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Banneker, Benjamin (09 November 1731–19 October 1806), farmer and astronomer, was born near the Patapsco River in Baltimore County in what became the community of Oella, Maryland, the son of Robert, a freed slave, and Mary Banneky, a daughter of a freed slave named Bannka and Molly Welsh, a freed English indentured servant who had been transported to Maryland. Banneker was taught by his white grandmother to read and write from a Bible. He had no formal education other than a brief attendance at a Quaker one-room school during winter months. He was a voracious reader, informing himself in his spare time in literature, history, religion, and mathematics with whatever books he could borrow. From an early age he demonstrated a talent for mathematics and for creating and solving mathematical puzzles. With his three sisters he grew up on his father’s tobacco farm, and for the rest of his life Banneker continued to live in a log house built by his father....

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Elliott, Stephen (11 November 1771–28 March 1830), planter and botanist, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William Elliott and Mary Barnwell. Orphaned as a child, he grew up in Beaufort in the home of his brother William. He graduated from Yale College on 14 September 1791, being elected to Phi Beta Kappa and selected to deliver an oration. He spoke “On the Supposed Degeneracy of Animated Nature in America,” challenging some ideas of Georges de Buffon, a French naturalist....

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Elliott, William (27 April 1788–03 February 1863), planter, writer, and sportsman, was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, the son of William Elliott, a planter, and Phoebe Waight. Elliott was educated in the schools at Beaufort and at Beaufort College. He entered the sophomore class at Harvard in 1806. He withdrew from Harvard in 1808 because of ill health; he was later awarded a B.A. in 1810 and an A.M. in 1815 from the school. After leaving Harvard, he returned to Beaufort and devoted himself to the management of the family rice and cotton plantations. In 1817 Elliott married Ann Hutchinson Smith; they had nine children....

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George William Featherstonhaugh. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114323).

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Featherstonhaugh, George William (09 April 1780–27 September 1866), gentleman-farmer, scientist, and diplomat, was born in London, England, the son of George Featherstonhaugh, a manufacturer, and Dorothy Simpson, a shopkeeper. Educated at Stepney House, a private school near Scarborough, Featherstonhaugh spent his youth traveling in Europe and until 1804 was the commercial agent on the Continent for several British import-export firms. After two years working in the London office of Thomas Dickason & Co., Featherstonhaugh moved in 1806 to New York City, where he met Sarah Duane, daughter of a former mayor of New York and owner of a large estate near Schenectady. After their marriage in November 1808, they moved to a country mansion on the estate—now named “Featherston Park”—at Duanesburg, where Featherstonhaugh farmed 2,000 acres, concentrating on sheep and cattle breeding. He and Duane had two sons and two daughters....

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Glidden, Joseph Farwell (18 January 1813–09 October 1906), farmer, inventor, and capitalist, was born in Charlestown, Sullivan County, New Hampshire, the son of David Glidden and Polly Hurd, farmers. His family moved west to Orleans County, New York, when he was an infant. After attending local district schools, he studied at Middlebury Academy in Genesee County and at the seminary in Lima, New York. He taught school in the area for several years, but farming was always his first love. In 1837 he married Clarissa Foster in Clarendon, New York. Lacking funds to buy land in New York, he headed west in about 1840 with two crude threshing machines, doing custom threshing and general farm work. In 1842 he settled in De Kalb County, Illinois, where he purchased 600 acres of prairie land on the edge of De Kalb village. The death of the Gliddens’ three young children, followed by the death of his wife in 1843, left Glidden alone until 1851, when he married Lucinda Warne of De Kalb. They had one daughter....

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Langstroth, Lorenzo Lorraine (25 December 1810–06 October 1895), minister and apiarist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John George Langstroth, occupation unknown, and Rebekah Aurelia Dunn Langstroth. After graduating from Yale in 1831, he began training for a career in the ministry and also served as a tutor in math at his alma mater between 1834 and 1836. In May 1836 he took over the pulpit at the South Congregational Church in Andover, Massachusetts, and on 22 August of that year married Anne M. Tucker of New Haven, Connecticut, with whom he was to have three children....

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Ravenel, Henry William (19 May 1814–17 July 1887), planter and botanist, was born in St. John’s Parish, South Carolina, the son of Henry Ravenel, a planter and physician, and Catherine Stevens. Upon the death of his mother in 1816, Henry went to live with his grandparents on the family plantation, “Pooshee,” in South Carolina. He was educated locally at Pineville Academy and then studied privately in Columbia for a few months before entering South Carolina College in 1830. He married Elizabeth Gaillard Snowden in 1835; they had four children. Henry wanted to study medicine, but his father dissuaded him, emphasizing the rigors of life as a physician. So the elder Ravenel gave to his son a 600-acre plantation, “Northampton,” along with slaves and equipment to operate it. By 1839 Ravenel was well established as a South Carolina planter....