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Allis, Edward Phelps (12 May 1824–01 April 1889), manufacturer, was born in Cazevonia, New York, the son of Jere Allis, a hatter and furrier, and Mary White. Educated at Cazevonia Academy, Geneva Academy, and Union College, where he received a B.A. in 1845, Allis originally planned to practice law. In 1846, however, Allis moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, entering a business partnership with a college friend, William Allen, whose family had just moved its leather business there from New York. Allis and Allen opened the Empire Leather Store in Milwaukee in May 1846, and the enterprise expanded. In 1848 Allis, Allen, and Allen’s family bought a large tract of hemlock near Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and established the Mammoth Tannery to provide leather for their Milwaukee store and for shipment east. Allis served as managing director of the tannery. In 1848, as the leather business flourished, Allis married Margaret Marie Watson of Geneva, New York; they had twelve children....

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Oakes Ames. Photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-B-1245).

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Ames, Oakes (10 January 1804–08 May 1873), businessman and politician, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. He was educated in local schools and, for a few months, at Dighton Academy. At the age of sixteen, he entered his father’s shovel factory as an apprentice, rising quickly to become the works superintendent and then his father’s assistant. In 1827 he married Evelina Orvile Gilmore, and for the next three decades lived with her and their four children in one wing of his father’s house opposite the factory....

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Ames, Oliver (05 November 1807–09 March 1877), manufacturer and railroad promoter and official, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a pioneer manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. Early in his childhood the family returned to their home in North Easton, twenty miles south of Boston. Ames attended the local schools and also became an adept worker in his father’s shovel works. At the age of twenty-one, having been temporarily disabled by a severe fall, he entered Franklin Academy at North Andover, Massachusetts. He was interested in debating clubs and intended to ultimately study law....

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Baldwin, Matthias W. (10 December 1795–07 September 1866), locomotive builder, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of William Baldwin, a carriage maker. His mother’s name is unknown. His father’s death in 1799 led to serious financial difficulties for the once-prosperous family, and Matthias, the youngest of five children, was raised in economic hardship. At age sixteen he began what he anticipated would be a career in the jeweler’s trade as an apprentice to Woolworth Brothers, a jeweler in Frankford, Pennsylvania. In 1917 he moved to the Philadelphia firm of Fletcher & Gardiner, where he served as a journeyman jeweler for two years before branching off into business for himself. In 1827 he married Sarah C. Baldwin (no relation), with whom he raised five children (one of them adopted)....

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Bettendorf, William Peter (01 July 1857–03 June 1910), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Mendota, Illinois, the elder of two sons of Michael Bettendorf, a schoolteacher and later a store clerk and then a federal government clerk, and Catherine Reck. Moving with his parents and three younger siblings to Sedalia, Missouri, and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he had only the most rudimentary schooling. While living at Fort Leavenworth, he attended St. Mary’s Mission School, an institution established to educate Native Americans. For a time, his father also tutored him at home. About 1872 the family returned to Peru, Illinois. But Bettendorf’s formal—and informal—education at the hands of others ended when at the age of fifteen he became totally self-supporting. Bettendorf had already been a messenger boy in Humboldt, Kansas, and a hardware store clerk in Peru. Next, in 1872 or 1873 he obtained a position as an apprentice machinist for a plow-manufacturing company in Peru. Leaving that town for a period of several years, he worked as a machinist for another plow company in Moline, Illinois, and then for a company in Canton, Ohio, that made a variety of agricultural implements. He married Mary Wortman in Peru in 1879. The couple had two children, both of whom died early. While in Canton, Bettendorf began an avid study of theoretical and practical aspects of mechanical engineering....

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Blake, Eli Whitney (27 January 1795–18 August 1886), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, the son of Elihu Blake, a farmer, and Elizabeth Whitney, sister of the cotton-gin inventor Eli Whitney. With the financing of his famous uncle, Blake graduated from Yale College in 1816. He then entered law school at Litchfield, Connecticut, but left when Whitney asked him to help run his arms factory near New Haven in the Whitneyville section of Hamden, Connecticut. As Whitney’s right-hand man, Blake gained much practical experience in civil and mechanical engineering. In 1822 he married Eliza Maria O’Brien of New Haven; they had twelve children and sent five of their six sons through Yale....

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Brown, Alexander Ephraim (14 May 1852–26 April 1911), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Fayette Brown, a prominent local businessman, and Cornelia Curtis. After receiving his early education in the public schools of Cleveland and graduating from Central High School, he entered the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in the fall of 1869. Following his graduation with a degree in civil engineering in June 1872, Brown joined the U.S. Geological Survey and spent the next several months exploring and surveying the Yellowstone region of the western United States. While working for the survey, he received an offer of employment from the Massillon Iron Bridge Company in Masillon, Ohio. Returning east, he served that firm for two years as chief engineer. He gained further practical engineering experience from 1875 until 1878 as supervisor of iron mining and engineer of construction in the iron regions near Lake Superior. Brown returned to Cleveland to marry Carrie M., the daughter of General James Barnett, in 1877; the couple eventually had a son and a daughter....

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Carrier, Willis Haviland (26 November 1876–07 October 1950), inventor, was born in Angola, New York, the son of Duane Williams Carrier, a dairy and fruit farmer, and Elizabeth Haviland, a schoolteacher. From an early age, Carrier showed an interest and ability in mechanics. Graduating in 1893 from Buffalo’s Central High School, he was eager to pursue an engineering course at Cornell University, but the onset of a nationwide depression forced him to spend almost four years teaching at a local school....

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Case, Jerome Increase (11 December 1818–22 December 1891), manufacturer, was born in Williamstown, New York, the son of Caleb Case and Deborah Jackson, pioneer farmers. When he was barely sixteen years old, Jerome became manager of a threshing company, utilizing a horse-treadmill threshing machine purchased by his father. Although he had always displayed an uncommon interest in and aptitude for the mechanics of farm implements, Case’s only formal training consisted of an eight-month-long “engineering” course at Rensselaer Academy in Mexico, New York in 1841. The following year, having read of the burgeoning wheat yield of the newly opened Wisconsin territory, he purchased six horse-powered threshers, popularly known as “ground hogs,” and headed to the western shores of Lake Michigan via Chicago. Along the road to Wisconsin, Case sold five of the machines to area farmers and kept the sixth, with the goal of supporting himself by threshing while he sought to improve the equipment....

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Chalmers, William James (10 July 1852–10 December 1938), businessman and philanthropist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Thomas Chalmers, a machinist and mining manufacturer, and Janet Telfer. Educated in the Chicago public schools until the age of fourteen, he then worked as an apprentice machinist in the Eagle Works Manufacturing Company (Chicago), where his father was superintendent. Upon completing his apprenticeship, he spent a year traveling in Europe. He returned to Chicago in 1871, where he took charge of the finances for his father’s newly formed company, Fraser, Chalmers & Co., which designed machines for milling, smelting, and refining ores....

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Clark, Edward (19 December 1811–14 October 1882), lawyer and business leader, was born in Athens, Greene County, New York, the son of Nathan Clark, a successful pottery manufacturer, and Julia Nichols. Clark began schooling with a tutor and then attended an academy at Hudson, New York. At age twelve he went to Lenox Academy, run by John Hotchkin, reputedly reading every book in the school’s 500-volume library; at age sixteen he went to Williams College, graduating in 1831....

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Corliss, George Henry (02 June 1817–21 February 1888), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Easton, Washington County, New York, the son of Hiram Corliss, a country doctor, and Susan Sheldon. When Corliss was eight his family moved to nearby Greenwich, where he attended school until he was fourteen. While working for William Mowry & Company (the first cotton cloth factory in New York), Corliss, an ingenious lad of eighteen, gathered volunteers after the swollen Batten Kill swept away the town’s bridge and in ten days built a temporary bridge that pedestrians and wagons could cross. In 1838 he graduated from Castleton Seminary in Vermont, where he had spent three years. Returning to Greenwich, Corliss formed a partnership with his father and started a general store. In 1839 he married Phoebe F. Frost, with whom he had two children. She died in 1859, and in 1866 he married Emily A. Shaw. There were no children from his second marriage....

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Deere, John (07 February 1804–17 May 1886), manufacturer, was born in Rutland, Vermont, the son of William Rinhold Deere, a tailor, and Sarah Yates, a seamstress. His formal schooling was limited, and he became an apprentice blacksmith at age seventeen. He worked for several blacksmiths in Vermont before opening his own shop while in his mid-twenties. Deere’s craftsmanship was highly regarded, but his luck was bad and his businesses failed. So in 1836 he left behind his pregnant wife, Demarius Lamb (whom he had married in 1827), and four young children (they eventually had nine) and joined the westward movement, heading for Grand Detour, Illinois. His family followed him the next year....

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Deering, William (25 April 1826–09 December 1913), manufacturer, was born in South Paris, Maine, the son of James Deering and Eliza Moore. He attended first public schools, then Maine Wesleyan Seminary, in Readfield. He graduated in 1844 and began studying medicine, but his father, a successful woolen wanted him to help with the business; until about 1849, he managed his father’s mill. He then turned his attention to the increasing opportunities in the West, where he invested in land, especially in Illinois and Iowa. When his wife, Abby Reed Barbour, whom he had married in 1849 and with whom he had one child, died in 1856, he decided to return to South Paris, opening there a dry-goods store. A year later he married Clara Hamilton; they had two children....

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Disston, Henry (24 May 1819–16 March 1878), manufacturer, was born in Tewkesbury, England, the son of Thomas Disston, a machinist, and Ann Harrod. His grandfather owned a textile mill, and his father invented a lace machine. An ambitious group of English businessmen arranged for Thomas Disston to set up his lace-making device in the United States. Taking his eldest daughter and fourteen-year-old son, Henry, with him, Thomas Disston reached Philadelphia in early 1833. When his father died three days after their arrival, young Henry apprenticed himself to a company of sawmakers in Philadelphia, where he learned all aspects of the manufacture of saws. Seven years later he started his own business with his savings. Also in 1840 Henry married Amanda Mulvina Bickley. After only one year of marriage Amanda died while giving birth to twins, who survived only a few hours. By 1843 Henry had married Mary Steelman; they had nine children, eight of whom survived infancy. The five sons would eventually join their father’s business....

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Draper, William Franklin (09 April 1842–28 January 1910), textile machinery manufacturer and inventor, congressman, and ambassador to Italy, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of George Draper and Hannah Thwing. His grandfather, Ira Draper, had patented the first self-acting rotary temple for cotton looms in 1816 and had established a plant to manufacture the new machine part in Weston, Massachusetts. By 1842 Ira’s son Ebeneezer had taken control of the business and had moved the plant from Weston to Hopedale, Massachusetts, where he became a member of the Reverend ...

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Ellison, William (1790–05 December 1861), cotton-gin maker and planter, was born a slave in Fairfield District, South Carolina. His father was probably the planter Robert Ellison or his son William, and his mother was a slave woman whose name is unknown. Originally named April, the mulatto child received exceptional treatment. His master apprenticed him to William McCreight, a white cotton-gin maker in Winnsboro. From 1802 to 1816 Ellison worked in McCreight’s gin shop, learning the skills of gin making from a master craftsman. During his training, he learned reading, writing, arithmetic, and basic bookkeeping skills. He also became well versed in interracial social skills as he met scores of planters who came to negotiate with McCreight for gins. These encounters provided him with a valuable network of strategic acquaintances and contacts. Ellison’s owner, William Ellison, allowed him to work extra hours and eventually to purchase his freedom on 8 June 1816....

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Esterly, George (17 October 1809–07 June 1893), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Plattekill, Ulster County, New York, the son of Peter Esterly and Rachel Griffith, farmers. He attended local schools and worked on the family’s modest farm. Esterly married Jane Lewis in 1832, moved to Detroit, and began selling dairy and farm supplies throughout the upper Midwest. He returned to farming in 1838 when he and his brother, Robert, moved onto 1,120 acres on Heart Prairie in southeast Wisconsin....

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Evinrude, Ole (19 April 1877–12 July 1934), manufacturer, was born on a farm about sixty miles north of Oslo, Norway, the son of Andrew Evinrude and Beata Dahl. When he was five, his father moved the family to Wisconsin, where they homesteaded at Cambridge, near Lake Ripley. Always intensely interested in boats and ships, as a child he carved detailed wooden models. When he was sixteen he built a sailboat and launched it on Lake Ripley. That fall he went to Madison and obtained a job as an apprentice machinist in the Fuller & Johnson farm machinery shop, where he earned fifty cents a day. He quickly mastered the trade and worked in several Madison shops, studying engineering in his spare time. He then moved to Pittsburgh and found work there in the steel mills. He went next to Chicago, where he gained experience working in machine-tool companies. He jumped between jobs for five years, becoming a skilled machinist and self-educated mechanical engineer....