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Colgate, William (25 January 1783–25 March 1857), manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Hollingbourne parish, Kent, England, the son of Robert Colgate, a gentleman farmer, and Sarah Bowles. In 1795 he emigrated with his family to the United States because his father, an outspoken critic of King George III, was forced to flee England to avoid prosecution for treason. The family disembarked in Baltimore, Maryland, and purchased a modest estate in nearby Harford County, which was lost two years later when it was discovered that they did not possess a clear title. They then moved to present-day Randolph County, West Virginia, where his father attempted unsuccessfully to farm and mine coal. In 1800 they returned to Baltimore, where he and his father went into business with Robert Mather, a soap and candle maker. After the partnership dissolved two years later and his family relocated to Ossining, New York, he remained in Baltimore and opened his own soap and candle works....

Article

Fels, Joseph (16 December 1853–22 February 1914), soap manufacturer, reformer, and single-tax evangelist, was born in Halifax Court House, Virginia, the second son of Lazarus Fels, a peddler, and Susannah Freiberg. His Bavarian Jewish parents had immigrated in 1848, coming from near Kaiserslautern. Settling in Yanceyville, North Carolina, Lazarus Fels took over the general store and in 1861 was appointed Confederate States postmaster. Joseph attended classes in Yanceyville and, with his older sisters, a boarding school in Richmond, Virginia. Bankrupted by the Civil War and a failed try at soapmaking, Lazarus Fels moved the family to Baltimore in 1867. At fifteen Joseph ended schooling to work in his father’s second soap business, which also failed; then briefly, at seventeen, he became a traveling coffee salesman. Within a year he and his father became the Baltimore representatives of Charles Elias and Company, a Philadelphia soap house. In 1873 Lazarus moved northward again, this time to Philadelphia. Two years later, Joseph acquired a partnership in Thomas Worsley and Company, a maker of fancy toilet soaps, installing his father in charge of manufacturing. In 1876 Joseph Fels bought out Worsley after founding Fels and Company of Philadelphia in his own name. Fels and Company prospered in the intensely competitive soap business, by 1890 marketing no fewer than 107 varieties....

Article

Fels, Samuel Simeon (16 February 1860–23 June 1950), soap manufacturer and philanthropist, was born in Yanceyville, North Carolina, the son of Lazarus Fels, proprietor of a general store, and Susanna Freiberg. Before and during the Civil War, the family prospered, largely through the entrepreneurial efforts of Samuel’s father, despite an unsuccessful attempt to make and sell soap....

Article

Gillette, King Camp (05 January 1855–09 July 1932), inventor and social theorist, was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the son of George Wolcott Gillette, a hardware wholesaler, and Fanny Lemira Camp, later the author of the bestselling White House Cookbook. Shortly before the Civil War the family moved to Chicago, where he graduated from high school. Gillette clerked in a hardware store and then became a traveling salesman. Like his father and two older brothers, he delighted in inventive tinkering, and in 1879 he was granted his first patent, for a water-faucet component. In 1890 he married Atlanta Ella Gaines; they had one son....

Article

Malone, Annie Turnbo (09 August 1869–10 May 1957), African-American businesswoman, manufacturer, and philanthropist, was born in Metropolis, Illinois, the daughter of Robert Turnbo and Isabella Cook, farmers. Little is known of the early childhood of Annie Turnbo Malone, except that she was second youngest of eleven children. Her parents were former slaves in Kentucky. Her father joined the Union army during the Civil War, and her mother escaped to Illinois with her small children. After the war, Robert Turnbo joined his family at Metropolis, where he became a farmer and landowner. Following the death of both parents, Annie went to live with older brothers and sisters in Metropolis and, later, Peoria and Lovejoy, Illinois. She completed public school education in Metropolis and attended high school in Peoria. Because of ill health, she did not complete her high school education. In these early years, Malone dreamed of making products to enhance the beauty of black women. She experimented with chemistry while in high school, and believing that “woman’s crowning glory is her hair,” she developed a scalp treatment solution to grow and straighten hair....

Article

Procter, William Cooper (25 August 1862–02 May 1934), business executive, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of William Alexander Procter, an executive at the Procter & Gamble Company, and Charlotte Elizabeth Jackson. His father was the eldest son of William Procter, who cofounded the Procter & Gamble Company with his brother-in-law James Gamble in 1837....