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Aldrich, Richard (17 August 1902–31 March 1986), theatrical producer, manager, and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Irving Aldrich, a rubber company executive, and Mary Pickering Joy. Both parents were members of wealthy, prominent New England families. Aldrich in childhood formed a lifelong love of the theater, which he fostered in school productions and summer student performances. He did further stage work while he attended Harvard College, both with a touring student group called the Jitney Players during summers and with the Harvard Dramatic Club, which he served as president. Though tall and well-featured, Aldrich consistently preferred to work behind the scenes as producer and business manager rather than to perform on stage. He completed his education at Harvard in 1925....

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Alger, William Rounseville (28 December 1822–07 February 1905), author and religious leader, was born in Freetown, Massachusetts, the son of Catherine Sampson Rounseville and Nahum Alger, a teacher. Apprenticed at seven to a New Hampshire farmer, Alger worked at a variety of menial jobs during his hardscrabble boyhood. He earned a ministerial diploma from the Harvard Divinity School in 1847 and became pastor of All Souls’ Unitarian Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The same year, he married Ann Langdon Lodge; they had seven children. In 1855 Alger moved to the Bulfinch Street Church in Boston, where he gained a reputation as an orator. The next year, he published ...

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Allen, Hervey (08 December 1889–28 December 1949), writer, was born William Hervey Allen, Jr., in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of William Hervey Allen, Sr., an inventor and speculator, and Helen Eby Myers. Allen was reared in a middle-class environment, about which he rarely wrote or spoke. He admired his paternal grandfather, an engineer and pioneer, but was deeply critical of his father’s impractical schemes, which brought the family to the brink of bankruptcy. He was also ambivalent toward industrial, urban Pittsburgh and, even as a young man, enjoyed family trips and individual excursions to the countryside....

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Ambrose, Stephen Edward (10 January 1936–13 October 2002), historian and biographer, was born in Decatur, Illinois, the middle son of Stephen Hedges Ambrose, a family physician, and Rosepha Trippe Ambrose. Rosepha raised her sons on a family farm in Whitewater, Wisconsin, during World War II after her husband enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Stephen Ambrose greatly admired the returning veterans who had served in the global conflict. The teamwork they had learned in the service, Ambrose would later write, enabled these men to build “modern America” (...

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Arnold, Isaac Newton (30 November 1815–24 April 1884), congressman and biographer, was born in Hartwick, Otsego County, New York, the son of George Washington Arnold, a doctor, and Sophia Mason. His parents, natives of Rhode Island, had moved to Otsego County around 1800. Isaac attended local schools, including Hartwick Seminary. Between 1832 and 1835 he taught school and studied law, and in 1835 he was admitted to the bar. After practicing in Cooperstown for about a year, he moved in the fall of 1836 to Chicago, where he entered a partnership. In 1837 he was elected city clerk, a post he resigned in order to attend to his expanding practice....

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Ashe, Arthur (10 July 1943–06 February 1993), tennis player, author, and political activist, was born Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr., in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Arthur Ashe, Sr., a police officer, and Mattie Cunningham. Tall and slim as a young boy, Ashe was forbidden by his father from playing football; he took up tennis instead on the segregated playground courts at Brookfield Park, near his home. By the time he was ten he came under the tutelage of a local tennis fan and physician from Lynchburg, Walter Johnson. Johnson had previously nurtured Althea Gibson, who would become the first African American to win Wimbeldon, in 1957 and 1958, and his second protégé would prove no less successful....

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Atkinson, William Biddle (21 June 1832–23 November 1909), obstetrician and medical biographer, was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania, the son of Isaac Sleeper Atkinson and Mary Reese Biddle. Atkinson began his medical studies in 1850 under the preceptorship of Samuel McClellan, who was probably influential in Atkinson’s choice of a medical specialty and certainly influential in his later appointment to the Pennsylvania Medical College. Atkinson completed his medical training in 1853 after three courses of lectures at the Jefferson Medical College. For several years after graduation he devoted part of his time to teaching classics and mathematics in Philadelphia and part to his medical practice. It was during this period that Atkinson began a lifelong involvement as the correspondent or editor of various medical periodicals....

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Badeau, Adam (29 December 1831–19 March 1895), soldier and author, was born in New York City, the son of Nicholas Badeau. He attended a boarding school in Tarrytown, New York, then he worked at an assortment of jobs, including a position with New York City’s street department. In 1859 he published a short book, ...

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Bainton, Roland Herbert (30 March 1894–13 February 1984), historian of the Protestant Reformation, was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, England, the only son of James Herbert Bainton, a Congregational pastor, and Charlotte Eliza Blackham. Bainton’s family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia (1898), and then to Colfax, Washington (1902). He received the traditional British-inspired education in the classics, beginning the study of Latin at twelve and adding German at thirteen. The elder Bainton encouraged his reading and inquiry, and their discussions continued by mail after Bainton entered college. Bainton graduated from Whitman College (B.A. in classics, 1910–1914), Yale Divinity School (B.D., 1914–1917), and Yale University (Ph.D. in Semitics and Hellenistic Greek, 1917–1921)....

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Baker, Carlos Heard (05 May 1909–18 April 1987), educator, author, and literary critic, was born in Biddeford, Maine, the son of Arthur Baker and Edna Heard. He grew up in what he called a “yankee and the nineteenth century German” tradition and had a great passion for literature even as a child. While still a college student, he published a collection of poems, ...

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Ray Stannard Baker Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1914. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0825).

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Baker, Ray Stannard (17 April 1870–12 July 1946), journalist and author, was born in Lansing, Michigan, the son of Joseph Stannard Baker and Alice Potter. A descendant of pioneering stock, he grew up in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, where his family moved in 1875 and his father worked as a land agent. Baker later boasted that he had been brought up on the “last frontier.” His mother died in 1883, but his father, a Civil War veteran, strongly impressed Baker with his rugged character, integrity, and common sense. He attended the local schools, discovered the world of books in his parents’ library, and in 1885 enrolled at Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing. In college Baker discovered a special liking for science courses and also edited the school newspaper. After receiving the B.S. degree in 1889, he returned home to work in his father’s land office. In January 1892 Baker entered law school at the University of Michigan but dropped out after a few months. Meanwhile, he became interested in journalism, partly as the result of a seminar at the university. In the summer of 1892 he found a job with the Chicago ...

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Baldwin, Joseph Glover (21 January 1815–30 September 1864), attorney and author, was born in Friendly Grove Factory, Virginia, the son of Joseph Clarke Baldwin, a mill owner, and Eliza Cook. He was educated at Staunton Academy (Virginia), where he learned Latin and read widely in English and American authors. He left school at fourteen and became a clerk in the chancery court. This experience turned him toward a legal career, and after private study and law school he qualified as a lawyer at twenty. Baldwin also worked for a time as a newspaperman in Virginia and suffered a disappointment in love. In March 1836 he set out for the “Southwest”—specifically Alabama and Mississippi....

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Walter J. Bate. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

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Bate, Walter Jackson (23 May 1918–26 July 1999), biographer and literary critic, was born in Mankato, Minnesota, the son of William G. Bate, a high school principal, and his wife, Isabel Melick Bate. The second of five children, he experienced two major crises while growing up in Mankato: at the age of four he was hit by a car and suffered permanent damage to his nervous system; and with the advent of the Great Depression seven years later his father's salary was cut in half, creating financial hardship for the family. To make matters worse, the elder Bate, a staunch Republican, was fired from his job altogether following the Democratic sweep in the elections of 1932. Despite the family's limited means, Walter's father urged his sons to get the best education possible, which to him meant attending an Ivy League college. Walter chose Harvard because of its proximity to Boston, where he could find work, and he enrolled there in the fall of 1935 with the intention of studying English literature....

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Beer, Thomas (22 November 1888?–18 April 1940), writer, was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the son of William Collins Beer, a corporate attorney and lobbyist, and Martha Ann Alice Baldwin. Though born in western Iowa, Thomas Beer spent most of his childhood in Yonkers, New York, with summers in Nantucket and on his grandfather’s farm in Bucyrus, Ohio. Wealth and position from his father’s Wall Street business gave Beer a distinct sense of social superiority, which he manifested in personal relations and cultural criticisms. Despising the bourgeoisie, the working-class masses, and the chic lifestyles of the Jazz Age, Beer projected an image of extreme conservatism and tesselated sophistication. At Yale, class of 1911, he was class poet, lifelong friend of the actor Monty Wooley, editor of the literary review, and contributor of twenty stories, essays, and poems. After college he spent five years as a dilatory student in the Columbia law school and as clerk in his father’s law firm, but when his father died at his professional nadir in 1916, Beer turned to letters. His first important short story—“The Brothers”—was published a few months later in the ...

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Benchley, Nathaniel Goddard (13 November 1915–14 December 1981), author, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of Robert Charles Benchley, a humorist, and Gertrude Darling. Benchley was brought up largely in comfortable suburbia but moved to New York City after his 1938 graduation from Harvard University, his father’s alma mater, where both father and son had served as presidents of the editorial board of the Harvard ...

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Bigelow, John (25 November 1817–19 December 1911), writer, and diplomat, was born in Bristol (now Malden-on-Hudson), New York, the son of Asa Bigelow and Lucy Isham, successful farmers and merchants. At thirteen he entered Washington (later Trinity) College in Hartford, Connecticut, but transferred to Union College in Schenectady, New York, from which he was graduated in 1835. In New York City Bigelow studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1838....

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Bishop, James Alonzo (21 November 1907–26 July 1987), journalist and author, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of John Michael Bishop, a police lieutenant, and Jenny Josephine Tier. The son of devout Catholics, Bishop attended St. Patrick’s parochial school in Jersey City, graduating in June 1922. Except for a few courses in typing and shorthand at Drake Secretarial College in Jersey City, this ended Bishop’s formal education. According to his 1981 autobiography, ...

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Bradford, Gamaliel (09 October 1863–11 April 1932), writer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Gamaliel Bradford V, a banker, businessman, and reformer, and Clara Crowninshield Kinsman. Gamaliel’s mother died of tuberculosis when he was three, leaving him and his brother, who died at age nine, in the care of their aunt Sarah Hickling Bradford. In 1882 Bradford was enrolled at Harvard College but was compelled to withdraw because of ill health; thereafter, he devoted his life to writing. Bradford married Helen Hubbard Ford in 1886; they had two children....