American Originals

 

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American Originals

American Originals traces the stories of those who charted their own paths, overcame barriers and achieved a better life for themselves and those around them by embracing personal responsibility, hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit.

The American Dream has been caricatured as wealth accumulation and material success like owning a house or buying a car. This has done a great disservice to the American ethos and American culture. The essence of the dream is earned success, achievement, recognizing opportunity and includes an appreciation for the role of entrepreneurship and the contributions that entrepreneurs have made to society.

By highlighting these success stories, we hope to demonstrate the value that these leaders have created and inspire others to follow in their footsteps. The American Dream and being an American Original is all about ordinary people achieving extraordinary things. As Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Leonard Hershiser once said: “Great things can happen to ordinary people who are willing to work hard and never give up.”

Walt Disney: Entrepreneur without Peer

Walt Disney: Entrepreneur without Peer

Who was Walt Disney? What was truly different about this man, whose name is likely to remain famous for generations to come? How did he evolve? What were his priorities and thought processes?

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Henry J. Kaiser: California Dreamer, Workers’ Friend

Henry J. Kaiser: California Dreamer, Workers’ Friend

First building roads in Washington State, he soon helped build the western infrastructure, including Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee Dam. He played a key role in America’s victory in World War II by building hundreds of warships at an unprecedented pace. He also created aluminum and steel industries on the West Coast, doing more to bring manufacturing to California than anyone else.

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James J Hill: Empire Builder without Peer

James J Hill: Empire Builder without Peer

Jim Hill left poverty in rural Ontario after his father died when the son was only fourteen years old. He landed in St. Paul, Minnesota, where over the next fifty years he did more to shape the northwestern United States than any other single person. This is his story.

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George Westinghouse: Servant Leader, Inventor, Captain of Industry

George Westinghouse: Servant Leader, Inventor, Captain of Industry

Like Thomas Edison, Westinghouse was a prolific inventor, but unlike Edison he successfully built and ran multiple great enterprises employing tens of thousands of workers. Those workers were treated better than at almost any other industrial employer of the era. His companies registered over one thousand patents. George Westinghouse always dreamed big and acted boldly, focused on the biggest issues in technology, attributes seen again today in dreamers like Elon Musk. This is his story.

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Adolph Ochs—the Unsung Entrepreneur Who Transformed Journalism

Adolph Ochs—the Unsung Entrepreneur Who Transformed Journalism

When he came into the business, most newspapers were primarily used to promote political propaganda for one side or the other, serving as outlets for outrage and opinion. Adolph Ochs changed all that, first in Chattanooga, then in New York City. Today his many descendants have absolute control of The New York Times, considered by many to be the greatest American newspaper, one that has led the world in journalistic innovations. Here is his remarkable story.

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Kirk Kerkorian: The Risk Taker Who Rose from Poverty to Change Las Vegas and Armenia

Kirk Kerkorian: The Risk Taker Who Rose from Poverty to Change Las Vegas and Armenia

One of the myths about great entrepreneurs is that they love risk and are big gamblers. In fact, they usually do everything they can to reduce risk and are rarely true gamblers. But there is always an exception to the rule. This is the story of one of those exceptions, Kirk Kerkorian, perhaps America’s greatest gambler. Starting from the fields of Southern California and fighting his way out of poverty in Los Angeles, this proud son of Armenian immigrants went on to reshape Las Vegas, Hollywood, and Armenia.

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Arthur G. Gaston: Entrepreneur Against All Odds

Arthur G. Gaston: Entrepreneur Against All Odds

The grandson of slaves, Arthur George Gaston was born in 1892 in Demopolis, Alabama, to Rosie Gaston. There is no record of his father’s name, who died shortly afterward. A. G. Gaston started with nothing but the encouragement of his mother and grandparents. Over the next seventy years, he became the wealthiest black man in Birmingham, with a fortune of $30-40 million. Gaston’s path was never easy—his home was fire-bombed and at the age of eighty-three, he was kidnapped. He was at or near the center of the racial strife of the 1960s, alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He stirred great controversy during his life, but also provided employment and services to thousands of blacks in Alabama. This is the remarkable story of his 103-year-long life.

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General Robert Wood: The Forgotten Man Who Changed Sears and the World

General Robert Wood: The Forgotten Man Who Changed Sears and the World

Before there was Amazon, there was Sears, Roebuck, using the mail-order catalog where the Internet is used today. Before Walmart was the world’s largest retailer (and company of any type), there was Sears, Roebuck, in its glory days by far the largest retailer on earth. Few know the real story behind the two visionaries who made Sears great—neither of whom was named Sears or Roebuck. This is the story of the greatest of them, General Robert Elkington Wood, who shaped so many things about America and the world.

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Brand Man: The HJ Heinz Story

Brand Man: The HJ Heinz Story

At thirty-one, Henry “HJ” Heinz is bedridden with depression. Struggling to pay the bills, he has borrowed every cent available. The “Panic” (depression) of 1873 has reached Pittsburgh. His home, furnishings, and his father’s longstanding brickyard are mortgaged to the hilt. Falsely accused of moving inventory out of the reach of creditors, Heinz is arrested, making news in the local papers. But by the spring of 1876, he is back in business. Here is the story of HJ Heinz, the brand man.

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Jim Casey: The Unknown Entrepreneur Who Built the Great UPS

Jim Casey: The Unknown Entrepreneur Who Built the Great UPS

On August 28, 1907, nineteen-year-old James Emmett “Jim” Casey and his friend Claude Ryan borrowed $100 and founded the American Messenger Company in a six-foot by seven-foot basement office below a Seattle saloon. They hired six boys to deliver telegraph and other messages throughout Seattle and run errands for people. From those humble beginnings sprang United Parcel Service, known today as just “UPS,” the world’s largest and most valuable transportation company. Yet few know the name of Jim Casey, the shy but curious man who made the United Parcel Service what it is today. Advisory Board member Gary Hoover shares the remarkable story of his obsession and his legacy.

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Olive Ann Beech: Queen of the Aircraft Industry

Olive Ann Beech: Queen of the Aircraft Industry

Olive Ann Beech took the helm of Beech Aircraft in 1950 when it had a $6.5 million market value. She ran the company for 30 years until she sold it to the electronics and defense giant Raytheon for $800 million ($2.4 billion in today’s dollars). American Originals presents the life story of Olive Ann Beech, from growing up in Kansas to becoming the queen of the aircraft industry.

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Conrad Hilton: The Dreamer Who Conquered an Industry

Conrad Hilton: The Dreamer Who Conquered an Industry

Conrad Hilton left his hometown of San Antonio, New Mexico at the age of 31 to buy a bank in Texas—oil country. But after Hilton found a bank to purchase in Cisco, the owner raised the price at the last minute. Refusing to buy the bank, Hilton headed to a local, run-down hotel to spend the night. After seeing all of the traffic at the hotel, Hilton inquired about buying it instead. That hotel, The Mobley, would be the first in an expansive business empire.

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Madam C. J. Walker: The Ultimate Self-Made Woman

Madam C. J. Walker: The Ultimate Self-Made Woman

The third installment of American Originals highlights the amazing story of Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C. J. Walker. She would go from humble beginnings as the daughter of freed slaves to founder of one of the largest hair care and cosmetic companies of the era. Madam C. J. Walker was also a generous philanthropist and used her success to help others overcome adversity and achieve their American Dreams.

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The Archbridge Institute is a non-partisan, independent, 501(c)(3) public policy think tank. Our mission is to lift barriers to human flourishing.

Archbridge Institute
1633 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 300,
Washington, DC 20009

lifting barriers. lifting lives.

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