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Birdseye, Clarence (09 December 1886–07 October 1956), inventor and entrepreneur, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Clarence Frank Birdseye, an attorney and legal scholar, and Ada Underwood. When Birdseye was in his teens, his family moved to Montclair, New Jersey, where he completed his high school education. Interested in both food and natural history from an early age, he signed up for a cooking course in high school and trained himself to be a more than competent taxidermist, attempting for a time to earn some income by training others in that skill. Birdseye attended Amherst College on a sporadic basis between 1908 and 1910, but he left before graduating because of financial problems. In an attempt to pay his college bills, he had collected frogs to sell to the Bronx Zoo for feeding their snake population and caught rats in a butcher shop for a Columbia University faculty member who was conducting breeding experiments. Following his departure from Amherst in 1910, he worked as an office boy for an insurance agency in New York, and then briefly as a snow checker for the city’s street cleaning department....

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Couch, Harvey Crowley (21 August 1877–30 July 1941), entrepreneur, was born in Calhoun, Arkansas, the son of Thomas Gratham Couch, a preacher and farmer, and Manie Heard. The Couches were of Welsh extraction. Harvey Couch grew up in rural poverty with little formal schooling until the illness of his father led the family to give up farming and move to Magnolia, Arkansas, where at age seventeen Couch completed his education at the Magnolia Academy. He credited his education to a teacher, Pat Neff, later a governor of Texas....

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Hutton, E. F. (07 September 1875–11 July 1962), stockbroker, businessman, and syndicated columnist, was born Edward Francis Hutton in New York City, the son of farmer James Laws Hutton, an Ohioan who moved to New York to seek work. His mother’s name is not known....

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Insull, Samuel (11 November 1859–16 July 1938), electric utilities executive and holding company entrepreneur, was born in London, England, the son of Samuel Insull, a clergyman, and Emma Short, sometime keeper of Insull’s Temperance Hotel. Insull started work in a London auctioneering house for five shillings a week. In 1881 he left London for the United States, where he became the personal secretary of ...

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Lasater, Edward Cunningham (05 November 1860–20 March 1930), rancher, dairyman, and land developer, was born at “Valley Farm,” near Goliad, Texas, the son of Albert H. Lasater, a rancher, and Sarah Jane Cunningham. The Texas frontier offered Edward only a meager education, but he had dreams of becoming a lawyer. Those dreams were shattered when, his father’s health failing, he had to leave school to help with the family’s sheep business in Atascosa County. His father purchased a ranch near Oakville in Live Oak County, and after his father’s death in 1883, Lasater began buying and selling cattle and establishing his credit. In 1892 he married Martha Patti Noble Bennett. They had two children before Martha died in childbirth in 1900. In 1902 Lasater married Mary Gardner Miller; they had five children....

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Liggett, Louis Kroh (04 April 1875–05 June 1946), drugstore chain founder and executive, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of John Templeton Liggett and Julia Kroh. He attended public school until age sixteen, after which he worked for the Detroit Journal, then for Wanamaker’s. He soon showed a flair for sales and, while still a teenager, was sent to close up a bankrupt store. Though his advertising—bright red footsteps painted on sidewalks leading to the store—got him arrested briefly, the sale was a smash success. In 1895 he married Musa Bence; they had three children....

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C. W. Post Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105445).

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Post, Charles William (26 October 1854–09 May 1914), cereal magnate, entrepreneur, and advertising innovator, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the son of Charles Rollin Post, a purveyor of agricultural implements, and Caroline Lathrop Parsons. At the age of fourteen Post matriculated at the Illinois Industrial University (the predecessor to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign), where he studied mechanical engineering for about a year. Leaving school before earning a degree, he joined the Springfield Zouaves, a militia unit that became known as the Governor’s Guard. Post’s company served under General ...

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Saunders, Clarence ( December 1881–14 October 1953), merchant and entrepreneur, was born in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of a tobacco farmer; his parents’ names are not known. Saunders grew up in Clarksville, Tennessee, and his educational background was quite limited; he attended school for four years before going to work at age fourteen as a clerk at a grocery store. After working briefly in Alabama and Tennessee, Saunders returned to Clarksville and, by age eighteen, took a sales job for a wholesale grocery company. In Memphis, Tennessee, while still in his twenties, he organized a retail food chain called United Stores, which he sold after a few years....

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Spreckels, Claus (09 July 1828–26 December 1908), manufacturer and capitalist, was born in Lamstedt, Hanover (in present-day Germany), the son of Diedrich Spreckels, and Gesche Baack, farmers. Growing up in relative poverty, he received a meager formal education and often worked for neighboring farmers for little more than bread and board. When revolutionary fervor swept the Germanic states during the 1840s, Spreckels decided to emigrate. After borrowing sufficient funds for steerage passage from a friend, he sailed from Bremen in 1846 and landed in Charleston, South Carolina, with little money and no firm prospects. He soon obtained work in a grocery store and within a few weeks had saved enough to pay off his debt. By working hard and accumulating savings, he was able to purchase the business upon the owner’s retirement, paying off all his debts within a year....

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Vestey, Evelyn (01 August 1875–23 May 1941), business executive, known as Lady Vestey, was born Evelene Brodstone in Monroe, Wisconsin, the daughter of Hans Brodstone and Mathilde Brodstone (maiden name unknown), Norwegian immigrants. In 1878, the family moved to a farm near Superior, Nebraska. The following year her father died. As a youngster, one of her closest friends was ...