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Bromfield, Louis (27 December 1896–18 March 1956), novelist, experimental farmer, and newspaper columnist, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of Charles Bromfield, a banker and local Democratic office holder, and Annette Marie Coulter. His father was from an old New England family, and his mother was the daughter of a pioneer family of Richland County, Ohio; both ancestries would influence his later fiction. Bromfield attended Mansfield public schools, spending summers on his mother’s family’s farm. In 1914–1915 he studied agriculture at Cornell University and then briefly attended Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. He then studied journalism at Columbia University until his enlistment in the U.S. Army Ambulance Service in June 1917. He served with Section 577, attached to the French army, from December 1917 to February 1919. He participated in seven major battles during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was discharged in June 1919 while still in France....

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London, Jack (12 January 1876–22 November 1916), writer, war correspondent, and agronomist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Flora Wellman and, allegedly, William Henry Chaney, a reformer and professor of astrology. Chaney separated from his common-law wife when he learned of her pregnancy, angrily denying his paternity and later insisting (in two 1897 letters written in response to London’s inquiries) that he had been impotent at the time of the child’s conception. Wellman nevertheless named her son “John Griffith Chaney” on his birth certificate....

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Mapes, James Jay (29 May 1806–10 January 1866), chemist and writer, was born in Maspeth, New York, the son of Jonas Mapes, a merchant and importer, and Elizabeth Tylee. While at a boarding school on Long Island, Mapes lived for a time with the English reformer William Cobbett. As a scientist, however, he was largely self-taught....

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Rogers, Will (04 November 1879–15 August 1935), entertainer and social commentator, was born William Penn Adair Rogers near Oologah, Oklahoma, in what was then the Cooweescoowee District of Indian Territory, the son of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher, Cherokee ranchers. Rogers County, which contains both Oologah, site of the historic Rogers home, and Claremore, site of the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum, is named after the prominent father, not the prominent son. “Uncle Clem” was a major player in Oklahoma politics before and after statehood (1907), serving as a judge, as a member of the Dawes Commission (to distribute Indian lands prior to statehood), and as the first local banker. Will’s loving wife, the former Betty Blake, whom he married in 1908, later remembered that “Will had everything he wanted. He had spending money and the best string of cow ponies in the country. No boy in Indian Territory had more than Uncle Clem’s boy.” (Yet being “Uncle Clem’s boy” could have its downside, too.)...

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Russell, Charles Marion (19 March 1864–24 October 1926), artist and author, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Charles Silas Russell, a wealthy businessman, and Mary Elizabeth Mead. As a child, Russell always preferred modeling in clay, drawing, and playing hooky. In 1879 his parents sent him to a military academy in New Jersey, but after a year they relented and allowed him to realize his dream of becoming a cowboy. He moved to the Judith Basin in Montana, where he tended sheep (1880), did chores for a hunter and trapper (1881–1882), and sketched western activities and scenery in his spare time. After a visit back in St. Louis for a month in 1882, he returned to the Great Northwest as a horse wrangler and cow puncher for several Montana cattlemen (1882–1893), but he continued to sketch and paint as much as he could....

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Wallace, Henry Cantwell (11 May 1866–25 October 1924), farmer, editor, and U.S. secretary of agriculture, was born in Rock Island, Illinois, the son of Henry “Uncle Henry” Wallace, a Presbyterian minister, and Nancy Ann “Nannie” Cantwell. In 1877 he moved with his family to Winterset, Iowa, where his father began farming as well as writing a weekly agricultural column for the Winterset ...