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Abbott, Horace (29 July 1806–08 August 1887), manufacturer, was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, the son of Alpheus Abbott and Lydia Fay, farmers. His father died when Abbott was quite young, leaving the family in poverty. With little opportunity for formal education, Abbott was apprenticed to a blacksmith in Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1822. After completing his five-year term, he spent the following two years as a journeyman blacksmith. Abbott then returned to Westborough and set up his own blacksmith shop. In 1830 he married Charlotte Hapgood; they would have seven children. He remained in Westborough until 1836....

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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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Joseph R. Anderson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2073).

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Anderson, Joseph Reid (16 February 1813–07 September 1892), industrialist and Confederate soldier, was born in Botetourt County in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the son of William Anderson and Anna Thomas, farmers. Anderson received his early education in the local schools. After having been rejected twice, he entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1832 at age nineteen. Graduating fourth of forty-nine in 1836, he preferred a post in the elite Corps of Engineers but was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Third Artillery. Soon he was assigned to Fort Monroe, where he met his first wife, Sally Archer, daughter of the post physician, Dr. Robert Archer. They were married in the spring of 1837 and eventually had five children....

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Benner, Philip (19 May 1762–27 July 1832), soldier, pioneer ironmaster, and entrepreneur, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Benner and Dinah Thomas, farmers. For Philip Benner as for many of his generation, the American Revolution was the defining experience of his early life. When his father, a vocal patriot, was imprisoned by the British, Philip went to war in the Continental army wearing a vest in which his mother had quilted guineas in case of emergency. Benner fought as a private under the command of his relative General ...

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Blough, Roger Miles (19 January 1904–08 October 1985), businessman, was born in Riverside, Pennsylvania, the son of Christian E. Blough, a farmer, and Viola Hoffman. Blough was granted an A.B. in 1925 from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. He taught history for three years at the high school in Hawley, Pennsylvania (1925–1928). He married Helen Martha Decker in 1928; they had twin daughters. He studied law at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut (1928–1931), obtaining his LL.B. in 1931....

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Nellie Bly. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-97447).

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Bly, Nellie (05 May 1864–27 January 1922), reporter and manufacturer, was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Michael Cochran, a mill owner and associate justice of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and Mary Jane Kennedy Cummings. Judge Cochran, the father of fifteen children by two wives, died suddenly without a will in 1870, leaving Mary Jane with little money. Mary Jane’s abusive third marriage to John Jackson Ford ended in divorce in 1878, and “Pink,” as Elizabeth Jane was known, at age fifteen, went off to Indiana (Pa.) Normal School, adding a final ...

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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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Andrew Carnegie. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101767).

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Carnegie, Andrew (25 November 1835–11 August 1919), industrialist and philanthropist, was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, the son of William Carnegie, a handloom weaver, and Margaret Morrison. William Carnegie was sufficiently prosperous to have four looms in his shop and to employ three apprentices. Although shunning political activism, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the political views of his wife’s father, Thomas Morrison, Sr., an early leader of the Chartist movement and a friend of William Cobbett to whose journal, ...

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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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Chisholm, Henry (22 April 1822–09 May 1881), pioneer in the Great Lakes iron and steel industry, was born in Lochgelly, Scotland, near Edinburgh, the son of Charles Stuart Chisholm, a mining contractor; his mother’s name is not known. Two years after his father’s untimely death in 1832, Chisholm ended his education and apprenticed in carpentry. At seventeen he left for Glasgow to pursue his trade, then moved on to Montreal in 1842 with his new wife, Jean Allen of Dunfermline, but little else. He did well as a building contractor in that growing port city and developed further business contacts in the lower Great Lakes region. In 1850 he contracted to build a pier and breakwater for the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad’s terminus in Cleveland and settled there permanently. Over the next several years Chisholm amassed considerable capital as a contractor for local railroads, and with the advent of Great Lakes iron ore traffic he spotted a new field of opportunity. In 1857 he invested $25,000 in partnership with David and John Jones, Welsh-born Pennsylvania ironmasters whose new iron-rail mill needed capital. After several expansions and reorganizations, this partnership became the business for which Chisholm remains best known, the Cleveland Rolling Mill Company. As the enterprise expanded Chisholm brought in several important new partners, notably his brother William, who left the merchant marine to join the partnership, and the brothers Andros B. and Amasa Stone, budding railroad and financial magnates with wide business connections and growing capital resources....

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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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Corey, William Ellis (04 May 1866–11 May 1934), steel industrialist, was born in Braddock, Pennsylvania, the son of Alfred Adams Corey, a moderately successful coal merchant, and Adaline Fritz. Young Corey attended the local public schools but evinced little interest in schooling other than in the opportunity it gave for him to participate in athletics. His success on the football field, however, did not provide enough motivation to keep him in school. Eager to marry his classmate, Laura Cook, the daughter of a coal miner, and to find employment in the steel mills of Braddock, Corey left high school at the age of sixteen, even though his father’s financial situation had not necessitated the boy’s early employment. A year later, in 1883, he married Cook; they had one child....

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Erastus Corning. Illustration from Harper's Weekly, 27 April 1872. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102401).

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Corning, Erastus (14 December 1794–09 April 1872), manufacturer and railroad executive, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Bliss Corning and Lucinda Smith. About 1805 the family moved to Chatham, New York, a few miles southeast of Albany. Erastus completed a common school education and, at about age thirteen, moved to nearby Troy to work in his uncle Benjamin Smith’s hardware business. Smith was particularly helpful to Erastus, perhaps because an injury in infancy had left the boy with a lifelong reliance on crutches....

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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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Embree, Elihu (11 November 1782–04 December 1820), abolitionist and iron manufacturer, was born in Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Embree, a Quaker minister, and Esther (maiden name unknown). Moving his family in 1790 to Washington County, in the northeast corner of what would in six years become the new state of Tennessee, Thomas Embree spoke out boldly in the ...