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Addicks, John Edward O’Sullivan (21 November 1841–07 August 1919), promoter and aspiring politician, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Edward Addicks, a politician and civil servant, and Margaretta McLeod. Addicks’s father achieved local political prominence and arranged for his son to take a job at age fifteen as a runner for a local dry goods business. Four years later Addicks took a job with a flour company and, upon reaching his twenty-first birthday, became a full partner in the business. Like many Quaker City merchants, Addicks speculated in local real estate in the booming port town, avoided service in the Civil War, and achieved a modicum of prosperity in the postwar period. He became overextended, as he would be most of his career, however, and went broke in the 1873 depression....

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Bard, Thomas Robert (08 December 1841–05 March 1915), businessman and politician, was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert McFarland Bard, a lawyer, and Elizabeth Parker Little. His father died when Thomas was nine, putting the family in somewhat straitened circumstances and placing adult responsibilities on the eldest of two sons. Bard began the study of law after graduating from the Chambersburg Academy in 1859, but a worsening family financial situation compelled him to seek more immediately remunerative employment on a railway survey crew....

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Johnson Newlon Camden. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101787).

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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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Joseph F. Guffey Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115055).

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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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Hoover, Herbert Clark, Jr. (04 August 1903–09 July 1969), undersecretary of state and businessman, was born in London, England, the son of Herbert Clark Hoover, the thirty-first president of the United States, and Lou Henry Hoover. The fact that Hoover’s father was president remained the dominant fact of his life. Hoover followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from Stanford University in 1925 with a degree in petroleum geology. That same year he married Margaret Watson, with whom he would have three children. He received his M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School three years later and remained at Harvard for the next two years as an instructor and researcher. In 1928 the Guggenheim Foundation awarded him a grant to survey West Coast air routes....

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Hunt, H. L. (17 February 1889–29 November 1974), Texas oilman and supporter of archconservative political causes, was born Haroldson Lafayette Hunt in Ramsey, Illinois, the son of H. L. Hunt, Sr., and Ella Rose Myers, farmers. Hunt left home at sixteen, working as a laborer in the West. For a short time he attended Valparaiso University in Indiana but went into cotton farming in Arkansas about 1911. He later speculated in land, but the post–World War I recession wiped him out. In 1921 he decided to try the oil business in Arkansas, buying and selling leases but not yet becoming rich. In 1930 he learned that Columbus “Dad” Joiner was wildcatting in East Texas, activity that the experts said would surely fail. It did not. The result was one of the greatest oil strikes in history—the East Texas field. Hunt investigated, decided to buy Joiner out for $95,000, and soon became the largest independent operator in East Texas. He was on the way to accumulating a fortune....

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Jones, Samuel Milton (08 August 1846–12 July 1904), manufacturer, mayor, reformer, nicknamed "Golden Rule", manufacturer, mayor, reformer, nicknamed “Golden Rule,” was born near Beddgelert, Caernarvonshire, Wales, the son of Hugh Samuel Jones, a stone mason and tenant farmer, and Margaret Williams. In 1849 the family immigrated to the United States, settling near Collinsville, New York. During his childhood the young Jones attended school for a total of only thirty months, never studying grammar nor advancing beyond fractions in arithmetic. At the age of fourteen he took a job in a sawmill, and soon after secured a position as wiper and greaser on a steamboat. In 1865 Jones moved to the Pennsylvania oilfields, where he remained for most of the next twenty-one years. Working as a driller, pumper, tool dresser, and pipe liner, he saved enough money to go into the oil business for himself. In 1875 the young oilman married Alma Bernice Curtiss of Pleasantville, Pennsylvania, and during the next ten years three children were born to the couple. In 1881 Jones’s infant daughter died, and his wife’s death followed four years later. Jones characterized these losses as “the greatest trial and severest shock” of his life....

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Robert S. Kerr Photograph by Mary Dean, 1954. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114948).

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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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Marland, Ernest Whitworth (08 May 1874–03 October 1941), oilman and politician, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Alfred Marland, an English-born industrialist, and Sara McLeod, his Scottish-born wife. Educated in private schools, Marland graduated from the University of Michigan School of Law in 1893. Too young to be admitted to the bar, Marland taught himself geology and went to the oil fields along the Pennsylvania–West Virginia border. There he made his first fortune in oil and just as quickly lost it when the panic of 1907 devastated the region’s small, independent producers. In 1908 Marland left for Oklahoma. Passing over the fields already developed in the state’s eastern counties, Marland ventured a hundred miles further west to the undulating plains near the village of Ponca City....

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Sadler, Harley (04 September 1892–14 October 1954), tent show actor-manager, oilman, and Texas legislator, was born near Pleasant Plains, Arkansas, the son of Junius E. and Lula T. Sadler. Junius, after several years of marginally successful farming, settled down to the life of a general merchant in Stamford, Texas, where Harley first demonstrated the interest in show business that was to dominate his life. With no training beyond participation in high school plays and the town band, he left home before graduation to join a small carnival as a musician....

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Sterling, Ross Shaw (11 February 1875–25 March 1949), oilman and politician, was born near Anahuac, Chambers County, Texas, the son of Benjamin Franklin Sterling, a storekeeper and farmer, and Mary Jane Bryan. He attended local public schools until 1887, dropping out after his mother’s death. Sterling then worked with his father, becoming store manager by his seventeenth birthday. In 1896 he struck out on his own, freighting produce across Galveston Bay to the city of Galveston. He married schoolteacher Maud Abbie Gage in October 1898; the couple had five children....

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Wright, Eliphalet Nott (03 April 1858–10 January 1932), physician, politician, and businessman, was born near Armstrong Academy, Choctaw Nation, in Indian Territory (now southeastern Oklahoma), the son of Allen Wright, a Choctaw civil and religious leader and scholar, and Harriet Mitchell, a white Presbyterian mission teacher. Wright attended school fourteen miles southwest of Atoka at Boggy Depot, Choctaw Nation, when it was a Confederate post during the Civil War. He was in Washington, D.C., briefly, when his father represented the Choctaw Nation to treat with the U.S. government. Wright attended classes for one year at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri, and three years at Spencer Academy near Doaksville in Choctaw Nation. In 1878 he entered Union College in Schenectady, New York, but discontinued his classical course of study there in 1881 to enter the Albany Medical College, New York. He earned necessary money by practicing back home in the summer of 1883 and then returned to Albany, where he received an M.D. early in 1884. He went home to Boggy Depot to begin a career combining medicine, politics, and business....