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Birdseye, Clarence (09 December 1886–07 October 1956), inventor and entrepreneur, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Clarence Frank Birdseye, an attorney and legal scholar, and Ada Underwood. When Birdseye was in his teens, his family moved to Montclair, New Jersey, where he completed his high school education. Interested in both food and natural history from an early age, he signed up for a cooking course in high school and trained himself to be a more than competent taxidermist, attempting for a time to earn some income by training others in that skill. Birdseye attended Amherst College on a sporadic basis between 1908 and 1910, but he left before graduating because of financial problems. In an attempt to pay his college bills, he had collected frogs to sell to the Bronx Zoo for feeding their snake population and caught rats in a butcher shop for a Columbia University faculty member who was conducting breeding experiments. Following his departure from Amherst in 1910, he worked as an office boy for an insurance agency in New York, and then briefly as a snow checker for the city’s street cleaning department....

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Burden, Henry (22 April 1791–19 January 1871), inventor and ironmaster, was born in Dunblane, Stirlingshire, Scotland, the son of Peter Burden and Elizabeth Abercrombie, farmers. Burden discovered his talent for invention as a youth on his family’s modest farm, where with few tools and no models he constructed a threshing machine, several gristmills, and various farm implements. Encouraged by these successes he enrolled in a course of drawing, engineering, and mathematics at the University of Edinburgh (he received no degree)....

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Glidden, Joseph Farwell (18 January 1813–09 October 1906), farmer, inventor, and capitalist, was born in Charlestown, Sullivan County, New Hampshire, the son of David Glidden and Polly Hurd, farmers. His family moved west to Orleans County, New York, when he was an infant. After attending local district schools, he studied at Middlebury Academy in Genesee County and at the seminary in Lima, New York. He taught school in the area for several years, but farming was always his first love. In 1837 he married Clarissa Foster in Clarendon, New York. Lacking funds to buy land in New York, he headed west in about 1840 with two crude threshing machines, doing custom threshing and general farm work. In 1842 he settled in De Kalb County, Illinois, where he purchased 600 acres of prairie land on the edge of De Kalb village. The death of the Gliddens’ three young children, followed by the death of his wife in 1843, left Glidden alone until 1851, when he married Lucinda Warne of De Kalb. They had one daughter....

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Parker, John P. (1827–30 January 1900), African-American abolitionist and entrepreneur, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of a slave mother and white father, whose names are unknown. At the age of eight, Parker was sold as a slave to an agent in Richmond, where he in turn was purchased by a physician from Mobile, Alabama. While employed as a house servant for the physician, Parker learned to read and write. In Mobile he was apprenticed to work in furnaces and iron manufactures as well as for a plasterer. Beaten by the plasterer, Parker attempted to escape, only to be captured aboard a northbound riverboat....