooper enrolled at Columbia College, but he earned no degree. At Columbia College, Cooper met ...

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Dickerson, Mahlon (17 April 1770–05 October 1853), New Jersey political leader, secretary of the navy, and iron mine operator, was born in Hanover Neck, Morris County, New Jersey, the son of Jonathan Dickerson and Mary Coe. Dickerson’s father owned substantial property in Morris County, including an iron mine that Dickerson later inherited. The younger Dickerson grew up privileged. He enjoyed preparatory school near home, and further education at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Graduating from Princeton in 1789, Dickerson studied law in Morristown and in 1793 was admitted to the local bar. Although his political leanings were strongly favorable to the nascent Jeffersonian-Republican cause, Dickerson volunteered for duty in militias organized to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 in western Pennsylvania. Although perhaps motivated by visions of military glory, Dickerson saw no direct action....

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Graham, Joseph (13 October 1759–12 November 1836), revolutionary soldier, political leader, and iron entrepreneur, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of James Graham and Mary McConnell Barber, farmers. Graham’s father rented the land he farmed. Upon his death in 1763, his mother joined the great Scotch-Irish migration to the South, moving her family to the Carolina back country via Charleston, South Carolina. Eventually the widow Graham and her five children—three sons and two daughters—settled in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, where in 1771 she purchased a 200-acre farm near Charlotte....

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Hewitt, Abram Stevens (31 July 1822–18 January 1903), iron manufacturer, congressman, and mayor, was born near Haverstraw, New York, the son of John Hewitt, a machinist and cabinetmaker, and Ann Gurnee. After attending the public schools of New York City, Abram, at the age of thirteen, entered the Grammar School of Columbia College. Three years later he won a scholarship to Columbia College, where he ranked first in his class in academics. Upon graduation from Columbia in 1842, he began the study of law while also teaching mathematics at Columbia’s grammar school. At this time he tutored ...

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Hill, William (1741–01 December 1816), ironmaster and politician, was born in Belfast, Ireland. Information is unavailable on Hill’s parentage. While still a child, he immigrated with his family to York County, Pennsylvania, but moved to New Acquisition (later York County), South Carolina, having learned the trade of iron manufacturing. Hill was probably attracted to this section by the then prevalent belief that land around Nanny’s Mountain (on Allison’s Creek near the Catawba River) contained extensive iron deposits. He built a home, saw and grist mills, and a bloomery (a forge capable of producing only bar iron). He also acquired more than 5,000 acres of land before the Revolution....

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McArthur, John (17 November 1826–15 May 1906), soldier, businessman, and public servant, was born in Erskine Parish, on the River Clyde, in Renfrewshire, Scotland, the son of John McArthur and Isabella Neilson, who anticipated that he would become a Presbyterian divine. But he opted for employment in his father’s blacksmithery. In 1849—one year after he married a neighbor, Christine Cuthbertson—he emigrated to the United States, joining his brother-in-law, Carlile Mason, in Chicago. McArthur and Cuthbertson had seven children. After working for several years as a boilermaker and having accumulated some capital in 1854 McArthur entered into partnership with Mason as owner-manager of the Excelsior Ironworks, manufacturing “steam boilers, engines, and iron work of every description.” Buying out Mason, from 1858 to 1861 McArthur was sole operator of the business....

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Perle Mesta Right, with U. S. Senate candidate Marjorie Bell Hinrichs at the Democratic party jubilee in Chicago. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92423).

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Mesta, Perle (12 Oct. 1889 or 1891–16 March 1975), political activist, businesswoman, diplomat, and hostess, was born Pearl Skirvin in Sturgis, Michigan, the daughter of William Balser Skirvin, a salesman, and Harriet Reid. The actual year of her birth was one of her best-kept secrets. Early in the twentieth century her father left Michigan for the oil fields of South Texas, where he made a fortune in the famed Spindletop field. The feisty “Billy” Skirvin moved to Oklahoma City, where he founded the American Oil and Refinery Company and built the luxurious fourteen-floor Skirvin Hotel. Pearl was educated in private schools in Galveston and studied voice and piano at the Sherwood School of Music in Chicago. In 1917 she married 54-year-old George Mesta, founder and president of the Mesta Machine Company located in Pittsburgh. During her years living in the nation’s steel capital she changed her name to the distinctive “Perle.”...

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Spotswood, Alexander (1676–07 June 1740), lieutenant governor of Virginia and industrial entrepreneur, was born in northern Africa in the city of Tangier, the son of Robert Spotswood, a physician, and Catherine Elliott. The family was staunchly royalist. Alexander’s father was personal physician to the first earl of Middleton, briefly the most powerful politician in Restoration Scotland, but later exiled as governor of Tangier. The earl’s personal physician accompanied him and acted also as physician to the garrison. Alexander was first taken to England at the age of seven. His father died when he was eleven, just before the Glorious Revolution of 1688. After William III had displaced James II, Alexander did not follow the second earl of Middleton into Jacobitism and exile, but chose to make his first career in the British army created by William III to fight his wars against Louis XIV of France. He was commissioned ensign in the earl of Bath’s foot regiment on 20 May 1693. Promoted lieutenant on 1 January 1696, he continued his military career under Queen Anne, fighting in the War of the Spanish Succession under the command of the duke of Marlborough. A captain before 1704, he was wounded at the battle of Blenheim in 1704 and captured at Oudenarde in 1708 but immediately exchanged. He was primarily active in army supply, particularly grain, being lieutenant quartermaster under Lord Cadogan, rising to lieutenant colonel....

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Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-18186).

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Stettinius, Edward Reilly, Jr. (22 October 1900–31 October 1949), business executive, U.S. secretary of state, and U.S. delegate to the United Nations, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Edward Reilly Stettinius, Sr., a J. P. Morgan and Company partner and assistant secretary of war during World War I, and Judith Carrington. Some members of his family used the spelling Rilley or Riley. Stettinius grew up in Chicago and New York City. He graduated from the Pomfret School in Connecticut and attended the University of Virginia for four years. However, he left in 1924 with only six of the sixty credits necessary for graduation. He spent much of his college time ministering to poor Appalachian hill families and working with employment agencies trying to assist poor students at the university. He missed many classes and was frequently away from campus. Because he avoided alcohol and fraternity parties, his classmates called him “Abstemious Stettinius.” He considered becoming an Episcopal minister upon leaving school, but a trip to Europe as a traveling companion to philosophy instructor William S. A. Pott changed his mind. Upon his return, feeling he could best help society through industry, he took a position as a stockroom attendant in the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company offered to him by General Motors vice president and family acquaintance John Lee Pratt. Pratt was a University of Virginia alumnus who had learned of Stettinius’s social work by reading his alma mater’s publications. By 1926 Stettinius became Pratt’s assistant and implemented innovative employee benefit programs. In 1924 he married Virginia Gordon Wallace; they had three sons....

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Myron C. Taylor Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100836).

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Taylor, Myron Charles (18 January 1874–06 May 1959), business executive and diplomat, was born in Lyons, New York, the son of William Taylor, a textile executive, and Mary Morgan Underhill. His father made a fortune in the textile and leather industries. After a comfortable youth, Taylor attended Cornell University and earned a law degree in 1894, studying with ...

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Wilkeson, Samuel (01 June 1781–07 July 1848), shipowner, iron founder, and manufacturer, was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the son of John Wilkeson and Mary Robinson, farmers. Samuel Wilkeson’s early years, after only two weeks of formal education, were devoted solely to working on his father’s farm. In 1902 at age twenty-one he left the family farm and married Jane Oram, who subsequently bore all of Wilkeson’s six children....