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Adams, Henry (16 February 1838–27 March 1918), historian, novelist, and critic, was born Henry Brooks Adams in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams, a diplomat, legislator, and writer, and Abigail Brooks. He enjoyed unparalleled advantages, chief among them his famous name and many family connections: he was the great-grandson of President ...

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Allen, Frederick Lewis (05 July 1890–13 February 1954), editor and social historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Frederick Baylies Allen, a clergyman, and Alberta Hildegarde Lewis. Allen was educated at Groton School and Harvard University, where he received his B.A. in English in 1912 and his M.A. in 1913 in modern languages. Allen edited the literary magazine at Harvard and subsequently taught composition there for two years; he became an assistant editor at the ...

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Asbury, Herbert (01 September 1891–24 February 1963), journalist and popular historian, was born in Farmington, Missouri, the son of Samuel Lester Asbury, a surveyor and city clerk, and Ellen N. Prichard. His grandfather and great-grandfather were Methodist ministers. Asbury claimed that his great-great uncle was ...

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Arna Bontemps Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1939. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100856).

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Bontemps, Arna Wendell (13 October 1902–04 June 1973), writer, was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Paul Bismark Bontemps, a bricklayer, and Maria Carolina Pembroke, a schoolteacher. He was reared in Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was three. He graduated from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, in 1923....

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Calkins, Clinch (15 July 1895–26 December 1968), poet, polemicist, and novelist, was born Marion Clinch Calkins in Evansville, Wisconsin, the daughter of Judson Wells Calkins, a politically liberal owner of a general store, and Julia Clinch, a lover of music and literature. Calkins graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1918, packed artillery shells in a Milwaukee plant, and then returned to Madison to teach in the university’s English and art history departments and to do social work. She submitted a poem, “I Was a Maiden,” to an annual competition in the ...

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Calvert, George Henry (02 June 1803–24 May 1889), author, was born on his family’s estate near Bladensburg, Maryland, the son of George Calvert, a planter and politician, and Rosalie Eugenia Stier. As a child, Calvert was raised to be mindful of his aristocratic heritage—his paternal great-grandfather was the fifth Lord Baltimore, the founder of Maryland, and on his maternal side he was a descendant of Peter Paul Rubens—and his childhood years were spent in a style befitting a young man of wealth and gentility. In 1819 Calvert entered Harvard College, where he remained until 1823, at which time he was dismissed along with thirty other students for participating in the “Great Rebellion,” a protest aimed at limiting the restrictions over student activities, but which ultimately led to the students protesting the quality of the education that they were receiving at Harvard. After leaving Harvard, Calvert journeyed to Europe and stayed with an uncle in Antwerp before spending fifteen months studying history and philosophy at the University of Göttingen. Concurrent and subsequent to his time at Göttingen, Calvert traveled to Weimar, where he met Goethe, and he then visited Edinburgh, Paris, and Antwerp again before returning to America in 1827. Calvert settled in Baltimore, where he served as editor of the ...

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DeVoto, Bernard Augustine (11 January 1897–13 November 1955), journalist and historian, was born in Ogden, Utah, the son of Florian DeVoto, a teacher and freight agent, and Rhoda Dye. Educated well beyond the demands of the jobs he held, DeVoto’s father could provide only a meager income and a very modest home for his small family. As the offspring of religious dissenters (his father was a lapsed Roman Catholic; his mother, a nonpracticing Mormon), DeVoto blamed his family’s economic circumstances and religious nonconformity for alienating him from his birthplace. He grew up openly critical of the townspeoples’ provincial ways and censorious attitudes....

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Max Eastman Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1916. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-1374).

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William L. O’Neill

Eastman, Max (04 January 1883–25 March 1969), writer, was born Max Forrester Eastman in Canandaigua, New York, the son of Samuel Elijah Eastman and Annis Bertha Ford, both ordained ministers of the Congregational church. From the age of eleven to eighteen he lived in Elmira, New York, where his mother was associate pastor of Park Church. He graduated from Williams College in 1905, and from 1907 to 1910 he studied philosophy under ...

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Ford, Henry Jones (25 August 1851–29 August 1925), journalist and historian, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Franklin Ford and Anne Elizabeth Jones. He graduated from Baltimore City College in 1868. Upon graduation he spent the next four years trying his hand at various trades, becoming in 1872 an editorial writer for the ...

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Frank, Waldo David (25 August 1889–09 January 1967), author and cultural critic, was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, the son of Julius J. Frank, a successful Wall Street attorney, and Helene Rosenberg. Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Frank took an early interest in writing, finishing his first novel at age sixteen. After spending a year at a private prep school in Lausanne, Switzerland, Frank entered Yale University in 1907. While at Yale, he served as drama critic for the New Haven ...

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Goodman, Paul (09 September 1911–02 August 1972), libertarian social-cultural critic and man of letters, was born in New York City, the son of Augusta Goodman, of German-Jewish middle-class background and a traveling saleswoman of apparel. His father, Barnett Goodman, abandoned the family around the time of Paul’s birth, and he was raised mostly by aunts and an older sister. Following a good record in humanities in New York City public schools, he majored in philosophy at the City College of New York (A.B., 1931). Then he worked as a counselor at a Zionist youth camp, was a sometime graduate student at Columbia University, and became a bohemian litterateur within a New York Jewish left-intellectual circle. His longest period outside the New York he fervently identified with was as a graduate student at the University of Chicago (1936–1940), studying literature and philosophy, finally receiving a Ph.D. in 1954....

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Gunther, John (30 August 1901–29 May 1970), foreign correspondent and writer, was born in Chicago, the son of Eugene M. Gunther, a salesman, and Lisette Shoeninger, a schoolteacher. His mother stimulated Gunther’s interest in literature and history; at eleven he already was compiling a personal encyclopedia of world affairs. The wide-ranging interests, energy, and enthusiasm displayed at this early age characterized his personal and professional life. At the University of Chicago, where he graduated in 1922, he became literary editor of the campus newspaper while building his personal library by reviewing books for other journals as well. Eager for a writer’s career, he headed for Europe to soak up continental culture without waiting to receive his bachelor’s degree....

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Hofstadter, Richard (06 August 1916–24 October 1970), historian, writer, and critic, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Emil A Hofstadter, a furrier, and Katherine Hill. His father, born in Cracow, Poland, was Jewish, and his mother, whose family had emigrated from Germany in the aftermath of 1848, was an Episcopalian. Although his mother died when he was ten, Richard was raised a Protestant. As an adult he came to identify with his father’s secular Jewish heritage, especially after his move to New York City, where he became involved with the city’s predominately Jewish, politically left intellectual groups....

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Holbrook, Stewart Hall (22 August 1893–03 September 1964), journalist and historian, was born in Newport, Vermont, the son of Jessie Holbrook, an itinerant businessman, and Kate Stewart. As a result of his father’s frequent relocations, Stewart’s childhood education was incomplete. He attended Colebrook Academy in New Hampshire but left without graduating when his family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1911. Shortly thereafter, his father died, leaving Holbrook to find his own means of support. Pursuing latent interests in writing, he worked as a reporter for the Winnipeg ...

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Howe, Irving (11 June 1920–05 May 1993), literary critic and historian, was born in New York City, the son of David Howe and Nettie Goldman, grocery store operators and later garment workers. Irving Howe was married twice, first to Arien Hausknecht, with whom he had two children, and later to Ilana Wiener....

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Lerner, Max (20 December 1902–05 June 1992), scholar, teacher, and newspaper columnist, was born Maxwell Alan Lerner near Minsk, Russia, the son of Benjamin Lerner, an itinerant scholar, and Bessie Podel. His father emigrated to the United States the next year, and Max followed with his mother and siblings in 1907. After brief jobs in New York and New Jersey, his father moved to New Haven, Connecticut, in 1913 and entered the dairying business....

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H. L. Mencken Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-42489).

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Mencken, H. L. (12 September 1880–29 January 1956), author, editor, and journalist, was born Henry Louis Mencken in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of August Mencken, a cigar manufacturer, and Anna Abhau. Having emigrated from Germany during the mid-nineteenth century, the Menckens and Abhaus had quickly adapted to life in the United States, and they provided a home more Victorian than German-American for their four children. Henry Mencken, the eldest, did attend a private German school for his earliest education, but he completed his formal education at Baltimore Polytechnic, a high school primarily responsible for producing engineers and technicians....