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Abbott, Horace (1806-1887), manufacturer  

Edward L. Lach, Jr.

Abbott, Horace (29 July 1806–08 August 1887), manufacturer, was born in Sudbury, Massachusetts, the son of Alpheus Abbott and Lydia Fay, farmers. His father died when Abbott was quite young, leaving the family in poverty. With little opportunity for formal education, Abbott was apprenticed to a blacksmith in Westborough, Massachusetts, in 1822. After completing his five-year term, he spent the following two years as a journeyman blacksmith. Abbott then returned to Westborough and set up his own blacksmith shop. In 1830 he married Charlotte Hapgood; they would have seven children. He remained in Westborough until 1836....


Abraham (fl. 1826–1845), "Prophet"  

Kenny A. Franks

Abraham (fl. 1826–1845), "Prophet", also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminoles. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida where he was adopted into the Seminole tribe. He enjoyed considerable status among the Seminoles, accompanying a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1826 and becoming an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole headman. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. In fact, ...


Acheson, Edward Goodrich (1856-1931), inventor and industrialist  

Daniel M. Dumych

Acheson, Edward Goodrich (09 March 1856–06 July 1931), inventor and industrialist, was born in Washington, Pennsylvania, the son of William Acheson, a merchant and ironworks manager, and Sarah Diana Ruple. Acheson attended the Bellefonte Academy in Centre County, Pennsylvania, for three years, concentrating his studies on surveying. In 1872, at the age of sixteen, his formal education was brought to an abrupt end by a combination of that year’s financial panic and his father’s declining health. Acheson went to work as a timekeeper at Monticello Furnace, an ironworks operated by his father, where he developed his first invention, a drilling machine for coal mining. This yielded him his first patent, at age seventeen, but the device was awkward to use and by no means a commercial success....


Adams, Thomas, Jr. (1846-1926), manufacturer  

Dennis Wepman

Adams, Thomas, Jr. (11 April 1846–04 August 1926), manufacturer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Thomas Adams, a photographer and entrepreneur, and Martha Dunbar. His father, a commercial photographer who served in that capacity with the Union army during the Civil War, engaged in several small businesses after hostilities ended. When in 1866 a friend sent young Thomas a sample of chicle, a reddish-brown gum that coagulated from the sap of the Central American sapodilla tree ( ...


Addicks, John Edward O’Sullivan (1841-1919), promoter and aspiring politician  

James A. Ward

Addicks, John Edward O’Sullivan (21 November 1841–07 August 1919), promoter and aspiring politician, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Edward Addicks, a politician and civil servant, and Margaretta McLeod. Addicks’s father achieved local political prominence and arranged for his son to take a job at age fifteen as a runner for a local dry goods business. Four years later Addicks took a job with a flour company and, upon reaching his twenty-first birthday, became a full partner in the business. Like many Quaker City merchants, Addicks speculated in local real estate in the booming port town, avoided service in the Civil War, and achieved a modicum of prosperity in the postwar period. He became overextended, as he would be most of his career, however, and went broke in the 1873 depression....


Adler, Polly (16 April 1900?–09 June 1962), prostitution madam and author  

Marilynn Wood Hill

Adler, Polly (16 April 1900?–09 June 1962), prostitution madam and author, was born Pearl Adler in Yanow, Russia, the daughter of Morris Adler, a tailor, and Gertrude Koval (called “Isidore” and “Sarah” in her autobiography). Later in life Adler also used several aliases, including Joan Martin and Pearl Davis. When Adler was twelve, her family arranged for her to be tutored by the local rabbi in the hope that she would receive a scholarship to study at a Gymnasium in Pinsk. A year later, before learning the results of the scholarship competition, Adler’s father sent his daughter to live in the United States. Traveling alone, thirteen-year-old Adler arrived in New York in December 1913....


Agassiz, Alexander (1835-1910), marine biologist, oceanographer, and industrial entrepreneur  

Edward Lurie

Agassiz, Alexander (17 December 1835–27 March 1910), marine biologist, oceanographer, and industrial entrepreneur, was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, the son of Louis Agassiz, a zoologist, and Cécile Braun. Agassiz came to the United States in 1849, following the death of his mother in Germany. The domestic life of his parents had been marred by difficulties, and Alex moved to Massachusetts to join his father, who had become a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard University after a distinguished career in Europe. The American experience came at a difficult stage in Alex Agassiz’s adolescence. He hardly knew his father, who had spent much time away from home on scientific projects....


Ainslie, Hew (1792-1878), poet and construction consultant  

Ben Harris McClary

Ainslie, Hew (05 April 1792–11 March 1878), poet and construction consultant, was born at Bargeny Mains, Ayrshire, Scotland, the son of George Ainslie, an employee of some consequence on the estate of Sir Hew Dalrymple Hamilton. Ainslie paid warm homage to his mother, whose name is not known, in his writings. Originally educated by a hired “dominie” at home, wirehaired Ainslie eventually moved on to the Ballantrae parish school and finally to Ayr Academy, where he completed his formal schooling at the age of fourteen. Certainly as important as his organized education was his home background colored by his father’s pride in the family’s past (the model of Sir Walter Scott’s “Bride of Lammermoor” was one of several notable ancestors) and his mother’s “teeming repertory” of Scottish songs and lore. Another influence was his father’s small personal library containing the writings of Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, and other Scottish classics....


Albert, Octavia Victoria Rogers (24 December 1853–1890?), author and activist  

Frances Smith Foster

Albert, Octavia Victoria Rogers (24 December 1853–1890?), author and activist, was born in Oglethorpe, Georgia, the daughter of slaves. Details of her life are sketchy. Little is known of her parents or her childhood beyond the date and place of her birth and the fact that she was born into bondage; thus, it is particularly intriguing that in 1870, only five years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery and one year after Atlanta University opened, seventeen-year-old Octavia was among the 170 students enrolled at that institution. Further details of her life are equally sketchy. Most of what we know is culled from information in ...


Alexander, Mary Spratt Provoost (1693-1760), merchant  

Thaddeus Russell

Alexander, Mary Spratt Provoost (17 April 1693–18 April 1760), merchant, was born in New York City, the daughter of John Spratt, a Scottish immigrant merchant and alderman in New York, and Maria DePeyster, an heiress of a prominent Dutch family of goldsmiths, merchants, and politicians. After John Spratt died in 1697, Maria Spratt married David Provoost, a merchant and smuggler. Alexander and her siblings lived with their maternal grandmother after their mother died in 1700. In 1711 she married Samuel Provoost, an importer and a younger brother of David Provoost, her mother’s husband. The couple had three children. Alexander invested much of her inheritance in her husband’s enterprises and acted as his business partner....


Alger, Cyrus (1781-1856), inventor and manufacturer  

Alec Kirby

Alger, Cyrus (11 November 1781–04 February 1856), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of Abiezer Alger, an iron manufacturer, and Hepsibah Keith. After several years of schooling he went to work for his father, from whom he learned the principles of iron production. Within a few years he was placed in charge of his father’s Easton plant. In 1804 he married Lucy Willis, with whom he had seven children....


Alger, Russell Alexander (1836-1907), businessman and politician  

David F. Trask

Alger, Russell Alexander (27 February 1836–24 January 1907), businessman and politician, was born in Lafayette Township, Medina County, Ohio, the son of Russell Alger and Caroline Moulton, farmers. Orphaned at eleven years of age, he worked as a laborer and taught school before reading law in Akron, Ohio, where he was admitted to the bar in 1859. Moving to Grand Rapids, Michigan, he involved himself in the lumber industry. In 1861 he married Annette Henry; they had nine children....


Allen, James (1697-1755), merchant and politician  

William Pencak

Allen, James (25 December 1697–07 January 1755), merchant and politician, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Jeremiah Allen, the longtime treasurer of the province, and Mary Caball. Ranked fifth by social status in a class of seventeen at Harvard College, he graduated in 1717. Allen then entered his father’s merchant business, importing dry goods from England and exchanging New England fish for West India sugar. In 1725 he married Martha Fitch, daughter of Colonel Thomas Fitch. They had no children. Allen belonged to Boston’s Congregational West Church but was not a bigot: he contributed £20 to the Anglican King’s Chapel for the purchase of bells....


Allen, Philip (1785-1865), manufacturer, governor, and senator  

George M. Dennison

Allen, Philip (01 September 1785–16 December 1865), manufacturer, governor, and senator, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Captain Zachariah Allen, a West Indies trader, and Nancy Crawford. Allen received his early education from tutors before attending Taunton Academy in Providence, Robert Rogers School in Newport, and Jeremiah Chaplin’s Latin School in Providence. In 1799 he entered Rhode Island College (now Brown University) and graduated in 1803....


Allen, Richard (1760-1831), American Methodist preacher and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal church  

Frederick V. Mills

Allen, Richard (14 February 1760–26 March 1831), American Methodist preacher and founder of the African Methodist Episcopal church, was born into slavery to parents who were the property of Benjamin Chew of Philadelphia. He and his parents and three additional children were sold in 1777 to Stokely Sturgis, who lived near Dover, Delaware. There he attended Methodist preaching and experienced a spiritual awakening. Allen, his older brother, and a sister were retained by Sturgis, but his parents and younger siblings were sold. Through the ministry of Freeborn Garretson, a Methodist itinerant, Sturgis was converted to Methodism and became convinced that slavery was wrong. Subsequently Allen and his brother were permitted to work to purchase their freedom, which they did in 1780. The next six years he worked as a wagon driver, woodcutter, and bricklayer while serving as a Methodist preacher to both blacks and whites in towns and rural areas in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. At one point Bishop ...


Allen, Zachariah (1795-1882), textile manufacturer, engineer, and inventor  

Richard E. Greenwood

Allen, Zachariah (15 September 1795–17 March 1882), textile manufacturer, engineer, and inventor, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Zachariah Allen, a merchant, and Ann Crawford. Allen graduated from Brown University in 1813, receiving a certificate in proficiency from the newly established medical school in addition to his college degree. Although the War of 1812 frustrated his original plan to continue medical study abroad, Allen maintained a lifelong interest in science that expressed itself in practical and theoretical research and writing, principally in mechanics and the physical sciences. He joined the Rhode Island bar in 1815 after studying with James Burrill, Jr., but his career as a lawyer was brief. In 1817 he married Eliza Harriet Arnold; they had three children. Serving on the Providence town council from 1820 to 1823, Allen modernized the town’s fire-fighting system and was an effective proponent of public education, two causes that he continued to espouse throughout his life....


Allerton, Isaac (1586-1659), merchant in the early years of the Plymouth colony  

Francis J. Bremer

Allerton, Isaac (1586– February 1659), merchant in the early years of the Plymouth colony, . Little is known of Allerton’s early life, and nothing is known regarding his education and religious orientation. He was a tailor in London at the time that he moved to Leiden, Holland, in 1608. When the Separatist congregation of John Robinson arrived in 1609 Allerton joined the church. In 1611 he married a fellow member, Mary Norris. In 1614 he became a citizen of the Dutch city....


Allerton, Samuel Waters (1828-1914), meat packer  

Leslie V. Tischauser

Allerton, Samuel Waters (26 May 1828–22 February 1914), meat packer, was born in Amenia, New York, the son of Samuel Waters Allerton, Sr., a tailor and woolen mill operator, and Hannah Hurd. The youngest of nine children, he attended school for several years but received little formal education beyond that. The family experienced financial difficulties as a result of the 1837 panic and was forced to move several times, once as far west as Dubuque, Iowa, before settling on a farm in upstate New York in 1842. Eight years later Samuel and his older brother Henry rented a farm in Yates County and began raising and trading cattle and hogs. Shortly thereafter they bought a farm in Wayne County....


Allis, Edward Phelps (1824-1889), manufacturer  

Terry S. Reynolds

Allis, Edward Phelps (12 May 1824–01 April 1889), manufacturer, was born in Cazevonia, New York, the son of Jere Allis, a hatter and furrier, and Mary White. Educated at Cazevonia Academy, Geneva Academy, and Union College, where he received a B.A. in 1845, Allis originally planned to practice law. In 1846, however, Allis moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, entering a business partnership with a college friend, William Allen, whose family had just moved its leather business there from New York. Allis and Allen opened the Empire Leather Store in Milwaukee in May 1846, and the enterprise expanded. In 1848 Allis, Allen, and Allen’s family bought a large tract of hemlock near Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and established the Mammoth Tannery to provide leather for their Milwaukee store and for shipment east. Allis served as managing director of the tannery. In 1848, as the leather business flourished, Allis married Margaret Marie Watson of Geneva, New York; they had twelve children....


Alsop, Richard (23 January 1761–20 August 1815), poet and businessman  

Robert L. Gale

Alsop, Richard (23 January 1761–20 August 1815), poet and businessman, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of Richard Alsop, Sr., a merchant, and Mary Wright Alsop. When Alsop was fifteen, his father died, leaving his wife, Mary, a strict Episcopalian, in comfortable circumstances but with eight children. Alsop was a precocious reader and enjoyed impersonating heroes of Homer's ...