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Robert Fulton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102509).

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Fulton, Robert (14 November 1765–23 February 1815), artist, engineer, and entrepreneur, was born on a farm in Little Britain (later Fulton) Township, south of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Fulton, a Scotch-Irish tailor and tradesman, and Mary Smith. Fulton’s father had left the prosperous market town of Lancaster to establish his family on the land, but like so many others with the same goal, he failed. The farm and the dwelling were sold at sheriff’s sale in 1772, and he took his family back to Lancaster. He died two years later....

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Hale, James Webster (21 November 1801–17 August 1892), entrepreneur, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Hale, a sail maker, and Marianna Foxwell Lowell. Hale was a restless youth who, after attending public school in Boston, went to sea at age fifteen. He sailed to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the West Indies, eventually becoming a sea captain. It was probably Hale’s maritime exploits that brought him into contact with ...

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Keith, Minor Cooper (19 January 1848–14 June 1929), entrepreneur, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Minor Hubbell Keith, a lumber merchant, and Emily Meiggs, sister of Henry Meiggs, who built railroads in Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. Keith was educated in private schools in Stamford, Connecticut. In 1883 he married Cristina Castro, daughter of José María Castro, who served twice as Costa Rican president. They had no children....

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Lamar, Gazaway Bugg (20 October 1798–05 October 1874), business entrepreneur, was born near Augusta, in Richmond County, Georgia, the son of Basil Lamar, a landholder, and Rebecca Kelly. Lamar received little formal education, although he had private Latin instruction. By age twenty-three and married to his first wife Jane Meek Creswell, whom he wed in October 1821, Lamar became a commission merchant in Augusta and, by 1823, in Savannah. Lamar’s expanding enterprises included banking and steamboating....

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Ogden, Aaron (03 December 1756–19 April 1839), soldier, public official, and entrepreneur, was born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, the son of Robert Ogden II, a lawyer, and Phebe Hatfield. He attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and graduated with the class of 1773. Over the next three years he taught school, first in Princeton, then in Elizabethtown, but with the outbreak of hostilities between Great Britain and its American colonies, he was quickly drawn into the revolutionary confrontation....

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Reeside, James (1789?–03 September 1842), mail contractor and stagecoach proprietor, was born in Scotland, the son of Edward Reeside and Janet Alexander. His parents moved to Baltimore County, Maryland, shortly after his birth. Because the family had limited financial resources, Reeside received little formal schooling. In 1816 he married Mary Weis, and they had one son and two daughters....

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White, Maunsel (1781–17 December 1863), commission merchant and entrepreneur, was born in Tipperary, Ireland, the son of Lawford White and Anne Maunsell. White’s early years were typical of early Irish emigrants to America; despite his poverty, he came hoping for opportunity. Orphaned in Ireland at about age thirteen, he joined his older brother who had emigrated to Louisville, Kentucky. As a boy, White met ...

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Worthington, Thomas (16 July 1773–20 June 1827), entrepreneur, politician, and U.S. senator, was born near Charlestown, Berkeley County, Virginia (now Jefferson County, W.Va.), the son of Robert Worthington, a prominent planter, and Margaret Matthews, from Frederickton, Maryland, who was of Irish background. Orphaned by the age of seven, he received little formal education and in May 1791 went to sea for two years. On his return he farmed the Berkeley County estate, took up surveying, and bought up Virginia military land warrants that he located near Chillicothe in the Northwest Territory. In December 1796 he married Eleanor Van Swearingen of Shepherdstown, Virginia, herself an orphan with a rich property. The couple had ten children. In spring 1798 Worthington freed his slaves and moved his family to Chillicothe; they were joined by his brother-in-law and lifelong political ally, ...