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Abbott, Horace (29 July 1806–08 August 1887), manufacturer, was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, the son of Alpheus Abbott and Lydia Fay, farmers. His father died when Abbott was quite young, leaving the family in poverty. With little opportunity for formal education, Abbott was apprenticed to a blacksmith in Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1822. After completing his five-year term, he spent the following two years as a journeyman blacksmith. Abbott then returned to Westborough and set up his own blacksmith shop. In 1830 he married Charlotte Hapgood; they would have seven children. He remained in Westborough until 1836....

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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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Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Lithograph on paper, 1832, by Albert Newsam. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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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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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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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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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 ...

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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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Myron C. Taylor Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100836).

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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 ...

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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....

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Yeatman, Thomas (25 December 1787–12 June 1833), merchant and banker, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of John Yeatman, a ship and boat builder on the Potomac and Monongahela rivers, and Lucy Patty. Very little is known of Yeatman’s early life. He arrived in Nashville about 1807 and probably soon became a river trader. W. W. Clayton, in ...