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Averell, William Woods (05 November 1832–03 February 1900), Union general and businessman, was born in Cameron (Steuben County), New York, the son of Hiram Averell and Huldah Hemenway, farmers. Averell attended the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1855, twenty-sixth in a class of thirty-four, only excelling in horsemanship. He then served with the cavalry in the Southwest and was seriously wounded during a fight against the Navajos at Canyon de Chelly, New Mexico Territory (1858). He was in New York on convalescent leave when the Civil War began....

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Avery, R. Stanton (13 January 1907–12 December 1997), inventor and entrepreneur, was born Ray Stanton Avery in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the son of Oliver Perry Avery, a Congregationalist minister, and Emma Dickinson Avery. Avery's early life was largely shaped by his family's religious and humanitarian interests. (Avery's mother was the daughter of a Congregationalist minister, and his brother became a minister.) Although “Stan” rebelled against the family profession, he continued to be drawn to its secular message. As a student at Pomona College from 1926 to 1932, he worked at a Los Angeles skid row mission. During a year-long trip to China (1929–1930), he spent several months at a missionary-run famine relief center. In 1932 he graduated from Pomona and took a job with the Los Angeles County Department of Charities. In later years he always insisted on the highest ethical standards in business relationships....

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Barnes, Albert Coombs (02 January 1872–24 July 1951), collector, educator, and entrepreneur, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Jesse Barnes, a butcher, and Lydia A. Schafer. Barnes’s father lost his right arm in the Civil War, and his ability to support his family proved sporadic. However, Albert’s mother, to whom he was devoted, was hardworking and resourceful. Among his most vivid childhood memories were the exuberant black religious revivals and camp meetings he attended with his devout Methodist parents. Accepted at the academically demanding Central High School, which awarded bachelor’s degrees, his early interest in art was stimulated by his friendship with the future artist ...

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Bedaux, Charles Eugene (10 October 1886–18 February 1944), scientific manager, entrepreneur, and fascist collaborator, was born in Charenton-le-Pont, France, a suburb of Paris, the son of Charles Emile Bedaux, a railroad engineer, and Marie Eulalie, a dressmaker. Bedaux spent his first twenty years on the streets of Paris, doing odd jobs and usually avoiding school. He attended the Lycée Louis LeGrand in Paris but did not receive a regular degree. In 1906 he left Paris to seek his fortune across the Atlantic. In the United States Bedaux worked as a dishwasher, an insurance salesman, and a sandhog with the crews building the Hudson River tunnels. He also had a stint at the New Jersey Worsted Mills in Hoboken. He became a naturalized citizen in 1908....

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Bloom, Sol (c. 9 Mar. 1870–07 March 1949), music and entertainment entrepreneur and longtime congressman, was born in Pekin, Illinois, the son of Gershon (later anglicized to Garrison) Bloom and Sara Bloom, Jewish immigrants from Szyrpez, Prussian Poland, who emigrated to the United States before the Civil War. Although legal papers maintain that he was born on 9 March, Bloom acknowledged in his autobiography that his exact date of birth is unknown. Never well-off, the Blooms moved to San Francisco in 1873. According to Bloom his formal education lasted one day, but his mother—the family force—taught him to read and write....

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Brady, Mathew B. (1823?–15 January 1896), photographer and entrepreneur, was born near Lake George, New York, the son of Andrew Brady and Julia (maiden name unknown), poor, working-class parents of Irish heritage. His first name has often been misspelled Matthew; Brady himself did not know what his middle initial stood for. Little is known of his childhood and schooling, and there is some question as to how literate Brady was because others handled his correspondence and financial records. His signature is one of the few examples of his handwriting left behind....

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Calvert, George (1580?–15 April 1632), first Lord Baltimore and colonial entrepreneur, was born in Kiplin, Yorkshire, the son of Leonard Calvert, a gentleman of modest means, and a woman named Crossland, perhaps Alicia or Alice, or Grace. Calvert received a broad education through formal study and extensive travel. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, Oxford, in 1597 and in 1605 an honorary master’s degree from that university. He gained fluency in Spanish, French, and Italian in his sojourns on the European continent. By his mid-twenties this preparation and his obvious talents in administration and diplomacy brought appointment as private secretary to Sir Robert Cecil, a privy councilor and secretary of state, through whom Calvert acquired still other patronage and the attention of the king. Marriage by 1605 to Anne Mynne of Hertfordshire probably also assisted Calvert’s career; she was related to several prominent families active in government circles and in early trading and colonizing ventures....

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Eastman, George (12 July 1854–14 March 1932), inventor, businessman, and philanthropist, was born in Waterville, New York, the son of George Washington Eastman, a nurseryman and educator, and Maria Kilbourn. His father’s pioneering work in establishing Eastman Mercantile (or Commercial) College in Rochester in 1842, a prototype for later business schools, perhaps inspired Eastman to be a trailblazer in another field. His father died when George was seven, two years after the family moved to Rochester, and his mother took in boarders. Eastman attended public and private schools until age thirteen, when he became an office boy in a real estate firm to help support his mother and two older sisters. A year later Eastman transferred to an insurance office and in 1874 he became a bookkeeper for the Rochester Savings Bank....

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Edge, Walter Evans (20 November 1873–29 October 1956), New Jersey businessman and political leader, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Edge, a railroad manager, and Mary Elizabeth Evans. In 1877 his family moved to Pleasantville, New Jersey, and in 1887 he took a job as a printer’s devil for the ...

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Edison, Thomas Alva (11 February 1847–18 October 1931), inventor and business entrepreneur, was born in Milan, Ohio, the son of Samuel Edison, a shingle maker, land speculator, and shopkeeper, and Nancy Elliott, a schoolteacher. Of Dutch and American heritage, his father escaped from Canada during the rebellion of 1837–1838 and, with his wife and children, settled in Milan, a burgeoning wheat port on a canal near Lake Erie, midway between Cleveland and Detroit. “Al,” as his family called him, received devoted attention from his oldest sister Marion and his mother. The arrival of the railroad in a nearby town sharply diminished the canal business in Milan and prompted the family to move to Port Huron, Michigan, in 1854. Al attended both public and private schools for short periods but studied extensively with his mother at home, where he also read books from the library of his politically radical father....

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Estes, Billie Sol (20 January 1925–14 May 2013), business entrepreneur, was born in Gray County, Texas, the second of six children of Lillian Coffman and John Levi Estes, struggling farmers. His parents raised their children in the fundamentalist Church of Christ. Young Billie attended local public schools near Clyde, Texas, and as a teenager wrote to President ...

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Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....

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Genovese, Vito (21 November 1897–14 February 1969), criminal entrepreneur, was born in Ricigliano, Italy, the son of Philip Anthony Genovese, a building trades worker, and Nancy (maiden name unknown). Genovese received the equivalent of a fifth-grade education in Italy before following his father to New York City in 1913. A petty thief and street tough in the Greenwich Village area of Little Italy, Genovese soon established a reputation for unusual cunning and violence. Frequently arrested on charges of assault and homicide, he was twice convicted of carrying a concealed weapon. More important, he became a collector for the illegal Italian lottery, an indication that he had attracted the attention of locally prominent underworld figures....

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Goldkette, Jean (18 May 1893–24 March 1962), dance bandleader, businessman, and classical pianist, was born in Patras, Greece, the son of Angelina Goldkette, an actress. It is not known who Jean's father was. The Goldkette family was a troupe of entertainers that traveled throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Angelina met and married John Poliakoff, a journalist, in Moscow in 1903. Raised in Greece and Russia, Jean studied classical piano from an early age, and he attended the Moscow Conservatory of Music. He moved to Chicago in 1910, when he was 17, to live with George Goldkette, an uncle. His mother and stepfather moved to the United States in 1919....

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Gwin, William McKendree (09 October 1805–03 September 1885), politician and entrepreneur, was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, the son of James Gwin, a Methodist minister, and Mary (maiden name probably Adair). He pursued legal studies in Gallatin, Tennessee, and gained admittance to the state bar. Gwin matriculated at Transylvania University in Kentucky in 1825 for the purpose of studying medicine. He received his medical degree on 5 March 1828 and practiced medicine for several years....

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Hammer, Armand (21 May 1898–10 December 1990), entrepreneur and philanthropist, was born on the Lower East Side of New York City, the son of Russian-born Julius Hammer, a pharmacist and physician, and Rose Robinson. Hammer’s childhood economic circumstances were better than those of many of his immigrant contemporaries. When he was still a child, his family moved to the Bronx, where his father balanced a quest for a medical degree with the demands of his drugstores. Hammer attended Morris High School and in 1917 registered at Columbia Heights Premedical School. Two years later he enrolled at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, from which he graduated in June 1921....

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Percy, Charles Hartung (27 Sept. 1919–17 Sept. 2011), business executive and politician, was born in Pensacola, Florida, to Edward H. Percy, a bank cashier with distinguished family roots in Alabama and Virginia, and Elizabeth Harting Percy, a concert violinist from Illinois. During young Percy’s infancy the family moved to Chicago, where two more children were born. The Percys led a comfortable life in the 1920s, providing their children with music lessons and other middle-class amenities. By ...

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Pinchback, P. B. S. (10 May 1837–21 December 1921), politician, editor, and entrepreneur, was born Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback in Macon, Georgia, the son of William Pinchback, a Mississippi plantation owner, and Eliza Stewart, a former slave of mixed ancestry. Because William Pinchback had taken Eliza to Philadelphia to obtain her emancipation, Pinckney was free upon birth....

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Post, Charles William (26 October 1854–09 May 1914), cereal magnate, entrepreneur, and advertising innovator, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the son of Charles Rollin Post, a purveyor of agricultural implements, and Caroline Lathrop Parsons. At the age of fourteen Post matriculated at the Illinois Industrial University (the predecessor to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign), where he studied mechanical engineering for about a year. Leaving school before earning a degree, he joined the Springfield Zouaves, a militia unit that became known as the Governor’s Guard. Post’s company served under General ...

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Roosevelt, Elliott (23 September 1910–27 October 1990), advertising executive, public figure, and author, was born in New York City, the son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president of the United States, and Eleanor Roosevelt. He attended Groton Academy in Massachusetts (1923–1929) and Hun School in New Jersey (1929–1930). He declined to follow the family tradition and did not go to Harvard but entered the business world instead. He was an advertising account executive in one firm (1930), vice president of another (1931), and then an account executive in yet another (1932). He became aviation editor for the ...