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Burroughs, William Seward (28 January 1857?–14 September 1898), inventor, was probably born in Rochester, New York, the son of Edmund Burroughs, a mechanic, and Ellen Julia Whipple. (Birth records are not extant; various sources place his birth in Rochester or Auburn, New York, on 28 January, in 1851, 1853, 1855, 1857, or 1858.) Burroughs’s family moved to Lowell, Michigan, when he was three years old in an attempt to improve their uncertain financial situation. They moved to Auburn, New York, a few years later. His father’s unsuccessful attempts to succeed through invention led him to discourage his son from the life of a mechanic and inventor. Instead, after Burroughs’s primary and secondary schooling, his father encouraged him to take a job at the Cayuga County National Bank in Auburn. The bank promoted him in 1878 to an important clerical job. Shortly thereafter, he married Ida Selover; they had four children....

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Carlson, Chester Floyd (08 February 1906–19 September 1968), inventor and patent lawyer, was born in Seattle, Washington, the son of Olof Adolph Carlson, a barber, and Ellen Josephine (maiden name unknown). His father had emigrated from Sweden and suffered from severe arthritis, and both parents developed tuberculosis. The family moved briefly to Mexico for the warmer weather but returned to the United States in 1912 to settle on a rented farm near San Bernardino, California. For a time Carlson was the only student in a country school, and he rode into town on a bicycle to work at odd jobs. His mother died when he was seventeen, and he supported his father....

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Carrier, Willis Haviland (26 November 1876–07 October 1950), inventor, was born in Angola, New York, the son of Duane Williams Carrier, a dairy and fruit farmer, and Elizabeth Haviland, a schoolteacher. From an early age, Carrier showed an interest and ability in mechanics. Graduating in 1893 from Buffalo’s Central High School, he was eager to pursue an engineering course at Cornell University, but the onset of a nationwide depression forced him to spend almost four years teaching at a local school....

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Crosthwait, David Nelson, Jr. (27 May 1898–25 February 1976), mechanical engineer, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Dr. David Nelson Crosthwait, and Minnie Harris. He attended elementary school and graduated from high school in Kansas City, Missouri.

Crosthwait received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1913. That same year he began lifelong employment with the C. A. Dunham Company (later Dunham-Bush) in Chicago, where he distinguished himself nationally in the field of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) technology. By 1915 he had been appointed to the position of engineering supervisor, and by 1919 he had risen to the position of research engineer. In 1920 Crosthwait received a Master of Science degree in engineering from Purdue University....

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Dick, A. B. (16 April 1856–15 August 1934), office machine and supplies entrepreneur, was born Albert Blake Dick in rural Bureau County, Illinois, the son of Adam Dick and Rebecca Wible. In 1863 the family moved to nearby Galesburg, where Adam Dick rose from a sash maker to plant manager at George W. Brown & Company, a corn picker manufacturer. In 1872, after receiving a public school education, Albert Dick joined the Brown Company. By 1879 he had become an assistant bookkeeper; he then moved to nearby Moline, Illinois, where he worked for what later became the John Deere Company, manufacturers of agricultural implements. He also became a partner in the Moline Lumber Company. At that time he married Alice Sheldon Mathews, the daughter of a Galesburg merchant and banker. The couple had one child, Mabel Eleanor Dick, who married Thomas W. Swan, dean of the law school at Yale University and a federal judge in New York City....

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Herman Hollerith Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115982).

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Hollerith, Herman (29 February 1860–17 November 1929), engineer, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Johann George Hollerith and Franciska Brunn. In Germany Johann Hollerith had been a professor of ancient languages in the Gymnasium at Speyer; after immigrating he acquired several farms in states west of New York but lived in Buffalo, where his wife’s brothers had a carriage factory. Herman received his secondary schooling largely by being tutored by a Lutheran minister because he hated spelling so much that he once jumped out a second-floor school window to avoid spelling class. He graduated with distinction from Columbia College (now University) School of Mines in 1879. As a special agent in the U.S. Census Office (1879–1881) he worked on statistics of manufacturers; as an outside activity he computed life tables for ...

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Laws, Samuel Spahr (23 March 1824–09 January 1921), educator, businessman, and inventor, was born in Ohio County, Virginia, the son of James and Rachel Laws. Laws worked in a tool shop in rural Virginia as a young man before matriculating at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1844. He was valedictorian of the class of 1848. He graduated from Princeton University's seminary in 1851 and accepted an offer to serve as leader of a St. Louis, Missouri, Presbyterian congregation. In 1854 the rectors of Westminster College, a newly formed Presbyterian school in Fulton, Missouri, hired him as a math instructor; he was appointed president of the college a year later. In 1860 he married Ann Marie Broadwell, the daughter of William Broadwell, who later became chief of the Cotton Bureau for the Confederate States of America's trans-Mississippi department....

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John H. Patterson Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G3999-0171-A).

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Patterson, John Henry (13 December 1844–07 May 1922), businessman, was born in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Jefferson Patterson and Julia Johnson, substantial landowners and descendants of the original white settlers of southern Ohio’s Miami Valley. Despite his family’s prominence and a university degree granted in 1867 from Dartmouth, young Patterson was shadowed by disappointment and failure. During the Civil War he enlisted with the 131st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, but his regiment got only as far as Baltimore and never saw action. His participation in the country’s great nineteenth-century war was peripheral, as was his role in business until 1884. After army service and college, he returned to Ohio and spent the next fifteen years as a mine operator and merchandiser of coal, in partnership with his brother Frank. The Pattersons’ coal business eventually failed; the brothers never succeeded in establishing a reliable partnership with the owners of regional railroads, crucial to the shipment of their product....

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Remington, Philo (31 October 1816–04 April 1889), manufacturer, was born in Litchfield, Herkimer County, New York, the son of Eliphalet Remington, a farmer and mechanic, and Abigail Paddock. His parents soon moved to his grandfather’s farm, on Steele’s Creek, near Ilion, New York, a farm that included shops and a foundry. Remington received his formal education locally in public schools and then at the Cazenovia Seminary, but his real education came at home, in the family shops and foundry. His father, supposedly refused a rifle by Remington’s grandfather, gathered up scraps of iron, forged a barrel, and walked to Utica to have it rifled. The resulting quality was so high that his neighbors asked him to make more barrels, and later government contract permitted expansion into producing the entire gun. Thus, Remington grew up amidst an expanding, successful gunsmith business. By age twenty-four he was in charge of manufacturing, and when his father died in 1861, he took over as president, assisted by his two brothers. He married Caroline A. Lathrop in 1841; they had two daughters....

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Arthur J. Schmitt. Courtesy of the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation.

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Schmitt, Arthur J. (14 June 1893–29 March 1971), inventor, CEO, and philanthropist, was born Arthur John Schmitt in Austin, Illinois (later annexed by Chicago), the son of Henry W. Schmitt and Barbara Elizabeth Schneider Schmitt, owners of a leather-tanning business. Schmitt read Popular Mechanics...

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Sholes, Christopher Latham (14 February 1819–17 February 1890), printer, journalist, and inventor, was born on a farm near Mooresburg, Pennsylvania, the son of Orrin Sholes, a cabinetmaker; his mother’s name is not known. His parents moved soon after to Danville, Pennsylvania, where he attended school until age fourteen. He worked as an apprentice printer for the editor of the ...

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Tandy, Charles David (15 May 1918–04 November 1978), retailer and manufacturer, was born in Brownsville, Texas, the son of David Tandy, a leather merchant, and Carmen McClain. He grew up in Fort Worth, where he attended public schools. He enrolled at Rice University in 1935 but dropped out and went to work for his father at Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company. He later returned to college to earn his B.A. from Texas Christian University in 1940 and then spent a year at Harvard Business School before entering the U.S. Navy, where he achieved the rank of lieutenant commander....

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Underwood, John Thomas (12 April 1857–02 July 1937), typewriter manufacturer, was born in London, England, to John Underwood, a chemist, and Elizabeth Grant Maire Underwood. The family was apparently prosperous enough to educate young John, the eldest son in the family, at boarding schools in London and France, though their means had apparently become reduced by the time John Thomas Underwood was in his mid-teens. The elder Underwood, who had studied under the noted British scientist Michael Faraday, specialized in the creation of printing inks and copying paper; in 1872, following the death of his wife and their sixth child, he immigrated to the United States, settling in New Durham, New Jersey, and opening a small business manufacturing paper and ink. John, along with a younger brother, joined him in New Jersey the following year and found work as a laborer in an iron foundry....

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Thomas J. Watson Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G412-T-4153-C-012).

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Watson, Thomas John (17 February 1874–19 June 1956), business executive, was born in East Campbell, New York, the son of Thomas John Watson, a farmer and lumberman, and Jane Fulton White. Watson was educated at the Addison Academy and studied briefly at the Miller School of Commerce in Elmira, New York. He started work in 1892 as a bookkeeper for a butcher but soon became a traveling salesman. He first sold pianos, organs, and sewing machines and later stock in a building and loan association. He attempted to establish a chain of butcher shops in 1895 but went bankrupt when his partner disappeared with the firm’s funds....