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Davenport, Thomas (09 July 1802–06 July 1851), blacksmith and inventor, was born near Williamstown, Vermont, the son of Daniel Davenport and Hannah Rice, farmers. Eighth in a family of eleven children, Davenport had little formal schooling. The premature death of his father during the winter of 1812 from “spotted fever” left the family to fend for itself. At age fourteen Davenport was apprenticed to a Williamstown blacksmith. Under the terms of his indenture, he was allowed to attend school for six weeks every winter and was given room and board. Davenport completed his apprenticeship at the age of twenty-one and set up a smithy in Brandon, Vermont. He married Emily Goss, the daughter of a prosperous farmer, in 1827; they had two sons....

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Day, Stephen (1594?–22 December 1668), locksmith and printer, was born in England. Very little is known for certain about Stephen Day (also spelled Stephen Daye and Steven Day). He arrived from Cambridge, England, in New England in 1638 on board the John of London...

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Deere, John (07 February 1804–17 May 1886), manufacturer, was born in Rutland, Vermont, the son of William Rinhold Deere, a tailor, and Sarah Yates, a seamstress. His formal schooling was limited, and he became an apprentice blacksmith at age seventeen. He worked for several blacksmiths in Vermont before opening his own shop while in his mid-twenties. Deere’s craftsmanship was highly regarded, but his luck was bad and his businesses failed. So in 1836 he left behind his pregnant wife, Demarius Lamb (whom he had married in 1827), and four young children (they eventually had nine) and joined the westward movement, heading for Grand Detour, Illinois. His family followed him the next year....

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A. G. Gaston, 8 September 1963. Outside of his home in Birmingham, Ala., the same day it was torched in protest of his work in the Civil Rights Movement. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Gaston, A. G. (04 July 1892–19 January 1996), entrepreneur, was born Arthur George Gaston in Demopolis, Alabama, the son of Tom Gaston, a railroad worker, and Rosa Gaston (maiden name unknown), a cook. He grew up in poverty in rural Alabama before he and his mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama, after his father's death. He attended, and for a good time resided at, Tuggle Institute, where he received a moral and industrial education. In 1910 he graduated from the school with a tenth grade certificate. Before and after graduation, he worked at a variety of part-time jobs, including selling subscriptions for the ...

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Jefferson, Isaac ( December 1775–1850), enslaved blacksmith, was born at “Monticello” in Virginia, the son of George, a foreman and overseer, and Ursula, a pastrycook and laundress. In 1773 Thomas Jefferson purchased Isaac’s parents from two different owners in Powhatan County. George rose from foreman of labor to become, in 1797, overseer of Monticello—the only slave to reach that position. Ursula, who had been a “favorite house woman” of ...

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Johnson, Andrew N. ( April 1865–1922), newspaper editor, businessman, and politician, was born in Marion, Alabama. Nothing is known of his parents. He was sent to a primary school, and he later attended the state normal school in his home town and Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama. At age twenty he married Lillie A. Jones of Marion, and they had two children. At age twenty-six he became editor of the ...

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Yale, Linus, Jr. (04 April 1821–25 December 1868), inventor and locksmith, was born in Salisbury, Herkimer County, New York, the son of Linus Yale, Sr., a locksmith, general mechanic, and inventor, and Chlotilda Hopson. His education was influenced by his father’s Newport, New York, metalworking and lockmaking shop. His early inclination, though, was artistic rather than mechanical as indicated by his efforts as a portrait painter. He married Catherine Brooks from a nearby town in 1844. They had three children....

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Richard J. Wattenmaker

Yellin, Samuel (02 March 1885–03 October 1940), metalsmith, was born in Mogilev, in the province of Galicia, Poland, the son of Zacharias Yellin, a lawyer, and Kate Weintraub. Apprenticed at around age twelve to a blacksmith, Yellin became a master by seventeen. From about 1901 to 1905 he traveled and worked in ornamental metal workshops in Germany, Belgium, and England. In 1906 Yellin immigrated to Philadelphia, where from 1907 to 1919 he taught a course in wrought iron at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art. By 1909 he had established a small shop in Philadelphia and was showing examples of his ironwork designs to architects such as ...