Millard Fillmore was born in Cayuga County on the New York frontier in 1800. As a 15-year-old boy, he was apprenticed to a cloth maker. After buying his freedom for $30, Fillmore returned home to work on the family farm. For three months each year, he attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. His teacher, Abigail Powers, encouraged him to study law. Fillmore was admitted to the New York bar at the age of 23 and married Abigail three years later.
A member of the Whig Party, Fillmore was elected to the New York state assembly in 1829, served as a congressman in the House of Representatives from 1833-1835, and was elected vice president of the United States in 1849.
When President Zachary Taylor died on July 9, 1850, Fillmore became the thirteenth president of the United States (1850-1853). He supported the constitutional argument that slavery should be free to spread wherever it would. His endorsement of the Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Law marked the beginning of the end of his political career. He was not re-nominated for president in 1852.
As the Whig Party began to fall apart, Fillmore became a presidential candidate for the Know-Nothing Party in 1856. The Know-Nothings opposed immigration and the appointment of Roman Catholics or foreign-born individuals to government posts. He was unsuccessful in this bid for president, carrying only the state of Maryland.
Fillmore retired to Buffalo, New York, where he died in 1874.
Lou Gehrig, 1903-1941, nicknamed "The Iron Horse" was one of the most beloved Major League Baseball players. He played in 2,130 consecutive games, a record only recently broken by Cal Ripkin, Jr. He died of a rare disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is now often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's disease."
Grace Murry Hopper
Born Grace Brewster Murray in New York City, NY, Grace Hopper was educated at Vassar College and Yale University. She became an associate professor of mathematics at Vassar, and joined the Navy in 1942. She was assigned as a programmer on the Mark I, the first large-scale U.S. computer. She is credited with inventing the compiler, a program that translates instructions for a computer from English to a language the computer can understand. She helped develop COBOL (the Common Business-Oriented Language) for the UNIVAC, the first commercial electronic computer. By a special act of Congress she was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in 1983.
Julius Robert Oppenheimer
Born in New York City, Oppenheimer was the son of a wealthy textile importer. As a child, he became interested in mineral collecting, and through his letters to the New York Mineralogy Club, was invited to present a paper there when he was only twelve years old. In 1922, he enrolled in Harvard, and worked with an experimental physicist there. He continued his work in theoretical physics, and in 1942, he was asked to work on the US Atomic bomb program (eventually to be called the "Manhattan Project"). Oppenheimer recruited scientists to work with him at a facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Although the Manhattan Project was successful, Oppenheimer and other scientists who worked on the development of atomic weaponry became concerned about the devastation caused by the dropping of the bomb in Japan. The end of Oppenheimer's career was clouded by charges that he was disloyal to the US, and may have even passed atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, despite the fact that there is no hard evidence that he did so.
Norman Rockwell, 1894-1978, may be one of America's best-known modern illustrators. He drew countless covers for the magazine Saturday Evening Post and his poster series The Four Freedoms was widely reproduced during the second World War.
Theodore Roosevelt served in the Army and as vice president prior to becoming president in 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley. He is known for his efforts to establish the National Parks, and for his involvement in the building of the Panama Canal.
Born and bred in New York, Franklin Roosevelt was the only American president to win election to four consecutive terms. His "New Deal" helped Americans recover hope during the Great Depression by starting programs that provided jobs. Roosevelt knew that World War II would eventually involve the United States. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt proclaimed, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Jonas Salk, 1914-1995, is best known for developing a vaccine against polio, a disease that crippled or killed many adults and children prior to Salk's invention of the vaccine.
Martin Van Buren
The eighth president of the United States, Martin Van Buren, was born in Kinderhook, New York in 1782. At the age of fourteen, he began work at a law practice in Kinderhook, and by the time he was sixteen, he had won his first case.
Early in his career, Van Buren was active in New York politics. In 1821 he was elected to the United States Senate and served until 1828 when he was asked to lead Andrew Jackson's campaign for president. President Jackson rewarded Van Buren by appointing him Secretary of State. Soon he became the President's most trusted adviser.
Van Buren was elected Vice President on the Jacksonian ticket in 1832, and was elected president in 1836. Van Buren's presidency was characterized by great economic hardship. The depression of 1837 threatened America's prosperity, but Van Buren's policy of limiting the government's involvement in the economic life of the country only deepened and prolonged the depression.
Van Buren became increasingly unpopular. He ran for reelection in 1840 but was defeated by the Whig Party. In 1848 he broke away from the Democratic Party to become the candidate for the anti-slavery Free Soil Party. He was not successful, but his candidacy split the Democratic vote and led to the election of Zachary Taylor.
Van Buren died at his estate in Kinderhook in 1862 at the age of 79.