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Benner, Philip (19 May 1762–27 July 1832), soldier, pioneer ironmaster, and entrepreneur, was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Benner and Dinah Thomas, farmers. For Philip Benner as for many of his generation, the American Revolution was the defining experience of his early life. When his father, a vocal patriot, was imprisoned by the British, Philip went to war in the Continental army wearing a vest in which his mother had quilted guineas in case of emergency. Benner fought as a private under the command of his relative General ...

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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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Gates, John Warne (08 May 1855–09 August 1911), businessman, was born in Turner Junction, Illinois, the son of Asel Avery Gates and Mary Warne. His parents’ occupations are unknown. Gates was educated in local public schools and at North-Western College in Naperville and received a degree from a six-month commercial course in 1873. He then worked a number of odd jobs and saved his money. In 1876 he married Dellora Baker of St. Charles, Illinois; they had one child. A few years later Gates invested in a local hardware store, where he noticed that barbed wire for fencing had attained a sudden popularity. As wire fencing, it did not demand much wood, which was scarce on the range. The wire was perfect for containing western-range cattle, and it was inexpensive enough so that farmers could purchase it in large lots for the more sizable western ranches....

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Oliver, Henry William (25 February 1840–08 February 1904), ironmaster and businessman, was born in Dungannon, Ireland, the son of Henry W. Oliver, a harnessmaker, and Margaret Brown. His parents emigrated and settled in Pittsburgh in 1842. Henry—usually known as Harry—received a common school education and at age thirteen became a messenger at the National Telegraph Company, thanks to former schoolmate ...

Article

Spotswood, Alexander (1676–07 June 1740), lieutenant governor of Virginia and industrial entrepreneur, was born in northern Africa in the city of Tangier, the son of Robert Spotswood, a physician, and Catherine Elliott. The family was staunchly royalist. Alexander’s father was personal physician to the first earl of Middleton, briefly the most powerful politician in Restoration Scotland, but later exiled as governor of Tangier. The earl’s personal physician accompanied him and acted also as physician to the garrison. Alexander was first taken to England at the age of seven. His father died when he was eleven, just before the Glorious Revolution of 1688. After William III had displaced James II, Alexander did not follow the second earl of Middleton into Jacobitism and exile, but chose to make his first career in the British army created by William III to fight his wars against Louis XIV of France. He was commissioned ensign in the earl of Bath’s foot regiment on 20 May 1693. Promoted lieutenant on 1 January 1696, he continued his military career under Queen Anne, fighting in the War of the Spanish Succession under the command of the duke of Marlborough. A captain before 1704, he was wounded at the battle of Blenheim in 1704 and captured at Oudenarde in 1708 but immediately exchanged. He was primarily active in army supply, particularly grain, being lieutenant quartermaster under Lord Cadogan, rising to lieutenant colonel....

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Torrence, Joseph Thatcher (15 March 1843–31 October 1896), industrial engineer, entrepreneur, and developer, was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, the son of James Torrence and Rebecca (maiden name unknown). He began his career working for a blast-furnace operator outside of Pittsburgh at Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. From there he moved west to Youngstown, Ohio, where he became a blacksmith, and by the time of the Civil War, he had worked his way up to assistant foreman at a blast furnace....