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Acosta, Bertrand Blanchard (01 January 1895–01 September 1954), aviation pioneer, was born in San Diego, California, the son of Aphonse Ferdinand Acosta and Martha Blanche Snook, businesspeople. Acosta became enthralled with aviation at an early age, built gliders and later powered aircraft, and taught himself to fly. Because of this interest, at age sixteen his parents enrolled him in Throop Polytechnic Institute (later the California Institute of Technology) in Pasadena so that he could study aeronautical engineering, but he never graduated. Beginning in 1911 Acosta spent almost every moment not in school working for ...

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Adams, Charles Francis (27 May 1835–20 March 1915), railroad official, civic leader, and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), a diplomat and politician, and Abigail Brown Brooks. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) and great-grandson of ...

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Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth (06 November 1841–16 April 1915), U.S. senator, congressman, and businessman, was born in Foster, Rhode Island, the son of Anan Aldrich and Abby Burgess, farmers. Having received a modest education in East Killingly, Connecticut, and at the East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island, Aldrich was by age seventeen working in Providence. Eventually a large wholesale grocery firm, Waldron, Wightman & Co., hired him as a clerk and bookkeeper. His career there was briefly interrupted in 1862 by service with the Tenth Rhode Island Volunteers garrisoning Washington, D.C. After contracting typhoid that same year he returned to Providence and, by 1866, had been elevated to junior partner at Waldron, Wightman. He married Abby Chapman that year; the couple would have eleven children. His wife was of independent means, but Aldrich insisted on accumulating a fortune on his own account and gradually did so. He worked his way up to full partner at Waldron, Wightman, was a director of the Roger Williams Bank by 1872, and by 1877 was president of Providence’s First National Bank. He also headed the city’s Board of Trade in these years....

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Barnes, Julius Howland (02 February 1873–17 April 1959), industrialist and government official, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Lucien Jerome Barnes, a banker, and Julia Hill. Moving with his family, he attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Duluth, Minnesota. Following his father’s death in 1886, Barnes left school to take a job as office boy with the Duluth grain brokerage firm of Wardell Ames. There he rose rapidly, becoming president of the company in 1910 and subsequently reorganizing it as the Barnes-Ames Company. By 1915 Barnes-Ames was the world’s largest grain exporter, and Barnes acquired other business interests, principally in shipbuilding and Great Lakes shipping. In 1896 he married Harriet Carey, with whom he had two children....

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Brady, Diamond Jim (12 August 1856–13 April 1917), businessman and cultural icon, was born James Buchanan Brady in New York City, the son of Daniel Brady, a saloonkeeper, and his wife, whose name is not recorded. After attending local schools until the age of eleven, he left home and became a bellboy at the nearby St. James Hotel. While working there he befriended John M. Toucey, an official with the New York Central Railroad, who offered Brady (by then fifteen) a job in the firm's baggage department. After a few months of moving baggage by day and studying bookkeeping, at Paine's Business College, by night, he became a ticket agent at the Central's Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. In 1874 Brady became a clerk in the home office, and in 1877 he was promoted to the position of Toucey's chief clerk. It was here that Brady began to display his love of fine clothing and nightlife, personal indulgences that would characterize his later lifestyle....

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Bullard, Eugène Jacques (09 October 1895–12 October 1961), combat pilot, was born Eugene James Bullard in Columbus, Georgia, the son of William Octave Bullard, a laborer and former slave, and Josephine Thomas. Both parents were of African American and Creek Indian descent. In 1906 Bullard, the seventh of ten children, ran away from home, ending his formal education. He lived for a time with a band of gypsies, who taught him to ride racehorses. He then worked as a horse handler, jockey, and laborer in several southern states. Bullard gained the respect of several employers by his quiet insistence on treatment with dignity and equality, an ethos instilled in him by his father and strengthened by his sojourn with the tolerant, English-born gypsies....

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Burnside, Ambrose Everett (23 May 1824–13 September 1881), soldier and businessman, was born in Liberty, Indiana, the son of Pamelia Brown and Edghill Burnside, a law clerk and farmer. The Burnsides had nine children and only a modest income, so Ambrose received no more than a rudimentary education before starting work as an apprentice tailor in 1840. His father took advantage of a term in the state legislature to have the boy appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, which he entered on 1 July 1843. He graduated eighteenth out of thirty-eight cadets in the class of 1847 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Artillery. His battery was serving in the Mexican War, and he joined it in Mexico City, too late to see action. Bored, he gambled away six months’ pay. Further embarrassment was prevented by a posting, in spring 1848, to Fort Adams, Rhode Island....

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Carpenter, Scott (1 May 1925–10 Oct. 2013), astronaut, was born Malcolm Scott Carpenter in Boulder, Colorado, to Marion Scott Carpenter, a post-doctoral student in chemistry, and Florence Kelso (Noxon) Carpenter.

When his mother became ill with tuberculosis and his father abandoned them, “Buddy” was raised in Boulder by his grandparents, Victor Irwin Noxon, Progressive publisher of the ...

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Collins, Edward Knight (05 August 1802–22 January 1878), merchant and shipping operator, was born in Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the son of Israel Gross Collins, a sea captain, merchant trader, and ship owner, and Mary Ann Knight, an Englishwoman who died soon after Edward’s birth. After his mother’s death, his father moved to New York City, leaving Edward to be raised by the Collins family. Edward’s uncle (and later business associate), John Collins, was an important influence....

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Conrad, Pete (02 June 1930–08 July 1999), astronaut, was born Charles Peter Conrad in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Conrad, an investment broker, and Frances V. Sargent Conrad. He was called “Pete” from an early age because his mother liked the name. He was educated at the Haverford School in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and received his high school diploma from the Darrow School, New Lebanon, New York, in 1948. Like his father, who had served as a balloonist in World War I, Conrad was intrigued by flying. As a child, he built model airplanes. As a teenager, he hung around local garages and airfields, neglecting his schoolwork. He worked part time sweeping up in a machine shop to finance flying lessons and flew solo when he was sixteen. Encouraged by his father, he entered Princeton University in 1948 and earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1953....

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Cooper, L. Gordon, Jr. (06 March 1927–04 October 2004), test pilot and astronaut, was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, the only child of Leroy Gordon Cooper, Sr., and Hattie Lee Herd. Young Gordon developed a taste for flying at age five when his father, an early military aviator, started taking his son for airplane rides and occasionally giving him the controls. Growing up among his father's aviator associates, and completing his first solo flight at age twelve, the young man whom friends called "Gordo" assumed that flying was a natural part of being human....

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Corning, Erastus (14 December 1794–09 April 1872), manufacturer and railroad executive, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Bliss Corning and Lucinda Smith. About 1805 the family moved to Chatham, New York, a few miles southeast of Albany. Erastus completed a common school education and, at about age thirteen, moved to nearby Troy to work in his uncle Benjamin Smith’s hardware business. Smith was particularly helpful to Erastus, perhaps because an injury in infancy had left the boy with a lifelong reliance on crutches....

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Couzens, James (26 August 1872–22 October 1936), businessman, mayor of Detroit, and U.S. senator, was born in Chatham, Ontario, Canada, the son of James J. Couzens and Emma Clift, an immigrant couple from England. Raised in a stern Presbyterian household and a lower-income family that lived on the “muddiest” street in town, young Couzens’s education was capped by two years of bookkeeping study at Chatham’s Canada Business College. He worked as a newsboy and then stirring smelly, boiling vats for his father, who had parlayed his skills as a soapmaker and salesman into ownership of a small soap-making factory. Displaying an assertive independence, which contemporaries noted that he had inherited from his stern-willed father, young Couzens set off for Detroit to test his mettle in the larger world and in 1890 was taken on as a railroad car–checker for the Michigan Central. Five years later he became an assistant bookkeeper for Alex Malcomson’s coal business, which brought him into contact with a mechanical tinkerer and automobile pioneer named ...

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Curtice, Harlow Herbert (15 August 1893–03 November 1962), automotive executive, was born in Petrieville, Michigan, the son of Marion Joel Curtice, a fruit commission merchant, and Mary Ellen Eckhart. His early schooling was in the Eaton Rapids public schools, where he was remembered as a serious, freckle-faced boy nicknamed “Red,” who “blushed easily and often.” While working as a clerk at the Horner Woolen Mills in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, he completed a two-year business course at Ferris Institute in Big Rapids....

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Curtiss, Glenn Hammond (21 May 1878–23 July 1930), aeronautical inventor and manufacturer, was born in Hammondsport, New York, the son of Frank R. Curtiss, the owner of a harness shop, and Lua Andrews. After the death of his father in 1883, Curtiss was raised by his mother and his strong-willed grandmother Ruth Curtiss in the bucolic Finger Lake region of western New York. After graduating from the eighth grade in 1892, Curtiss secured a job stenciling numbers on the backing of photographic film for the Eastman Dry Plant and Film Company (later Eastman Kodak Company) of Rochester. The next year he purchased a bicycle and found employment as a messenger for Western Union....

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Depew, Chauncey Mitchell (23 April 1834–05 April 1928), public speaker, railroad president, and U.S. senator, was born in Peekskill, New York, the son of Isaac Depew, a shipowner, merchant, and farmer, and Martha Mitchell. After graduating from Peekskill Academy in 1852, Chauncey entered Yale where he forsook the Democratic faith of his father and sided with the antislavery forces of the newly created Republican party. After receiving his diploma in 1856, young Depew began the study of law in the office of a Peekskill attorney and was admitted to the bar in 1858. That same year he was a delegate to the Republican State Convention, and in 1862 and 1863 he served in the New York state legislature, becoming a leader of the GOP caucus during his second session. In 1863 he was elected New York’s secretary of state, a post he held for two years. Throughout this period he developed a reputation as a campaign speaker who could sway a crowd in support of the Republican cause. In an age when oratorical skill was a prerequisite to political success, his gift for speaking proved an invaluable asset....

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Doolittle, James Harold (14 December 1896–27 September 1993), aviator and air force commander, was born in Alameda, California, the son of Frank Henry Doolittle, a carpenter and gold prospector, and Rosa Shepard. Doolittle grew up in California and Alaska, where his parents moved in the gold rush of the period. He was educated in Nome, Alaska; at Los Angeles Junior College; and, for three years, at the University of California. He left the university at the beginning of his senior year when the United States entered World War I....