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Couzens, James (26 August 1872–22 October 1936), businessman, mayor of Detroit, and U.S. senator, was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, the son of James J. Couzens and Emma Clift, an immigrant couple from England. Raised in a stern Presbyterian household and a lower-income family that lived on the “muddiest” street in town, young Couzens’s education was capped by two years of bookkeeping study at Chatham’s Canada Business College. He worked as a newsboy and then stirring smelly, boiling vats for his father, who had parlayed his skills as a soapmaker and salesman into ownership of a small soap-making factory. Displaying an assertive independence, which contemporaries noted that he had inherited from his stern-willed father, young Couzens set off for Detroit to test his mettle in the larger world and in 1890 was taken on as a railroad car–checker for the Michigan Central. Five years later he became an assistant bookkeeper for Alex Malcomson’s coal business, which brought him into contact with a mechanical tinkerer and automobile pioneer named ...

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La Guardia, Fiorello Henry (11 December 1882–20 September 1947), U.S. congressman and mayor of New York City, was born in New York City, the son of Achille La Guardia, an army bandmaster, and Irene Coen. Shortly after La Guardia’s father joined the American forces dispatched for Cuba in 1898 he fell ill, probably from the “embalmed beef” sold to the military, and was discharged from the army. He then took the family to Europe, where La Guardia, barely eighteen years old, won a post with the American consular service. On the Continent La Guardia experienced firsthand the intense ethnic hatreds and class antipathies of Central Europe; he also acquired fluency in five languages and a strong ambition to return to the United States....

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Wentworth, John (05 March 1815–16 October 1888), editor, congressman, and mayor of Chicago, was born in Sandwich, New Hampshire, the son of Paul Wentworth, a storekeeper, and Lydia Cogswell. His grandfather John Wentworth served in the Continental Congress and signed the Articles of Confederation. Young Wentworth attended first local public schools and then a series of private academies before entering Dartmouth College. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1836 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he gained employment as an agent for the ...

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Wherry, Kenneth Spicer (28 February 1892–29 November 1951), businessman and politician, was born in Liberty, Nebraska, the son of David Emery Wherry, a storekeeper, and Jessie Comstock. When he was eight months old, his family moved to Pawnee City, Nebraska, where his father opened a farm implement, furniture, and undertaking establishment. Wherry graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1914 and studied law and business at the Harvard School of Business Administration. He served in the Naval Flying Corps during World War I but did not go overseas. After reading law privately, he won admission to the Nebraska bar in 1931....