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Bert Acosta. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94370).

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Acosta, Bertrand Blanchard (01 January 1895–01 September 1954), aviation pioneer, was born in San Diego, California, the son of Aphonse Ferdinand Acosta and Martha Blanche Snook, businesspeople. Acosta became enthralled with aviation at an early age, built gliders and later powered aircraft, and taught himself to fly. Because of this interest, at age sixteen his parents enrolled him in Throop Polytechnic Institute (later the California Institute of Technology) in Pasadena so that he could study aeronautical engineering, but he never graduated. Beginning in 1911 Acosta spent almost every moment not in school working for ...

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Adams, Charles Francis (27 May 1835–20 March 1915), railroad official, civic leader, and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), a diplomat and politician, and Abigail Brown Brooks. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) and great-grandson of ...

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Charles Francis Adams, Jr. During his Civil War service. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8171-7390).

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Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth (06 November 1841–16 April 1915), U.S. senator, congressman, and businessman, was born in Foster, Rhode Island, the son of Anan Aldrich and Abby Burgess, farmers. Having received a modest education in East Killingly, Connecticut, and at the East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island, Aldrich was by age seventeen working in Providence. Eventually a large wholesale grocery firm, Waldron, Wightman & Co., hired him as a clerk and bookkeeper. His career there was briefly interrupted in 1862 by service with the Tenth Rhode Island Volunteers garrisoning Washington, D.C. After contracting typhoid that same year he returned to Providence and, by 1866, had been elevated to junior partner at Waldron, Wightman. He married Abby Chapman that year; the couple would have eleven children. His wife was of independent means, but Aldrich insisted on accumulating a fortune on his own account and gradually did so. He worked his way up to full partner at Waldron, Wightman, was a director of the Roger Williams Bank by 1872, and by 1877 was president of Providence’s First National Bank. He also headed the city’s Board of Trade in these years....

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Nelson W. Aldrich. Drawing by Arthur Dove, published in Success, 1909. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54138).

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Alexander, Edward Porter (26 May 1835–28 April 1910), Confederate soldier and author, was born in Washington, Georgia, the son of Adam Leopold Alexander, a planter and banker, and Sarah Hillhouse Gilbert. Educated by tutors in his wealthy family’s household, Alexander entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1853 and graduated third in the class of 1857. He was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant of engineers on 1 July 1857 and was promoted to second lieutenant on 10 October 1858. Marked from the first as a promising officer, he taught at West Point immediately upon graduation, accompanied ...

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Allen, Edmund Turney (04 January 1896–18 February 1943), test pilot, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Edmund Allen, a preacher, and Abby Irene Dyer. A shy, frail-looking person, “Eddie” Allen moved around with his family before returning to Chicago, where he graduated from high school in 1913. He was initially drawn to farm work, but his mother and sister convinced him to attend the University of Illinois, which he did in 1916–1917. He then enlisted in the infantry before attending officers’ training camp at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, where he became interested in aviation....

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Allen, William McPherson (01 September 1900–29 October 1985), chief officer of the Boeing Company, was born in Lolo, Montana, the son of Charles Maurice, a mining engineer, and Gertrude Maud Hughes, an orchardist. Following preparatory school in Missoula, Montana, he enlisted in the army for a short time during World War I. Upon his return, he went on to graduate from the University of Montana in 1922. Later he characterized himself as a middling student who became more serious in the process of earning a law degree at Harvard....

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Ames, Oliver (05 November 1807–09 March 1877), manufacturer and railroad promoter and official, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a pioneer manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. Early in his childhood the family returned to their home in North Easton, twenty miles south of Boston. Ames attended the local schools and also became an adept worker in his father’s shovel works. At the age of twenty-one, having been temporarily disabled by a severe fall, he entered Franklin Academy at North Andover, Massachusetts. He was interested in debating clubs and intended to ultimately study law....