Brief descriptions of important people in the history of American business.
An early interest in technology led Allen and his childhood friend
The Famous Amos cookie company grew out of Wally Amos’s lifelong fascination with chocolate chip cookies. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the first African American to serve as an agent for the William Morris talent agency, Amos found himself unemployed in Los Angeles in 1967 with a growing family to support. He returned to his childhood obsession and began baking cookies for friends, who suggested he sell them. With a $25,000 loan, he opened a small shop in Hollywood. With a high-quality product and savvy marketing he turned the Famous Amos brand into a multimillion-dollar enterprise during the 1980’s. When profits ebbed, he licensed the brand to a series of investors and was eventually pushed out of the company. Amos then created the Uncle Noname (later renamed Uncle Wally’s Muffin Company) brand of cookies and muffins before returning to Famous Amos in 1998 after Keebler purchased the company rights. Amos’s trademark panama hat and cotton shirt were included in the Smithsonian’s Collection of Business Americana in 1980, and President Ronald Reagan named Amos as one of the earliest recipients of the Awards for Entrepreneurial Excellence in 1986.
The Aoki family opened its first Benihana restaurant amid the rubble of Tokyo after War II. Rocky Aoki, a celebrated Olympic wrestler in 1960, moved to New York to attend college on an athletic scholarship. In 1964, he and his wife opened their first Benihana restaurant in the United States. After a sluggish start, the Manhattan restaurant flourished, thanks to good reviews and frequent celebrity patrons. Aoki’s vigorous self-promotion and the novelty of the theatrical teppanyaki table cooking style made Benihana one of the most successful restaurant chains in the world. Franchises soon cropped up across North America, Great Britain, and Southeast Asia. In 1995, Aoki sold the company to publicly traded Benihana, Inc., a family trust, but remained the principal shareholder and chief executive until 1998. A family battle for control of the company by Aoki’s heirs and a series of health problems marked the next decade of the restaurant, though profits continued to soar. Aoki is credited with making Japanese cuisine and culture more accessible in the United States as well as popularizing theme restaurants.
A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Arnold fought in France during World War I and returned to his birthplace, Laramie, Wyoming, where he served as mayor. Following stints as the dean of West Virginia University’s law school and a professorship at Yale, he was appointed assistant attorney general in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cabinet in 1939 and was placed in charge of the antitrust division. There, he made his name as a hard-nosed trust-buster with vigorous action against the building industry, the American Medical Association, and tobacco industries, among others, emphasizing the rights of consumers over profits. At the outbreak of World War II, the Roosevelt administration reined in their antitrust efforts and Arnold left the Justice Department for a short-lived career as a federal circuit court judge in Washington, D.C., and later an attorney specializing in civil liberties cases. His aggressive approach to the enforcement of antitrust legislation created friction within the Roosevelt administration but also helped shape the application of several of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs designed to pull the nation out of the Depression.
Ash learned the art of direct marketing as a part-time student working her way through medical school. Her success with Stanley Home Products in 1939 led her to pursue sales full time. Her employer’s approach to selling, through home parties among friends and neighbors, suited Ash well and gave her a model that she would later perfect. After achieving a substantial sales record with Stanley, she joined World Gift in 1952 and eventually rose to the level of national sales director. However, after the company promoted a less-qualified male colleague above her in 1963, she left World Gift and began to prepare her own business plan. With five thousand dollars in savings and the help of her husband and a group of friends, she launched Beauty by Mary Kay, which manufactured and sold skin-care lotion. Over the next two decades, Ash turned her small start-up company, renamed Mary Kay Cosmetics in 1965, into an international publicly traded company with annual sales nearing $1 billion. Ash fueled her success by empowering her saleswomen, called “consultants,” and by providing them with such incentives as pink Cadillacs, jewelry, and expensive vacations.
After earning his master’s degree in business administration at Western Ontario University in 1962, Bailey joined the brokerage firm Boettcher & Company in Aspen, Colorado. In 1968, he found investors who contributed twenty-five thousand dollars each for a mutual fund investment that he managed in his spare time. A year later, his profits allowed him to leave Boettcher and found the Janus Fund. His aggressive approach to investing saw fund profits regularly outperform Standard and Poor’s 500 over the next decade. During the 1980’s, Bailey increased his staff of managers and analysts and created several new funds, some of which saw as much as 51 percent returns. In 1996, the aggregate value of Bailey’s funds reached $30 billion. With profits mounting, Bailey resigned as chief executive officer in 2002. Two years later, he gave up his position as chairman in the wake of Janus’s investigation by the Security and Exchange Commission for manipulating fund investments for the benefit of short-term investors. The Janus Capital Group settled the matter for $100 million and remained one of the largest equity management firms in the United States. In late 2008, Forbes ranked Bailey at 322 on its list of the four hundred richest Americans.
During the mid-1980’s, Bezos began building a promising career in the corporate world, first with a small financial trading start-up, and later as senior vice president at the online trading company D. E. Shaw & Company. In 1994, he struck out on his own, choosing books as the most promising foundation for an online store. Initially operating under the name Abracadabra, Bezos launched his first Web site in 1995. Success was nearly immediate. He took the company public two years later, and over the next decade he fine-tuned Amazon with the addition of products ranging from music and DVDs to kitchenware, consumer electronics, and clothing. Bezos soon opened Amazon international sites in Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, and China. Fueled by low prices and fast delivery, Amazon weathered the dot-com bubble bust
A graduate of Harvard Business School in 1966, Bloomberg spent his early career with equity trader Salomon Brothers, Inc., in which he became a general partner and led the company’s shift to computer-based financial services. In 1981, he left the company, cashed out his stock, and founded
The only son of a wealthy timber and mining family in the Midwest, Boeing moved to Seattle, Washington, in 1902 to establish his own timber company. His interests in the next decade turned to the burgeoning aircraft industry. In 1916, he founded his first aviation company and won a contract to build Curtiss seaplanes for use in World War I. However, the Armistice of November, 1981, brought an end to the contract before production began and forced his Pacific Aero Products company to make furniture and other items to stay in business. Boeing’s fortunes improved 1920, when he won a government contract to build two hundred Thomas-Morse MB-3 fighter planes. In 1927, Boeing Air Transport began shuttling mail and passengers between San Francisco and Chicago. During the 1930’s, Boeing introduced numerous innovations for lightweight, fixed-wing aircraft that would help his company get lucrative contracts for military aircraft during World War II. Boeing made two vital contributions to the war effort credited with helping win the war: the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-29 Superfortress. In successive decades, Boeing Aircraft made major contributions to aviation technology and the expanding commercial aircraft industry and remained the largest commercial aircraft manufacturer in the world during the early twenty-first century.
Borden played a central role in the development of Texas before it became a U.S. state during the 1840’s. An accomplished surveyor, he planned the cities of Galveston and Houston and helped write independent Texas’s constitution in 1836. He also cofounded Texas’s first permanent newspaper, the Telegraph and Texas Land Register, and was twice appointed collector of customs by Texas president Sam Houston. During the 1840’s, Borden began research on food preservation and developed a meat biscuit made of condensed beef broth and flour. In 1856, he founded the New York Condensed Milk Company, later called Borden, Inc. The U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) increased demand for canned and preserved foods, and Borden secured several patents during the 1860’s, branching out to include condensed fruit and fruit juice, concentrated tea, coffee, and cocoa. During his final years, he made substantial philanthropic contributions to the state of Texas by building schools and churches. A century after Borden’s 1874 death, Borden, Inc. remained one of the largest producers of dairy and pasta products in the United States and also produced such popular nonfood items as Elmer’s glue and Krazy Glue.
Bradham intended to pursue a career as a doctor but left school when his father declared bankruptcy during the 1890’s. Following a short stint as a school-teacher, he opened a drugstore in New Bern, North Carolina. There, he invented a recipe for what became known as Brad’s Drink in 1898 and sold it at his drugstore’s soda fountain. He incorporated the Pepsi-Cola Company in 1902 and rented a nearby building to manufacture the soft drink. Over the next two decades, he built his company into a national brand by employing a vigorous marketing campaign. He also created new job opportunities at his bottling companies throughout the South and invested much of his profits in community campaigns and scholarship program at the University of North Carolina’s school of pharmacy. By 1910, he had sold the rights to Pepsi franchises in twenty-four states. The outbreak of World War I, and the subsequent rationing of sugar, brought a steep decline in sales of Pepsi, and Bradham was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1923, after which he returned to work in his drugstore in New Bern.
Born in Moscow, Russia, and raised in Maryland, Brin studied computer science and mathematics at the University of Maryland. While pursuing his doctorate at Stanford, he met
After serving as a naval aviator during World War II, Bush studied economics at Yale University and took a job at Dresser Industries as an oil field supply salesperson in Odessa, Texas. In 1953, he started his own company,
Carrier is credited with inventing modern air conditioning technology. After studying engineering at Cornell University, he took a job with a heating and exhaust systems manufacturer in 1901. While working for that company, he created a heat and humidity control system for a New York printing plant that led to his first “air conditioning” patent in 1906. He would go on to secure more than eight more patents. In 1911, he published the “Rational Psychometric Formula,” which established the burgeoning air conditioning industry as a legitimate engineering discipline. During World War II, he created a device to simulate freezing conditions for American aircraft to test their capabilities at high altitude. After he died in 1950, the Carrier Company developed into a global corporation with 45,000 employees and annual sales of more than $15 billion.
After growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, Case graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts before embarking on a long career as a corporate executive. He got his start with Procter and Gamble and Pizza Hut, Inc. before crossing paths with Bill von Meister, owner of Control Video Corporation, an early online game downloading service. Case helped found Quantum Computer Services in 1985 and later became its chief executive officer (1991). During that same year, he changed the company’s name to America Online and helped build its subscriber base, which reached 1 million members in 1994. In 2003, Case resigned from America Online, following the turbulent aftermath of its $106 billion merger with media giant Time-Warner. He remained a board member for Time-Warner until 2005.
Born in Nevada, Casey founded the American Messenger Service in Seattle, Washington, in 1907. He and his business partner employed family members and friends to make deliveries during the early years, mainly parcels from department stores and food deliveries from local restaurants on foot and by bicycle. In 1919, Casey began expanding the business outside Seattle and changed his company’s name to United Parcel Service. He credited the success of the company under his leadership to employee ownership of the business. For the technical innovations adopted during his tenure, and for his emphasis on labor over profits, Casey was inducted to the Labor Hall of Fame in 2002. The modest company he founded on one hundred dollars in borrowed capital eventually became one of the largest international corporations in the world, shipping more than 6 million packages annually to more than two hundred countries and territories.
The daughter of Texas sharecroppers, Chavez-Thompson got her start as a labor organizer with the Laborer’s International Union of North America before serving with several other local organizations, including the Texas AFL-CIO. In 1993, she was elected to the executive council of the AFL-CIO, becoming the first Hispanic woman to reach that level. Over the next two years, she headed efforts to raise the minimum wage and to reform immigration law. In 1995, she was elected by voice vote for the position of executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, a new position created especially for her. After retiring from the organization in 2007, she continued to serve as vice chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, a position she had held since 1997.
A machinist and railroad mechanic during the early years of his working life, Chrysler maintained an abiding interest in the emerging automobile industry at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1911, he took a job with the Buick Motor Company in Flint, Michigan, as head of production. He resigned in 1916 but was lured back with the promise of complete control of Buick. He remained as head of the company until 1919, when he again resigned and sold his shares making him one of the wealthiest men in America at the time. In 1925, he founded his namesake company out of the ashes of the Maxwell Motor Company. Under his leadership, Chrysler Corporation acquired the Plymouth, DeSoto, and Dodge brands. In 1928, he directed the building of the Chrysler Building in New York City, and was named that year as Time magazine’s Man of the Year. He retired from the Chrysler Corporation in 1936 and devoted his final years to property development in Virginia.
Cohen met his future business partner,
Born in Philadelphia, Coxe was initially a British loyalist when American Revolutionary War began. He served in the British Army under General Howe, but after his capture, imprisonment, and release, he embraced the revolutionary cause. He was a strong advocate of industrialization as a means of national prosperity and pushed for the imposition of stronger tariffs to protect American manufacturers during the early years of American independence. He coauthored “Report on Manufactures” with Alexander Hamilton, under whom he was later assistant secretary of the treasury during the administrations of presidents Washington and Jefferson. Coxe published widely on economic and political matters; however, by the early nineteenth century, his aggressive land acquisitions in North Carolina and Tennessee nearly brought him to financial ruin. He is regarded as one of the progenitors of the American cotton industry for his aggressive support of that industry in the South.
Born in New York and educated at Harvard University, Croly spent thirteen years as editor of the Architectural Record before signing on as the first editor of The New Republic in 1914. Five years earlier, he had published The Promise of American Life, in which he presented a liberal, progressive political agenda, including more governmental spending on education and support for social programs, that some claim later influenced the policies of President Woodrow Wilson and the crafting of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Croly’s role at The New Republic put him in touch with the leading writers of the day in the United States and Europe, and the publication’s editorial board threw its considerable weight behind the Progressive movement. Croly remained at the magazine until his death in 1930.
Curtis began in the publishing business with the Young America weekly paper in Portland, Maine. After similar small ventures in Boston and Philadelphia, he founded the Curtis Publishing Company in 1891. One of his earliest successes began as a one-page column written by his wife, Louisa Knapp
Born in Wales, Davis emigrated to the United States in 1881 and settled with his family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, he was apprenticed as a steel puddler’s assistant, earning the nickname Puddler Jim that followed him through most of his public life. In 1898, he began a long career in public life as a city clerk in Indiana. In 1921, he was appointed secretary of labor by President Warren G. Harding and retained that position under presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. As a cabinet officer, he created the U.S. Border Patrol and persuaded
After amassing a fortune in real estate and as head of the Bank of Worthington in Minnesota, Dayton founded his Dry Goods Store later renamed Dayton’s Department Store in 1902. Combining a successful business life with a strong commitment to community service, he created the Dayton Foundation, dedicated to social welfare projects, and became a member of the Community Fund, a precursor to the United Way. Upon his death in 1938, Dayton bequeathed a successful department store chain to his sons, who would found the
Born in Rutland, Vermont, Deere was apprenticed to a blacksmith in 1821 and opened his own business four years later. When he faced bankruptcy in 1836, he sold the business and moved to Indiana. There he made a plow with polished steel that worked more efficiently in tough prairie soil. Word of the plow’s success spread rapidly, and three years later Deere was producing as many as one hundred plows per year. In 1848, Deere relocated to Moline, Illinois, on the Mississippi River a location that allowed him to take advantage of more efficient transport of goods. By 1868, he was largely retired from the day-to-day operations of his company, which he entrusted to his sons. In the decades that followed, Deere would become the largest agricultural machinery company in the world.
Dell showed early promise as a business mogul. After making a small fortune selling stamps at the age of twelve, he turned to selling subscriptions for the Houston Post newspaper. He got his first computer, an Apple II, at the age of fifteen and promptly took it apart and reassembled it. While attending the University of Texas, he founded the PC’s Limited computer company out of his campus dorm room in 1984. Early success and a loan from family members allowed him to leave school at the age of nineteen and develop the company full time. Despite product setbacks during the 1990’s, Dell built the company renamed Dell, Inc. in 2003 into an international corporation and one of the most successful computer manufacturers in the world.
Dodge was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of the founder of the New York Peace Society. He would devote much of his life to social and humanitarian causes, but his early life was devoted to business. He founded the mining firm Phelps, Dodge and Company with his father-in-law in 1833. After the Civil War (1861-1865), he acquired vast timber interests in his namesake Dodge County, Georgia, where he was instrumental in building the Macon and Brunswick Railroad. In 1869 he toured present-day Oklahoma as part of the government-sponsored Board of Indian Commissioners and later lobbied unsuccessfully for a cabinet-level department for Indian affairs. He met several representatives from Native American tribes and sought the prosecution of U.S. Cavalry commanders following the massacre of Blackfeet Indians in Montana in 1870. Dodge served in the U.S. House of Representatives for New York’s Eighth District from 1866 to 1867 and helped found the Young Men’s Christian Association.
The son of Irish immigrants, Doheny was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. At the age of seventeen he joined the U.S. Geological Survey and surveyed Indian land in Kansas. After stints as a prospector in South Dakota’s Black Hills and in Arizona and New Mexico, Doheny met Albert Fall, the future secretary of the interior, and Charles Canfield, his future business partner, in 1883. In subsequent years, Doheny’s fortunes declined. In 1891, he moved to Los Angeles, California, where Canfield was doing a lucrative trade in the burgeoning real estate market. There, Doheny drilled the first productive oil well in Southern California and built a fortune with which he would later buy up vast tracts of oil land in Mexico. In 1922, he and Fall were implicated in the
Born in Canada, Dow grew up in Connecticut and Ohio. He attended what later became Case Western Reserve University and taught chemistry briefly following his graduation. As a student, he had conducted research on the chemical extraction of bromine, which served a variety of industrial and consumer uses at the time. He formed his first company in 1889 but quickly went bankrupt. In 1891, he invented a new process to extract bromine through electrolysis. Five years later, he founded Dow Chemical to research additional uses for the process. During World War I, 90 percent of the Dow Chemical Company’s production was linked to the war effort. In subsequent years, Dow began research on consumer applications of magnesium. At the time of his death in 1930, he held more than ninety patents. The company he founded remained a leading provider of consumer and industrial chemicals, with revenues of more than $50 billion annually during the early twenty-first century.
Born in Paris, Du Pont moved with his wife and children to Rhode Island in 1799 in the wake of violence following the French Revolution. In 1802, he built the Eleutherian Mills, his family home and business on Brandywine Creek, where he manufactured gunpowder, principally for the U.S. government. Over the next several decades, he supplied gunpowder for the Mexican and Crimean Wars. During the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), the company sold 4 million barrels of gunpowder. The mill was closed following World War I and turned into an industrial history museum. The Eleutherian Mills and Hagley Museum was named a National Historical Landmark in 1966.
The father of Du Pont family patriarch Eleuthre Irne Du Pont, Pierre Samuel had distant connections through his mother to nobility in King Louis XV’s France. He appeared frequently at the French court and drew widespread attention among French economists during the 1760’s with his book Physiocracy, in which he argued for low tariffs and free trade agreements with foreign nations. He supported the French Revolution in 1789 but physically defended King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from violence, thereby earning a death sentence that was later revoked. He fled with his family to the United States in 1799. There he became an informal adviser to President Thomas Jefferson, who he advised to buy the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon Bonaparte.
Durant came to the automobile industry via his success as a manufacturer of horse-drawn carriages in Flint, Michigan. By 1890, the Durant-Dort Carriage Company had become the largest manufacturer of carriages in the country, producing nearly one-half million cars each year. In 1904, Durant became general manager of the
Eastman’s early interest in photography led to his invention of the dry photographic plate in 1877 a product that shifted photographic technology from unwieldy glass plates to more manageable and efficient paper rolls that ultimately led to the development of motion-picture film. He manufactured the film for his Eastman Dry Plate Company. In 1888 Eastman patented a camera to be used with the new roll film and trademarked the name Kodak. He renamed his company Eastman Kodak in 1892 and introduced a second camera, the Brownie, that sold for only one dollar in 1900. The Brownie became a best seller and helped popularize photography among the masses. Eastman later focused more particularly on the film market as competition among still-camera makers increased. In 1925, he gave up control of the daily operations of the Eastman Kodak Company to devote more time to philanthropic projects. During the early twenty-first century, Eastman Kodak remained the world’s largest manufacturer of still and motion-picture film, but by then the bulk of its operations were concerned with digital photography and digital printing.
Fargo was born in Pompey, New York. By the age of thirteen, he had left school to begin working as a mail carrier. He worked as a mercantile clerk for numerous grocery stores until he landed employment as a freight agent for the Auburn & Syracuse Railway in 1841. In 1844, he partnered with
Firestone sealed his future career when he stumbled upon the idea of putting rubber tires on the wheels of horse-drawn carriages to improve their handling and increase the comfort of passengers. After graduating from high school, he worked at the Detroit office of a carriage manufacturer. At the age of thirty-one, he moved to Chicago and founded the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company to provide tires for the emerging “horseless carriage” market. In 1904, he struck an alliance with Henry Ford to supply tires for Ford automobiles. Two years later, his company reached $1 million in sales. By 1926, Firestone needed a cheaper supply of rubber to make tires, so he invested in rubber plantations covering nearly 1 million acres in Liberia, West Africa. In subsequent years, he continued to innovate, producing the first pneumatic tires as well as additional brands for use on other transport and farm equipment. Company sales broke the $100 million mark at the time of Firestone’s death in 1938.
In 1859, sixteen-year-old Fisk left home to join a traveling circus before settling into a series of peddling and dry goods sales jobs. During the Civil War (1861-1865), he secured textile contracts with the Union government and amassed a fortune that he soon squandered. In 1864, he moved to New York and became a stockbroker, a position that put him in company with some of the wealthiest industrialists of the late nineteenth century, including Cornelius Vanderbilt, against whom Fisk aided his employer Daniel Drew to seize control of the Erie Railroad. Fisk’s shady attempts to corner the market on gold were blamed for the stock market’s
Fitch was born in Connecticut and apprenticed to a clockmaker. During the Revolutionary War, he fought briefly with the Continental Army but left to run a munitions factory in New Jersey. After a short stint as a land surveyor, he began working on plans for a steam engine and successfully launched a prototype
Born in West Overton, Pennsylvania, Frick left his university early to form a partnership with friends to extract coke from coal. With assistance from family friend
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Hungarian immigrants, Friedman studied mathematics at Rutgers and did his graduate work in statistics at the University of Chicago. He and his wife fellow economist
Born in Pennsylvania, Fulton was apprenticed as a painter in England before pursuing his childhood interest in steam engines. In 1797, Fulton moved to Paris, where he designed the first practical submarine for Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800-1801. He and three mechanics successfully descended to a depth of twenty-five feet. He also built his first experimental steamship, but it sank during a trial run on the Seine River. His improved second model in 1803 was a success. After returning to the United States, Fulton partnered with his father-in-law, France Robert Livingston the U.S. ambassador to establish the first commercial steamboat, the North River Steamboat (later renamed the Clermont), which operated between New York City and Albany. Fulton was neither the first to invent a practical steamboat nor the first to operate a regular steamboat route; however, he has nevertheless been credited with establishing the first commercially practical steamboat.
Gallatin emigrated to the United States from Switzerland during the 1780’s and settled in Pennsylvania. He began as a tea merchant and later established a glass factory. In 1788, he entered local politics as a delegate to Pennsylvania’s state constitutional convention, which proposed amendments to the new U.S. Constitution, and later served as a state senator. A strong advocate of states’ rights and a weak federal government, Gallatin made important contributions to federal fiscal policy and helped secure a charter for the Bank of Pennsylvania. In 1793, he was elected to the U.S. Senate but was later dismissed over a dispute about the constitutional citizenship requirement. His intervention in the
Gannett was born in New York and graduated from Cornell University. He purchased his first newspaper, the Elmira Gazette, at the age of thirty and built a national media company that encompassed twenty-two newspapers as well as regional radio and television stations. Technological advances adopted in Gannett’s newsrooms included the teletypesetter a device used to transmit and typeset news wire copy and shortwave radio to speed transmission of news reports. An active Unitarian Church member and Republican, Gannett came to oppose President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1940. The company that Gannett built would expand throughout the United States after he died in 1957 and eventually own the national daily
Gary graduated from the Union College of Law in Indiana in 1868 and began practicing corporate law in Chicago in 1871. He served as mayor of Wheaton, Illinois, and spent two terms as a judge in DuPage County from 1884 to 1892. While he was a judge, Gary grew interested in the steel industry. With the support of J. P. Morgan and others, he became president of the Federal Steel Corporation in 1898. In 1901, he founded U.S. Steel, the world’s first billion-dollar corporation. In 1920, he became a target of Theodore Roosevelt’s antitrust campaign but later won a U.S. Supreme Court case against the government and served as chairman of the board of U.S. Steel until his death in 1927. The city of Gary, Indiana, founded in 1906 as the home of U.S. Steel’s corporate headquarters, was named in Gary’s honor.
Born in Hampshire, England, Geneen emigrated to the United States as a child. He studied accounting at New York University and rose to senior vice president for Raytheon (1956-1959) before assuming control of ITT. Over nearly two decades, Geneen built the modest-sized company into a multinational conglomerate with close ties to the federal government and its intelligence community. The growth of ITT was fueled by Geneen’s purchase of a variety of other businesses in eighty countries, including rental car agencies, commercial and residential real estate, and hotels. When Geneen left ITT, the company employed 375,000 people and had more than $16 billion in annual revenue. Geneen’s aggressive business tactics made him a symbol of corporate greed and arrogance. During the 1970’s, allegations emerged that Geneen had made political contributions to the Republican Party in return for a favorable judgment in an antitrust case. The charges were never proven. The company was also suspected of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to Chile in an effort to overthrow the country’s Marxist president,
The Gerber brand of baby food owes its existence largely to the Fremont Canning Company, created in 1901 by Daniel Gerber’s father to sell canned fruit and vegetables. By 1926, Gerber himself had become assistant general manager. At the suggestion of his wife, Gerber began research in 1927 on how to manufacture and package baby food. After he launched the Gerber brand a year later, a clever marketing campaign in Good Housekeeping magazine helped company sales rise to more than $300,000 during its first year. More than anything else, the Gerber Baby Food advertising campaign extended the company’s market share as more competitors entered the baby food industry. Gerber presided over the company until 1971. During his tenure, the company also developed a line of baby toys, earned a listing on the New York Stock Exchange, and opened a subsidiary in Mexico. At the time of Gerber’s death in 1974, the company was the largest producer of baby food in the world, with annual sales of $278 million.
After graduating from college in 1907, Gimbel began working in one of his father’s stores in Philadelphia. The next year, he was appointed vice president of the store. In 1910, he took a risk by trying to penetrate the New York retail market, pitting Gimbels against such powerhouses as Macy’s and Saks and using aggressive marketing tactics, such as bargain-basement promotions, to make Gimbels competitive. He took Gimbels public in 1922 and raised enough capital within a year to buy out the neighborhood rival Saks & Company. Gimbel was a master of publicity. His clever use of advertising slogans, retail promotions, and even a featured spot in the 1947 classic film Miracle on 34th Street fueled the company’s success. Gimbel steered the company successfully through both the Depression era and World War II. Until he died in 1966, he aggressively expanded the chain through suburban shopping mall outlets. The Gimbels chain finally closed for business in 1986.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Goodyear worked at his father’s hardware store until the business failed in 1830. His subsequent experiments with India rubber at that time not much in use because of its instability in extreme heat and cold led to the process of vulcanization, by which rubber could be stabilized to endure the extremes of temperature without melting or cracking. In 1836, Goodyear experimented with a nitric acid treatment to cure the rubber and in 1844 acquired his first patent. His discovery would revolutionize the industrial use of rubber, from factory machinery to the emerging automobile industry, but he saw little financial reward because of persistent infringements on his patents. He died a poor man in 1860. Nearly forty years later, Frank Seiberling
The seventh of eight children in a middle-class African American family in Detroit, Gordy dropped out of high school to become a professional boxer. He enjoyed some success as a featherweight before being drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After his discharge in 1953, he opened the 3-D Record Mart to indulge his love of jazz music, but the store eventually went bankrupt. He then served a short stint as an assembly-line worker at a Lincoln-Mercury plant but left in 1957 to pursue a career as a songwriter. His first big success was with the song “Reet Petite,” recorded by Jackie Wilson in 1957. That same year, he discovered Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. In 1959, he founded Motown Records. In the decade the followed, he signed several of the most influential artists of the era, including the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and the Jackson Five. By the late 1970’s, Gordy still had a successful stable of artists but musical trends were changing, so he sold his interest in Motown to MCA in 1988. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Grant was born in Pennsylvania but raised in Massachusetts. He began his prolific business career at the age of seven as a flower seed salesman. At thirty, he opened his first retail store, W. T. Grant Company, a general merchandise “five-and-dime” store, in Lynne, Massachusetts. The combination of merchandise variety and low prices fueled rapid expansion of the retail chain to Connecticut and New York City by 1917. Grant took the company public in 1928 and achieved $100 million in sales by 1936. He had stores in forty-four states by 1940. Aside from his business interests, Grant also founded the W. T. Grant Foundation to serve the educational and development needs of children and young adults. He retired from business in 1966 and died six years later at the age of ninety-six. A victim of changing retail trends, his retail empire filed for bankruptcy in 1975.
The eldest son of mining and smelting magnate Meyer Guggenheim, Daniel Guggenheim was born in Philadelphia, where his father settled after emigrating from Switzerland in 1847. Daniel would play a vital role in extending the family’s mining interests and presiding over his father’s multinational business interests. Following the family’s acquisition of the American Mining and Smelting Company in 1901, he headed the trust until 1919. During those years, he extended operations throughout North and South America and Africa. In later years, he and his wife established two foundations to direct philanthropic and educational projects.
After emigrating to the United States from Switzerland in 1847, Guggenheim began selling general merchandise in the coal belt of Pennsylvania. He manufactured stove polish, lye, and coffee before opening a wholesale business trading in household goods and later in imported machine-made lace. Guggenheim made his principal fortune in the mining and smelting trade, first in Colorado’s silver mines and later throughout North and South America and in Africa. Guggenheim purchased the American Smelting and Refining Company in 1901, making the family a fortune and putting them in control of most of the world’s industrial metal processing. Guggenheim’s eldest son, Daniel, oversaw much of the expansion of the family’s business interests following his death in 1905.
Raised in poverty in rural Nebraska, Hall sold perfume door-to-door as a child to help support his family. At eighteen, he moved to Kansas City and founded a mail-order postcard business. He opened a card and stationery shop in 1914 with an older brother. When the shop burned down a year later, the Hall brothers began manufacturing their own cards. In 1928, the Hall Card Company built a new head office and employed the name Hallmark on the backs of its greeting card line. From its earliest years, the company took pains to protect its employees and could later boast that it survived the Great Depression without laying off any workers. In subsequent years, Joyce Hall added new products and innovations, including decorative gift wrap and vertical greeting card displays. In 1940, the company’s celebrated advertising slogan, “When you care to send the very best,” began airing on radio stations, and Hall licensed images, from Walt Disney characters to the paintings of British statesman Winston S. Churchill, to decorate his cards. The company formally adopted the Hallmark name in 1954 and made its first foray into television with the Hallmark Hall of Fame specials. Hall presided over the company until 1966 and spent his final years devoted to civic duties, including building Kansas City’s downtown Crown Center, a mixed business and shopping complex surrounding the company’s headquarters.
The son of a clergyman and a New Jersey socialite, Harriman began work on Wall Street as a message boy at the age of fourteen. Moving up the ranks, he became a broker with a seat on the exchange in 1870. Afterward, he purchased interests in the railway industry. By 1881, he had acquired his first railroad line in upstate New York. During the 1890’s he purchased the
Born in San Francisco, Hearst inherited vast mining interests and attended Harvard University before acquiring control of the San Francisco Herald Examiner from his father in 1887. Hearst increased the paper’s circulation by gearing editorial content to civic issues and local government corruption. He made substantial additions to his publishing empire after relocating to New York, where he acquired the New York Journal in 1895. At its height, Hearst’s empire controlled thirty newspapers across the United States and pioneered a brand of news reporting dubbed “yellow journalism” that prized sensationalism above objectivity and fact. Hearst also published several magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar, and acquired the Universal News and International News Services news wires. The market collapse in 1929 hit Hearst’s media empire hard, and in subsequent years he was forced to sell off many of his holdings. Throughout his career, Hearst used his media empire to support political ambitions. He served two terms as a New York congressman (1903-1907). He also made unsuccessful bids for mayor of New York City, governor of New York, and the U.S. Senate, and sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1904.
Hefner was born in Chicago and served in the U.S. Army after graduation from college. Upon his discharge, he attended the Chicago Art Institute and then held editorial posts at several magazines, including Esquire. In 1953, he launched Playboy magazine from his kitchen table. Film star Marilyn Monroe appeared on the cover of the first issue, which was an instant success. Hefner built Playboy into a commercial empire by promoting what he called the “playboy lifestyle” in his magazine and in his personal life. Married twice, he has had an impressive list of mistresses many of them his magazine’s nude models. Once presiding over a media conglomerate that included the magazine, television and cable programs, a string of nightclubs, and the celebrated Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles, Hefner scaled back his operations in the early twenty-first century, giving up daily control to his daughter Christie.
The son of German immigrants, Heinz was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and got an early start in business by peddling his mother’s vegetable produce door-to-door. The H. J. Heinz Company he would later make famous began as a side project Heinz started as a teenager to manufacture and bottle horseradish. He joined his father’s brick-making company and eventually purchased an interest in it before deciding to focus on the manufacturing of vegetable preserves in 1869. He expanded operations by creating the partnership Heinz, Noble and Company, but a shortfall in profits caused the venture to fail in 1875. Heinz raised capital from family members to launch a new company, which became the H. J. Heinz Company in 1888; he incorporated it in 1905. Heinz was known for his benevolence toward employees. His factory workers were provided health care, vocational training, and educational opportunities. He staunchly supported the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and instituted several measures to ensure sanitary conditions in his factories.
The daughter of Jewish immigrants from Poland, Helmsley began her rise in business as a vice president at a New York real estate firm. After becoming a millionaire in her own right, she married real estate investor Harry Helmsley in 1972. Together, the Helmsleys built a vast real estate empire built initially on the conversion of Manhattan apartments to condominiums and later on luxury hotels in New York and Florida. The Helmsleys also managed the Empire State Building. A demanding employer, Helmsley earned her nickname “Queen of Mean” following a dispute with a contractor who was renovating Helmsley’s private home in Connecticut that later led to a public and bitter tax evasion case in 1988. Her husband was judged unfit to stand trial for health reasons, but Helmsley herself was convicted. She served eighteen months in prison. After her husband died in 1997, many of the Helmsley hotels were sold. Helmsley spent her final years in seclusion in a luxury penthouse atop the Park Lane Hotel.
Born in Derry Church, Pennsylvania, Hershey dropped out of grade school and when he was apprenticed to a printer, but he soon began a four-year apprenticeship to a candy maker. His initial attempts to strike out on his own met with failure in New York and Chicago, so he returned to Pennsylvania in 1883 and opened a caramel shop, which showed initial promise. Seeing German chocolate manufacturing equipment at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago altered his views about candy manufacturing. In 1900, he sold his caramel company and began working on a formula for his own brand of milk chocolate. In 1905, he built what would later become the largest chocolate manufacturing plant in the world and turned the Hershey brand of milk chocolate into a household name. He used much of his fortune for philanthropic efforts. He created the town of Hershey for the employees of his factory, complete with housing, public schools, recreational facilities, and tourist attractions that would make his namesake town a popular tourist destination long after his death. He also founded an orphanage and the M. S. Hershey Foundation in 1935 to provide educational opportunities for local residents.
Born in Ontario, Canada, Hill moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, as a teenager. There, he began a long career as a shipping agent specializing in the transport of railway fuel. By 1878, he had raised enough capital to purchase controlling interest in the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which he extended north to the Canadian border and west to Washington State. The Great Northern Railway, as it was renamed in 1890, was the first transcontinental line built without public money. Hill’s company was one of the only railway lines to survive the economic Panic of 1893. In 1901, Hill set his sights on the Northern Pacific line, which pitted him against the
Born in New York, Hopkins relocated with his family to St. Clair, Michigan, during his childhood. He left school in 1828 to begin work as a clerk. He attended law school briefly in 1837 and subsequently worked as a bookkeeper and business manager for James Rowland and Company before moving west. He arrived in San Francisco in 1849 and opened a dry goods store in Sacramento the following year. In 1861, he and Collis Huntington, Leland Stanford, and Charles Crocker collaborated to found the Central Pacific Railroad, the western portion of the first transcontinental railway. Its portion ran from California to Utah. The Big Four, as Hopkins and his associates were called, financed the project, which was planned in 1862 and completed seven years later. Hopkins died in 1878 aboard a Central Pacific rail car in Yuma, Arizona.
Born in Massachusetts, Howe was apprenticed to a textile factory at the age of sixteen and later worked for the master mechanic Ari Davis, through whom he developed an interest in solving the riddle of creating a sewing machine. Efforts had been made worldwide to create a practical machine for decades before Howe began his research. He was awarded the first U.S. patent for the lockstitch machine he built in 1846. That year, he traveled to Great Britain to promote his new invention but returned to find that other inventors most notably, Isaac Singer had incorporated his lockstitch design into improved models. After a long legal battle, Howe successfully defended his patent in 1854 and was paid royalties for two years.
The son of an Illinois farmer, Hunt left home at the age of sixteen and crossed the United States, while working as a lumberjack, farmhand, cowboy, and holder of other odd jobs. With an inheritance of six thousand dollars in 1911, he purchased a cotton plantation in Arkansas. By 1920, he owned some 15,000 acres in Arkansas and Louisiana. When the cotton market foundered during World War I, Hunt began speculating in oil near El Dorado, Arkansas, working as a land broker selling farmland to oil prospectors for a handsome profit. He later began drilling his own wells and struck oil. By 1924, he was operating forty-four oil-rich wells and was acquiring other oil-producing land in Oklahoma and Texas. In 1930, he acquired land in eastern Texas that would become in its day the richest cache of oil in the United States. He founded the Hunt Oil Company in 1936 to develop the land and became the largest producer of oil for the Allies during World War II, as well one of the largest providers of natural gas. During the 1950’s, Hunt began to diversify his holdings, adding a variety of products, including cosmetics and pecan plantations, to his oil empire, which made him one of the wealthiest Americans at the time of his death.
Insull emigrated to the United States from England in 1881 and served as secretary to Thomas Edison for more than a decade before moving to New York and cofounding Edison
Born in San Francisco, Jobs grew up in nearby Mountain View, which became a regional powerhouse for electronics research and engineering. Following his graduation from high school, he attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, for a year but returned to California, where he and his friend Steve Wozniak collaborated on the production of a personal computer. In 1976, they founded Apple Computers, which made both of them a fortune when the company went public in 1980. A turbulent relationship with the company’s chief executive officer saw Jobs depart from active participation in Apple in 1985, but he would later return and oversee innovative marketing strategies and product lines, as well as a partnership with former rival Bill Gates’s Microsoft that would make Apple one of the most distinctive and successful computer companies in the world.
The ninth of ten children, Johnson was born in Hickory, Mississippi, but grew up in Freeport, Illinois. He studied at the University of Illinois and Princeton University, where he graduated with a degree in international affairs. He began his career in media with positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Urban League, and the National Cable Television Association before launching his own cable channel, Black Entertainment Television, devoted to African American audiences. He built a loyal following by airing hip-hop videos and college sports programming not available on other stations. In 1991, BET became the first African American-owned company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Johnson took the company private in 1999 and extended his media services to include pay-per-view events and several print publications. In 2001, he sold BET to Viacom for $3 billion to become the first African American billionaire. Afterward, he founded the RLJ Companies.
Born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, Johnson became an apprentice to a New York apothecary at the age of sixteen. He later partnered with
Knight was born in Portland, Oregon, and studied journalism at the University of Oregon, where he distinguished himself as a middle-distance runner under celebrated track coach
For several years, Ray Kroc sold multimixer machines to drug store soda fountains and restaurants before meeting Don and Mac MacDonald, brothers who had opened a small hamburger stand in San Bernardino, California, in 1940. Convinced that the restaurant’s assembly-line methods and stripped-down menu would succeed as a franchise, Kroc obtained the rights to sell franchises and built the small family operation into the world’s most successful fast food chain. He opened his first store in Des Plaines, Illinois, in 1955. Ten years later, Kroc opened his seven-hundredth franchise and made the company the first fast food chain to go public. In the process, he became a millionaire. Kroc demanded scrupulous attention to the methods and measures of food preparation at his restaurants, writing an official manual on the subject that later became the basis for Hamburger U, McDonald’s training college in Elk Grove, Illinois. At the time of Kroc’s death in 1984, McDonald’s was the largest provider of meals in the United States.
Kroger opened his first grocery store, the Great Western Tea Company, in 1883, and from these modest beginnings built a supermarket empire that during the 1920’s included more than five thousand stores and survived into the twenty-first century as one of the leading grocery chains in the United States. In 1901, Kroger introduced the first in-store bakery. The following year, he incorporated the company and adopted the name Kroger Grocery and Baking Company. He also pioneered the concept of a combination store, selling meat and groceries under the same roof for the first time in 1904. In 1928, Kroger retired from the business and sold his shares for $28 million.
Born into a Missouri family of modest means, Lay studied economics at the University of Missouri and received a doctorate in economics from the University of Houston in 1970. After serving as a naval officer at the Pentagon and an aide to a federal energy regulator, he joined the private sector, specializing in natural gas. He was named chief executive officer of Houston Natural Gas in 1984 and engineered its merger with Omaha-based Internorth, a partnership that was renamed Enron in 1985. Lay became one of the highest-paid chief executives during his tenure at Enron, but when the company filed for
Lowell was the son of the noted Massachusetts lawyer and delegate to the Continental Congress John Lowell. After graduating from Harvard College in 1793, the younger Lowell entered the merchant trade and traveled to London, where he viewed plans for a power loom in a Lancashire textiles mill in 1810. Three years later, he founded the
The son of Irish immigrants, McConnell was born in Oswego, New York, where he attended high school and hoped to become a math teacher. However, he moved to Chicago in 1880 to sell books door-to-door for the Union Publishing Company. After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was placed in charge of the company’s southern division, McConnell got the idea of selling perfumes the same way he was selling books from door to door. In 1886, he founded the California Perfume Company and began manufacturing perfume, which he sold alongside his books until the volume of his sales and the need for a full-time factory forced him to abandon books-selling. The following year, he employed twelve women he called “Avon Ladies” to sell his eighteen different fragrances. McConnell incorporated the company in 1916. It adopted the name Avon Products, Inc. in 1939, by which time it owned several subsidiary companies in the United States and Canada.
McCormick was born in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where his father worked for years to develop a horse-drawn reaper before abandoning the project. Cyrus took up the project and built a working model by 1831. He received a patent three years later. By 1847, demand for the new machine had outstripped McCormick’s ability to produce them. He relocated to Chicago and built a manufacturing plant. Sales remained brisk, largely because of the benefit of easy transport by railway lines. McCormick received numerous honors for his invention, which initiated an unprecedented shift of labor from rural to urban areas. After a prolonged illness, McCormick died in 1884, two years before labor strikes at his Chicago factories led to the
Born on New England’s Nantucket Island, Macy joined the crew of a whaling ship at the age of fifteen. After brief stints in printing and gold speculating, he started a small chain of dry goods stores in 1843, beginning in Haverhill, Massachusetts. That chain ultimately failed, but he began again in 1858, when he built a new Macy’s dry goods store in New York City. There, he pioneered retail methods that would define the way future department stores would operate. For example, he introduced such concepts as the one-price system, in which products were sold at the same prices to all customers. He relied heavily on newspaper advertising to distinguish the Macy brand from his competitors, and he also introduced the first in-store Santa Claus. Macy was also the first retailer to promote a woman to an executive-level position.
Mellon was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of a successful banker whose firm he joined when he was nineteen. After taking over his father’s business, he began investing heavily in industry. His business interests included oil, steel, shipbuilding, and the manufacture of aluminum, industrial abrasives, and coke. His facility as a financier made him one of the wealthiest people in the United States, alongside other business magnates such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. In 1921, Mellon was named secretary of the treasury by President Warren G. Harding, and he served in that capacity under Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. As treasury secretary, he set out an agenda later becoming known as the Mellon Plan of low taxes on businesses, debt reduction, and a balanced budget. His influence began to wane during the Great Depression as his probusiness policies came under attack. In 1932, Mellon left the Treasury Department and was named ambassador to Great Britain. In his retirement years, he devoted himself to philanthropic efforts, including a vast collection of art he later donated to the National Gallery of Art, which was built on the Mall in Washington, D.C., with his $10 million donation.
Mergenthaler was born in Germany and apprenticed to a watchmaker. In 1872, he emigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked in a machine shop of which he eventually became a partner. At the age of thirty-two, he created a prototype of his first linotype composing machine, in which type could be set and cast in one step by entering letters on a keyboard similar to a typewriter. His invention revolutionized the printing and publishing industries and earned him the nickname Second Gutenberg, after the inventor of movable type. First used by the New York Tribune in 1886, linotype remained the predominant system of setting type until the 1970’s, when electronic typesetting began to replace it.
Born in Liverpool, England, Robert Morris emigrated with his family to Maryland at the age of thirteen. Two years after becoming an apprentice to a Philadelphia shipping and banking firm owned by
Born to Lebanese immigrants in Connecticut, Nader graduated from Princeton University in 1955 and Harvard Law School three years later. In 1964, he joined the staff of Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan. His interest in consumer safety issues began at Harvard, but he first targeted the automobile industry in the pages of The Nation in 1959. His best-known work, Unsafe at Any Speed, was published in 1965. It focused on
Born in Chicago, Norris moved to San Francisco as a teenager. He attended the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard University, and spent two years in Paris, France, studying painting. There, he was influenced by the naturalist writings of mile Zola. He also worked as a journalist in South Africa and San Francisco and served as a correspondent for McClure’s magazine in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. His most celebrated works of fiction are the first two volumes of his planned “Trilogy of Wheat.” The first and most famous volume, The Octopus (1901), chronicles the impact of railroads on rural farmers. Norris died 1902, and the second volume of his trilogy, The Pitt, about price fixing in the wheat market, was published posthumously the following year. The final volume, The Wolf, was never written.
The son of two computer programmers, Page was born in Lansing, Michigan, and earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering at the University of Michigan. While considering his doctoral thesis subject at Stanford University, he was encouraged to pursue a mathematical study of the World Wide Web. His research led him to evaluate how Internet search engines identified and ranked Web sites. In 1998, Page partnered with fellow student
Paley was born in Chicago to Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine who later relocated to Philadelphia. In 1927, his father, who ran a cigar shop, purchased the Columbia Phonographic Broadcasting System, a radio network of sixteen stations that he intended to use to advertise his cigars. Paley operated the radio network, and his father’s cigar sales skyrocketed. Over the ensuing decade, the network expanded to 114 affiliates. During his half century at CBS, Paley oversaw the radio network’s expansion from a struggling regional radio network to a global media empire by building one of the most respected news organizations of its day. Paley helped shape the policies that still govern the way network radio and television operate. In 1946, he hired Frank Stanton to head the programming department a move that saw the introduction of numerous beloved series and news programming, including the long-running television news program 60 minutes.
Pemberton was born in Georgia and attended medical school in Macon, where he graduated at the age of nineteen. From an early age, he expressed an interest in what would later be called nontraditional medicine, including herbal remedies and steam baths. During the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), he served as a lieutenant colonel in a Georgia cavalry regiment. Afterward, he worked as a druggist in Columbus and built a laboratory in which he manufactured health remedies, photographic chemicals, and cosmetics. After relocating to Atlanta in 1870, he began research on a coca nut-based beverage to alleviate headaches and calm the nerves. His first product, French Wine Coca, proved popular throughout the Southeast but contained wine, which could not be sold in Atlanta, which had introduced prohibition in 1863. Pemberton then created a second, nonalcoholic elixir, which he dubbed Coca Cola after its principal ingredients coca leaves and kola nuts. In 1887, he decided to give up his work as a druggist and promote his new drink. He incorporated the Coca Cola Company in March, 1888, but died five months later.
Penney was born in Missouri, the seventh of twelve children. His father was a farmer and Baptist minister. After graduating from high school in 1893, he took a job as a salesman at a local dry goods store. Five years later, he began work at a small retail chain of Golden Rule stores, one of whose franchises he later purchased in Wyoming. When the owners dissolved the partnership in 1907, he purchased the entire chain and began to expand. In 1913, he incorporated Golden Rule as the J. C. Penney Company. He relinquished control of the company in 1917 but remained chairman of its board until 1946. By 1929, the J. C. Penney Company was operating 1,400 stores nationwide. Poor health and financial ruin plagued Penney in subsequent years. He devoted his final years to philanthropy through the J. C. Penney foundation, which he established in 1954.
Born into an affluent Massachusetts family, Perkins graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1902 and completed a master’s degree in sociology in 1910. She relocated to Chicago and became involved with Hull House, founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr in 1889 to provide social and educational opportunities for working-class youths. A witness to the
Born in Texarkana, Texas, Perot graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1953 and served four years aboard naval vessels. In 1957, he became a salesman in the data processing department of International Business Machines (IBM). Five years later, he founded his own company, the data processing firm Electronic Data Services. He took the company public in 1968 and later sold it for more than $2 billion to
Post was born in Illinois, where he attended Illinois Industrial College (later the University of Illinois) briefly before opening a short-lived general store in Independence, Kansas. He manufactured farm equipment following his return to Springfield and later became a property developer in Texas. Two nervous breakdowns led him to the sanitarium of John Harvey Kellogg in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1890. There, he ate a vegetarian grain-rich diet of foods created by Kellogg. In the months following his discharge, Post ran a rival clinic called La Vita Inn and published the book I Am Well!, in which he promoted his ideas on mental and physical health. In 1895, he began manufacturing Postum, a grain-based breakfast drink designed as a substitute for coffee. His Grape-Nuts cereal appeared the following year, and his liberal use of advertising rapidly fueled sales. In 1902, after reaping a fortune from his Postum Ltd. Company, Post turned control over to his managers.
Roosevelt began his political career in the New York State Senate in 1911. Two years later, President Woodrow Wilson appointed him assistant secretary of the Navy. Roosevelt resigned in 1920 and was nominated for vice president on the Democratic ticket, headed by James Cox, who was soundly defeated by Warren G. Harding. In 1928, Roosevelt was elected governor of New York, and he served until 1933, when he became president of the United States. His greatest legacy was his New Deal, through which he sought to put the unemployed back to work, bring economic recovery, and restore confidence to the banking industry during the Great Depression. Under his leadership, Congress granted broad regulatory powers to the Federal Trade Commission. Roosevelt also created the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Works Progress Administration, which found employment for the jobless. Other programs instituted under his leadership included the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (1933), the Tennessee Valley Authority (1933), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (1934) to regulate Wall Street. Roosevelt also signed into law the Social Security Act in 1935.
Roosevelt rose from the vice presidency to the presidency in 1901 following the assassination of President William McKinley. A staunch Republican, he came to embrace the ideals of the Progressive Party, particularly its insistence on greater regulation of the influential American business classes. He expressed his intentions of busting the trusts in an address before Congress in 1901. The following year, Roosevelt directed the Justice Department to begin investigating the business practices of some of the country’s largest companies. The first target was the
Born into a family of Illinois clothiers, Rosenwald was joined a cousin to manufacture men’s clothing in 1885. One of his clients was
Sinclair was born in Baltimore, Maryland. An early love of literature set put him on the course to a career in writing. His keen interest in social justice influenced his early years and converted him to socialism. He entered New York City College at the age of fourteen, and by seventeen was supporting himself and funding his studies by publishing stories in newspapers and magazines. In 1904, he was commissioned by the editor of a socialist journal to write a book about immigrant workers in Chicago’s meatpacking plants. He
Born in England, Slater was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to the owner of one of Derbyshire’s first cotton mills. After eight years of service, he emigrated to the United States in 1790 to earn his fortune in the young country’s burgeoning textile sector. There, he used his knowledge of the building and operating of textile machines to succeed where others failed. In 1793, he built the first water-powered textile mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He and his brother built the city of Slatersville, in present-day North Smithfield, on the banks of the Branch River. There, he constructed the Slater Mill, as well as housing for workers, a company store, and housing for the mill’s managers. In 1807, the Slatersville Mill was the largest industrial building of its day, and Slater’s mill village model influenced other industrialists throughout the state.
Born in Connecticut, Sloan was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a degree in electrical engineering. Afterward, he acquired a ball-bearing manufacturing company, which he revived and ran successfully for nearly two decades before selling it to
Smith was born to well-to-do parents in Memphis, Tennessee. His father founded the Dixie Greyhound Bus Line but died when Smith was four. As a student at Yale University, Smith conceived the idea of an overnight delivery service. He joined the Marine Corps after graduation and served in the Vietnam War. In Vietnam, he observed the challenges of logistical supply shipments and later applied what he learned to his business model. In 1970, after his discharge, he acquired an aircraft maintenance company. A year later, he invested $4 million of his personal wealth and more than $90 million in venture capital to found Federal Express. After two years of steep losses, the company began to turn a profit. Over the next three decades, it became a leading global provider of express shipments. In 1997, Smith acquired the Caliber System and its trucking subsidiary RPS, adding ground service to the Fed Ex portfolio and making further gains on its principal competitor, the United Parcel Service. Smith amassed a vast personal fortune on the success of FedEx, which has consistently embraced new technology particularly the rise of Internet commerce to find new avenues for business expansion.
Strauss emigrated to the United States from Bavaria in 1847, first settling in New York to work with his half brothers at a dry goods store. He later moved west to seek his fortune during the California gold rush. He established the Levi Strauss Company, a dry goods store on Battery Street in San Francisco. In 1873, he formed a partnership with Jacob Davis, a Nevada tailor, to secure a patent for the manufacture of heavy trousers with copper rivets to strengthen stress points at the pockets. The blue denim fabric for the jeans was purchased at the Amoskeag Mill in New Hampshire, and the Levi’s blue jean brand was born. In his later years, Strauss developed several additional business interests in the insurance and banking sectors, while contributing generously to educational and civic organizations. His blue jeans brand has remained one of the most successful clothing products in the world and has become emblematic of American lifestyle.
Born in Massachusetts, Swift became a partner in the butcher company Hathaway and Swift in 1872. The company relocated to Chicago to take advantage of access to the city’s rail yards for transporting cattle. In 1878, Swift left the partnership and joined his brother to form Swift Brothers and Company. That same year, he also tapped inventor Andrew Chase to create a refrigerated rail car to transport fresh meat across the country. By 1881, refrigerated cars were in wide use, revolutionizing the meat distribution industry. Swift also used conveyor belts to move meat among departments in his butcher plant, a method that auto manufacturer Henry Ford said inspired his adoption of an assembly line in his manufacturing plants. Swift also pioneered the use of all parts of the cattle processed in his plants for secondary products.
Born into a poor New Hampshire farming family, Tupper spent his early youth helping on the farm and selling its produce door-to-door. Meanwhile, he filled notebooks with his ideas for elaborate inventions from a dagger-shaped comb to a fish-powered boat. He started a landscaping company under the name Tupper Tree Doctors, but it folded in 1936 during the Great Depression. He took a job at a DuPont-owned plastics factory but left after a year. He formed the Earl S. Tupper Company in 1938 and, working under subcontract to DuPont, secured several defense contracts during World War II to produce parts for gas masks as well as navy signal lamps. After the war, Tupper developed a process of purifying polyethylene slag, a by-product of oil refining, to create flexible plastic products. He also invented an air-tight lid patterned on those used for paint cans. In 1948, he adopted the home sales model used successfully by Stanley Home Products. With sales partner Brownie Wise, he introduced the world to the Tupperware “parties.” Tupper sold the company to the Rexall Drug Company in 1958 for $16 million and later moved to Costa Rica.
Born in London, Underwood emigrated to the United States in 1873 and founded the Underwood Typewriter Company, which produced typewriter ribbons. When Remington, his company’s principal buyer, decided to produce its own ribbons, Underwood decided to manufacture his own brand of typewriters. He purchased the patent for a new front-stroke model an innovative model that allowed operators to see the letters as they were typed. Underwood later opened a factory in Hartford, Connecticut, and by 1915 was the largest of its kind in the world, produced five hundred machines each day.
Born in Oklahoma, Walton was raised in Missouri, where his family relocated in 1921. He distinguished himself academically and athletically in high school and studied economics at the University of Missouri. After graduation, he accepted a job at J. C. Penney Company as a management trainee but left in 1942 to serve in World War II. After his military discharge in 1945, he bought a Ben Franklin store in Arkansas and implemented policies that would drive his later success, particularly the principle of maintaining well-stocked inventory at low prices. In 1962, he opened the first Wal-Mart store in Arkansas. Over the next three decades, he built the Wal-Mart chain into the world’s most successful retail operation. From 1985 until his death, he was the richest man in the United States. In 1998, Time magazine named him one of the twentieth century’s most influential people for his innovations in the retail sector.
Ward got his start in business as a young traveling salesman of general merchandise in the American Midwest. During the 1860’s, he worked for the dry good firm Field, Palmer & Leiter, which later became Marshall Fields, and later for Wills, Greg & Company. During his travels across rural Illinois, he conceived a direct mail method for providing goods more efficiently and at a lower cost to shops in smaller towns. In 1872, he founded Montgomery Ward & Company with only two other employees and capital of only $1,600. His first mail-order catalog listed more than 150 products. In following years, the company prospered and inspired other businesses to follow the mail-order business model; the most notable of these was the Sears, Roebuck Company.
The son of the owner of a small New York lumber business, Watson worked brief stints as a teacher and bookkeeper before turning to sales. After repeatedly failing to establish himself as a salesman, he joined National Cash Register, at that time a leading manufacturing company specializing in the sale of mechanical cash registers for retail stores. As a salesman in the company’s Buffalo, New York, branch, Watson soon proved the extent of his talents and joined the head office in 1899, at the age of twenty-five. However, his scheme to corner the market on used cash registers ultimately led to his indictment in an antitrust suit in 1913. The following year, he became general manager of the Computing Tabulating Recording Company (CTR), which he renamed International Business Machines. During World War II, he secured contracts for data processing support of the United States armed forces and the Soviet Union and began development of early analog computers. He stepped down as head of IBM in 1949 and handed control over to his son, Thomas Watson, Jr. By the time of his death in 1956, IBM was the largest American producer of tabulating machines, with an estimated 90 percent market share.
Welch studied chemical engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst before completing his master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering at the University of Illinois in 1960. He joined General Electric that year as a junior engineer. By 1972, he was a vice president, and in 1981 he became General Electric’s youngest chief executive officer. His long-running tenure was marked by drastic reductions in employees and management restructuring toward eliminating bureaucracy earning Welch the nickname Neutron Jack. Meanwhile, General Electric increased its annual revenues from $26.8 billion to $130 billion. The company’s market value also skyrocketed from $14 billion prior to Welch’s tenure to more than $400 billion in 2004, making it the most valuable company in the world. In 1999, Fortune magazine named him manager of the century. When Welch left General Electric in 2001, he received an unprecedented $8-million-per-year retirement package.
Born in Vermont, Wells was apprenticed to a tanner and shoemaker in his youth. In 1836, he became a freight agent for goods transported on the Erie Canal. He held subsequent positions with other express freight companies before joining Livingston, Wells & Company, at which he worked with
Westinghouse made his early mark as an industrialist in the railroad industry. After his invention of the rotary steam engine at the age of nineteen, he created several technological innovations for the railroads, including a “car replacer,” which helped guide derailed cars back onto railway tracks; a “reversible frog,” used to move trains between railway lines; and a compressed air brake system for railway cars, which he patented in 1872. He subsequently founded the Westinghouse Air Brake Company to market his inventions. In the years following Thomas Edison’s experiments with a direct-current (DC) delivery system for electricity, Westinghouse began conducting his own experiments with alternating-current (AC) systems in the belief that AC held the best hope for electrical power systems in the United States. His work sparked a feud with Edison that became known as the War of the Currents. In the end, AC prevailed and Westinghouse turned his attention to steam engines and later to the emerging automobile industry. He gave up control of his business interests in 1907 and withdrew from business in 1914 as his health began to decline.
Born in Long Island, New York, Whitman studied economics at Princeton University before earning a master’s degree from Harvard Business School in 1979. She held senior positions with Procter and Gamble, the Walt Disney Company, and other companies before joining eBay as president and chief executive officer in 1998. At that time, the fledgling Internet start-up had about thirty employees. Whitman’s aggressive branding effort and scrupulous attention to the needs of the company’s online users helped move the company from a quirky online collectibles site into a global marketplace and the world’s leading Internet-only business, successfully outmaneuvering such online auction rivals as Yahoo! and Amazon.com. By the time she left the company, eBay had more than 9,000 employees and 100 million users worldwide, and she herself had amassed an estimated personal net worth of $1.4 billion. In 2008, she served as a member of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s national finance team. After his withdrawal from the campaign, she advised Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
Born in rural Mississippi to a single mother, Winfrey was raised by extended family members in Wisconsin and Tennessee. She excelled in high school and studied communications at Tennessee State University, after beginning work as a news reader at a local radio station while still in high school. During the 1970’s, she became the first African American female news presenter for Nashville’s WLAC-TV. After stints in Baltimore as a news presenter and talk show cohost, she relocated to Chicago to host the struggling talk show AM Chicago in 1984. After she led the program to first place in local ratings in only a few months, the program was renamed the Oprah Winfrey Show. In 1986, the show went national in syndication. In addition to hosting the world’s most successful talk show, Winfrey also earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in the film The Color Purple in 1985 and produced and starred in 1998’s Beloved, adapted from the Toni Morrison novel. Winfrey heads Harpo Productions, which produces film and television programs, and introduced O, The Oprah Magazine in 2002. She also cofounded the cable television channel Oxygen in 1998. Her show became syndicated worldwide, and she presides over a media organization that made her, for a time, one of the few African American billionaires. She is widely considered one of the most influential people in the world for her contributions to media and through philanthropic efforts through her Oprah’s Angels Network and a leadership academy for young women in South Africa.
Wozniak met his future partner
Born in Philadelphia, Wrigley left school at the age of thirteen and began selling soap door-to-door for his father’s company. In 1891, he started his own soap company in Chicago, where he settled with his wife and began offering a free chewing gum with every purchase. The marketing campaign proved so successful that he abandoned soap and began manufacturing his own brand of chewing gum under the name Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum, later adding the Juicy Fruit brand. A master of marketing, Wrigley was the first to put gum displays near cash registers in restaurants. In addition to his business interests, Wrigley invested in the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise, whose Wrigley Field was named in his honor in 1926. He also invested heavily in the development of Catalina Island, off the coast of California, which he purchased in 1919.
At the age of ten Yang emigrated with his family from Taiwan to San Jose, California. He studied electrical engineering at nearby Stanford University, where he met David Filo