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Allen, William Henry (21 October 1784–18 August 1813), U.S. naval officer and hero of the War of 1812, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of militia general William Allen, a veteran of the Revolution, and Sarah Jones, sister of William Jones, future governor of Rhode Island. William Henry’s parents were prosperous members of Providence society and intended for him to follow a civilian career. His early education provided him with a good grounding in penmanship and mathematics (the latter proved useful in his naval career) and also with considerable skill as an artist. He made very competent sketches in his letters and the blank pages of his journals and did pen and ink portraits of his family. His only surviving likeness, a profile portrait, is probably based on a sketch done by Allen himself....

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Andrews, Stephen Pearl (22 March 1812–21 May 1886), eccentric philosopher and reformer, was born in Templeton, Massachusetts, the son of Elisha Andrews, a Baptist clergyman, and Wealthy Ann Lathrop. He attended the village school and, after the family moved to Hinsdale, New Hampshire, in 1816, was taught at home by his father. In 1828 and 1829 he studied in the classical department of Amherst Academy, where he was influenced by Professor ...

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Bailey, Ann Hennis Trotter (1742–22 November 1825), revolutionary war scout, was born in Liverpool, England. Little is known about her parents, although it is believed that her father had been a soldier under the duke of Marlborough’s command. As Bailey was literate, she received an education in Liverpool, although details of it are not recorded. Orphaned as a young adult, she immigrated to America in the wake of relatives named Bell. She arrived in Staunton, Virginia, at the Bells’ home, in 1761. In 1765 she married Richard Trotter, a frontiersman and Indian fighter, and they had a son in 1767. Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, recruited men in 1774 to fight the marauding Indians who were disrupting the settlers on or near the Scioto River. Richard Trotter volunteered and followed Colonel Charles Lewis to the point where the Kanawha and Ohio rivers meet, known as Point Pleasant. He was killed in the battle there on 10 October 1774....

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Barnett, Jackson (01 January 1856?–29 May 1934), wealthy American Indian, was born in the Creek Nation, Indian Territory, the son of Siah Barnett, an African-Creek farmer, and Thlesothle, a Creek woman. During his childhood the Civil War violently split the Creek people, and the countryside was ravaged. Siah Barnett fled to Kansas with the Loyal Creeks. Thlesothle died in a refugee camp near Fort Gibson as the war ended. Given into the care of maternal relatives, the orphaned Jackson spent much of his youth and early adulthood transporting people and goods across the Arkansas River at John Leecher's ferry above Muskogee. While working as a ranch hand, Barnett fell from a horse and sustained a head injury. In the 1880s or early 1890s, Barnett relocated westward to the central Creek Nation, where he built a small cabin and established himself in a network of paternal kin. A shy man with a beaming smile, Barnett formed no romantic relationships with women. He spoke both English and Creek, but he had no schooling and led an obscure life as an unskilled laborer....

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Beamer, Todd Morgan (24 November 1968–11 September 2001), passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93, was born in Flushing, Michigan, a small town northwest of Flint, the son of David Beamer, a sales representative for IBM, and Peggy Jackson Beamer, a muralist. Todd and his two sisters, Melissa and Michele, were raised “with a strong biblical value system and work ethic” ( ...

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Bettelheim, Bruno (28 August 1903–13 March 1990), therapist, educator, and author, was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Anton Bettelheim, a lumber merchant, and Pauline Seidler. Following his father’s death in 1926, he dropped out of the university to take over the family firm. Although successful in business, he re-enrolled ten years later to become, in February 1938, one of the last Jews to obtain a Ph.D. from Vienna University before World War II. While he was a philosophy student, aesthetics was his main subject, but he also studied psychology under ...

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Billy the Kid (15 September 1859–14 July 1881), western outlaw and legendary figure in international folklore, was born Henry McCarty, probably in Brooklyn, New York, probably on the date given, and probably of Irish immigrants; all aspects of his origins, however, remain controversial. In 1873 his mother, Catherine, was remarried, to William Henry Antrim, whereupon the boy took his stepfather’s name and became Henry Antrim. Later, for reasons that are obscure, he adopted the sobriquet William H. Bonney. In adolescence he was called simply Kid, but not until the final few months of his life was he known as Billy the Kid....

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John Birch. In uniform with the rank of captain. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Birch, John (28 May 1918–25 August 1945), Baptist missionary and military officer, was born John Morrison Birch in Landaur, India, the son of George S. Birch and Ethel Ellis Birch. Both parents were Methodist missionaries under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. George Birch was also an agricultural professor at Ewing Christian College, Allahabad, India, while Ethel Birch tutored English there and conducted women's Bible classes nearby. In 1920 the family returned to the United States. George Birch became a fruit farmer in Vineland, New Jersey, where John Birch first went to school. In 1930 the family, by then including seven children, moved to Rome, Georgia, where Birch attended high school. After graduating at the head of his class, he entered Mercer University; there, he deepened his religious convictions and evangelical passion and graduated magna cum laude in 1939. He completed a two-year course at the Bible Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in one year and then left in July 1940 for China, sponsored by a World's Fundamentalist Baptist Missionary Fellowship....

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Daniel Boone. Oil on pieced canvas, 1820, by Chester Harding. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Boone, Daniel (02 November 1734–26 September 1820), pioneer and early settler of Kentucky, was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on what was then the western perimeter of English colonial settlement in America, the son of Sarah Morgan and Squire Boone, a weaver, land speculator, and farmer. Daniel Boone’s formal education is a much-disputed matter. He always insisted to his children that he never went to school a day in his life. A tale survives, however, that has young Daniel spiking his schoolteacher’s hidden bottle of whiskey with a potent tartar emetic. His older brother Samuel’s wife, Sarah Day, is said to have taught him the rudiments of the three R’s, but a glance at his letters confirms that he never mastered grammar and spelling. In 1750 Squire Boone moved his large family to the wild frontier country along the Yadkin River in North Carolina, and five years later Daniel, an accomplished backwoodsman, enlisted as a volunteer in the American militia to aid General ...

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Diamond Jim Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Brady, Diamond Jim (12 August 1856–13 April 1917), businessman and cultural icon, was born James Buchanan Brady in New York City, the son of Daniel Brady, a saloonkeeper, and his wife, whose name is not recorded. After attending local schools until the age of eleven, he left home and became a bellboy at the nearby St. James Hotel. While working there he befriended John M. Toucey, an official with the New York Central Railroad, who offered Brady (by then fifteen) a job in the firm's baggage department. After a few months of moving baggage by day and studying bookkeeping, at Paine's Business College, by night, he became a ticket agent at the Central's Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. In 1874 Brady became a clerk in the home office, and in 1877 he was promoted to the position of Toucey's chief clerk. It was here that Brady began to display his love of fine clothing and nightlife, personal indulgences that would characterize his later lifestyle....

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Brooke, Abraham (1806–08 March 1867), physician and radical reformer, was born at Sandy Spring, Maryland, the son of Samuel Brooke and Sarah Garrigues, farmers. The Brooke family had been leading Quakers in Maryland for several generations, and Abraham attended Quaker schools at Sandy Spring before entering medical college in Baltimore. In 1829 he married Elizabeth Lukens, a fellow Quaker from Sandy Spring; they had three children. When the Hicksite-Orthodox schism took place among Quakers, the Brookes, like most Maryland Friends, sided with the Hicksite group....

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Burroughs, Stephen (01 January 1765?–28 January 1840), rogue, imposter, and author, was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, the son of Eden Burroughs, a Presbyterian minister, and Abigail Davis Burroughs. Burroughs recalled in his autobiography that he was “the terror of the people where I lived, and all were unanimous in declaring, that Stephen Burroughs was the worst boy in town, and those who could get him whipped were most worthy of esteem.” When not perpetrating pranks on his neighbors, Burroughs spent his time reading novels and daydreaming, and at the age of fourteen he ran away from home to enlist in the Continental army. His father derailed his plan to enlist, but in characteristic fashion Burroughs tried again and again, eventually succeeding. After taking part in several skirmishes, however, Burroughs's military ardor cooled, and his father managed to obtain his son's discharge....

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Carney, William Harvey (1840–after 1901), Union army sergeant and first African American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Carney and Ann, a former slave. Little is known of his early years. As a young boy he expressed an interest in the ministry, and at the age of fourteen, in 1854, he attended a covertly run school under the tutelage of a local minister. Later he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he took odd jobs in the hope of saving sufficient funds to acquire his religious training....

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Kit Carson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107570).

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Carson, Kit (24 December 1809–23 May 1868), mountain man, army officer, and Indian agent, was born Christopher Houston Carson in Madison County, Kentucky, the son of Lindsey Carson, a farmer and revolutionary war veteran, and Rebecca Robinson. In 1811 Lindsey Carson moved his family to Howard County, Missouri, to find “elbow room.” He died in 1818, hit by a falling limb while clearing timber from his land. Christopher enjoyed no schooling and never learned to read or write, other than signing his name to documents. In 1825 his mother and stepfather apprenticed him to David Workman, a Franklin, Missouri, saddler whom Kit described as a kind and good man. Nevertheless, he ran away because he found saddlemaking tedious and distasteful work and yearned to travel. Following in the footsteps of a brother and a half-brother who were in the Santa Fe trade, Carson joined a caravan as a “cavvy boy” (an assistant to the wrangler in charge of the horse and mule herd). Though not unsympathetic, Workman was obliged by law to advertise for his runaway. But he misleadingly suggested to readers of the ...

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Chang (11 May 1811–17 January 1874), and Eng (11 May 1811–17 January 1874), Siamese twins, were born in Meklong, Siam (now Thailand), the sons of Ti-eye, a Chinese-born fisherman, and Nok, who was half-Chinese and half-Malay. Chang and Eng were born connected at the chest by an armlike ligament of flesh that, later in their childhood, was pliable enough to allow the brothers to stand side by side. Since no one in the village had seen joined twins before, the brothers were looked upon with horror and suspicion. Some conjectured their birth was a portent of evil or a sign that the apocalypse would soon follow. Although people came from all around Siam to see the brothers, Nok treated the babies like all her other children and, fearing that separation would mean certain death for the twins, dismissed doctors who wanted to experiment with knives or hot wire. Overcoming normal childhood obstacles was doubly hard for Eng and Chang. Perhaps most difficult was learning to get along, as they were of different temperaments, with Chang lordly and volatile and Eng docile and mellow. In 1819 cholera killed their father and five of the twins’ seven siblings, and soon after the brothers were forced to work as fishermen and then as merchants to help support the surviving family. Becoming locally famous, Chang and Eng were summoned to appear before King Rama III in 1825, and two years later, at the request of the king, the twins accompanied a diplomatic mission to Cochin China (now Vietnam)....

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Chapman, John (26 September 1774–10 March 1845), pioneer nurseryman and folk hero, known as “Johnny Appleseed,” was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Chapman, a farmer and carpenter, and Elizabeth Simons (or Simonds). No authenticated account of Chapman’s childhood has come to light. It is likely, however, that he began to develop his remarkable woodsman’s skills during his childhood and youth along the Connecticut River near Longmeadow, Massachusetts, to which the family had moved following his father’s remarriage. As a young man, Chapman established an appletree nursery along the Allegheny Valley (1797–1798) in northwestern Pennsylvania. From there he gradually extended his operations into central and northwestern Ohio and then into eastern Indiana....