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Alger, Cyrus (11 November 1781–04 February 1856), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of Abiezer Alger, an iron manufacturer, and Hepsibah Keith. After several years of schooling he went to work for his father, from whom he learned the principles of iron production. Within a few years he was placed in charge of his father’s Easton plant. In 1804 he married Lucy Willis, with whom he had seven children....

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Burden, Henry (22 April 1791–19 January 1871), inventor and ironmaster, was born in Dunblane, Stirlingshire, Scotland, the son of Peter Burden and Elizabeth Abercrombie, farmers. Burden discovered his talent for invention as a youth on his family’s modest farm, where with few tools and no models he constructed a threshing machine, several gristmills, and various farm implements. Encouraged by these successes he enrolled in a course of drawing, engineering, and mathematics at the University of Edinburgh (he received no degree)....

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Gayley, James (11 October 1855–25 February 1920), engineer and inventor, was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Alexander Gayley, a Presbyterian minister, and Agnes Malcolm. His parents had emigrated from northern Ireland to the United States, and Samuel Gayley became minister in West Nottingham, Maryland, shortly after his son’s birth. James Gayley attended local schools and a preparatory academy in West Nottingham. He went on to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, from which he received a degree in mining engineering in 1876. From that year to 1879 Gayley worked as a chemist for the Crane Iron Company in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania. This was a time of great growth in the iron and steel industries in the United States, and new techniques were being introduced by many inventors, often in small companies....

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Jenks, Joseph (1599– March 1683), ironworker and inventor, was born in London, England, the son of John Jenks, a cutler, and Sarah Fulwater, the daughter of an immigrant German cutler. Having also learned the cutler’s trade, Jenks married Jone Hearne in Buckinghamshire in 1627; they had two children. In the 1630s Jenks worked under German supervision in Benjamin Stone’s water-powered sword factory at Hounslow in the earl of Northumberland’s estate in Middlesex, southwest of London. Charles I had imported German ironworkers to train English journeymen and apprentices at Stone’s factory, established in 1629, whence survives a broadsword inscribed “IENCKES IOSEPH ME FECIT HOUNSLOW”. In 1639 the earl of Northumberland granted Jenks a plot of ground downriver from Stone’s factory to set up a “New invented Engine or Blade Mille” at Woorton Bridge, but, by late 1641, Jenks had emigrated to Maine. There he worked as blacksmith at Agamenticus (now York)....

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Kelly, William (21 August 1811–11 February 1888), inventor in steel processing, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of John Kelly, a prosperous property owner, and Elizabeth Fitzsimons. The boy attended public schools in Pittsburgh. His biographer John Newton Boucher says that Kelly studied metallurgy but does not indicate where or how....

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Reese, Abram (21 April 1829–25 April 1908), inventor and manufacturer, was born Abram Rees in Llanelly, Wales, the son of William Rees, a skilled ironworker, and Elizabeth Joseph. After immigrating to the United States in 1832, the family relocated often as his father pursued his trade throughout Pennsylvania, including Phoenixville, at a forge he erected in Huntington County, and at Bellefonte. In 1837 the family finally settled in Pittsburgh, which was becoming a center for iron production, and his father soon changed the family name to Reese....

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Torrence, Joseph Thatcher (15 March 1843–31 October 1896), industrial engineer, entrepreneur, and developer, was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, the son of James Torrence and Rebecca (maiden name unknown). He began his career working for a blast-furnace operator outside of Pittsburgh at Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. From there he moved west to Youngstown, Ohio, where he became a blacksmith, and by the time of the Civil War, he had worked his way up to assistant foreman at a blast furnace....