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Andrew Carnegie. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-101767).

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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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Cooper, Edward (26 October 1824–25 February 1905), businessman, philanthropist, and politician, was born in New York City, the son of Peter Cooper, a businessman, philanthropist, and public figure, and Sarah Bedell. After attending public school in New York City, the younger Cooper enrolled at Columbia College, but he earned no degree. At Columbia College, Cooper met ...

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Davis, Arthur Vining (30 May 1867–17 November 1962), industrialist, financier, and philanthropist, was born in Sharon, Massachusetts, the son of Perley B. Davis, a Congregational minister, and Mary Vining. Educated in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, and at Roxbury Latin School in Boston, Davis enrolled at Amherst College and graduated in 1888 at the top of his class. He left for Pittsburgh, where ...

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Embree, Elihu (11 November 1782–04 December 1820), abolitionist and iron manufacturer, was born in Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Embree, a Quaker minister, and Esther (maiden name unknown). Moving his family in 1790 to Washington County, in the northeast corner of what would in six years become the new state of Tennessee, Thomas Embree spoke out boldly in the ...

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Frick, Henry Clay (19 December 1849–02 December 1919), industrialist, was born in West Overton, Pennsylvania, the son of John W. Frick, a farmer, and Elizabeth Overholt, the daughter of Abraham Overholt, a successful distiller of whiskey and the wealthiest citizen in Westmoreland County. Other than providing a small cottage and a few acres of poor land on his estate, Overholt shared none of his wealth with his daughter and her family. He did, however, serve as a role model for his grandson. From early childhood, Clay, as his family called him, was eager to escape the poverty with which his unambitious father seemed content and was determined that before he reached the age of thirty he would acquire a larger fortune than his grandfather’s....

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Graff, Everett Dwight (07 August 1885–11 March 1964), business executive and philanthropist, was born in the rural community of Clarinda, Iowa, the son of Valentine Graff, a merchant who had emigrated from Germany, and Nancy Elizabeth Fairley. Graff attended Lake Forest College in Illinois, graduating in 1906. His first job was with the company where he spent his entire working career, Joseph T. Ryerson & Sons, Inc., a Chicago firm that established a reputation as a distributor of steel products. He worked his way from the bottom of the organization to the top, beginning in the mail room in 1906 and ending as chairman of the executive committee in 1951. In the years in between, Graff held a number of positions, including posts in the store order and mill departments in Chicago before moving to Pittsburgh in 1909, where he was responsible for ordering steel from various mills. Graff also was involved in sales in Pittsburgh, and he continued this type of work after he returned to Chicago in 1915 as head of the country sales department. Later he became director of purchasing, but sales seems to have been his strength, for his next assignments were to increase sales of cold-finished bars, special steels, and reinforcing rods....

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James, Daniel Willis (15 April 1832–13 September 1907), merchant and philanthropist, was born in Liverpool, England, the eldest son of Daniel James, a merchant, and Elizabeth Woodbridge Phelps, the eldest daughter of Anson G. Phelps, the head of Phelps, Dodge & Company, a major New York metal firm. James’s father was the resident partner in England of Phelps, Dodge & Company. After attending school in Edinburgh, Scotland, from age thirteen to seventeen, James was sent to New York to enter in the world of work preparatory to joining the family business....

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McConnell, John H. (10 May 1923–25 April 2008), businessman, philanthropist, and hockey team owner, was born John Henderson McConnell in Pughtown (now New Manchester), West Virginia, the son of Paul McConnell, a steelworker, and Mary Louise McConnell. Young John's father was employed by the Weirton Steel Corporation, and his grandfather and uncles also worked in the local steel mills. John grew up in modest circumstances in a home that was heated by coal stoves and lacked electricity and inside plumbing. He demonstrated his prowess in athletics in high school and was offered a football scholarship at the University of West Virginia. But after his graduation from high school in 1941 he declined the scholarship and accepted a job as an electrician with Weirton Steel....

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Perle Mesta Right, with U. S. Senate candidate Marjorie Bell Hinrichs at the Democratic party jubilee in Chicago. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92423).

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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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Verity, George Matthew (22 April 1865–06 November 1942), steelmaker and welfare capitalist, was born in East Liberty, Ohio, the son of Jonathan Verity, a Methodist minister, and Mary Ann Deaton. Mary Ann Verity died when her only son was but two years old. Jonathan Verity was devout but impoverished, and his steadfast Calvinism was the formative influence on the boy....