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Anderson, Joseph Reid (16 February 1813–07 September 1892), industrialist and Confederate soldier, was born in Botetourt County in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the son of William Anderson and Anna Thomas, farmers. Anderson received his early education in the local schools. After having been rejected twice, he entered the U.S. Military Academy in 1832 at age nineteen. Graduating fourth of forty-nine in 1836, he preferred a post in the elite Corps of Engineers but was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Third Artillery. Soon he was assigned to Fort Monroe, where he met his first wife, Sally Archer, daughter of the post physician, Dr. Robert Archer. They were married in the spring of 1837 and eventually had five children....

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Bly, Nellie (05 May 1864–27 January 1922), reporter and manufacturer, was born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in Cochran’s Mills, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Michael Cochran, a mill owner and associate justice of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and Mary Jane Kennedy Cummings. Judge Cochran, the father of fifteen children by two wives, died suddenly without a will in 1870, leaving Mary Jane with little money. Mary Jane’s abusive third marriage to John Jackson Ford ended in divorce in 1878, and “Pink,” as Elizabeth Jane was known, at age fifteen, went off to Indiana (Pa.) Normal School, adding a final ...

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Carnegie, Andrew (25 November 1835–11 August 1919), industrialist and philanthropist, was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, the son of William Carnegie, a handloom weaver, and Margaret Morrison. William Carnegie was sufficiently prosperous to have four looms in his shop and to employ three apprentices. Although shunning political activism, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the political views of his wife’s father, Thomas Morrison, Sr., an early leader of the Chartist movement and a friend of William Cobbett to whose journal, ...

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Carroll of Carrollton, Charles (19 September 1737–14 November 1832), planter, businessman, investor, and the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the last of the signers to die, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the son of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, a planter, and his common-law wife, Elizabeth Brooke. An only child, Carroll was sent at the age of ten to the Jesuit college of St. Omers, in French Flanders, where Maryland’s Catholic gentry sent their sons because the colony’s laws, which denied “papists” the right to vote, hold office, practice law, and worship publicly, also forbade them to maintain religious schools. Young Carroll studied abroad for sixteen years, ending with a thesis in philosophy at the college of Louis le Grand in Paris in 1757. After reading civil law in Bourges and Paris, he moved to London in September 1759 to pursue the common law at the Inns of Court. However, his antipathy for the discipline, which he regarded as “founded upon and still subsisting by villainy,” became so intense that he ultimately defied his father’s intention that he formally enter the Inner Temple, one of the four Inns of Court. Finding the paternal insistence on his acquiring the social graces more to his liking, he became adept at dancing, drawing, and fencing and mastered Italian, bookkeeping, and surveying, practical skills the elder Carroll deemed essential for success as a landowner and man of business....

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Corning, Erastus (14 December 1794–09 April 1872), manufacturer and railroad executive, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Bliss Corning and Lucinda Smith. About 1805 the family moved to Chatham, New York, a few miles southeast of Albany. Erastus completed a common school education and, at about age thirteen, moved to nearby Troy to work in his uncle Benjamin Smith’s hardware business. Smith was particularly helpful to Erastus, perhaps because an injury in infancy had left the boy with a lifelong reliance on crutches....

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Farrell, James Augustine (15 February 1862–28 March 1943), steel industry executive, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of John Guy Farrell, a shipowner and merchant, and Catherine Whalen. After his father died at sea in about 1879, Farrell gave up plans to attend Yale and signed on as a laborer with the New Haven Wire Company for $4.65 per week. Farrell advanced to being a wire drawer and then foreman before moving to Pittsburgh in 1888 and joining the Pittsburgh Wire Company. The following year he married Catherine McDermott; they had five children....

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Gary, Elbert Henry (08 October 1846–15 August 1927), lawyer and steel industrialist, was born near Wheaton, Illinois, the son of Erastus Gary and Susan Valette, farmers. Raised in a strict Methodist home that stressed the value of education, Gary attended the local public schools and for a time Illinois Institute, later renamed Wheaton College. After a two-month army stint during the Civil War and a term teaching school, Gary turned to the study of law with his maternal uncle, Colonel Henry Valette, and his uncle’s partner, Judge Hiram H. Cody, in Naperville, Illinois. He subsequently attended Union College of Law in Chicago, graduating first in the 1868 class. While clerking for the Illinois Superior Court, he married Julia E. Graves in 1869; they had two children. The couple lived in Wheaton from whence he commuted to Chicago during the subsequent thirty years of his legal career. (After his first wife’s death in 1902, Gary married Emma Townsend in 1905. They had no children)....

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Mesta, Perle (12 Oct. 1889 or 1891–16 March 1975), political activist, businesswoman, diplomat, and hostess, was born Pearl Skirvin in Sturgis, Michigan, the daughter of William Balser Skirvin, a salesman, and Harriet Reid. The actual year of her birth was one of her best-kept secrets. Early in the twentieth century her father left Michigan for the oil fields of South Texas, where he made a fortune in the famed Spindletop field. The feisty “Billy” Skirvin moved to Oklahoma City, where he founded the American Oil and Refinery Company and built the luxurious fourteen-floor Skirvin Hotel. Pearl was educated in private schools in Galveston and studied voice and piano at the Sherwood School of Music in Chicago. In 1917 she married 54-year-old George Mesta, founder and president of the Mesta Machine Company located in Pittsburgh. During her years living in the nation’s steel capital she changed her name to the distinctive “Perle.”...

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Schwab, Charles Michael (18 February 1862–18 September 1939), steel executive, was born in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, the son of John Schwab and Pauline Farabaugh. His father was a weaver and in 1874 moved to the village of Loretto on the crest of the Allegheny Mountains and purchased a livery stable. At Loretto, Charles attended St. Francis College (then a Catholic secondary school). His secular studies included the humanities, bookkeeping, surveying, and engineering. From an early age he was active, curious, ambitious, and gregarious—a natural showman. “I can do something else yet,” he is reported as saying at the conclusion of entertaining friends with songs, jokes, somersaults, and magic tricks. The words sum up the way he lived....

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Stettinius, Edward Reilly, Jr. (22 October 1900–31 October 1949), business executive, U.S. secretary of state, and U.S. delegate to the United Nations, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Edward Reilly Stettinius, Sr., a J. P. Morgan and Company partner and assistant secretary of war during World War I, and Judith Carrington. Some members of his family used the spelling Rilley or Riley. Stettinius grew up in Chicago and New York City. He graduated from the Pomfret School in Connecticut and attended the University of Virginia for four years. However, he left in 1924 with only six of the sixty credits necessary for graduation. He spent much of his college time ministering to poor Appalachian hill families and working with employment agencies trying to assist poor students at the university. He missed many classes and was frequently away from campus. Because he avoided alcohol and fraternity parties, his classmates called him “Abstemious Stettinius.” He considered becoming an Episcopal minister upon leaving school, but a trip to Europe as a traveling companion to philosophy instructor William S. A. Pott changed his mind. Upon his return, feeling he could best help society through industry, he took a position as a stockroom attendant in the Hyatt Roller Bearing Company offered to him by General Motors vice president and family acquaintance John Lee Pratt. Pratt was a University of Virginia alumnus who had learned of Stettinius’s social work by reading his alma mater’s publications. By 1926 Stettinius became Pratt’s assistant and implemented innovative employee benefit programs. In 1924 he married Virginia Gordon Wallace; they had three sons....

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Taylor, Myron Charles (18 January 1874–06 May 1959), business executive and diplomat, was born in Lyons, New York, the son of William Taylor, a textile executive, and Mary Morgan Underhill. His father made a fortune in the textile and leather industries. After a comfortable youth, Taylor attended Cornell University and earned a law degree in 1894, studying with ...