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William W. Belknap. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-2034).


Belknap, William Worth (22 September 1829–12 or 13 Oct. 1890), secretary of war, was born in Newburgh, New York, the son of William Goldsmith Belknap, a career army officer, and Ann Clark. Following his graduation from Princeton in 1846, he studied law at Georgetown University. Belknap moved to Keokuk, Iowa, in 1851 and became the law partner of Ralph P. Lowe, who later became the governor of Iowa and a state supreme court justice....


Christopher D. O’Sullivan

Dern, George Henry (08 September 1872–27 August 1936), secretary of war, was born in Dodge County, Nebraska, the son of John Dern, a pioneer Nebraska farmer, mine operator, and industrialist, and Elizabeth, whose maiden name was the same as her married name, Dern. Both parents were German immigrants. Dern graduated from Nebraska’s Fremont Normal College in 1888 and from 1893 to 1894 attended the University of Nebraska, where he was captain of the football team. In 1894 he accompanied his family to Salt Lake City, joining the Mercur Gold Mining and Milling Company, which his father served as president. Rising rapidly from bookkeeper to company treasurer, he was promoted in 1901 to general manager of the company, which had been reorganized as the Consolidated Mercur Gold Mines Company. Dern was coinventor of the Holt-Dern roaster, a furnace for carrying out the Holt-Christenson roasting process, a technique for recovering silver from low-grade ores. In 1899 he married Charlotte “Lottie” Brown; they had seven children....