Educational Biographies of the Men Who Built America

In order to understand the history of education, I collected the bios of dozens of important men from the 19th century.

  • For architecture I picked 10 of my favorite buildings from the 19th century, and then looked up the biographies of the 17 architects.
  • For civil engineering, I picked out the first dozen presidents of the American Society of Civil Engineers who had a bio.
  • For law, I picked every Supreme Court Justice who sat between 1830 and 1870.
  • For mechanical engineering, I went to a list of famous 19th century inventions and picked out fifteen inventors.
  • For business tycoons, I found a list of the [“robber barons”] from wikipedia.
  • For writers, I found a list of the best American novels

For each professional, I found a brief bio that tells of their education and training. The goal was to gain a understanding of how people became educated in order to do great things, in the 19th century.

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1845 to 1870

Supreme Court 1850

Roger Taney

He received a rudimentary education from a series of private tutors. After instructing him for a year, his last tutor, David English, recommended that Taney was ready for college. At the age of 15 he entered Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, graduating with honors in 1795 [age 18]. As a younger son with no prospect of inheriting the family plantation, Taney chose the profession of law. He read law and in 1799 was admitted to the bar.

Samuel Nelson

Born in Hebron, New York, Nelson graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1813 [age 21] and read law with the firm of Savage & Woods in Salem, New York. He received his license to practice law in 1817, and entered private practice in Cortland, New York.

Levi Woodbury

Woodbury was born in Francestown, New Hampshire, the son of Mary and Peter Woodbury (both of whom were born with the same surname). He graduated from Dartmouth College [age 20], Phi Beta Kappa, in 1809, briefly attended Tapping Reeve Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut, and read law to be admitted to the New Hampshire Bar in 1812.

Benjamin Curtis

Benjamin Curtis was born November 4, 1809 in Watertown, Massachusetts, the son of Lois Robbins and Benjamin Curtis, the captain of a merchant vessel. Young Curtis attended common school in Newton and beginning in 1825 Harvard College, where he won an essay writing contest in his junior year. He graduated in 1829 [age 20], a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He subsequently graduated from Harvard Law School in 1831 [age 22] and was admitted to the bar the following year.

Robert Grier

Grier was born in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania to a Presbyterian minister, who tutored him until he entered Dickinson College. Grier graduated from Dickinson in only one year, receiving a B.A. in 1812 [age 18], and remained there as an instructor until taking a position at a school his father ran. He succeeded his father as headmaster in 1815.

While a teacher, Grier read law on his own time, and passed the bar in 1817, at which time he entered private practice in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania until 1818, and then in Danville, Pennsylvania until 1833.

Peter Vivian Daniel

Daniel was born in Stafford County, Virginia, in 1784 to a family of old colonial heritage. He was educated at home, and attended the College of New Jersey for one year before returning to Virginia. He read law under former Attorney General of the United States Edmund Randolph in Richmond.

James Moore Wayne

Born in Savannah, Georgia, Wayne was the son of Richard Wayne, who came to the U.S. in 1760 and married, on Sept. 14, 1769, Elizabeth Clifford, born in Charleston, S.C. Wayne graduated from Princeton University in 1808 [at age 18], read law to be admitted to the bar in 1810, and began his practice in Savannah.

John McClean

McClean worked on his parents’ farm in Ohio until he was 16. At that age he received his first formal education in a local school, where he studied classics for two years. In 1804 [age 19] McLean was apprenticed to the clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County. During that time he studied law under Arthur St. Clair Jr., one of Ohio’s leading lawyers. McLean was admitted to the bar in 1807.

John Catron

Modest family circumstances deprived John Catron of a private education, and such knowledge as he managed to acquire was self-taught. He studied law briefly before undertaking military service for Tennessee and eventually serving under General Andrew Jackson during the War of of 1812. After this military career he resumed legal studies and was admitted to the practice of law in 1815.

Probably because John Catron’s father could not read English, the son insisted on studying English grammar in preference to Latin, much to the disgust of his teacher, James Witherspoon, a Presbyterian clergyman. The story is told in the diary of S.H. Laughlin that Catron was passing through McMinnville, Tennessee on one occasion in 1812 and saw a copy of Blair’s Rhetoric on a counter of Buchanan & Laughlin’s store. Although without ready cash, he arranged to buy the book on credit and returned later and paid the purchase price.3 Those familiar with that textbook know that it was used in the colleges for advanced study of the English language. Schools were few and far between in the western country in those days, and it is no small wonder that young Catron was able to attain enviable proficiency in history, geography and literature. The Bible, being the daily reader in the early schools, was thoroughly absorbed by the student. Throughout his life John Catron enjoyed reading the classics, and was fascinated by Irving’s Knickerbocker History of New York, Hume’s History of England and Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.


Born in Culpeper County, Virginia, his family moved to Kentucky when he was an infant. In that state he read law and was admitted to the bar in 1800, practicing in Frankfort and Louisville from 1800 to 1819 before moving to Huntsville, Alabama.

Salmon P. Chase

Chase studied in the common schools of Windsor, Vermont, and Worthington, Ohio, and at Cincinnati College before entering the junior class at Dartmouth College. He was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity and Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated from Dartmouth in 1826 [age 18]. While at Dartmouth, he taught at the Royalton Academy in Royalton, Vermont. Chase then moved to the District of Columbia, where he studied law under U.S. Attorney General William Wirt and continued to teach. He was admitted to the bar in 1829

Nathan Clifford

Clifford was born of old Yankee stock in Rumney, New Hampshire, to farmers, the only son of seven children. (His great-great-grandmother, Ann Smith, wife of Israel Clifford, was an accuser of Goody Cole in 1672, at the age of 10.) He attended the public schools of that town, then the Haverhill Academy in New Hampshire, and finally the New Hampton Literary Institute[2] (now known as the New Hampton School). After teaching school for a time, he studied law in the offices of Josiah Quincy III and was admitted to the bar in Maine in 1827, establishing his first practice in Newfield, Maine.

William Strong

He was the eldest of eleven children of William Lightbourn Strong and Harriet (Deming) Strong.[2] He was the brother of Newton Deming Strong and the cousin of U.S. Representative Theron Rudd Strong of New York. William Strong attended the Munson Academy in Massachusetts, and graduated from Yale University in 1828 [age 20] Phi Beta Kappa. He taught school in Burlington, New Jersey while studying law with Garret D. Wall, and then completed his legal education with a six month course at Yale Law School. After being admitted to the bar Strong started a legal practice in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Samuel Freeman Miller

Born in Richmond, Kentucky, Miller was the son of yeoman farmers. He earned a medical degree in 1838 from Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. While practicing medicine for a decade, he studied the law on his own and was admitted to the bar in 1847.

Joseph Bradley

The son of Philo Bradley and Mercy Gardner Bradley, Bradley was born to humble beginnings in Berne, New York, and he was the oldest of 12 children.[4] He attended local schools and began teaching at the age of 16. In 1833, the Dutch Reformed Church of Berne advanced young Joseph Bradley $250 to study for the ministry at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, he decided to study law instead, graduating in 1836 [age 23]. After graduation he was made Principal of the Millstone Academy. Not long afterward, he was persuaded by his Rutgers classmate Frederick T. Frelinghuysen to join him in Newark and pursue legal studies at the Office of the Collector of the Port of Newark. He was admitted to the bar in 1839.

Noah Haynes Swayne

Swayne was born in Frederick County, Virginia in the uppermost reaches of the Shenandoah Valley, approximately 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Washington D.C. He was the youngest of nine children of Joshua Swayne and Rebecca (Smith) Swayne.[2] He was a descendant of Francis Swayne, who emigrated from England in 1710 and settled near Philadelphia.[3] After his father died in 1809, Noah was educated locally until enrolling in Jacob Mendendhall’s Academy in Waterford, Virginia, a respected Quaker school 1817-18. He began to study medicine in Alexandria, Virginia, but abandoned this pursuit after his teacher Dr. George Thornton died in 1819. Despite his family having no money to support his continued education, he read law under John Scott and Francis Brooks in Warrenton, Virginia, and was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1823

David Davis

He was born to a wealthy family in Cecil County, Maryland, where he attended public school. After graduating from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, in 1832 [at age 17], he went on to study law in Massachusetts[2] and at Yale University. Upon his graduation from Yale in 1835 [at age 20]. Davis moved to Bloomington, Illinois, to practice law.

Stephen Johnson Field

Born in Haddam, Connecticut, he was the sixth of the nine children of David Dudley Field I, a Congregationalist minister, and his wife Submit Dickinson. His family produced three other children of major prominence in 19th Century America: David Dudley Field II the prominent attorney, Cyrus Field the millionaire investor and creator of the Atlantic Cable, and Rev. Henry Martyn Field a prominent clergyman and travel writer. He grew up in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and went to Turkey at thirteen with his sister Emilia and her missionary husband, Rev. Josiah Brewer. He received a BA from Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1837 [age 21]. While attending Williams College he was one of the original Founders of Delta Upsilon Fraternity. After reading law in Albany with Harmanus Bleecker and New York City with his brother David Dudley II, Stephen and David practiced law together until 1848 when Stephen went west to California in the Gold Rush.

Presidents of the American Society of Civil Engineers

James P. Kirkwood

James Pugh Kirkwood (27 March 1807 – 22 April 1877) was a 19th-century American civil engineer, and general superintendent of the Erie Railroad in the year 1849-1850.[1] He left the Erie to go to the southwest to construct railroads, and he made the first survey for the Pacific Railroad west from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains

Kirkwood was born in Edinburgh, Scotland [3] He graduated at the Edinburgh College,[4] and learned civil engineering on the Boston and Albany Railroad, an early work from which a number of engineers and contractors came to the Erie when it was building.

William J. McAlpine

He was the son of John H. McAlpine (1783–1865) and Elizabeth (Jarvis) McAlpine (1792–1879). In 1827, he began civil engineering as a pupil of John B. Jervis, with whom he remained until 1836. He was Assistant Engineer of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad from 1830 to 1831, and of the St. Lawrence Improvement Company in 1832. From 1833 on, he took part in the construction of the Chenango Canal and the enlargement of the Erie Canal, and succeeded Jervis as Chief Engineer of the Eastern Division of the State canals, and was Resident Engineer from 1838 to 1846. From 1846 to 1849 he was Chief Engineer of the dry dock at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. He also designed and built the Albany water works in 1850 and 1851, and the Chicago water works from 1851 to 1854.

Alfred W. Craven

He was born on 20 October 1810 in Washington, D.C. He graduated at Columbia University in 1829, studied law and then civil engineering.[2]

In 1837 he was associated with General George S. Greene on professional work near Charleston and elsewhere. He was a railroad engineer and manager, and rapidly rose to the first rank in his profession.

Craven became engineer commissioner to the Croton Water Board of New York on its organization in 1849, and continued in that capacity until 1868. Among the many works projected and carried out during these years under his supervision were the building of the large reservoir in Central Park, the enlargement of pipes across High Bridge, and the construction of the reservoir in Boyd’s Corners, Putnam co. He also caused to be made an accurate survey of Croton River valley, with a view of ascertaining its capacity for furnishing an adequate water supply, and was largely instrumental in securing the passage of the first law establishing a general sewerage system for New York City.

Horatio Allen

Born in Schenectady, New York, he graduated from Columbia University in 1823 [age 21], and was appointed Chief Engineer of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company (precursor to the railroad). In 1828 he was sent to England to buy locomotives for the canal company’s projected railway. There he made the acquaintance of engineer George Stephenson. In 1829 he assembled the first steam locomotive to run in America, the Stourbridge Lion, which ran successfully at Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

George S. Greene

Young George attended Wrentham Academy and then a Latin grammar school in Providence and hoped to attend Brown University there, but his impoverished father could not afford it, so he moved to New York City and found work in a dry goods store on Pearl Street.

In the New York store, Greene met Major Sylvanus Thayer, superintendent of the United States Military Academy, who recommended him to the Secretary of War for appointment to the academy. Greene entered West Point at age 18 and graduated second of 35 cadets in the class of 1823 [age 22].[3] Classmates of Greene’s included future Union Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas, Joseph K. Mansfield, David Hunter, Dennis Hart Mahan, and Albert Sidney Johnston. Top graduates of the academy generally chose the Engineers as their branch, but Greene decided on the artillery and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment. However, due to his excellent academic performance, he stayed at the academy until 1827 as an assistant professor of mathematics and as a principal assistant professor of engineering. One of the students he taught during this period was Cadet Robert E. Lee.[5]

In the summer of 1828 Greene married Mary Elizabeth Vinton, sister of his best friend at West Point, David Vinton. Elizabeth gave birth to three children over the next four years: Mary Vinton, George Sears, and Francis Vinton Greene. While assigned to Fort Sullivan in Eastport, Maine in 1833, tragedy struck Greene’s family: Elizabeth and all three of their children died within seven months, probably from tuberculosis. To ease the pain on his mind and to escape the isolation and loneliness of peacetime Army garrison duty, he immersed himself in study of both the law and medicine, coming close to professional certification in both by the time he resigned his commission in 1836 to become a civil engineer.[6]

Greene built railroads in six states and designed municipal sewage and water systems for Washington, D.C., Detroit, and several other cities. In New York City, he designed the Croton Aqueduct reservoir in Central Park and the enlarged High Bridge over the Harlem River. He was one of twelve founders in New York City of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects. While on a trip to Maine for railroad surveying, he met Martha Barrett Dana, daughter of Samuel Dana, a prominent Massachusetts politician. They were married in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on February 21, 1837. They had six children together, including four sons (three of them later served in the military), one daughter, and one son who died in infancy.[7]

Ellis S. Chesbrough

His father met with business reverses, and the boy was taken from school at the age of thirteen and became chainman to an engineering party engaged in the preliminary survey of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. Later he was engaged on the Allegheny and Portage railroad, and in 1831 became associated with William Gibbs MeNeill in the construction of the Paterson and Hudson River railroad. In 1837 he was appointed senior assistant on the building of the Louisville, Cincinnati, and Charleston railroad, and in 1846 became chief engineer of the Boston water-works, planning the important structures on it, including the Brookline reservoir. He was appointed sole commissioner in the Boston water department in 1850, and during the following year City engineer, having charge of all the water-works under the Cochituate water board, besides being surveyor of the streets and harbor improvements. In 1855 he became engineer for the Chicago board of sewerage commissioners, and in that capacity planned the sewerage system of the city. In 1879 he resigned the office of commissioner of public works. The River tunnels were planned by him, and, despite much criticism, have proved successful. He achieved a high reputation as an authority on the water-supply and sewage of cities, and in that capacity was consulted by the officials of New York, Boston, Cambridge, Toronto. Detroit, Memphis, Milwaukee, and other cities. Mr. Chesbrough was a corresponding member of the American institute of architects, and from November, 1877, till November, 1878, was president of the American society of civil engineers.

William Milnor Roberts

In 1826 [age 16], he served as an assistant in survey and construction, Lehigh Canal, between Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. From 1831 to 1834, he served as senior assistant engineer for the proposed Allegheny Portage Railroad, and general manager from 1834 to 1835. In 1837, he served as chief engineer, Lancaster and Harrisburg. He was in charge of construction of a two-level lattice-truss bridge across the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. From 1834 to 1840, he was in charge of extensions of Pennsylvania State Canals; Bellefontaine and Indiana, Allegheny Valley, Atlantic and Mississippi, and Iron Mountain. From 1855 to 1857, he was chairman, Commission to Consider Reconstruction of Allegheny Portage; constructed railroads in Middle West.

Albert Fink

Born in Lauterbach, Hesse, Germany, he studied architecture and engineering at the polytechnic school in Darmstadt, and graduated in 1848 [age 21]. In 1849, he emigrated to the United States. He soon found work with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as a draftsman, and became chief office assistant to Benjamin H. Latrobe. In this position he oversaw the design and construction of buildings and bridges. With the construction of the road between Cumberland, Maryland and Wheeling, West Virginia (then in the state of Virginia). Fink supervised much of the design, and oversaw the building of some of the first iron bridges in the nation, including that over the Monongahela River in Fairmont, West Virginia. It was this bridge that first implemented his design of the Fink truss, and was in fact in its time the longest iron railroad bridge.

James Francis

James Francis was born in South Leigh, near Witney, Oxfordshire in England, United Kingdom. He started his engineering career at the early age of 14 as he worked as his father’s apprentice at the Port Craw Railway and Harbor Works in South Wales.[1] When he turned 18, he decided to emigrate to the United States, in 1833. His first job was in Stonington, Connecticut as an assistant to the railway engineer George Washington Whistler Jr., working on the New York and New Haven Railroad. A year later, James and his boss, Whistler, travelled north to Lowell, MA,[2] where at the age of 19, he got a draftsman job with the Locks and Canal Company, and Whistler became chief engineer.

James also became fascinated with and tinkered with turbine designs, after Uriah A. Boyden first demonstrated his Boyden turbine in Lowell. The two engineers worked on improving the turbine. And in 1848, Francis and Boyden successfully improved the turbine with what is now known as the Francis turbine. Francis’ turbine eclipsed the Boyden turbine in power by 90%.

Henry Flad

Henry Flad was born July 30, 1824 in the Grand Duchy of Baden near the university town of Heidelberg. His father, Jacob Flad, dying within the same year, his mother Francisca Brunn Flad, very soon afterwards removed to the town of Speyer a few miles distant upon the left bank of the Rhine in the Rhine Palatinate, a province belonging to Bavaria. After passing through the preparatory schools of Speyer, young Henry entered the University of Munich, in Bavaria where he took the polytechnic course.[1]

After his graduation in 1846, at twenty two years of age, he was given a position in the engineering service of the Bavarian Government, his first employment being on works for the improvement of the River Rhine.

William Ezra Worthen

William E. Worthen was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts on March 14, 1819. His father, Ezra Worthen, was one of the creators of Lowell, Massachusetts as a center of manufacturing, and the first Superintendent of the Merrimac Mills. William E. Worthen graduated from Harvard in 1838 [age 19] and commenced the profession of civil engineering under the tutorship of Samuel Morse Felton, an assistant in the office of the then prominent engineer Colonel Loammi Baldwin, Jr.. The day after graduation from Harvard Worthen started working under the direction of George Rumford Baldwin measuring the flow of the water used at the Merrimac Mills. Worthen went with Baldwin to Boston and was employed in the surveys and brook measurements for an increased supply for the Jamaica Pond Water Works, a private enterprise for supplying Boston with water by gravity. He then returned to Lowell and under James B. Francis was engaged for some time in general hydraulic and mill work

Thomas Keefer

Born into a United Empire Loyalist family in Thorold Township, Upper Canada, the son of George Keefer and Jane Emory, née McBride, his father was chairman of the Welland Canal Company. After attending Upper Canada College he began his engineering training by working on the Erie Canal and continued his learning experience later on the Welland Canal. He became well known for his writings, particularly Philosophy of Railroads and The Canals of Canada: Their Prospects and Influence, and surveyed a railway connecting Kingston, Ontario, and Toronto (1851), was in charge of the survey for a line between Montreal and Kingston, and determined the site for the Victoria Bridge that crosses the St. Lawrence River into Montreal.

Max Joseph Becker

Max Joseph Becker was born at Coblenz Germany June 20, 1828 and was educated in the schools of Coblenz, and at the University of Bonn.[1]

After leaving the University he passed the requisite examinations for admission to service on the Government Railroad surveys and in 1848 [age 20] began his professional career on the Cologne and Minden Railroad in the capacity of engineer’s apprentice (rodman), with headquarters at Hamm in Westphalia.[1]

This work was interrupted by the Rebellion of 1848 and by reason of his connection therewith he was compelled to leave Germany along with such men as Frederick Hecker, Carl Schurz, Franz Sigel, August Willich and others whose enforced exile has been our country’s gain.

William Metcalf

Metcalf was born at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Troy, New York, in 1858 [age 20]. In 1860–65, he had charge of the manufacture of the heavy Rodman and Dahlgren guns at the Fort Pitt Foundry in Pittsburgh, where most of the heavy artillery used by the Federal government during the Civil War was made.

After 1868 he was engaged continuously in steel manufacturing, and in 1897 he organized the Braeburn Steel Company, of which he was the head until his death. He is credited with having made the first crucible steel in America. In 1881 he served as president of the American Institute of Mining Engineers and in 1893 he held the presidency of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He published Steel – A manual for Steel-Users (1896).

Octave Chanute

Immigrating to the United States with his father in 1838, Chanute attended private schools in New York City. His first job was as a member of a surveying crew with the Hudson River Railroad. He then worked his way up through a series of increasingly responsible engineering positions on western railroads. In addition, he served as chief engineer on a variety of important projects, notably the construction of the first bridge across the Missouri River. Chanute became a leader of major American engineering societies and capped his career by serving as chief engineer of the Erie Railroad Company from 1873 to 1883.

Three additional civil engineers

Benjamin Wright

Wright was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, to Ebenezer Wright and Grace Butler. In 1789, at age 19, he moved with his family to Fort Stanwix (now Rome, New York), where he became a land surveyor.

In the next decennia he worked as land surveyor and engineer, especially on the construction of the Erie Canal and later on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. In addition to his engineering work, Wright was also elected to the New York State Legislature (1794), and appointed a New York county judge.

Wright returned to New York in about 1833. He continued to work primarily as a consultant on a number of canal projects, but also began doing surveys for railroads,[3] which were in the early stages of development at the time.

[Canvass White](

He was born on September 8, 1790, in Whitestown, New York. He received his education at the Fairfield Academy. His first job as an engineer was on the Erie Canal in 1816 working for chief engineer Judge Benjamin Wright. In the autumn of 1817, he travelled to England to study their canal system. When he returned he patented a type of hydraulic cement. He continued his work on New York until 1824. Then from 1824 until the summer of 1826, he was Chief Engineer on the Union Canal (Pennsylvania).

He was then appointed Chief Engineer of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in 1825 and of the Lehigh Canal in 1827. He was also a Consulting Engineer for the Schuylkill Navigation Company and for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. He became President of the Cohoes Company when it was incorporated on March 28, 1826.

Of White, author Bill Bryson writes, "the great unsung Canvass White didn’t just make New York rich; more profoundly, he helped make America)

John B. Jervis

In 1817 at the age of 22, Jervis was hired for work on the Erie Canal as an axeman. While working on the construction teams, he studied engineering, at a time when there were few engineering schools in the United States. By 1819 he became the lead engineer on the canal’s 50 mile long center section.[2]

In 1827, Jervis became the chief engineer for the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. In this position, he designed the Stourbridge Lion, which was built by Foster, Rastrick and Company of England.[3]

The High Bridge over the Harlem River, part of the Croton Aqueduct, as seen in 1890. In 1831, he became the chief engineer for the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad, a predecessor of the New York Central, and two years later he was appointed chief engineer of upstate New York’s Chenango Canal project and helped in its design and construction. In 1836, Jervis was chosen as the chief engineer on the 41-mile long Croton Aqueduct. After his work on the Croton Aqueduct, Jervis served as a consulting engineer for the Boston water system from 1846 to 1848.[

My favorite buildings, and their architects

Masonic Temple, Philadelphia

James Windrim

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he apprenticed under John Notman, and opened his own office in 1867. That same year, at age 27, he won the design competition for the Philadelphia Masonic Temple, the building for which he is best remembered.

Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia

Frank Furness

Furness was born in Philadelphia on November 12, 1839. His father, William Henry Furness, was a prominent Unitarian minister and abolitionist. Frank, however, did not attend a university and apparently did not travel to Europe. He began his architectural training in the office of John Fraser, Philadelphia, in the 1850s. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts-inspired atelier of Richard Morris Hunt in New York from 1859 to 1861, and again in 1865, following his military service. Furness considered himself Hunt’s apprentice and was influenced by Hunt’s dynamic personality and accomplished, elegant buildings. He was also influenced by the architectural concepts of the French engineer Viollet-le-Duc and the British critic John Ruskin.

Philadelphia City Hall

Thomas Ustick Walter

Born in 1804 in Philadelphia, Walter was the son of mason and bricklayer Joseph S. Walter and his wife Deborah. Walter received early training in a variety of fields including masonry, mathematics, physical science, and the fine arts. At 15, Walter entered the office of William Strickland, studying architecture and mechanical drawing,[1] then established his own practice in 1830

John McArthur

He was born at Bladnock on Wigtown Bay in the western lowlands of Scotland; and he came to Philadelphia at the age of ten to live with his uncle, the master builder John McArthur. Apprenticed to a house carpenter, the lad also attended classes at The Carpenters’ Company architectural school, then being conducted by William Johnston and G. Parker Cummings. He also attended lectures at the Franklin Institute given by Thomas Ustick Walter, who was nearing the peak of his own career and would later be employed by McArthur at the Philadelphia City Hall in the late 1870s and 1880s. Walter would write in 1854 that after John Notman, McArthur was the best architect in Philadelphia. At the age of twenty-five McArthur won his first competition for the Philadelphia House of Refuge (1848). From that point he secured a steady stream of commissions.

Old Boston City Hall

GJF Bryant

Bryant was born to Maria Winship Fox and Gridley Bryant, noted railway pioneer. He studied in his father’s engineering office and that of Alexander Parris, then opened his own architect’s office at the corner of Court and Washington streets. His first achievement was the design for the Broadway Savings Bank, South Boston, in the early 1830s.

Arthur Gilman

Arthur Gilman was educated at Trinity College in Hartford (Class of 1840, graduated at age 19). In 1844 he published a paper on “American Architecture” in the “North American Review,” which was translated into several foreign languages. He was then invited to deliver twelve lectures before the Lowell institute, Boston, after which he went to Europe on a tour of professional observation. In 1845, he established an office in Boston, immediately designing the Gothic-style Winter Street Church in Bath, Maine,

Massachusetts State House

Charles Bulfinch

Bulfinch was born in Boston to Thomas Bulfinch, a prominent physician, and his wife, Susan Apthorp. He was educated at Boston Latin School and Harvard University, from which he graduated with an AB in 1781 and Master’s degree in 1784.

He then made a grand tour of Europe from 1785 to 1787, where he was influenced by the classical architecture in Italy and the neoclassical buildings of Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Adam, William Chambers and others in the United Kingdom. Thomas Jefferson became something of a mentor to him in Europe, as he would later be to Robert Mills.

Charles Brigham

Brigham was born, raised, and educated in Watertown, Massachusetts schools and graduated at age 15 in 1856 in the first class of Watertown High School. He had no formal education in architecture.[1]

He apprenticed to the Boston architect Gridley J.F. Bryant. Brigham served as a sergeant in the Union Army during the American Civil War, then began work for John Hubbard Sturgis. His 1866 partnership with Sturgis lasted 20 years, and resulted in the original building for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Transportation Building Chicago

Louis Sullivan

Louis Henry Sullivan was born to a Swiss-born mother, née Andrienne List, and an Irish-born father, Patrick Sullivan, both of whom had immigrated to the United States in the late 1840s. Learning that he could both be graduated from high school a year early and pass up the first two years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by passing a series of examinations. Entering MIT at the age of sixteen, he studied architecture there briefly. After one year of study, he moved to Philadelphia and took a job with architect Frank Furness.

The Depression of 1873 dried up much of Furness’s work, and he was forced to let Sullivan go. At that point Sullivan moved on to Chicago in 1873 to take part in the building boom following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. He worked for William LeBaron Jenney, the architect often credited with erecting the first steel-frame building. After less than a year with Jenney, Sullivan moved to Paris and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts for a year. He returned to Chicago and began work for the firm of Joseph S. Johnston & John Edelman as a draftsman. In 1879 Dankmar Adler hired Sullivan. A year later, Sullivan became a partner in the firm. This marked the beginning of Sullivan’s most productive years.

Masonic Temple, Chicago

Daniel Burnham

Burnham was born in Henderson, New York and raised in Chicago, Illinois. His parents brought him up under the teachings of the Swedenborgian Church of New Jerusalem, which ingrained in him the strong belief that man should strive to be of service to others. After failing admissions tests for both Harvard and Yale, and an unsuccessful stint at politics, Burnham apprenticed as a draftsman under William LeBaron Jenney. At age 26, Burnham moved on to the Chicago offices of Carter, Drake, and Wight,

John Wellborn Root

John Wellborn Root was born in 1850 in Lumpkin, Georgia, the son of Sidney Root, a planter, and his wife, Mary H. Clark. He was named after a maternal uncle, Marshall Johnson Wellborn. Root was raised in Atlanta, where he was first educated at home. When Atlanta fell to the Union during the American Civil War, Root’s father sent young Root and two other boys on a steamer to England, while his mother and sister went to Cuthbert, Georgia. John’s father, Sidney, had a shipping business based in Liverpool, England.

While in Liverpool, Root studied at Clare Mount School. His later design work was said to have been influenced by the pioneering work of Liverpool architect Peter Ellis, who designed and built the world’s first two metal-framed, glass curtain-walled buildings, Oriel Chambers (1864) and 16 Cook Street (1866).

After Root returned to the U.S., he earned an undergraduate degree from New York University in 1869 [at age 19]. After graduation, he took a job with the architect James Renwick, Jr. of Renwick and Sands of New York as an unpaid apprentice.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Jacob Wrey Mould

Born in Chislehurst, Kent in 1825, Mould attended King’s College School in 1842. For two years, he studied the Alhambra in Spain under Owen Jones, the “master of polychromy,” with whom he later co-designed the “Turkish Chamber” of Buckingham Palace. Mould’s subsequent designs were often influenced by his appreciation of the Moorish style of architecture.

Richard Morris Hunt

Following the early death of his father, Hunt’s mother took the family to Europe, where they remained for more than a decade, first in Switzerland and later in Paris. Hunt began his education at the Boston Latin School. Following Hunt’s 1843 graduation from Boston Latin, young Hunt left with his family for Europe, where he studied art, and where he was encouraged to pursue architecture by his older brother William, a painter, and by his mother, who had been denied the chance to paint herself.

Hunt later entered the Paris atelier of Hector Lefuel in 1846. The aspiring architect Hunt became the first American to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. “Hunt was the first American to be admitted to the school of architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts – the finest school of architecture in the world – and the subsequent importance of his influence on the architecture of his own country can hardly be overstated,” writes historian David McCullough.

Hunt’s mentor Lefuel later permitted him to supervise work on the Louvre museum, which Lefuel and Louis Visconti were renovating for Napoleon III, as well as to design the Pavillon de la Bibliothèque (“Library Pavilion”), prominently situated opposite the Palais-Royal. Hunt would later regale aspiring young architect Louis Sullivan with stories of his work on the New Louvre in Lefuel’s atelier libre.

Calvert Vaux

Vaux attended a private primary school until the age of nine. He then trained as an apprentice under London architect Lewis Nockalls Cottingham, a leader of the Gothic Revival movement. Vaux trained under Cottingham until the age of 26, becoming a skilled draftsman.

New York Public Library

[Thomas Hastings](

Hastings abandoned his college preparation courses to work with the chief designer at Herter Brothers, the premier New York furnishers and decorators. He later traveled to Paris to study in the atelier of Louis-Jules André, returned to the U.S. to found the firm of Carrère and Hastings with John Merven Carrère.

Trinity Church, Boston

Henry Hobson Richardson

Richardson went on to study at Harvard College and Tulane University. Initially, he was interested in civil engineering, but shifted to architecture, which led him to go to Paris in 1860 to attend the famed École des Beaux Arts in the atelier of Louis-Jules André. He was only the second U.S. citizen to attend the École’s architectural division — Richard Morris Hunt was the first — and the school was to play an increasingly important role in training Americans in the following decades. He didn’t finish his training there, as family backing failed due to the U.S. Civil War.

Richardson returned to the U.S. in 1865. He settled in New York in October of 1865. He found work with a builder, Charles, whom he had met in Paris. The two worked well together but Richardson was not being challenged. He had little to do and yearned for more. With no work Richardson fell into a state of poverty looking for more work Richardson developed his own style.The style that Richardson developed over time, however, was not the more classical style of the École, but a more medieval-inspired style, influenced by William Morris, John Ruskin and others.

Trinity Church, Boston (1872) is Richardson’s most acclaimed early work.

Prairie Houses

Frank Lloyd Wright

Soon after Wright turned 14, his parents separated. Anna had been unhappy for some time with William’s inability to provide for his family and asked him to leave. As the only male left in the family, Wright assumed financial responsibility for his mother and two sisters. Wright attended Madison High School, but there is no evidence he ever graduated. He was admitted to the University of Wisconsin–Madison as a special student in 1886. There he joined Phi Delta Theta fraternity, took classes part-time for two semesters, and worked with a professor of civil engineering, Allan D. Conover. In 1887 [at age 20], Wright left the school without taking a degree and arrived in Chicago in search of employment. Within days, and after interviews with several prominent firms, he was hired as a draftsman with the architectural firm of Joseph Lyman Silsbee.

James Renwick

James Renwick

Renwick was born into a wealthy and well-educated family. His father, James Renwick, was an engineer, architect, and professor of natural philosophy at Columbia College, now Columbia University. His two brothers were also engineers. Renwick is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and father.

Renwick was not formally trained as an architect. His ability and interest in building design were nurtured through his cultivated background, which granted him early exposure to travel, and through a broad cultural education that included architectural history. He learned the skills from his father. He studied engineering at Columbia, entering at age twelve and graduating in 1836 [age 18]. He received an M.A. three years later [age 21]. On graduating, he took a position as structural engineer with the Erie Railroad and subsequently served as supervisor on the Croton Reservoir, acting as an assistant engineer on the Croton Aqueduct in New York City.

Renwick received his first major commission, at the age of twenty-five, in 1843 when he won the competition to design Grace Church, an Episcopal church in New York City, which was executed in the English Gothic style.

Mechanical Engineers

Eli Whitney, Samuel Morse, Charles Goodyear, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel Colt

Business Tycoons

John Jacob Astor (real estate, fur) – New York

Johann Jakob Astor was born in Walldorf near Heidelberg in the old Palatinate.[6][7] He was the youngest son of Johann Jacob Astor (July 7, 1724 – April 18, 1816) and Maria Magdalena Vorfelder (1730–1766).[8] His three elder brothers were Georg (later “George”; April 28, 1752 – December 1813), Heinrich (later “Henry”; 1754–1833), and Melchior (1759–1829). Astor’s father was a butcher;[9] Johann first worked in his father’s shop[9] and as a dairy salesman.[citation needed] In 1779, at the age of 16, he moved to London to join his brother George in working for an uncle’s piano and flute manufactory, Astor & Broadwood.[9] While there, he learned English and anglicized his name.[10]

Immigration to the United States[edit] In 1783[9] or March 1784,[citation needed] Astor immigrated to New York City, just following the end of the American Revolution. His intent was to join his brother Henry, who had established a butcher shop there,[citation needed] but a chance meeting with a fur trader on his voyage inspired him to join the North American fur trade as well.[6] After working at his brother’s shop for a time he began to purchase raw hides from Native Americans, prepare them himself, and then resell them in London and elsewhere at great profit.[9] He opened his own fur goods shop in New York in the late 1780s and also served as the New York agent of his uncle’s musical instrument business.[11]

Andrew Carnegie (steel) – Pittsburgh and New York

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in a typical weaver’s cottage with only one main room, consisting of half the ground floor which was shared with the neighboring weaver’s family.[3] The main room served as a living room, dining room and bedroom.[3] He was named after his legal grandfather.[3] In 1836, the family moved to a larger house in Edgar Street (opposite Reid’s Park), following the demand for more heavy damask from which his father, William Carnegie, benefited.[3] His uncle, George Lauder Sr., a Scottish political leader, deeply influenced him as boy by introducing him to the writings of Robert Burns and historical Scottish heroes such as Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, and Rob Roy. Lauder’s son, also named George Lauder, grew up with Andrew and would become his business partner. When Carnegie was thirteen, his father had fallen on very hard times as a handloom weaver and with the country in starvation. His mother helped support the family by assisting her brother who was a cobbler and selling potted meats at her “sweetie shop”. She eventually became the primary breadwinner by the 1840s.[4] Struggling to make ends meet, the Carnegies then decided to move with his family to Allegheny, Pennsylvania, in the United States in 1848 for the prospect of a better life.[5] Andrew’s family had to borrow money from the Lauders[citation needed] in order to migrate. Allegheny was a growing industrial area that produced many products to include wool and cotton cloth, and the “Made in Allegheny” label used on these and other diversified products was becoming more and more popular.[6] His first job at age 13 in 1848 was as a bobbin boy, changing spools of thread in a cotton mill 12 hours a day, 6 days a week in a Pittsburgh cotton factory. His starting wage was $1.20 per week.[7] Andrew’s father, William Carnegie, started off working in a cotton mill but then would earn money weaving and peddling linens. His mother, Margaret Morrison Carnegie, earned money by binding shoes.

Carnegie age 16, with brother Thomas In 1850, Carnegie became a telegraph messenger boy in the Pittsburgh Office of the Ohio Telegraph Company, at $2.50 per week,[8] following the recommendation of his uncle. He was a very hard worker and would memorize all of the locations of Pittsburgh’s businesses and the faces of important men. He made many connections this way. He also paid close attention to his work, and quickly learned to distinguish the differing sounds the incoming telegraph signals produced. He developed the ability to translate signals by ear, without using the paper slip,[9] and within a year was promoted to operator. Carnegie’s education and passion for reading was given a great boost by Colonel James Anderson, who opened his personal library of 400 volumes to working boys each Saturday night.[10] Carnegie was a consistent borrower and a “self-made man” in both his economic development and his intellectual and cultural development. He was so grateful to Colonel Anderson for the use of his library that he “resolved, if ever wealth came to me, [to see to it] that other poor boys might receive opportunities similar to those for which we were indebted to the noble man.” [11] His capacity, his willingness for hard work, his perseverance, and his alertness soon brought forth opportunities.

William A. Clark (copper) – Butte, Montana[12]

Clark was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. He moved with his family to Iowa in 1856 where he taught school and studied law at Iowa Wesleyan College. After working in quartz mines in Colorado, in 1863, Clark made his way to Montana to find his fortune in the gold rush.

He settled in the capital of Montana Territory, Bannack, Montana, and began placer mining. Though his claim paid only moderately, Clark invested his earnings in becoming a trader, driving mules back and forth between Salt Lake City and the boomtowns of Montana to transport eggs and other basic supplies.

He soon changed careers again and became a banker in Deer Lodge, Montana. He repossessed mining properties when owners defaulted on their loans, placing him in the mining industry. He made a fortune with small smelters, electric power companies, newspapers, railroads and other businesses, becoming known as one of three “Copper Kings” of Butte, Montana, along with Marcus Daly and F. Augustus Heinze.

Jay Cooke (finance) – Philadelphia

In 1838 (age 17), Cooke went to Philadelphia, where he entered the banking house of E. W. Clark & Co. as a clerk, and became a partner in 1842. He left this firm in 1858.[1] On January 1, 1861, just months before the start of the American Civil War, Cooke opened the private banking house of Jay Cooke & Company in Philadelphia. Soon after the war began, the state of Pennsylvania borrowed $3,000,000 to fund its war efforts.

In the early months of the war, Cooke worked with Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to secure loans from the leading bankers in the Northern cities. (Cooke and his brother, a newspaper editor, had helped Chase get his job by lobbying for him, even though all were former Democrats.)

Cooke’s own firm was so successful in distributing Treasury notes that Chase engaged him as special agent to sell the $500 million in “five-twenty” bonds — callable in five years and matured in 20 years — authorized by Congress on February 25, 1862. The Treasury had previously tried and failed to sell these bonds. Promised a sales commission of 0.5 percent of the revenue from the first $10 million, and 0.375 percent of subsequent bonds, Cooke financed a nationwide sales campaign, appointing about 2,500 sub-agents who traveled through every northern and western state and territory, as well as the Southern states as they came under control of the Union Army. Meanwhile, Cooke secured the support of most Northern newspapers, purchasing ads through advertising agencies, and often working directly with editors on lengthy articles about the virtues of buying government bonds. These efforts heralded a particular type of patriotism based on classical liberalist notions of self-interest. His editorials, articles, handbills, circulars, and signs most often appealed to Americans’ desire to turn a profit, while simultaneously aiding the war effort.[2] Cooke quickly sold the $500 million in bonds, and $11 million more. Congress immediately sanctioned the excess.

Charles Crocker (railroads) – California

Crocker was born in Troy, New York, the son of Eliza (née Wright) and Isaac Crocker, a modest family. They joined the nineteenth-century migration west and moved when he was 14 to Indiana, where they had a farm. Crocker soon became independent, working on several farms, a sawmill, and at an iron forge. At the age of 23, in 1845, he founded a small, independent iron forge of his own. He used money saved from his earnings to invest later in the new railroad business after moving to California, which had become a boom state since the Gold Rush.

Daniel Drew (finance) – New York

Drew was born in Carmel, New York in the family of Gilbert Drew and Catherine Muckleworth. He was poorly educated and saw hardship after his father, who owned a small cattle farm, died when Daniel was fifteen years old. Drew enlisted and drilled, though did not see face to face combat in the War of 1812. After the war, he spent some time with a traveling zoo and then built a successful cattle-droving business.

In 1820, he moved to New York City, where he established himself at the Bull’s Head Tavern in the Bowery, a place frequented by drovers and butchers doing business in the city. While running the tavern, he formed a partnership with two other drovers, buying cattle from neighboring counties and bringing them to New York for sale.[2] In 1823, he married Roxanna Mead.

In 1834, he entered the steamboat business, purchasing a share of a boat operating on the Hudson River. Competing with Cornelius Vanderbilt, he ran numerous profitable lines outside of New York City.[3]

Around this time, Drew began to speculate in stocks. He founded the brokerage firm of Drew, Robinson & Company in 1844, which dissolved a decade later with the deaths of his partners.

James Buchanan Duke (tobacco) – Durham, North Carolina

James B. Duke received an intermittent education in local academies. Later he briefly attended the New Garden School in Greensboro, NC (now Guilford College) and the Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie, New York. His primary education, however, was in the family’s business—first farming, then the hand manufacture and “drumming” (marketing) of tobacco products, and finally, the mass production and mass marketing of cigarettes.

Washington Duke (1820–1905), had owned a tobacco company that his sons James Buchanan Duke and Benjamin Newton Duke (1855–1929) took over in the 1880s. In 1885, James Buchanan Duke acquired a license to use the first automated cigarette making machine (invented by James Albert Bonsack), and by 1890, Duke supplied 40% of the American cigarette market (then known as pre-rolled tobacco). In that year, Duke consolidated control of his four major competitors under one corporate entity, the American Tobacco Company, which was a monopoly in the American cigarette market. His robber baron business tactics directly led to the Black Patch Tobacco Wars in 1906-1908.

Marshall Field (retail) – Chicago[13]

Marshall Field was born on a farm in Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts,[1] the son of John Field IV and wife Fidelia Nash. His family was descended from Puritans who had come to America as early as 1650.

At the age of 17, he moved to Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, where he first worked in a dry goods store.[2] He left Massachusetts at the age of 18 for new opportunities in the rapidly expanding West. In 1856, at age 21, he went to live with his brother in Chicago, Illinois, and obtained employment at leading dry goods merchant Cooley, Wadsworth & Co., which was to become Cooley, Farwell & Co. in 1857.

Field quickly rose through the ranks of Cooley, Farwell & Co. to become junior partner in 1862. Due to Cooley’s having to leave the firm for financial reasons, Field was persuaded to come on board as a partner in the same year.[3] John V. Farwell appreciated Field’s keen business acumen, however, when it came to personality, the two were very different. Field’s stuffy efficiency rode on Farwell’s more relaxed and cheery demeanor.[4] At a time of much more personal interactions, this partnership wouldn’t last long. In 1862, Field purchased a partnership with the reorganized firm of Farwell, Field & Co

James Fisk (finance) – New York

Fisk was born in the hamlet of Pownal, Vermont, in Bennington County in 1835. After a brief period in school, he ran away in 1850 and joined Van Amberg’s Mammoth Circus & Menagerie. Later, he became a hotel waiter, and finally adopted the business of his father, a peddler. He applied what he learned in the circus to his peddling and grew his father’s business. He then became a salesman for Jordan Marsh, a Boston dry goods firm. A failure as a salesman, he was sent to Washington, D.C., in 1861 to sell textiles to the government. By his shrewd dealing in army contracts during the Civil War, and, by some accounts, cotton smuggling across enemy lines – in which he enlisted the help of his father – he accumulated considerable wealth, which he soon lost in speculation.

Henry Morrison Flagler (railroads, oil) – New York and Florida[14]

Flagler received an eighth-grade education before Daniel convinced him to leave school at 14 to work at Daniel’s uncle’s store, Lamon G. Harkness and Company, in Republic, Ohio, at a salary of US$5 per month plus room and board. By 1849, Flagler was promoted to the sales staff at a salary of $400 per month. He later joined Daniel in a grain business started with Lamon in Bellevue, Ohio. In 1862, Flagler and his brother-in-law Barney York founded the Flagler and York Salt Company, a salt mining and production business in Saginaw, Michigan. He found that salt mining required a fair bit of technical knowledge and struggled in the industry during the war. The company collapsed when the American Civil War undercut demand for salt, and Flagler returned to Bellevue having lost his initial $50,000 investment and an additional $50,000 he had borrowed from his father-in-law and Daniel. Flagler felt he had learned a valuable lesson: invest in a business only after thorough investigation.[4]

Henry Clay Frick (steel) – Pittsburgh and New York

Frick was born in West Overton, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, in the United States, a grandson of Abraham Overholt, the owner of the prosperous Overholt Whiskey distillery (see Old Overholt).[1] Frick’s father, John W. Frick, was unsuccessful in business pursuits. Henry Clay Frick attended Otterbein College for one year, but did not graduate.[2] In 1871, at 21 years old, Frick joined two cousins and a friend in a small partnership, using a beehive oven to turn coal into coke for use in steel manufacturing, and vowed to be a millionaire by the age of thirty. The company was called Frick Coke Company.[3]

Thanks to loans from the family of lifelong friend Andrew W. Mellon, by 1880, Frick bought out the partnership. The company was renamed H. C. Frick & Company, employed 1,000 workers and controlled 80 percent of the coal output in Pennsylvania,[3] operating coal mines in Westmoreland and Fayette counties, where he also operated banks of beehive coke ovens. Some of the brick and stone structures are still visible in both Fayette and Westmoreland Counties.

John Warne Gates (barbed wire, oil) – Texas[15]

Gates was raised on the family’s farm, but did not care for farm life. At an early age, he entered into his first business proposition: to husk a neighbor’s corn.[3] His next business venture was to clear some land of timber for another neighbor. Gates earned US$1,000 for this job, selling the timber as firewood to homes and to the railroad.[10] Gates then took the money from this labor and bought a half interest in a threshing machine. As this type of equipment was very new at the time, few farms owned one, so Gates and his partner hired themselves out to work with it at various local farms. After one season, Gates tired of this type of work and he sold his interest in the threshing machine to his partner and another friend.[11] Gates then set himself up as a local grain broker, doing business from the family’s home. This business venture was a failure; in an effort to escape farm work, he took to spending time at the railroad depot where he had previously sold firewood. The railroad men remembered him and now asked him to join their poker games. Gates found he had an aptitude for the game and for anticipating the cards men held and how they would play them. With the grain brokerage now forgotten, he was able to make up the losses at the card table.[12]

While attending a house party near St. Charles, he met and fell in love with a farmer’s daughter, Dellora Baker. Gates proposed to her at one of the house parties. Dellora was willing to accept Gates’ proposal, but wondered how he would be able to provide for a wife, as his only income came from winning at the railroad poker games.[13][3] When his father discovered Gates in a poker game with some railroad men in the family’s barn, Asel told his son he was no good and would never be any good. Only Mary’s mediation stopped her son from leaving home. With the realization that he needed more education than grammar school had provided, he announced to his parents that he would be enrolling in some local college classes.[14] Gates attended some courses at nearby Wheaton College and graduated from North Central College in 1876 (age 21).[3][15] He had little opportunity to put his new business education to work, as the financial Panic of 1873 began just as he was completing his college work. In order to be able to marry Dellora, Gates accepted every type of job he could get for the next year; most of them were for farm work. Gates and Dellora were married on February 25, 1874.[16][d]

Gates tried to revive to his grain brokerage business but lost all his savings through it. When the couple’s first child was stillborn, Gates returned to his old pattern of playing poker and thought seriously about leaving town with Dellora. With this knowledge, Mary Gates told her husband he needed to help his son financially so he could start a new business. Gates’ father in law, Ed Baker, had already offered to help his daughter and son in law in this way. Asel purchased a two-story brick building and Ed Baker provided the capital for stock to open a hardware store in Turner Junction.[15][18] At first the business went well; Gates and Dellora were able to move into their own home. Gates began taking time away from the hardware store and while his partner tried to handle all the business, he was not able to.[19] A son, Charles Gilbert Gates, was born to Gates and Dellora on May 21, 1876. Gates began to complain of various ailments soon after the baby’s birth; at times, he would take to his bed for some days with them. Business at the hardware store had become so bad, Gates was not able to afford the rent on the family’s home. They had to move into two rooms above the hardware store, with Gates saying he was too ill to help with the moving and packing.[19]

While at the hardware store, Gates met a salesman who was in the barbed wire business. As a result, Gates became interested in the relatively new product. When he announced his intentions to sell his interest in the hardware store and become a traveling salesman for the product, his wife and mother were both in favor of the plan.[20][e] He made a trip to San Antonio, Texas in 1876 where Isaac Ellwood hired him as a salesman for the Washburn-Moen barbed wire company. After being assigned to work in Texas, Gates quickly learned that while he found friends and poker playing companions, when it came to selling barbed wire, ranchers were not buying. After watching a medicine show proprietor stage an elaborate presentation for his wares and noting that people fought to buy the products sold, Gates decided to have a similar production to demonstrate the merits of barbed wire. In San Antonio’s Military Plaza, Gates provoked cattle into charging into a barbed wire fence which did not break. Gates went from not being able to sell his product to not being able to fill orders quickly enough after the demonstratio

Jay Gould (railroads) – New York[16]

Jason Gould was born in Roxbury, New York to Mary More (1798–1841) and John Burr Gould (1792–1866). His maternal grandfather, Alexander T. More, was a businessman, and his great-grandfather John More was a Scottish immigrant who founded the town of Moresville, New York.[6] Jay Gould studied at local schools and the Hobart Academy in Hobart, Delaware County, New York.[7]

As a young boy, Gould decided he wanted nothing to do with farming which was what his father did, and so his father dropped him off at a nearby school with 50 cents and a sack of clothes.

His principal was credited as getting him a job working as a bookkeeper for a blacksmith.[9] A year later the blacksmith offered him half interest in the blacksmith shop, which he sold to his father during the early part of 1854 [age 18]. Gould devoted himself to private study, emphasizing surveying and mathematics. In 1854, Gould surveyed and created maps of the Ulster County, New York area. In 1856 he published History of Delaware County, and Border Wars of New York, which he had spent several years writing.[10]

Edward Henry Harriman (railroads) – New York[17]

As a young boy, Harriman spent a summer working at the Greenwood Iron Furnace in the area owned by the Robert Parker Parrott family that would become Harriman State Park. He quit school at age 14 to take a job as an errand boy on Wall Street in New York City. His uncle Oliver Harriman had earlier established a career there. By age 22, he was a member of the New York Stock Exchange.

In 1879 he married Mary Williamson Averell, daughter of William J. Averell, a banker in Ogdensburg, New York.[6]

Charles T. Hinde (railroads, water transport, shipping, hotels) – Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, California

During the early years of Hinde’s life the family was constantly on the move, because his father was a circuit preacher of the Methodist faith and was speculating in military real estate in the territories purchased from the Native Americans by Willam Henry Harrison. Eventually, Hinde’s father purchased a large tract of land in southern Illinois where he founded a town and settled with his family.

Hinde attended elementary and middle school in Mount Carmel, Illinois, a town his father founded in 1815. The Hinde family were large landowners in Mount Carmel and Wabash County, Illinois. A portion of the family land was located on the Wabash River and included Hanging Rock and the Grand Rapids Dam. Hinde attended Indiana Asbury University (now DePauw University) in Greencastle for a year and a half before dropping out following the deaths of his father and mother.[1][a] Hinde, his brother Edmund C. Hinde, and his sister Belinda Hinde were forced to live with other relatives or fend for themselves. For a short time in the 1850s, Hinde and his younger sister Belinda lived with their older sister, Martha, and her husband, Judge Charles H. Constable, in Mount Carmel and in Marshall, Illinois.[2] As a college dropout, Hinde was initially only able to find work as a grocery clerk in Vincennes and later as a clerk in Mount Carmel. Even though these were low-paying jobs, Hinde was able to support himself because he had inherited large land holdings from his father.[3]

Mark Hopkins (railroads) – California

Hopkins was born in Henderson, Jefferson County, New York to Mark Hopkins and Anastasia Lukens Kellogg, who were first cousins. Because his father died when he was a boy, he was never known as “Junior.” The family moved to St. Clair, Michigan in 1824. His father, Mark Hopkins (1779–1828), served as Postmaster, first in Henderson, NY, then in St. Clair, MI (known then as Palmer), where he was also Judge of Probate.[1]

The elder Hopkins died in 1828 [age 15], and his son left school to work as a clerk. In 1837 he studied law with his brother Henry, but moved on through several business ventures. He was a partner in a firm called “Hopkins and Hughes”, then a bookkeeper and later manager for “James Rowland and Company”.

Collis Potter Huntington (railroads) – California

Collis Potter Huntington was born in Harwinton, Connecticut, on October 22, 1821.[1] His family farmed and he grew up helping. In his early teens, he did farm chores and odd jobs for neighbors, too, saving his earnings. At age 16, he began traveling as a peddler.[5] About this time, he visited rural Newport News Point in Warwick County, Virginia in his travels as a salesman. It was later to become quite clear that he never forgot the untapped potential of the location he observed where the James River emptied into the large harbor of Hampton Roads. In 1842 he and his brother Solon Huntington, of Oneonta, New York, established a successful business in Oneonta, selling general merchandise there until about 1848.[1]

Andrew W. Mellon (finance, oil) – Pittsburgh

Mellon was born in Pittsburgh on March 24, 1855. His name is listed on the 1860 Census as “William A. Mellon.” His father was Thomas Mellon, a banker and judge who was a Scots-Irish immigrant from County Tyrone, Ireland; his mother was Sarah Jane Negley Mellon. He had three older brothers, Thomas A., James R. and Samuel, and he also had a younger brother named Richard B. Mellon. He was educated at the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh) and left before graduating.[1]

Mellon demonstrated financial ability early. In 1872 his father set him up in a lumber and coal business, which he soon turned into a profitable enterprise. He joined his father’s banking firm, T. Mellon & Sons, in 1880 and two years later had ownership of the bank transferred to him. In 1889, Mellon helped organize the Union Trust Company and Union Savings Bank of Pittsburgh. He also branched into industrial activities: oil, steel, shipbuilding, and construction.

J. P. Morgan (finance, industrial consolidation) – New York

Morgan was born into the influential Morgan family to Junius Spencer Morgan (1813–1890) and Juliet Pierpont (1816–1884) in Hartford, Connecticut, and was raised there.[1][2] Pierpont, as he preferred to be known, had a varied education due in part to the plans of his father. In the fall of 1848, Pierpont transferred to the Hartford Public School and then to the Episcopal Academy in Cheshire, Connecticut (now called Cheshire Academy), boarding with the principal. In September 1851, Morgan passed the entrance exam for The English High School of Boston, a school specializing in mathematics to prepare young men for careers in commerce. In the spring of 1852, an illness struck which was to become more common as his life progressed. Rheumatic fever left him in so much pain that he could not walk, and Junius sent him to the Azores to recover.[3]

He convalesced there for almost a year, then returned to the English High School in Boston to resume his studies. After he graduated, his father sent him to Bellerive, a school near the Swiss village of Vevey, where he gained fluency in French. His father then sent him to the University of Göttingen in order to improve his German. He attained a passable level of German within six months and also a degree in art history, then traveled back to London via Wiesbaden, with his education complete. (Age 20)

John Cleveland Osgood (coal mining, iron) – Colorado[18]

Osgood was born in Brooklyn, but moved with his father to Burlington, Iowa at age 6. He had a younger sister, Julia,[2] and a brother, Charles.[3] After his father died in 1859, he was sent to Providence, Rhode Island to live with family and attend school. At age 14, he was on his own, working in the office of a cotton mill where he gained business knowledge. He left for New York City at age 16 and clerked for a Produce Exchange Commission firm while attending night school. After three years there, he returned to southeast Iowa as cashier of the White Breast Fuel Company, then learned the banking business as cashier of the First National Bank of Burlington. At age 26, he took over the White Breast Fuel Company

Henry B. Plant (railroads) – Florida[19]

Henry Bradley Plant was founder of the Plant System of railroads and steamboats. He attended Loudoun County HIgh School in Leesburg, Virginia, and was a stellar student. He was born in Branford, Conn., the son of Betsey (Bradley) and Anderson Plant, a farmer in good circumstances. He was the descendant of John Plant who probably emigrated from England and settled at Hartford, Conn., about 1639. When the boy was six, his father and younger sister died of typhus. Several years later his mother married again and took him to live first at Martinsburg, N.Y., and later at New Haven, Conn., where he attended a private school. His grandmother, Betsy Plant, who hoped to make a clergyman of him, offered him an education at Yale College, but, impatient to begin an active career, he got a job as captain’s boy, deck hand, and man-of-all-work on a steamboat, The New York, plying between New Haven and New York City.

John D. Rockefeller (oil) – Cleveland, New York

Eliza, a homemaker and devout Baptist, struggled to maintain a semblance of stability at home, as Bill was frequently gone for extended periods. She also put up with his philandering and his double life, which included bigamy.[17] Thrifty by nature and necessity, she taught her son that “willful waste makes woeful want”.[18] Young Rockefeller did his share of the regular household chores and earned extra money raising turkeys, selling potatoes and candy, and eventually lending small sums of money to neighbors. He followed his father’s advice to “trade dishes for platters” and always get the better part of any deal. Bill once bragged, “I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make ’em sharp.”[19]

When he was a boy, his family moved to Moravia, NY, and in 1851 to Owego, where he attended Owego Academy. In 1853, his family moved to Strongsville, a suburb of Cleveland. Rockefeller attended Cleveland’s Central High School, the first high school in Cleveland and the first free, public high school west of the Alleghenies. Then, he took a ten-week business course at Folsom’s Commercial College, where he studied bookkeeping.[20]

In spite of his father’s absences and frequent family moves, young John was a well-behaved, serious, and studious boy. His contemporaries described him as reserved, earnest, religious, methodical, and discreet. He was an excellent debater and expressed himself precisely. He also had a deep love of music and dreamed of it as a possible career.[21] Early on, he displayed an excellent mind for numbers and detailed accounting.

In September 1855, when Rockefeller was sixteen, he got his first job as an assistant bookkeeper working for a small produce commission firm called Hewitt & Tuttle. He worked long hours and delighted, as he later recalled, in “all the methods and systems of the office.”[22] He was particularly adept at calculating transportation costs, which served him well later in his career. The full salary for his first three months’ work was $50 (50 cents a day).[23] As a youth, Rockefeller reportedly said that his two great ambitions were to make $100,000 and to live 100 years.

Charles M. Schwab (steel) – Pittsburgh and New York

Charles Michael Schwab was born in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, to Pauline (née Farabaugh) and John Anthony Schwab.[1][2] All four of his grandparents were Roman Catholic immigrants from Germany.[2] Schwab was raised in Loretto, Pennsylvania, which he considered his home town. He attended Saint Francis College (now Saint Francis University), but left after two years and obtaining two certificates to find work in Pittsburgh. Schwab began his career as an engineer in Andrew Carnegie’s steelworks, starting as a stake-driver in the engineering corps of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works and Furnaces in Braddock, Pennsylvania. He was promoted often, including to the positions of general superintendent of the Homestead Works in 1886 and general superintendent of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works in 1889

Joseph Seligman (banking) – New York

Seligman was born in Baiersdorf, Germany. As a small child, he worked in his mother’s dry goods shop. Present-day Germany consisted of many independent states in the early 19th century, most of which issued their own, differing coinages; and young Joseph made a profit at his mother’s store changing money for travelers for a small fee. Joseph’s father wanted him to enter the family wool business, but circumstances made this difficult; in particular, migration of the peasant class (Seligman’s father’s customers) from rural areas to urban meant a loss of job opportunities and a shrinking economic base in Baiersdorf. At fourteen, Seligman attended the University of Erlangen. At seventeen, he boarded a steamer at Bremen and sailed to America.

Arriving in the United States at age 18, Seligman initially settled in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, where he went to work as a cashier/clerk for Asa Packer, who later become a United States congressman. His salary was $400 a year. Using his savings from work, Seligman began selling goods door to door in rural Pennsylvania (jewelry, knives, smaller goods), saving outlying farmers the trouble of coming into town to buy their goods. After saving $500, Seligman was able to send to Germany for his brothers William and James, who joined him in peddling.

John D. Spreckels (water transport, railroads, sugar) – California

The oldest of five children, Spreckels was born in Charleston, South Carolina, though the family soon moved to New York City and then went on to San Francisco, California, where he was raised. Spreckels attended Oakland College and then the Polytechnic College in Hanover, Germany, where he studied chemistry and mechanical engineering until 1872 [age 19]. He returned to California and began working for his father, Claus Spreckels, who had grown extremely wealthy in the sugar business. In 1876 he went to the Hawaiian Islands, where he worked for his father’s sugar business, Spreckels Sugar Company.[1]

Leland Stanford (railroads) – California

Stanford’s father was a farmer of some means. Stanford was raised on family farms in the Lisha Kill and Roessleville (after 1836) areas of Watervliet. The family home in Roessleville was called Elm Grove. The Elm Grove home was razed in the 1940s. Stanford attended the common schools until 1836 and was tutored at home until 1839. He attended Clinton Liberal Institute, in Clinton, New York, and studied law at Cazenovia Seminary in Cazenovia, New York, in 1841–45. In 1845, he entered the law office of Wheaton, Doolittle and Hadley in Albany.[

Cornelius Vanderbilt (water transport, railroads) – New York[20]

Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in Staten Island, New York, to Cornelius van Derbilt and Phebe Hand. He began working on his father’s ferry in New York Harbor as a boy, quitting school at the age of 11. At the age of 16 Vanderbilt decided to start his own ferry service. According to one version of events, he borrowed $100 from his mother to purchase a periauger (a shallow draft, two masted sailing vessel), which he christened the Swiftsure.[4] However, according to the first published account of his life, in 1853, the periauger belonged to his father and he received half the profit. He began his business by ferrying freight and passengers between Staten Island and Manhattan.

Charles Tyson Yerkes (street railroads) – Chicago[21]

After finishing a two-year course at Philadelphia’s Central High School, Yerkes began his business career at the age of 17 as a clerk in a local grain brokerage. In 1859, aged 22, he opened his own brokerage firm and joined the Philadelphia stock exchange.


Edgar Allan Poe

1 year at University of Virginia (left at age 18), joined the army, later spent a half year at West point.

Poe was born in Boston, the second child of two actors. His father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died the following year. Thus orphaned, the child was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia. They never formally adopted him, but Poe was with them well into young adulthood. Tension developed later as John Allan and Edgar repeatedly clashed over debts, including those incurred by gambling, and the cost of secondary education for the young man. Poe attended the University of Virginia for one semester but left due to lack of money. Poe quarreled with Allan over the funds for his education and enlisted in the Army in 1827 under an assumed name. It was at this time that his publishing career began, albeit humbly, with the anonymous collection of poems Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), credited only to “a Bostonian”. With the death of Frances Allan in 1829, Poe and Allan reached a temporary rapprochement. However, Poe later failed as an officer cadet at West Point, declaring a firm wish to be a poet and writer, and he ultimately parted ways with John Allan.

The Allan family had Poe baptized in the Episcopal Church in 1812. John Allan alternately spoiled and aggressively disciplined his foster son.[10] The family sailed to Britain in 1815, and Poe attended the grammar school for a short period in Irvine, Scotland (where John Allan was born) before rejoining the family in London in 1816. There he studied at a boarding school in Chelsea until summer 1817. He was subsequently entered at the Reverend John Bransby’s Manor House School at Stoke Newington, then a suburb 4 miles (6.4 km) north of London.[12]

Poe moved with the Allans back to Richmond, Virginia in 1820. In 1824, Poe served as the lieutenant of the Richmond youth honor guard as Richmond celebrated the visit of the Marquis de Lafayette.[13] In March 1825, John Allan’s uncle and business benefactor William Galt, said to be one of the wealthiest men in Richmond, died,[14] leaving Allan several acres of real estate. The inheritance was estimated at $750,000. By summer 1825, Allan celebrated his expansive wealth by purchasing a two-story brick home named Moldavia.[15]

Johnson Jones Hooper


Hooper was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on June 9, 1815, to Archibald Maclaine Hooper and Charlotte de Berniere Hooper; he was the youngest of three brothers. He worked in North Carolina with his father in the printing industry. At the age of 15, Hooper showed the promise of humorous writing to come when he composed the poem “Anthony Milan’s Launch.” Set during a ship christening ceremony, the poem describes the mistaken throwing, or “launching,” into the river of a portly and pretentious British Consul.

In 1835, Hooper moved to Alabama, settling in LaFayette, Chambers County, where he studied law with his brother. He passed the bar in 1838 and began working in his brother’s law firm. In addition to practicing law, Hooper worked as a census taker for Tallapoosa County. Hooper’s experiences surveying the lives of the backwoods residents of Tallapoosa County served as rich material for his writing career.

Johnson Hooper Memorial in Dadeville In 1843, Hooper published his first story, “Taking the Census in Alabama,” in William T. Porter’s national magazine, Spirit of the Times. Readers praised the story for its realistic and humorous portrayal of the people of Tallapoosa County, and Hooper consequently gained a national audience.

George Lippard

Done with school by age 15

George Lippard was born on April 10, 1822, near Yellow Springs, in West Nantmeal Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, on the farm of his father, Daniel B. Lippard. The family moved to the city of Philadelphia two years later, shortly after his father was injured in a farming accident. Young Lippard grew up in Philadelphia, in Germantown (presently part of the city of Philadelphia), and Rhinebeck, New York (where he attended the Classical Academy). After considering a career in the Methodist religious ministry and rejecting it because of a “contradiction between theory and practice” of Christianity, he began the study of law, which he also abandoned, as it was incompatible with his beliefs about human justice. Following the death of his father in 1837, Lippard spent some time living like a homeless bohemian, working odd jobs and living in abandoned buildings and studios. Life on Philadelphia’s streets gave him firsthand knowledge of the effects the Panic of 1837 had on the urban poor. Distressed by the misery he witnessed, “Lippard decided to become a writer for the masses”

James Fenimore Cooper

At age 13, Cooper was enrolled at Yale, but he incited a dangerous prank that involved blowing up another student’s door — after having already locked a donkey in a recitation room.[7] Cooper was expelled in his third year without completing his degree. Disenchanted with college, he obtained work in 1806 as a sailor and, at age 17, joined the crew of a merchant vessel.[2][8] By 1811, he obtained the rank of midshipman in the fledgling United States Navy, conferred upon him on an officer’s warrant signed by Thomas Jefferson

Herman Melville

Born in 1819, Melville attended the Albany Academy from October 1830 to October 1831, where he took the standard preparatory course, studying reading and spelling; penmanship; arithmetic; English grammar; geography; natural history; universal, Greek, Roman and English history; classical biography; and Jewish antiquities.[22] It is unknown why he left the Academy in October 1831; Parker suggests that by then “even the tiny tuition fee seemed too much to pay”.[23] His brothers Gansevoort and Allan continued their attendance a few months longer, Gansevoort until March the next year.[23] “The ubiquitous classical references in Melville’s published writings,” as Melville scholar Merton Sealts observed, "suggest that his study of ancient history, biography, and literature during his school days left a lasting impression on both his thought and his art, as did his almost encyclopedic knowledge of both the Old and the New Testaments.

Melville did his job well at the bank; though he was only fourteen in 1834, the bank considered him competent enough to be sent to Schenectady on an errand. Not much else is known from this period, except that he was very fond of drawing.[34] The visual arts became a lifelong interest.[citation needed]

Around May 1834, the Melvilles moved to another house in Albany, a three-story brick house. That same month a fire destroyed Gansevoort’s skin-preparing factory, which left him with personnel he could neither use nor afford. Instead he pulled Melville out of the bank to man the cap and fur store.[34] (Biographer Andrew Delbanco says that Gansevoort was doing so well he could hire his younger brother until a fire broke out in 1835, destroying both factory and the store.[35]) In any case, his older brother Gansevoort served as a role model for Melville in various ways. In early 1834 Gansevoort had become a member of the Albany’s Young Men’s Association for Mutual Improvement, and in January 1835 Melville became a member as well.[36]

In 1835, while still working in the store, Melville enrolled in Albany Classical School, perhaps using Maria’s part of the proceeds from the sale of the estate of his maternal grandmother in March 1835.[37] In September of the following year Herman was back in Albany Academy, in the Latin course. He also joined debating societies, in an apparent effort to make up as much as he could for his missed years of schooling. In this period he also became acquainted with Shakespeare’s Macbeth at least, and teased his sisters with a passage from the witch scenes.[38]

In March 1837, he was again withdrawn from Albany Academy.

Ik Marvel

Age 19, Mitchell, the grandson of politician and jurist Stephen Mix Mitchell, was born in Norwich, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale College in 1841, where he was a member of Skull and Bones and studied law, but he soon took up literature. Throughout his life he showed a particular interest in agriculture and landscape gardening, which he followed at first in pursuit of health.[1] He served as U.S. consul at Venice, Italy, from 1853 to 1854, and in 1855 he settled at his estate, called Edgewood, near New Haven, Connecticut.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

He was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts, to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, the only judge involved in the Salem witch trials who never repented of his actions. Nathaniel later added a “w” to make his name “Hawthorne” in order to hide this relation. He entered Bowdoin College in 1821, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1824,[1] and graduated in 1825. Hawthorne published his first work, a novel titled Fanshawe, in 1828; he later tried to suppress it, feeling it was not equal to the standard of his later work.[2] He published several short stories in periodicals, which he collected in 1837 as Twice-Told Tales. The next year, he became engaged to Sophia Peabody. He worked at the Boston Custom House and joined Brook Farm, a transcendentalist community, before marrying Peabody in 1842. The couple moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, later moving to Salem, the Berkshires, then to The Wayside in Concord. The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850, followed by a succession of other novels. A political appointment as consul took Hawthorne and family to Europe before their return to Concord in 1860. Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, and was survived by his wife and their three children.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet enrolled in the Hartford Female Seminary run by her older sister Catharine, where she received a traditional academic education usually reserved for males at the time with a focus in the classics, including study of languages and mathematics. Among her classmates was Sarah P. Willis, who later wrote under the pseudonym Fanny Fern.[4]

In 1832, at the age of 21, Harriet Beecher moved to Cincinnati,

John W. DeForest

DeForest was born in Seymour, Connecticut, (then called Humphreysville), the son of a prosperous cotton manufacturer. He did not attend college, but instead pursued independent studies, mainly abroad, where he was a student in Latin, and became a fluent speaker of French, Italian, and Spanish. While yet a youth, he spent four years traveling in Europe, and two years in the Levant, residing chiefly in Syria. In 1850, he again visited Europe, making extensive tours through Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Greece, and Asia Minor. From that time, he wrote short stories for periodicals, having already authored several books.

Louisa May Alcott

Alcott’s early education included lessons from the naturalist Henry David Thoreau, but she received the majority of her schooling from her father, who was strict and believed in “the sweetness of self-denial”.[4] She also received some instruction from writers and educators such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller, all of whom were family friends. She later described these early years in a newspaper sketch entitled “Transcendental Wild Oats”. The sketch was reprinted in the volume Silver Pitchers (1876), which relates the family’s experiment in “plain living and high thinking” at Fruitlands.

Poverty made it necessary for Alcott to go to work at an early age as a teacher, seamstress, governess, domestic helper, and writer. Her sisters also supported the family, working as seamstresses, while their mother took on social work among the Irish immigrants. Only the youngest, May, was able to attend public school. Due to all of these pressures, writing became a creative and emotional outlet for Alcott.[4] Her first book was Flower Fables (1849, age 17), a selection of tales originally written for Ellen Emerson, daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Albion Tourgée

Born in rural Williamsfield, Ohio on May 2, 1838,[2] Tourgée was the son of farmer Valentine Tourgée and Louisa Emma Winegar. His mother died when he was five. He attended common schools in Ashtabula County and in Lee, Massachusetts, where he spent two years living with an uncle. Tourgée entered the University of Rochester in 1859. Interestingly, he showed no interest in politics until the university attempted to ban the Wide Awakes, a paramilitary campaign organization affiliated with the Republican Party. Tourgée took on the administration and succeeded in reaching a compromise with the University president.[3] Due to lack of funds, he left the university in 1861 without attaining a degree. He taught school as a way to raise money to return to Rochester, but with the outbreak of the Civil War, in April of the same year, he enlisted in the 27th New York Volunteer Infantry before completing his collegiate studies. As was common practice at many universities at that time, Tourgée was awarded an A.B. degree in absentia in June 1862.[4]

George Washington Cable

Cable was born in 1844 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of George W. Cable, Sr., and Rebecca Boardman Cable. They were wealthy slaveholders who were members of the Presbyterian Church and New Orleans society, whose families had moved there after the Louisiana Purchase. First educated in private schools, the younger Cable had to get work after his father died young. The elder Cable had lost investments, and the family struggled financially. Cable later learned French on his own. He served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, in which he took part in support of the Southern cause.

His experiences changed his ideas about Southern and Louisiana society, and he began writing during a two-year bout with malaria.[3] In 1870 Cable went into journalism, writing for the New Orleans Picayune. He worked for them from 1865 to 1879, by which time he had become an established writer. In 1869, George Cable married Louisa Stewart Bartlett, with whom he had several children.

Henry James

The family first lived in Albany and then moved to Fourteenth Street in New York City when James was still a young boy. His education was calculated by his father to expose him to many influences, primarily scientific and philosophical; it was described as “extraordinarily haphazard and promiscuous.” James did not share the usual education in Latin and Greek classics. Between 1855 and 1860, the James’ household traveled to London, Paris, Geneva, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Newport, Rhode Island, according to the father’s current interests and publishing ventures, retreating to the United States when funds were low. Henry studied primarily with tutors and briefly attended a few schools while the family traveled in Europe. Their longest stays were in France, where Henry began to feel at home and became fluent in French.

In 1862 Henry attended Harvard Law School, but realized that he was not interested in studying law. He pursued his interest in literature and associated with authors and critics William Dean Howells and Charles Eliot Norton in Boston and Cambridge, formed lifelong friendships with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the future Supreme Court Justice, and with James and Annie Fields, his first professional mentors.

Mark Twain

In 1847, when Twain was 11, his father, by then an attorney and judge, died of pneumonia.[16] The next year Twain left school after the fifth grade to become a printer’s apprentice. In 1851, he began working as a typesetter and contributor of articles and humorous sketches for the Hannibal Journal, a newspaper Orion owned. When he was 18, he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. He joined the newly formed International Typographical Union, the printers union, and educated himself in public libraries in the evenings, finding wider information than at a conventional school.[18]

Edward Bellamy

Edward Bellamy was born in Chicopee, Massachusetts. His father was Rufus King Bellamy (1816–1886), a Baptist minister and a descendant of Joseph Bellamy.[2] His mother, Maria Louisa Putnam Bellamy, was herself the daughter of a Baptist minister named Benjamin Putnam, a man forced to withdraw from the ministry in Salem, Massachusetts, following objections to his becoming a Freemason.[3]

Bellamy attended public school at Chicopee Falls before leaving for Union College of Schenectady, New York, where he studied for just two semesters.[2] Upon leaving school, Bellamy made his way to Europe for a year, spending extensive time in Germany.[2] Bellamy briefly studied law but abandoned that field without ever having practiced as a lawyer, instead entering the world of journalism. In this capacity Bellamy briefly served on the staff of the New York Post before returning to his native Massachusetts to take a position at the Springfield Union

William Dean Howells

William Dean Howells was born on March 1, 1837, in Martinsville, Ohio (now known as Martins Ferry, Ohio), to William Cooper, and Mary Dean, Howells.[1] He was the second of eight children. His father was a newspaper editor and printer, who moved frequently around Ohio. In 1840, the family settled in Hamilton, Ohio,[2] where William Cooper Howells oversaw a Whig newspaper and followed Swedenborgianism;[3] their nine years there marked the longest they would stay in one place.[2] Though the family had to live frugally, the young Howells was encouraged by his parents in his literary interests.[4] Howells began to help his father with typesetting and printing work at an early age, a job known at the time as a printer’s devil. In 1852, his father arranged to have one of Howells’ poems published in the Ohio State Journal without telling him.

Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane (November 1, 1871 – June 5, 1900) was an American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Prolific throughout his short life, he wrote notable works in the Realist tradition as well as early examples of American Naturalism and Impressionism. He is recognized by modern critics as one of the most innovative writers of his generation.

The ninth surviving child of Protestant Methodist parents, Crane began writing at the age of four and had published several articles by the age of 16. Having little interest in university studies, he left college in 1891 to work as a reporter and writer. Crane’s first novel was the 1893 Bowery tale Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, generally considered by critics to be the first work of American literary Naturalism. He won international acclaim in 1895 for his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage, which he wrote without having any battle experience.

Harold Frederic

Frederic was born in Utica, New York, to Presbyterian parents. After his father was killed in a railroad accident when Frederic was 18 months old, the boy was raised primarily by his mother. He finished school at age fifteen, and soon began work as a photographer. For four years he was a photographic touch-up artist in his hometown and in Boston. In 1875 he began work as a proofreader for the newspaper The Utica Herald and then The Utica Daily Observer. Frederic later became a reporter. Frederic married Grace Green Williams in 1877, and they had five children together. By 1882 he was editor of the newspaper The Albany Evening Journal in the state capital.

Frank Norris

Frank Norris was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1870.[6] His father, Benjamin, was a self-made Chicago businessman and his mother, Gertrude Glorvina Doggett, had a stage career. In 1884 the family moved to San Francisco where Benjamin went into real estate. In 1887, after the death of his brother and a brief stay in London, young Norris went to Académie Julian in Paris where he studied painting for two years and was exposed to the naturalist novels of Émile Zola.[7][8] Between 1890 and 1894 he attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he became acquainted with the ideas of human evolution of Darwin and Spencer that are reflected in his later writings. His stories appeared in the undergraduate magazine at Berkeley and in the San Francisco Wave.

Kate Chopin

Chopin was born Katherine O’Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri. Her father, Thomas O’Flaherty, was a successful businessman who had emigrated from Galway, Ireland. Her mother, Eliza Faris, was a well-connected member of the French community in St. Louis and herself the daughter of Athénaïse Charleville, who was of French Canadian descent. Some of Chopin’s ancestors were among the first European inhabitants of Dauphin Island, Alabama. She was the third of five children, but her sisters died in infancy and her half-brothers (from her father’s first marriage) died in their early twenties. After her father’s death in 1855, Chopin developed a close relationship with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She also became an avid reader of fairy tales, poetry, and religious allegories, as well as classic and contemporary novels. She graduated from Sacred Heart Covent in St. Louis in 1868