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James Couzens. [left to right] C. C. Dill, Owen Young, and James Couzens, before the Senate Interstate Commerce Commission. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98142).

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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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Kenneth S. Wherry. Courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

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Wherry, Kenneth Spicer (28 February 1892–29 November 1951), businessman and politician, was born in Liberty, Nebraska, the son of David Emery Wherry, a storekeeper, and Jessie Comstock. When he was eight months old, his family moved to Pawnee City, Nebraska, where his father opened a farm implement, furniture, and undertaking establishment. Wherry graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1914 and studied law and business at the Harvard School of Business Administration. He served in the Naval Flying Corps during World War I but did not go overseas. After reading law privately, he won admission to the Nebraska bar in 1931....