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Benedum, Michael L. (16 July 1869–30 July 1959), oilman, was born Michael Late Benedum in West Virginia, the son of Emanuel Benedum, farmer and merchant, and Caroline Southworth Benedum. As a boy Michael worked on his father's farm and also at a general store his father owned in Bridgeport, West Virginia. He never had much formal schooling, but he did have access to many books at home, including the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton. Emanuel Benedum dreamed of one day sending his son to West Point....

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Camden, Johnson Newlon (06 March 1828–25 April 1908), oil company executive, pioneer industrialist, and U.S. senator, was born in Collins Settlement, Lewis County, Virginia (now Jacksonville, W.Va.), the son of John Scrivener Camden, a justice of the peace, and Nancy Newlon. Camden’s father bought a house and tavern in Sutton, Braxton County, and moved the family there in 1837....

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Drake, Edwin Laurentine (29 March 1819–08 November 1880), petroleum industry pioneer, was born in Greenville, Green County, New York, the son of Lyman Drake, a farmer, and Linda Lee. When he was around the age of eight he relocated with his parents to Castleton, Vermont, where he completed a common school education and assisted on the family farm. At nineteen he left home for his uncle's farm in Michigan, stopping on the way to work for several months as a night clerk on a steamboat route that ran between Detroit and Buffalo....

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Guffey, Joseph F. (29 December 1870–06 March 1959), U.S. senator and businessman, was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, the son of John Guffey and Barbaretta Hough, wealthy farmers. From an early age he was interested in politics, and he and his sister, Emma Guffey Miller...

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Kerr, Robert Samuel (11 September 1896–01 January 1963), oil executive and politician, was born in Indian territory, near present-day Ada, Oklahoma, the son of William Samuel Kerr, a farmer, clerk, and politician, and Margaret Eloda Wright. Kerr’s upbringing as a Southern Baptist had a profound influence on his life. Not only did his religious beliefs lead him to teach Sunday school and to shun alcohol throughout his adulthood, it also aided his political aspirations in a conservative state where Baptists were the single largest denomination....

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Rockefeller, John D. (08 July 1839–23 May 1937), industrialist and philanthropist, was born John Davison Rockefeller in Richford, New York, the son of William Avery Rockefeller and Eliza Davison. The family moved several times during his youth: to Moravia in 1843, to Owego in 1850, and to Ohio in 1853, settling in Strongsville, then in Parma in 1855, and finally in Cleveland. His father, an itinerant businessman, dealt in horses, lumber, salt, patent medicines, and herbal remedies and often lent money at profitable rates of interest. He gave his son practical training in business, but the father’s frequent, long absences burdened young Rockefeller with larger responsibilities within the family and helped foster a close relationship with his mother, a devout Baptist whose emphasis on proper moral conduct, discipline, thrift, and hard work would remain with her son....

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Roosevelt, Archibald Bulloch (09 April 1894–13 October 1979), businessman and military officer, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Theodore Roosevelt, then a U.S. civil service commissioner, and Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt. In 1901 Roosevelt’s father succeeded the assassinated William McKinley as U.S. president. A rambunctious youth, Archie made headlines by sliding down a White House banister into one diplomatic reception and by arriving at another on stilts....