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Birdseye, Clarence (09 December 1886–07 October 1956), inventor and entrepreneur, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Clarence Frank Birdseye, an attorney and legal scholar, and Ada Underwood. When Birdseye was in his teens, his family moved to Montclair, New Jersey, where he completed his high school education. Interested in both food and natural history from an early age, he signed up for a cooking course in high school and trained himself to be a more than competent taxidermist, attempting for a time to earn some income by training others in that skill. Birdseye attended Amherst College on a sporadic basis between 1908 and 1910, but he left before graduating because of financial problems. In an attempt to pay his college bills, he had collected frogs to sell to the Bronx Zoo for feeding their snake population and caught rats in a butcher shop for a Columbia University faculty member who was conducting breeding experiments. Following his departure from Amherst in 1910, he worked as an office boy for an insurance agency in New York, and then briefly as a snow checker for the city’s street cleaning department....

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Charles W. Carey Jr.

Blake, Lyman Reed (24 August 1835–05 October 1883), inventor, was born in South Abington, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Blake and Susannah Bates. In 1851, having completed his formal education at age sixteen, he went to work for his older brother Samuel, a “shoe boss.” After the employees in his brother’s shop cut out from leather the various pieces that comprise a shoe, the younger Blake put out these pieces to self-employed shoebinders—who hand-stitched together the uppers and then pegged or nailed the uppers to a sole—and collected the finished pairs, which his brother then sold....

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Borden, Gail (09 November 1801–11 January 1874), surveyor and inventor, was born in Norwich, New York, the son of Gail Borden, a pioneer and landowner, and Philadelphia Wheeler. The Bordens moved at least twice in the early 1800s, first to Kennedy’s Ferry, Kentucky, which became Covington soon after their arrival, and then to New London, Indiana, in 1816, where Borden learned surveying. Borden attended school in Indiana during 1816 and 1817....

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Couch, Harvey Crowley (21 August 1877–30 July 1941), entrepreneur, was born in Calhoun, Arkansas, the son of Thomas Gratham Couch, a preacher and farmer, and Manie Heard. The Couches were of Welsh extraction. Harvey Couch grew up in rural poverty with little formal schooling until the illness of his father led the family to give up farming and move to Magnolia, Arkansas, where at age seventeen Couch completed his education at the Magnolia Academy. He credited his education to a teacher, Pat Neff, later a governor of Texas....

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Dorrance, John Thompson (11 November 1873–21 September 1930), business owner and inventor, was born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, the son of John Dorrance, a businessman, and Elizabeth Cottingham Thompson. After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1895, he received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Göttingen in 1897. He turned down teaching positions offered by several colleges and became a chemist at the Joseph Campbell Preserve Company, a Camden, New Jersey, food-processing firm controlled by his uncle Arthur Dorrance. The Campbell operation was producing nearly 200 products at the time, including several types of soup that did not sell particularly well. Inspired by the widespread consumption of soup he had witnessed in Europe and noting the inability of the three most prominent American soup manufacturers to attain profitable national distribution, Dorrance immediately began experimenting with condensed soups. The technology of condensing soups proved to be rather simple; the process involved little more than reducing the amount of water in conventional recipes. Condensed soup had significantly reduced packaging and distribution costs relative to the large, water-laden cans then on the market, and thus could be sold at about a third of the price....

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Fleischmann, Charles Louis (03 November 1834–10 December 1897), yeast manufacturer and inventor, was born near Budapest, Hungary, the son of Alois (or Abraham) Fleischmann, a distiller and yeast maker, and Babette (maiden name unknown). Following his education in Vienna and Prague, Fleischmann began his business career at age nineteen as a general store clerk in Tasgendorf, Austria. He emigrated to the United States as did his six siblings. While eating at his sister’s wedding in New York in 1866, he concluded that the inferior liquid yeast used in baking resulted in a poor quality American bread and determined to create a reliable, solid yeast. After the wedding Fleischmann returned to Austria to retrieve a superior strain of yeast that his father had developed. Returning to the United States permanently, he worked in a New York City distilling business for two years before moving in 1868 to Cincinnati, Ohio....

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Goldman, Sylvan Nathan (15 November 1898–25 November 1984), inventor of the folding shopping cart and businessman-philanthropist, was born in Ardmore, Indian Territory (later Oklahoma), the son of Michael Goldman and Hortense Dreyfus, owners of a general store. He received eight years of education in local public schools and in 1912 underwent his bar mitzvah in a Jewish Reform temple....

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Kraft, James Lewis (11 November 1874–16 February 1953), businessman and inventor, was born in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, the son of George Franklin Krafft and Minerva Alice Tripp, farmers. It is unknown when the change in the spelling of his last name occurred. Kraft was raised in a strict Mennonite environment characterized by hard work and strict discipline. After graduation from high school he left the farm to become a clerk in a Fort Erie general store. In 1903 he moved to Buffalo, New York, where he attended a business college while working as a janitor and selling eggs, cheese, and ice. The following year he moved to Chicago, where he remained for the rest of his life. He became a naturalized citizen in 1911....

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McKay, Gordon (04 May 1821–19 October 1903), inventor and industrialist, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Michael McKay, a manufacturer and politician, and Catherine Gordon Dexter. Possessing a delicate constitution, he received little formal education. Feeling that outdoor work might improve his health, McKay prepared for a career in engineering. At age sixteen he went to work for the Boston & Albany Railroad in the engineering department, and he later held a similar post with the Erie Canal. Having gained valuable practical experience and eager to direct his own firm, McKay returned to Pittsfield in 1845 and opened a machine shop that specialized in maintaining paper and cotton mill machinery. In that year he married Agnes Jenkins. They had no children, and the union ended in divorce several years later....

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Perry, Stuart (02 November 1814–09 February 1890), produce commission merchant and inventor, was born in Newport, New York, the son of Samuel Perry, a shopkeeper, and Lydia Reed. Perry graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1837. Three years later he joined his brother Samuel and brother-in-law William Sweezey in the wholesale produce commission business in New York City. The firm specialized in cheese and butter, perhaps because the brothers came from an area of New York noted for dairy products. Stuart Perry spent most of his time in Newport, New York, however, as buyer for the business, purchasing goods from local farmers. Although he remained involved in the business for nearly twenty years, he devoted most of his spare time to investigating and designing mechanical devices. In 1838 he married Amy Jane Carter; they had one child....

Article

Sporn, Philip (25 November 1896–23 January 1978), electrical engineer and utility executive, was born in Folotwin, Austria, the son of Isak Sporn and Rachel Kolker. He emigrated with his family to the United States at age eleven and attended public schools in New York City. He became a U.S. citizen through his father’s naturalization in 1907. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University in 1918. While finishing the degree he took a position with the Crocker Wheeler Manufacturing Company, and in 1919 he became an electrical utility engineer with the Consumers Power Company in Michigan....