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Corson, Juliet (13 January 1841?–18 June 1897), founder of the New York Cooking School and pioneer in the scientific cookery movement  

Susan Matt

Corson, Juliet (13 January 1841?–18 June 1897), founder of the New York Cooking School and pioneer in the scientific cookery movement, was born in Mount Pleasant, Massachusetts, the daughter of Peter Ross Corson, a prosperous produce merchant, and Mary Ann Henderson. (Although most obituaries and biographical sources give Corson’s birth date as 1842, the Vital Records of Roxbury, Massachusetts, give the date as 1841.) Corson’s family moved to New York City when she was six years old. In New York her uncle, Alfred Upham, helped to raise her and provided her with a classical education. She began to support herself in her late teens after her mother’s death....


Evans, George Henry (1805-1856), labor editor and land reformer  

Carl J. Guarneri

Evans, George Henry (25 March 1805–02 February 1856), labor editor and land reformer, was born in Bromyard, in Herefordshire, England, the son of George Evans, who served in the British army during the Napoleonic Wars, and Sarah White, who came from the modestly landed gentry. When she died in 1815 George Henry remained with his father to receive a “scholastic” education while his younger brother Frederick William was sent to live with relatives. In 1820 Evans immigrated to the United States with his father and brother; he was apprenticed to a printer in Ithaca, New York, where the family settled. The Evans brothers studied the writings of ...


Fels, Joseph (1853-1914), soap manufacturer, reformer, and single-tax evangelist  

Arthur Power Dudden

Fels, Joseph (16 December 1853–22 February 1914), soap manufacturer, reformer, and single-tax evangelist, was born in Halifax Court House, Virginia, the second son of Lazarus Fels, a peddler, and Susannah Freiberg. His Bavarian Jewish parents had immigrated in 1848, coming from near Kaiserslautern. Settling in Yanceyville, North Carolina, Lazarus Fels took over the general store and in 1861 was appointed Confederate States postmaster. Joseph attended classes in Yanceyville and, with his older sisters, a boarding school in Richmond, Virginia. Bankrupted by the Civil War and a failed try at soapmaking, Lazarus Fels moved the family to Baltimore in 1867. At fifteen Joseph ended schooling to work in his father’s second soap business, which also failed; then briefly, at seventeen, he became a traveling coffee salesman. Within a year he and his father became the Baltimore representatives of Charles Elias and Company, a Philadelphia soap house. In 1873 Lazarus moved northward again, this time to Philadelphia. Two years later, Joseph acquired a partnership in Thomas Worsley and Company, a maker of fancy toilet soaps, installing his father in charge of manufacturing. In 1876 Joseph Fels bought out Worsley after founding Fels and Company of Philadelphia in his own name. Fels and Company prospered in the intensely competitive soap business, by 1890 marketing no fewer than 107 varieties....


Kallet, Arthur (1902-1972), engineer, labor activist, and founder of the Consumers Union  

Norman I. Silber

Kallet, Arthur (15 December 1902–24 February 1972), engineer, labor activist, and founder of the Consumers Union, was born in Syracuse, New York, the son of Barnett Kallet and Etta Kaplan. Kallet received a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1924 and then accepted a position with the New York Edison Company performing editorial work. Three years later Kallet married Opal Boston, with whom he had one child. The marriage lasted until her death in 1952. He remarried in 1954, to Mary R. Fitzpatrick, with whom he had two children....


Kelley, Florence (1859-1932), social reformer  

Kathryn Kish Sklar

Kelley, Florence (12 September 1859–17 February 1932), social reformer, was born into a patrician Quaker and Unitarian family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William Darrah Kelley, a leading politician, and Caroline Bartram Bonsall, a descendant of John Bartram, the Quaker botanist. Kelley’s rural residence and a childhood plagued by illness meant that she attended school only sporadically. Although her brief enrollment in Quaker schools introduced her to the wider reform world beyond her family and taught her mental discipline, most of her intellectual development occurred as part of her relationship with her father and her mother’s aunt, ...


Kellogg, John Harvey (1852-1943), physician, surgeon, and health reformer  

Richard W. Schwarz

Kellogg, John Harvey (26 February 1852–14 December 1943), physician, surgeon, and health reformer, was born in rural Livingston County, Michigan, the son of John Preston Kellogg and Anne Stanley, farmers. In 1852 Kellogg’s parents accepted the religious teachings that led to the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1863. This decision had a marked influence on their son’s life. By 1856 the family had resettled in Battle Creek, Michigan. Part of the proceeds from the sale of their farm was used to relocate the infant Adventist publishing plant from Rochester, New York, to Battle Creek, where Kellogg’s father now operated a small store and broom shop....


Levitt, Abraham (1880-1962), lawyer and housing contractor  

James M. Smallwood

Levitt, Abraham (01 July 1880–20 August 1962), lawyer and housing contractor, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Rabbi Louis Levitt and Nellie (maiden name unknown), immigrants from Russia. Little is known about his parents. Levitt grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Because his family was very poor, he was forced to drop out of school at the age of ten to become a newsboy on Park Row. Later he worked as a dishwasher and held other menial positions, such as dock worker and waiter. Nevertheless, he educated himself by avidly reading books, newspapers, and magazines. He later said that by the time he was sixteen years old, he read some part of some book every day; his favorite subjects were history, economics, and philosophy. He also frequently attended lectures at Cooper Union and joined and regularly attended the meetings of various literary and scientific societies. When he was twenty years old, he took and passed a New York’s regents examination to gain entrance to the New York University Law School. Specializing in real estate law, he wrote an outstanding student manual on his specialty when he was a sophomore, the profits from which helped him finish his LL.B. Admitted to the New York bar in 1903, he established a private practice that soon flourished. Three years later he married Pauline A. Biederman; the couple had two sons, ...


Meyer, Henry Coddington (1844-1935), manufacturer, editor, and public health reformer  

Sarah K. A. Pfatteicher

Meyer, Henry Coddington (14 April 1844–27 March 1935), manufacturer, editor, and public health reformer, was born in Hamburg, Germany, the son of American citizens Meyer Henry Meyer, a merchant, and Anne Maria Price. He attended private schools in Montclair, New Jersey, and Tarrytown and Yonkers, New York. Meyer’s parents refused to allow the seventeen-year-old Henry to enlist at the start of the Civil War, but in the summer of 1862 Meyer, then age eighteen, joined the Second New York Cavalry (the Harris Light) as a private. In 1863, at Brandy Station, he received a saber wound but returned to duty. In February 1864 he joined the Twenty-fourth New York Cavalry as a second lieutenant. He fought through Pope’s Campaign and in the battles at the Wilderness, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Spottsylvania, North Anna River, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg, Virginia. At Petersburg, on 17 June 1864, following an assault on Confederate forces, Meyer, by then a captain, received his second wound. He had returned to the battlefield to assist a fellow officer who had been wounded, but Meyer, suffering from malaria, was unable to carry the officer to safety. After turning the officer over and clearing his mouth to let him breathe, Meyer headed back to find help, only to be shot in the back. After spending eleven months in the hospital recovering from his wounds, Meyer received a brevet Major commission and was discharged for his disability. For his “distinguished gallantry in action,” which saved his fellow officer’s life, Meyer was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1899....


Phelps, Aurora (1839-1876), land reformer, labor leader, and advocate of women's rights  

Lara Vapnek

Phelps, Aurora (1839–04 January 1876), land reformer, labor leader, and advocate of women's rights, was born in Cortland, New York, to John and Aurilla Phelps (maiden name unknown). Details of Aurora's early life are difficult to confirm. She grew up in Elmira, New York, where she joined the Baptist church. She and her family took two extended trips to England, the first when she was nine years old and the second at age eighteen. During her second voyage, she married, had a son, and was widowed, but no documentation of either her husband or her child survives. Phelps returned to the United States around 1859 and resumed use of her maiden name. She attended Oberlin College in Ohio, and continued her studies in Galesburg, Illinois....


Rorer, Sarah Tyson (1849-1937), cooking teacher and diet reformer  

Emma S. Weigley

Rorer, Sarah Tyson (18 October 1849–27 December 1937), cooking teacher and diet reformer, was born Sarah Tyson Heston in Richboro, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Charles Tyson Heston, a pharmacist, and Elizabeth Sagers. The family resided in Buffalo, New York, but Elizabeth Heston returned to her mother’s home for the delivery of her firstborn. “Sallie,” as she was called, grew up in the Buffalo area and attended East Aurora Academy, a female seminary. She later attributed the beginnings of her interest in cooking reform to her father’s poor health and delicate digestion resulting from service in the Civil War. Around 1869 the family returned to eastern Pennsylvania, and in 1871 Sallie Heston married William Albert Rorer, a clerk/bookkeeper, in Philadelphia’s Second Reformed Church. The couple had three children, one of whom died in early childhood....


Squibb, Edward Robinson (1819-1900), physician, chemist, and manufacturing pharmacist  

Jonathan J. Bean

Squibb, Edward Robinson (04 July 1819–25 October 1900), physician, chemist, and manufacturing pharmacist, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of James Robinson Squibb (occupation unknown) and Catherine Bonsall. After Squibb’s mother died in 1831, the family moved to Philadelphia. In 1837 Edward became a pharmacist’s apprentice. Five years later he entered Jefferson Medical College; he received his M.D. degree in 1845....