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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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Buell, Don Carlos (23 March 1818–19 November 1898), soldier and businessman, was born near Marietta, Ohio, the son of Salmon D. Buell and Eliza (maiden name unknown), farmers. After his father’s death in 1823, the boy lived mostly in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, with an uncle, George P. Buell, who got him an appointment to West Point in 1837. Graduating in the lower half of his 1841 class, Buell was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Third Infantry. He served in the Seminole War and was promoted to first lieutenant on 18 June 1846. In November 1851 he married Margaret Hunter Mason, a widow. They had no children....

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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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Hammond, John Hays (31 March 1855–08 June 1936), mining engineer, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Richard Pindell Hammond, an army officer and politician, and Sara Elizabeth Hays. The scion of a moderately well-to-do family, he graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale with a Ph.B. in 1876 and then studied for three years at the Königliche Sächsische Bergakademie in Freiberg, Saxony, where a substantial number of important American mining engineers were trained in the nineteenth century. Young Hammond gained experience in jobs typical of those offered neophyte engineers: first as assayer for ...

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Hearst, George (03 September 1820–28 February 1891), mine owner and U.S. senator, was born in Franklin County, Missouri, the son of William G. Hearst and Elizabeth Collins, farmers. The family lived in a log cabin. Since no public schools operated in the area until Hearst was about eight years old, his childhood education was very intermittent. As a youth he visited local lead mines and became fascinated with the operations. When his father died, George took over the farming operation, which consisted of three mortgaged farms, a few slaves, and a crossroads country store. He studied mining, borrowing books from a local physician and visiting the nearby Virginia Mine. Using his savings, Hearst leased lead and copper mines and turned a profit, later pointing out that the best mining school was his practical experience in Franklin County....

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Hoover, Herbert Clark (10 August 1874–20 October 1964), engineer, philanthropist, and thirty-first president of the United States, was born in West Branch, Iowa, the son of Jesse Clark Hoover and Hulda[h] Minthorn, farmers. Orphaned at the age of nine, he lived with a variety of relatives in Iowa and finally spent his teenage years in Newberg and Salem, Oregon. Although his parents belonged to a “progressive” branch of Quakers who permitted some organ music and gospel hymns at their meeting house, Hoover’s religious training was quite rigorous under the tutelage of his mother, an ordained Quaker minister....

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Jones, George Wallace (12 April 1804–22 July 1896), miner, merchant, and political leader, was born in Vincennes, Indiana Territory, the son of John Rice Jones, a lawyer and jurist, and Mary Barger. After studying at the Catholic College in St. Louis, Jones, armed with letters of introduction, entered Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He met a host of then and future political leaders and “formed a warm friendship” with ...

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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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Mondell, Frank Wheeler (06 November 1860–06 August 1939), congressman, mine operator, and lawyer, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Ephraim Wheeler Mondell, a laborer, and Nancy Brown. Orphaned at the age of six, Frank lived for a short time with relatives in Iowa. When he was eight, he moved with an itinerant Congregational minister named Upton to Dickinson County, Iowa. Mondell did not graduate from high school and, at the age of eighteen, held various jobs in Chicago for a year, then migrated to Colorado in 1879. For the next eight years, he pursued employment in engineering and construction projects, roaming over a ten-state area. In 1887 the Kilpatrick Brothers and Collins, railroad contractors from Beatrice, Nebraska, hired Mondell to prospect for coal in northeastern Wyoming. His discovery in 1886 of a major bituminous coal deposit at Cambria altered his life. Mondell became the mine manager at Cambria. In 1889 the town of Newcastle, Wyoming, was surveyed, and Mondell became Newcastle’s first mayor, 1889–1895. Concurrently with his mayoralty, he served two terms in the Wyoming State Senate, 1890–1894; he was elected president of the senate in 1893 and declined that position in 1894....

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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....