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Ashburner, Charles Albert (09 February 1854–24 December 1889), geologist and mining engineer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Algernon Eyre Ashburner, a shipbuilder, and Sarah Blakiston. Charles Ashburner obtained his college education at the Towne Scientific School of the University of Pennsylvania and ultimately was granted a total of three baccalaureate and advanced degrees by his alma mater. In June 1874 he received his B.S. degree in civil engineering and graduated valedictorian of his class. Three years later he was awarded an M.S. degree in geology. Upon recommendation of the faculty, in recognition of his outstanding career and accomplishments, Ashburner became the first member of the alumni to receive an honorary D.Sc. degree, in June 1889....

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Brophy, John (06 November 1883–19 February 1963), coal miner and union organizer, was born in St. Helens, Lancashire, England, the son of Patrick Brophy, a coal miner, and Mary Dagnall. John spent his early childhood in a predominantly Catholic working-class community where union membership was the norm for most coal miners. He attended parochial school until the age of nine when, in December of 1892, his family immigrated to Philipsburg, Pennsylvania....

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Brunton, David William (11 June 1849–20 December 1927), mining engineer, was born in Ayr, Ontario, Canada, the son of James Brunton, an engineer, and Agnes Dickie. After attending grammar school he went to Toronto, Canada, and apprenticed under civil engineer Edmund Wragge, chief engineer of the Toronto, Gray and Bruce Railway in 1870, and under J. C. Bailey, chief engineer of the Toronto and Nipissing Railroad in 1871. He emigrated to the United States in 1873 to take a special course in geology, chemistry, and metallurgy at the University of Michigan in 1874–1875. Major Charles H. McIntyre, president of the newly organized Dakota and San Juan Mining Co., recruited him to take charge of the engineering department in 1875. He and McIntyre traveled to Denver, Colorado, to hire miners and organize equipment. Brunton then set out with the miners and equipment for Mineral Point, in the San Juan Mountains, 230 miles from the nearest railroad and 11,700 feet above sea level. He traveled by narrow-gauge railroad to Pueblo, Colorado, and thereafter by pack train. Inadequate supplies forced the crew to leave Mineral Point before snow blocked the passes, and Brunton walked about 75 miles to the San Luis Valley in the fall of 1875. Brunton then became superintendent of the Stewart Mill at Georgetown, Colorado, resolving severe chemical problems in treating their ore. Here he formed a lasting association with James Douglas and ...

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Burnham, Frederick Russell (11 May 1861–01 September 1947), explorer, scout, and miner, was born in Tivoli, Minnesota, the son of Reverend Otway Burnham, a Congregational minister and missionary, and Rebecca Russell. One family story has it that his mother left him among corn stalks for an entire day while their settlement was under an Indian attack during the 1862 war with the Sioux. Certainly not proven, this story has an interesting ring to it, since Burnham was to spend much of his life hiding or escaping from American Indians or South African peoples during his career as a scout....

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Church, John Adams (05 April 1843–12 February 1917), mining engineer, was born in Rochester, New York, the son of Pharcellus Church, a Baptist clergyman, and Chara Emily Conant, the sister of an eminent Hebraist. Maintaining an interest in his family’s early history, Church published a book on ...

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Davis, Richard L. (24 December 1864–25 January 1900), African-American coal miner and officer of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), African-American coal miner and officer of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), was born in Roanoke, Virginia. Little is known about his personal life, including the names of his parents and the size of his family. He obtained his early education in the Roanoke schools, which he attended during the winter months. At eight years of age he took a job in a local tobacco factory. After spending nine years in the tobacco industry, Davis became increasingly disgusted with the very low wages and unfavorable conditions on the job. In 1881 he migrated to southern West Virginia and took his first job as a coal miner in the newly opened Kanawha and New River coalfields. The following year he moved to Rendville, Ohio, a small mining town in the Hocking Valley region, southeast of Columbus. In Rendville, Davis married, supported a family, and worked until his death, from lung failure. Upon his death the UMWA paid special tribute to Davis, lamenting that the organization had lost a “staunch advocate” of the rights of workers....

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Dubuque, Julien (10 January 1762–24 March 1810), miner and trader, was born at St. Pierre les Brecquets, in the district of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, the son of Noel Augustin Dubuque and Marie Maillot, farmers. Little is known of his early life, but he did learn to read and write as a youth. He followed relatives into the western fur trade after the death of his father in the early 1780s, and by 1783 he was trading in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. The French Canadians had known of lead deposits for almost 100 years, and it appears that Dubuque became interested in mining almost as soon as he arrived in the Mississippi Valley. Most of the lead came from the region at and around present-day Dubuque, Iowa, which bears Dubuque’s name. On 22 September 1788 he obtained from the Fox tribe a document granting him the right to work at a mine as long as he pleased without recompense. He could not sell the land, but he could work undisturbed by the Fox. Dubuque began seriously extracting lead and clearing a farm and constructing homes for himself and his white laborers....

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Emmons, Samuel Franklin (29 March 1841–28 March 1911), geologist, mining engineer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Henry Emmons, a merchant engaged in East India and China trade, and Elizabeth Wales. After graduating from Harvard College in June 1861, Emmons was persuaded by his family to accompany his ailing mother to Europe rather than enlist in the Union army. Emmons stayed in Europe, attending the École Impériale des Mines at Paris from 1862 to 1864. Attracted by the practical aspects of mining engineering and the proximity of mines, he entered the Bergakademie Freiberg, Saxony, in the summer of 1864. A year of study was followed by a year of traveling through Europe visiting important mining centers, after which he returned home to Boston in June 1866....

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Flipper, Henry Ossian (21 March 1856–03 May 1940), soldier and engineer, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smith preceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on 14 June 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U.S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, ...

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Gayley, James (11 October 1855–25 February 1920), engineer and inventor, was born in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Alexander Gayley, a Presbyterian minister, and Agnes Malcolm. His parents had emigrated from northern Ireland to the United States, and Samuel Gayley became minister in West Nottingham, Maryland, shortly after his son’s birth. James Gayley attended local schools and a preparatory academy in West Nottingham. He went on to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, from which he received a degree in mining engineering in 1876. From that year to 1879 Gayley worked as a chemist for the Crane Iron Company in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania. This was a time of great growth in the iron and steel industries in the United States, and new techniques were being introduced by many inventors, often in small companies....

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John Hays Hammond Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98378).

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Hammond, John Hays (31 March 1855–08 June 1936), mining engineer, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Richard Pindell Hammond, an army officer and politician, and Sara Elizabeth Hays. The scion of a moderately well-to-do family, he graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale with a Ph.B. in 1876 and then studied for three years at the Königliche Sächsische Bergakademie in Freiberg, Saxony, where a substantial number of important American mining engineers were trained in the nineteenth century. Young Hammond gained experience in jobs typical of those offered neophyte engineers: first as assayer for ...

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Henry, Andrew (1775–10 June 1833), miner, fur trader, and explorer, was born in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, the son of George Henry and Margaret Young, farmers. Before 1800 Henry left Pennsylvania for Nashville, Tennessee. He moved in 1800 to the Upper Louisiana village of Ste. Genevieve, a Mississippi river town in present-day Missouri. Henry returned to Nashville in 1802 or 1803 before resettling in Ste. Genevieve, where he formed Andrew Henry & Co. in 1804....

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Herbert Hoover. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-24155 DLC).

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Hoover, Herbert Clark (10 August 1874–20 October 1964), engineer, philanthropist, and thirty-first president of the United States, was born in West Branch, Iowa, the son of Jesse Clark Hoover and Hulda[h] Minthorn, farmers. Orphaned at the age of nine, he lived with a variety of relatives in Iowa and finally spent his teenage years in Newberg and Salem, Oregon. Although his parents belonged to a “progressive” branch of Quakers who permitted some organ music and gospel hymns at their meeting house, Hoover’s religious training was quite rigorous under the tutelage of his mother, an ordained Quaker minister....

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George Wallace Jones. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109921).

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Jones, George Wallace (12 April 1804–22 July 1896), miner, merchant, and political leader, was born in Vincennes, Indiana Territory, the son of John Rice Jones, a lawyer and jurist, and Mary Barger. After studying at the Catholic College in St. Louis, Jones, armed with letters of introduction, entered Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He met a host of then and future political leaders and “formed a warm friendship” with ...

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Kelly, Mervin Joseph (14 February 1894–18 March 1971), engineer and research director, was born in Princeton, Missouri, the son of Joseph Fenimore Kelly, a high school principal, and Mary Etta Evans. As a young child Kelly moved with his family to Gallatin, Missouri, where his father bought a hardware and farm implement store. In 1910 Kelly matriculated at the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy with the intention of becoming a mining engineer. He supported himself by working the first two years for the Missouri State Geological Survey as a mineral specimen cataloger and, during the summer after his sophomore year, in a Utah copper mine. This latter experience soured him on a career in mining, and he changed his field of study to general science. For the next two years he worked as an assistant in the chemistry department, and by the time he received his B.S. in 1914, he had decided on a career in research. He spent the next year teaching physics and studying mathematics at the University of Kentucky, where he received an M.S. in 1915, the same year he married Katharine Milsted; they had two children. He then enrolled in the University of Chicago and studied physics under ...

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Keyes, Charles Rollin (26 December 1864–18 May 1942), geologist, mining engineer, and publisher, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the son of Calvin Webb Keyes, a wealthy merchant and entrepreneur, and Julia Baird Davis. Keyes entered the State University of Iowa in 1883, securing his bachelor’s degree in 1887 and, after leaving the campus, his A.M. in 1890....

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Siney, John (31 July 1831–16 April 1880), coal miner and labor reformer, was born in Bornos, County Queens, Ireland, the son of Patrick Siney and Catherine (maiden name unknown), tenant farmers. After their potato crop failed in 1835 the family was evicted from their homestead and moved to Wigan, Lancashire, England, when Siney was five years old. Two years later he took a job as bobbin boy in a cotton mill and for the next nine years worked at various mills in the area. At about age sixteen he was apprenticed as a brick maker; he later organized the Brickmakers’ Association of Wigan, serving seven terms as president....