1969 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"You achieve your dreams with diligence and hard work."
The son of Irish immigrants, Gerald O'Brien earned five cents a day cleaning stables when he was seven. At nine, he threshed wheat for 75 cents a day. At 14, he became a bricklayer, and at 17, he owned his own construction company. His family suffered from poverty during the Depression, so he worked days and nights, mixing school sessions with various jobs, such as switchman on a railroad and bricklayer. In addition, he restored Indian villages in Mesa Verde. After a four-year tenure with the Navy in Korea, he joined the Wrecking Corporation of America for $75 a week. Twelve years later, he had worked himself up through the ranks to become vice president. He eventually purchased the corporation. At 38 years old, he was president and chairman of the North American Development Corporation and owned eight other corporations that operated nationwide, as well as in Canada. In New York City, his most famous demolition jobs included the Old Metropolitan Opera House, the Times Tower, the Polo Grounds, Grand Central Palace, and 24 pavilions built for the World's Fair.* Deceased