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Bettendorf, William Peter (01 July 1857–03 June 1910), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Mendota, Illinois, the elder of two sons of Michael Bettendorf, a schoolteacher and later a store clerk and then a federal government clerk, and Catherine Reck. Moving with his parents and three younger siblings to Sedalia, Missouri, and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he had only the most rudimentary schooling. While living at Fort Leavenworth, he attended St. Mary’s Mission School, an institution established to educate Native Americans. For a time, his father also tutored him at home. About 1872 the family returned to Peru, Illinois. But Bettendorf’s formal—and informal—education at the hands of others ended when at the age of fifteen he became totally self-supporting. Bettendorf had already been a messenger boy in Humboldt, Kansas, and a hardware store clerk in Peru. Next, in 1872 or 1873 he obtained a position as an apprentice machinist for a plow-manufacturing company in Peru. Leaving that town for a period of several years, he worked as a machinist for another plow company in Moline, Illinois, and then for a company in Canton, Ohio, that made a variety of agricultural implements. He married Mary Wortman in Peru in 1879. The couple had two children, both of whom died early. While in Canton, Bettendorf began an avid study of theoretical and practical aspects of mechanical engineering....

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Blake, Eli Whitney (27 January 1795–18 August 1886), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Westboro, Massachusetts, the son of Elihu Blake, a farmer, and Elizabeth Whitney, sister of the cotton-gin inventor Eli Whitney. With the financing of his famous uncle, Blake graduated from Yale College in 1816. He then entered law school at Litchfield, Connecticut, but left when Whitney asked him to help run his arms factory near New Haven in the Whitneyville section of Hamden, Connecticut. As Whitney’s right-hand man, Blake gained much practical experience in civil and mechanical engineering. In 1822 he married Eliza Maria O’Brien of New Haven; they had twelve children and sent five of their six sons through Yale....

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Brown, Alexander Ephraim (14 May 1852–26 April 1911), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Fayette Brown, a prominent local businessman, and Cornelia Curtis. After receiving his early education in the public schools of Cleveland and graduating from Central High School, he entered the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in the fall of 1869. Following his graduation with a degree in civil engineering in June 1872, Brown joined the U.S. Geological Survey and spent the next several months exploring and surveying the Yellowstone region of the western United States. While working for the survey, he received an offer of employment from the Massillon Iron Bridge Company in Masillon, Ohio. Returning east, he served that firm for two years as chief engineer. He gained further practical engineering experience from 1875 until 1878 as supervisor of iron mining and engineer of construction in the iron regions near Lake Superior. Brown returned to Cleveland to marry Carrie M., the daughter of General James Barnett, in 1877; the couple eventually had a son and a daughter....

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Carrier, Willis Haviland (26 November 1876–07 October 1950), inventor, was born in Angola, New York, the son of Duane Williams Carrier, a dairy and fruit farmer, and Elizabeth Haviland, a schoolteacher. From an early age, Carrier showed an interest and ability in mechanics. Graduating in 1893 from Buffalo’s Central High School, he was eager to pursue an engineering course at Cornell University, but the onset of a nationwide depression forced him to spend almost four years teaching at a local school....

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Corliss, George Henry (02 June 1817–21 February 1888), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Easton, Washington County, New York, the son of Hiram Corliss, a country doctor, and Susan Sheldon. When Corliss was eight his family moved to nearby Greenwich, where he attended school until he was fourteen. While working for William Mowry & Company (the first cotton cloth factory in New York), Corliss, an ingenious lad of eighteen, gathered volunteers after the swollen Batten Kill swept away the town’s bridge and in ten days built a temporary bridge that pedestrians and wagons could cross. In 1838 he graduated from Castleton Seminary in Vermont, where he had spent three years. Returning to Greenwich, Corliss formed a partnership with his father and started a general store. In 1839 he married Phoebe F. Frost, with whom he had two children. She died in 1859, and in 1866 he married Emily A. Shaw. There were no children from his second marriage....

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Draper, William Franklin (09 April 1842–28 January 1910), textile machinery manufacturer and inventor, congressman, and ambassador to Italy, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of George Draper and Hannah Thwing. His grandfather, Ira Draper, had patented the first self-acting rotary temple for cotton looms in 1816 and had established a plant to manufacture the new machine part in Weston, Massachusetts. By 1842 Ira’s son Ebeneezer had taken control of the business and had moved the plant from Weston to Hopedale, Massachusetts, where he became a member of the Reverend ...

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Esterly, George (17 October 1809–07 June 1893), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Plattekill, Ulster County, New York, the son of Peter Esterly and Rachel Griffith, farmers. He attended local schools and worked on the family’s modest farm. Esterly married Jane Lewis in 1832, moved to Detroit, and began selling dairy and farm supplies throughout the upper Midwest. He returned to farming in 1838 when he and his brother, Robert, moved onto 1,120 acres on Heart Prairie in southeast Wisconsin....

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Haish, Jacob (09 March 1826–19 February 1916), inventor and businessman, was born in Consul Baden, Bavaria, Germany, the son of Christian Haish and Christina Layman, farmers. In 1836 the Haish family immigrated to the United States and took up farming, first in Pennsylvania and then in Crawford County, Ohio. In 1846 the young Jacob Haish moved to Kane County, Illinois, where he worked as an agricultural laborer. In 1847 he married Sophia Ann Brown, the daughter of the farmer for whom he worked. In 1848 Haish bought a farm in DeKalb County, Illinois, and tried farming on his own. In 1851 he sold the farm and worked as a carpenter. In 1853 Haish moved to DeKalb, Illinois, where he lived the rest of his life. Four years later, in 1857, Haish opened a successful building contractor and lumber business....

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Hartness, James (03 September 1861–02 February 1934), inventor, business leader, and governor, was born on a farm near Schenectady, New York, the son of John Williams Hartness, a mechanic, and Ursilla Jackson. In 1863 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Hartness’s formal education ended after elementary school. The Hartness family lived a comfortable life in Cleveland, as Hartness’s mother doted on her three surviving sons while his father succeeded as a foreman and then superintendent....

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Hoe, Richard March (12 September 1812–07 June 1886), manufacturer and inventor, was born in New York City, the son of Robert Hoe, a manufacturer, and Rachel Smith. He attended the New York public schools and at age fifteen went to work in his father’s machine shop. The main products of the shop were printing presses and long and circular saws. The elder Hoe retired in 1830, leaving his son and his nephew Matthew Smith in charge of the plant. At that time the Hoe company built two hand-operated printing presses: the Smith, with a cast-iron frame and a platen that the pressman raised and lowered over a flatbed that held the type, and the Washington, an improved platen press with automatic inking rollers that printed 250 pages an hour. Upon his father’s death in 1833, Hoe became the senior member of the firm. When Smith died in 1842 Hoe’s brothers, Robert Hoe II and Peter Smith Hoe, joined him in the enterprise under the firm name of R. M. Hoe & Co., a name it retained, with changing members of the firm, until Hoe’s death....

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Hughes, Howard Robard, Sr. (09 September 1869–14 January 1924), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Lancaster, Missouri, the son of Jean Amelia Summerlin and Felix Turner Hughes, a lawyer. The family moved to Keokuk, Iowa, about 1880, and according to his brother Rupert Hughes...

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Jacuzzi, Candido (24 February 1903–07 October 1986), inventor and pump manufacturing executive, was born in Casarsa della Delizia in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy, the son of Giovanni Jacuzzi and Teresa Arman, farmers. Because of his family’s poverty, Jacuzzi left elementary school after five years to help his parents and siblings on the farm. In March 1920 he arrived with his two oldest sisters to join five of his six older brothers already in the United States. His parents and other siblings emigrated in 1921. They settled in Berkeley, California, where the brothers operated a machine shop. Jacuzzi started work as an apprentice machinist as soon as he arrived at the Jacuzzi Bros. Co. In 1925 he married Inez Ranieri; they had four children. He was promoted from master machinist to sales manager in 1933. After applying for his first two U.S. patents relating to agricultural well pumps, which formed the heart of the family business at that time, Jacuzzi was promoted from sales manager to general manager in 1940....

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Jacuzzi, Rachele (11 November 1886–24 August 1937), inventor, was born in Casarsa della Delizia in northeastern Italy, the son of Giovanni Jacuzzi and Teresa Arman, farmers. After only three years of schooling, he began selling newspapers in the local train station where his father worked part-time as a porter. At age fourteen he began working during the summers at a brick-making factory near Wiesbaden, Germany. At nineteen he was employed full-time as a telegraph operator but soon enlisted in the Italian army. He attended the communications training school in Florence before being assigned to Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, an Italian colony in northeastern Africa. After his discharge in 1909, he sold his gold watch and bought a ticket to the United States, where he joined his brothers Valeriano and Francesco picking oranges in Los Angeles in 1910....

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Kruesi, John (15 May 1843–22 February 1899), master machinist and assistant to Thomas A. Edison, master machinist and assistant to Thomas A. Edison, was born Johann Heinrich Krusi in Heiden, Switzerland. Little is known of his parents, who died when he was still an infant. He was placed in an orphanage. He began an apprenticeship as a locksmith in St. Gall, and when he completed it he moved to Zurich and worked as a journeyman machinist. There he met August Weber and formed a friendship that would influence his career. The two young men traveled to Paris to view the exhibits of the great international exposition in 1867 and then on to Holland and Belgium to gain some practical experience. After three years they moved to London, where they took in the latest developments in machine tools and power transmission....

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Philip J. Weimerskirch

Lanston, Tolbert (03 February 1844–18 February 1913), inventor, was born in Troy, Ohio, the son of Nicholas Randall Lanston, a tanner and leather merchant, and Mary Jane Wright. His given names were John Tolbert, but he dropped his first name shortly after the Civil War. Until 1856 he lived within forty miles of Troy and grew up in extreme poverty. In 1856 the Lanston family moved to Wapello, Louisa County, Iowa, and remained there until at least 1860. In that year or shortly after the family moved to Dayton, Ohio. In 1861 a noted phrenologist said of him, “He never sees a thing done without at once inquiring of himself, ‘Is there not a better way to do it?’ ” Lanston enlisted for Civil War duty (Company I, Eighty-fourth Ohio Infantry) in Dayton on 31 May 1862, giving his occupation as stencil cutter, and was discharged as a private on 20 September 1862 at Delaware, Ohio. According to family members he reenlisted, became a sergeant, and at the close of the war was mustered out as a sergeant. There is, however, no mention of a reenlistment in his Civil War service or pension records in the National Archives....

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Leffel, James (19 April 1806–11 June 1866), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Botetourt County, Virginia, the son of John Leffel, a sawmill operator, and Catherine (maiden name unknown). About all that is known of his parents is that they moved from Virginia before his first birthday, settling near Springfield, Ohio, on Donnel’s Creek, where his father erected and operated a sawmill and gristmill. In Leffel’s youth, he worked in his father’s mills and developed an interest in waterpower. He received a limited formal education. In the 1820s, just outside Springfield on the Mad River, he built a sawmill, installing a waterwheel of his design. It operated well and brought Leffel further millwrighting jobs in the region. Leffel’s success as a millwright, a career he pursued for around fifteen years, enabled him to marry Mary A. Croft in 1830. They were to have six sons and three daughters....

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Marsh, Charles Wesley (22 March 1834–09 November 1918), inventor and manufacturer of a harvesting machine, was born on a farm in Northumberland County, Ontario, Canada, the son of Samuel Marsh and Tamar Richardson, farmers. Charles and his brother, William W. Marsh, farmed in De Kalb County, Illinois, at the time they invented and successfully operated a grain harvesting machine known as the Marsh harvester....

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Mason, William (02 September 1808–21 May 1883), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Mystic, Connecticut, the son of Amos Mason, a blacksmith, and Mary Holdredge. At age six he moved with his family to Stonington. Seven years later he went to work as an apprentice spinner in a cotton mill in nearby Canterbury, and at age sixteen he moved to Lisbon, Connecticut, where he worked in a textile factory as an operator and mechanic. He became so adept at repairing machinery that a year later his employer put him in charge of setting up the machinery in a new cotton mill in East Haddam. On his return to Lisbon, he worked in the mill’s machine shop until his apprenticeship was completed in 1828....

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Cyrus Hall McCormick. Oil on canvas, mid-19th cent., by Charles Loring Elliott. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mary Buchanan Redwood.

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McCormick, Cyrus Hall (15 February 1809–13 May 1884), inventor and businessman, was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, the son of Robert McCormick, an inventor and farmer, and Mary Ann Hall. As a youth, McCormick received very little formal schooling. He spent many hours in the workshop of his father, who invented a clover huller, blacksmith’s bellows, a hydraulic power machine, and other labor-saving devices. For twenty years McCormick’s father tried to build a reaping machine, but like many other inventors, he was unsuccessful. In 1831, at the age of twenty-two, McCormick constructed a reaper, based on principles completely different from those used by his father. Although crude in design, this machine employed the features basic to all subsequent reapers. After several public trials of his new machine, McCormick took out a patent on it in 1834. For the next few years, however, he was primarily preoccupied with the family iron works. But when the panic of 1837 crippled the business and brought significant debts, McCormick again turned his attention to improving and manufacturing his reaper....