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Oakes Ames. Photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-B-1245).

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Ames, Oakes (10 January 1804–08 May 1873), businessman and politician, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. He was educated in local schools and, for a few months, at Dighton Academy. At the age of sixteen, he entered his father’s shovel factory as an apprentice, rising quickly to become the works superintendent and then his father’s assistant. In 1827 he married Evelina Orvile Gilmore, and for the next three decades lived with her and their four children in one wing of his father’s house opposite the factory....

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Barton, Bruce Fairchild (05 August 1886–05 July 1967), advertising executive, writer, and congressman, was born in Robbins, Tennessee, the son of William Eleazar Barton, a Congregationalist minister, and Esther Treat Bushnell, an elementary school teacher. His father brought the family from Tennessee, where he had been an itinerant preacher, to Oak Park, Illinois, before Bruce was a year old, and there William Barton became pastor of the First Congregational Church. He held this post for twenty-five years, serving for a time as moderator of the National Council of Congregational Churches, and he published a distinguished biography of ...

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Bedinger, George Michael (10 December 1756–08 December 1843), soldier, legislator, and businessman, was born in York County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Bedinger and Magdalene von Schlegel, innkeepers. In 1737 his grandfather had moved to Pennsylvania from the vicinity of Strasbourg in Alsace-Lorraine. At the time of George Michael’s birth, the family name was spelled Biedinger and German was the language spoken at home. Late in life Bedinger was described by a contemporary as a “full blooded Virginia Dutchman.”...

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Bissell, Richard Mervin, Jr. (18 September 1909–07 February 1994), economics professor and government administrator, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Richard Bissell, a wealthy insurance executive, and Marie Truesdel. As a young man, Bissell studied at elite educational institutions, including Groton School; Yale University, where he received a B.A. in 1932; and the London School of Economics, where he began his postgraduate work. In 1933 he returned to Yale as an instructor and was promoted to assistant professor before earning his Ph.D. in economics in 1939. In 1940 he married Ann Cornelia Bushnell; they had five children. Described by one friend as “desperately shy,” Bissell seemed destined in 1941 to remain a university educator and scholar. However, the outbreak of World War II dramatically changed his life, as he left Yale to become a member of ...

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Sol Bloom. With his daughter, Vera. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (George Grantham Bain Collection: LC-B2-6405-7).

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Bloom, Sol (c. 9 Mar. 1870–07 March 1949), music and entertainment entrepreneur and longtime congressman, was born in Pekin, Illinois, the son of Gershon (later anglicized to Garrison) Bloom and Sara Bloom, Jewish immigrants from Szyrpez, Prussian Poland, who emigrated to the United States before the Civil War. Although legal papers maintain that he was born on 9 March, Bloom acknowledged in his autobiography that his exact date of birth is unknown. Never well-off, the Blooms moved to San Francisco in 1873. According to Bloom his formal education lasted one day, but his mother—the family force—taught him to read and write....

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Blow, Henry Taylor (15 July 1817–11 September 1875), entrepreneur and congressman, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, the son of Peter Blow, a planter, and Elizabeth Taylor. Depressed conditions in Virginia forced the family to move to northeastern Alabama in 1820. Ten years later they migrated farther west to St. Louis. Henry graduated from St. Louis College (now University) in 1835. He briefly studied law but gave that up to enter the retail drug business in 1836 with Joseph Charless, who had married his older sister. Blow married Minerva Grimsley in 1840; they had 12 children....

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Bowen, Thomas Meade (26 October 1835–30 December 1906), U.S. senator and mining entrepreneur, was born in Burlington, Iowa. His parents’ names and occupations are unknown. Bowen was educated at Mount Pleasant Academy (Mount Pleasant, Iowa) and began practicing law in 1853 at the age of eighteen. He was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1856 but served only one term before moving to Kansas, where he joined the Republican party over the issue of free soil. During the Civil War, Bowen organized and commanded the Thirteenth Kansas Infantry and was eventually brevetted a brigadier general in 1863. When the war ended, Bowen was stationed in Arkansas. He settled in Little Rock, where he married Margarette Thurston and established himself as a planter and a prominent lawyer. Whether they had children is not known....

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Brice, Calvin Stewart (17 September 1845–15 December 1898), U.S. senator, railroad builder, and financier, was born in Denmark, Ohio, the son of William Kilpatrick Brice, a Presbyterian minister, and Elizabeth Stewart. He received his earliest education at home and in the public schools of Columbus Grove, Putnam County, where his family moved after his third birthday. When Brice turned thirteen years old, his parents placed him in the preparatory program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where because of his father’s limited means he had to work his way through school. He required only one year of preparatory work before being granted admission as a freshman....

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Brown, Joseph Emerson (15 April 1821–30 November 1894), U.S. senator, governor, and entrepreneur, was born at Long Creek in the Pickens District of South Carolina, the son of Mackey Brown and Sally Rice, farmers. The family moved to Union County in northern Georgia, where Brown spent most of his childhood and adolescence on the family farm. His formal education was meager until, at the age of nineteen, he left home to attend an academy in the Anderson District of South Carolina. Returning to Georgia, he taught school for a time to repay tuition charges, and he subsequently read law and was admitted to the Georgia bar in August 1845. During 1845–1846 he attended the Yale Law School but did not receive a degree. In 1847 Brown married Elizabeth Grisham, daughter of a prominent Baptist minister. The marriage produced seven children. Moderate and controlled in his public actions, Brown has been characterized by his biographer as a traditional, occasionally even harsh, husband and father....

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Bulkeley, Morgan Gardner (26 December 1837–06 November 1922), president of the Aetna Life Insurance Company, governor of Connecticut, and U.S. senator from Connecticut, was born in East Haddam, Connecticut, the son of Eliphalet Adams Bulkeley, a public official, Republican party leader, and founder of the Aetna Life Insurance Company, and Lydia S. Morgan Gardner....

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Burns, Arthur Frank (27 April 1904–26 June 1987), economist and government official, was born in the Jewish ghetto of Stanislau, Austria, the son of Nathan Burns, a housepainter, and Sarah Juran. Burns immigrated to the United States with his family in 1914, settling in Bayonne, New Jersey. He worked his way through Columbia University, earning an A.B. and an A.M. in 1925 and a Ph.D. in economics in 1934....

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Prescott S. Bush. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102504).

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Bush, Prescott Sheldon (15 May 1895–08 October 1972), banker and U.S. senator, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the son of Samuel Prescott Bush, a manufacturer of railway equipment, and Flora Sheldon. Raised in comfortable circumstances, Bush attended Columbus public schools, St. George’s School in Newport, Rhode Island, and Yale College, where he earned a B.A. in 1917. At Yale, he was a three-sport athlete (baseball, football, golf), president of the glee club, and a member of the prestigious secret society, Skull and Bones. The quintessential “big man on campus,” he seemed headed for a career in law and politics....

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Cheves, Langdon (17 September 1776–26 June 1857), lawyer, congressman, and financier, was born in Bull Town Fort, South Carolina, the son of Alexander Chivas (or Chivis) of Buchan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and Mary Langdon. It is not known when or why he changed the spelling of his last name. Alexander Chivas had migrated to America in 1762 and established himself as a frontier trader. A Loyalist supporter, he lost his livelihood during the Revolution and moved to the low country. Cheves’s mother, daughter of supporters of the colonial rebellion, died in 1779, and Langdon’s aunt, Mrs. Thomas Cheves, cared for young Langdon. He attended Andrew Weed’s school, and in 1785 his father took him to Charleston. He continued his formal schooling briefly but then pursued vigorous independent study. He apprenticed in a shipping merchant’s office, gaining experience in business and finance by keeping the firm’s accounts. He read for the law with Judge William Marshall and was admitted to the bar in 1797. Successful as a Charleston lawyer, he moved into the political arena. His first elected office was as warden of his city ward in 1802; he then served from 1802 to 1809 in the state legislature and became attorney general in 1809. He won national office in 1810 when he ran for Congress on the Republican ticket. In 1806 he married Mary Elizabeth Dulles; they had fourteen children. In addition to the law and politics, Cheves enjoyed success in designing and building houses and in farming....

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Clague, Ewan (27 December 1896–12 April 1987), economist and civil servant, was born in Prescott, Washington, the son of John Clague and Eleanor Christian Cooper, farmers and immigrants from the Isle of Man, Great Britain. Clague attended the University of Washington, earning an A.B. in economics in 1917. After two years in the U.S. Army, 1917–1919, he returned to the University of Washington, where he earned an A.M. in economics in 1921. He went on to study for his doctorate in economics at what was then perhaps the nation’s leading institution of higher education in the fields of labor economics and industrial relations, the University of Wisconsin....

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Georgia Neese Clark. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Clark, Georgia Neese (27 January 1898–26 October 1995), U.S. treasurer, was born Georgia Neese in Richland, Kansas, the daughter of Albert Neese, a farmer and businessman, and Ellen O'Sullivan Neese. Her father, a self-made man, had prospered in the years before her birth and become the town's leading citizen, owning much of its property as well as the bank and general store. Although a Presbyterian, Georgia Neese briefly attended a small Catholic college in nearby Topeka after graduating from high school in 1917, then transferred to Washburn University in that city. She majored in economics at Washburn and was also active on campus, serving as president of several student organizations, including the drama club. Determined to become an actress, she moved to New York City following graduation in 1921 and enrolled at Sargent's Dramatic School....

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Charles G. Dawes. [left to right] Calvin Coolidge and Charles G. Dawes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111450).