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Cass, George Washington (12 March 1810–21 March 1888), engineer and business leader, was born near Dresden, Muskingum County, Ohio, the son of George W. Cass and Sophia Lord, farmers.

Cass received a good education. His parents sent him to Detroit at the age of fourteen, and from 1824 to 1827 he attended the highly regarded Detroit Academy while living with his uncle, ...

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Fink, Albert (27 October 1827–03 April 1897), railway engineer and executive, was born in Lauterbach, in what is now Germany, the son of Andres S. Fink, an architect, and Margaret Jacob. Albert studied architecture and engineering at the Darmstadt Politechnikum and graduated in 1848. Like many other young urban professionals, Fink left for the United States after the 1848 revolutions in central Europe. He settled in Baltimore and began work as an assistant in the engineering department of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. He also married, but his young wife died, childless, soon afterward. Fink advanced in the engineering department of the B&O and also became a consulting engineer for the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. During his tenure at the Baltimore and Ohio, he invented and patented a bridge truss that brought him income for the remainder of his life....

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Robert Fulton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102509).

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Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....

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Haupt, Herman (26 March 1817–14 December 1905), railway engineer, inventor, author, and administrator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Jacob Haupt, a businessman of modest attainments, and Anna Margaretta Wiall, the proprietor of a small dry goods store. Herman attended several private schools in Philadelphia, but in 1827 his father, suffering from poor health, gave up the grocery store he then owned and moved to Woodville, New Jersey. Jacob Haupt died the next year, leaving his widow in straitened circumstances; Herman, the eldest of six children, was only eleven years of age. Two years later Herman Haupt’s congressman, John B. Sterigere, offered to help the boy gain admission to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He received a presidential appointment in 1830, but his entry was deferred for a year because of his youth. Unhappy with the strict upbringing he had received from his father, he was very uncertain about subjecting himself to the hard discipline of the academy, but his mother prevailed....

Article

Judah, Theodore Dehone (04 March 1826–02 November 1863), engineer and railroad promoter, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Henry R. Judah, an Episcopal clergyman (his mother’s name and occupation are unknown). The family moved to Troy, New York, where Judah attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He went to work as a surveyor’s assistant at thirteen and became a civil engineer by 1844. Judah erected a bridge at Vergennes, Vermont, and planned and built the Niagara Gorge Railroad, a task that amply demonstrated his ingenuity and skill. He married Anna Ferona Pierce of Greenfield, Massachusetts, in 1847; the couple apparently had no children who lived to adulthood....

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Kneass, Strickland (29 July 1821–14 January 1884), civil engineer and railroad official, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Kneass, an artist and engraver, and Mary Turner Honeyman. Named in honor of architect and family friend William Strickland, Strickland Kneass completed his early education at Dr. ...

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Daniel C. McCallum. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1926).

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McCallum, Daniel Craig (21 January 1815–27 December 1878), engineer, builder, and railroad manager, was born in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland, the son of a tailor, and emigrated as a child with his parents, whose names are unknown, to Rochester, New York. After an elementary school education he worked his way from carpenter and builder to become a distinguished architect and engineer. The date of his marriage to Mary McCann is unknown; they had three sons....

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Samuel Rea Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95435).

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Rea, Samuel (21 September 1855–24 March 1929), civil engineer and railroad president, was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, the son of James D. Rea, a judge, and Ruth Moore. Rea was forced by the death of his father to leave school at age thirteen and become a clerk in a local general store. In 1871 he secured a position as chainman on a Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) survey gang working near his home but lost the position with the onset of the panic of 1873. He soon found work as a clerk for the Hollidaysburg Iron and Nail Company and in 1875 resumed his employment with the PRR as assistant engineer with the railroad’s engineering corps at Connellsville, Pennsylvania....

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George Brooke Roberts. Engraving, c. 1890. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-104965).

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Roberts, George Brooke (15 January 1833–30 January 1897), civil engineer and fifth president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was born at the family estate, “Pencoyd Farm,” near Bala, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the son of Isaac Warner Roberts and Rosalinda Evans Brooke. Roberts was born into an old and distinguished Philadelphia family of Welsh ancestry whose interests included coal, railroads, ironmaking, and farming. His early education was completed at the Lower Merion Academy, and at age fifteen he enrolled in the technical course at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where he completed the three-year course in just two years. This was followed by a year’s postgraduate studies there, which he completed in 1851 at age eighteen....

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Sayre, Robert Heysham (13 October 1824–05 January 1907), civil engineer and railroad executive, was born in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, the son of William H. Sayre and Eliza Kent. His father was employed by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company, which had built and was operating the Lehigh Canal from Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) to Easton, Pennsylvania. Robert attended public schools in Mauch Chunk and for a time studied civil engineering under James Nowlin, a mathematician. Most of his training in engineering, however, came from on-the-job experience. In 1840 he helped to enlarge the Morris Canal in New Jersey and in 1843 began working for the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company under his father’s direction. Sayre was active in building the company’s Switchback Railroad, a pioneer road carrying coal by gravity from Summit Hill to Mauch Chunk, and the inclined plane or “back track” by which the empty cars were returned to the mines. “Alias Back Track” was the way he signed a letter to a friend in 1845. The company gave him the responsibility for building, maintaining, and operating all of its railroads and inclined planes in and about the mines....

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Thomson, J. Edgar (10 February 1808–27 May 1874), railroad president and engineer, was born in Springfield Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, the son of John Thomson, farmer and surveyor, and Sarah Levis. His first name was John, but he became known as J. Edgar. Thomson’s father taught his son the rudiments of surveying. When Pennsylvania decided to build a line of railroads and canals from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, the elder Thomson used his influence to secure a position for J. Edgar as rodman on a surveying gang. There Thomson fell under the eye of the Philadelphia & Columbia’s chief engineer, Major John Wilson, who promoted Thomson and put him in charge of constructing the first twenty miles of road. When Pennsylvania ran out of funds in 1830, Wilson took Thomson to the Camden & Amboy Railroad with him....