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John André. A rendering of his capture at Tarrytown, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2395).

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André, John (02 May 1750–02 October 1780), British officer and spy, was born in London, England, the son of Anthony André, a merchant, and Marie Louise Girardot. His early schooling was with a tutor, the Reverend Thomas Newcomb, and he may have attended St. Paul’s School. In his teens André studied mathematics and military drawing at the University of Geneva, giving vent to his romantic temperament by dreaming of a military career. He was rudely brought back to reality by his merchant father when he was called home to work in the countinghouse before he completed a degree. Despising the family business, he nevertheless labored at it manfully for a number of years. After his father died on 14 April 1769, he felt a particular obligation as the eldest son to continue the business, even though his father had left him financially independent, with a small fortune of £5,000. In the summer of 1769 he joined a Lichfield literary group presided over by Anna Seward, a poet. The group included a young lady named Honora Sneyd, for whom he developed a passion. They became engaged and courted for a year and a half before she suddenly rejected him for another man at a Christmas party in 1770. Shattered by this betrayal, André revived his earlier ambition to become a soldier and in early 1771 bought a second lieutenant’s commission in the 23d Regiment, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Later he purchased a first lieutenancy in the same regiment....

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Arrington, Alfred W. (17 September 1810–31 December 1867), minister, author, and judge, was born in Iredell County, North Carolina, the son of H. Archibald Arrington, a Methodist minister. (His mother’s maiden name was Moore; her first name is not known.) Arrington passed his childhood amid the picturesque scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains. His early education consisted solely of reading from the Bible, until a family with a small library moved into the area and he was able to read more widely....

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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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Bancroft, Edward (09 January 1744–08 September 1821), physician, scientist, and spy, was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Bancroft and Mary Ely, farmers. The elder Bancroft died in 1746 of an epileptic attack suffered in a pigpen, two months before the birth of his younger son, Daniel. His widow married David Bull of Westfield in 1751, and the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where Bull operated the Bunch of Grapes tavern. Edward Bancroft was taught for a time by the recent Yale graduate ...

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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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Benjamin, Robert Charles O’Hara (31 March 1855–02 October 1900), journalist and lawyer, was born on the island of St. Kitts in the West Indies. Details about his early life, including the names of his parents and his education, are not known. In the fall of 1869 he arrived in New York, where he worked as soliciting agent for the ...

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Bennett, James Gordon, Jr. (10 May 1841–14 May 1918), newspaper publisher and editor, was born in New York City, the son of James Gordon Bennett, the founder and editor of the New York Herald, and Henrietta Agnes Crean. The eldest child of the man who popularized sensational journalism, Bennett grew up in an environment of wealth and privilege. He spent most of his youth abroad, educated privately by tutors and then at the École Polytechnique in Paris. Returning to the United States in 1861, he served briefly in the navy as a lieutenant during the Civil War. After the war, Bennett entered journalism seriously for the first time, working as an intern at the ...

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Bingham, Robert Worth (08 November 1871–18 December 1937), lawyer, newspaper publisher, and diplomat, was born in Mebane, North Carolina, the son of Robert Bingham, an educator, and Delphine Louise Worth. Bingham graduated from the Bingham School, a private school run by his father, and from 1888 to 1890 attended the University of North Carolina (no degree). He married Eleanor Everhart Miller in 1896; they had three children. He received a law degree from the University of Louisville a year later and, settling in Louisville, went into law practice with fellow North Carolinian W. W. Davies....

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Birney, William (28 May 1819–14 August 1907), soldier, journalist, and lawyer, was born in Madison County, Alabama, the son of James Gillespie Birney, a lawyer, state legislator, and abolitionist leader, and Agatha McDowell. In 1818 his family had moved to Huntsville, Alabama, and in late 1835 they relocated to New Richmond, Ohio. Birney was educated at four colleges, including Yale University, and graduated from Cincinnati Law School in 1841. He began practicing law in that city and in 1845 married Catherine Hoffman. They would have nine children. For five years thereafter he resided on the Continent and in England. He contributed essays on the arts to English and American newspapers, and he upheld the activist reputation of his family by opposing French troops as a member of a Republican student battalion in Paris. In 1848 he accepted an appointment as professor of English literature at the lycée in Bourges....

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Blackford, Charles Minor (17 October 1833–10 March 1903), lawyer and author, was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of William Matthews Blackford, an editor, and Mary Berkeley Minor. He shaped his life by both emulating and rejecting his parents’ lives and wishes. Although trained in law, Blackford’s father pursued a career in politics and in 1846 moved the family to Lynchburg to take a job as a newspaper editor. Thus his father subjected the family to a precarious living based on party patronage but encouraged his five sons’ interest in political and literary lives. His mother held strong antislavery beliefs and pressured her sons to seek their fortunes away from the taint of the South. Charles was educated at home and at boarding schools; he completed his education at the University of Virginia, earning an L.L.B. in 1855....

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Maxwell Bodenheim. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112040).

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Bodenheim, Maxwell (26 May 1892–07 February 1954), poet, critic, and novelist, was born in Hermanville, Mississippi, the son of Solomon Bodenheimer and Caroline Herman. An emigrant from Alsace, Solomon Bodenheimer never found financial or professional security; his career included stints as a traveling whiskey salesman and unsuccessful forays into clothing stores and men’s haberdashery. The daughter of a distinguished and wealthy surgeon, Caroline Bodenheimer came from a milieu that was vastly different from that of her husband. Indeed, the town of Hermanville itself obtained its name from Caroline Bodenheimer’s uncle, M. B. Herman, who had founded the town and established a small mercantile empire there. Caroline’s tales of lost prosperity provided a bitter contrast to the impoverished world in which Maxwell Bodenheim was reared....

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Bollan, William (1710?–1782), colonial agent and lawyer, was born in England and emigrated from there to America while a teenager. He pursued a legal career by studying as an apprentice under the tutelage of Massachusetts attorney Robert Auchmuty. Little is known of Bollan’s early life and career. However, by 1733 he had begun to gain prominence as an attorney, as evidenced by his acquisition of Harvard College and Boston’s Anglican parish, King’s Chapel, as clients. Bollan was an Anglican, which placed him in a religious minority in Congregational-dominated Boston. By the mid-1730s he had begun to venture into land speculation in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island....

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Brackenridge, Hugh Henry (1748–25 June 1816), author and judge, was born Hugh Montgomery Breckenridge near Campbeltown, Scotland, the son of William Breckenridge, an impoverished farmer. His mother’s name is unknown, but apparently she was a person of great intellect. Seeking to escape poverty, the family moved to Pennsylvania when Hugh was five, later settling in rural York County. Eventually Hugh changed his middle name to Henry, and he altered the spelling of his last name “because I found the bulk of the same stock spelt it so.”...

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Bradwell, James Bolesworth (16 April 1828–29 November 1907), lawyer and publisher, was born in Loughborough, England, the son of Thomas Bradwell and Elizabeth Guthredge, farmers. He came to the United States with his family in 1829, settling first in Utica, New York. In 1833 they moved to west-central Illinois and later to Chicago, making the last journey by covered wagon in 1834. They remained in Chicago only a short time before moving to a site near Wheeling, where they lived in a log cabin. As an adult, Bradwell enjoyed recounting the hardships of his early days in Illinois, which included attacks by Indians....

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Browne, John Ross (11 February 1821–08 December 1875), writer, world traveler, and government agent, was born in Beggars Bush, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Egerton Browne and Elana Buck. His father was a refugee from British rule. As the editor of three publications, Thomas Browne satirized British tithing measures and earned the enmity of the Crown, a fine, and a jail sentence for “seditious libel.”...

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Burk, John Daly (1776?–?11 Apr. 1808), editor, historian, and dramatist, was born in Ireland, arriving in America at the age of twenty. His parents’ names are unknown. He was a student at Trinity College in Dublin, but he was dismissed for “deism and republicanism” and eventually forced to leave Ireland, presumably because of political difficulties. Legend has it that a woman named Miss Daly gave him her female attire to help him escape from the British, hence the use of Daly in his name....

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Burke, Michael (08 June 1918–05 February 1987), intelligence operative and sports executive, was born in Enfield, Connecticut, the son of Patrick Burke, an attorney, and Mary Fleming. After Patrick Burke graduated from the Yale University Law School, the family moved to County Galway, Ireland, where they lived from 1918 to 1925. Each side of the family claimed ancestry as far back as the Norman invasion of 1169....

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Butler, William Allen (20 February 1825–09 September 1902), lawyer and writer, was born William Howard Allen Butler in Albany, New York, the son of Benjamin Franklin Butler, an attorney, and Harriet Allen Butler, sister of Lieutenant William Howard Allen, a naval hero in the War of 1812. His family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1834 when his father was appointed attorney general by President ...