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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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Eisenhower, Edgar Newton (19 January 1889–12 July 1971), lawyer and older brother of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, lawyer and older brother of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was born in Hope, Kansas, the son of David Dwight Eisenhower, a creamery worker and unsuccessful store owner, and Ida Elizabeth Stover. Growing up in Abilene, Kansas, at the turn of the century, Eisenhower and his brother Dwight were prone to get involved in boyhood fights. As a result of their fighting prowess, Edgar acquired the nickname “Big Ike,” while Dwight was called “Little Ike.” Edgar and Dwight continued their competitive nature with each other into their elder years, but only political issues created much friction, while on the whole the brothers remained close. Edgar attended the Abilene public schools, where he was an indifferent student. His father held him out of school for two years, and he resumed school a much better student as well as a superior athlete. Like all the Eisenhower brothers, Edgar worked at the Belle Springs Creamery, which helped supplement the family’s meager earnings. When a doctor ordered that Dwight’s badly cut leg be amputated, Edgar intervened to prevent the amputation. Because of the two-year gap in his school attendance, Edgar Eisenhower graduated from Abilene High School with his brother Dwight in 1909....

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Falkner, William Clark (06 July 1825–06 November 1889), writer and great-grandfather of novelist William Faulkner, writer and great-grandfather of novelist William Faulkner, was born in Knox County, Tennessee, the son of Joseph Falkner, an immigrant from Scotland, and Caroline Word. Joseph and Caroline Falkner had just embarked on a move from Haywood County, North Carolina, to St. Genevieve, Missouri, when Caroline gave birth to William Clark in Knox County. Once Caroline had recovered, the Falkners settled in St. Genevieve. Joseph’s occupation there is unknown....

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Hale, Nathan (06 June 1755–22 September 1776), martyr of the American Revolution, was born in Coventry, Connecticut, the son of Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong, successful farmers. A sickly infant, he barely survived his first year, but as he grew he became an outdoorsman and a powerful athlete. He enjoyed reading, and his father decided to prepare him for the ministry, first by hiring Rev. Joseph Huntington to tutor him and then by sending him in 1769 to Yale College. At Yale he was widely admired by his teachers and fellow students. Dr. ...

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Lafayette, James (1748–09 August 1830), patriot spy, also known to history as James Armistead, was born in slavery; little is recorded of his parentage or early life except that he belonged to William Armistead of New Kent County, Virginia. In the summer of 1781 James was attending his master while Armistead worked as a commissary in Richmond, supplying patriot forces under the command of the ...

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Murieta, Joaquín (1829?–1853), folk hero in Hispanic and California popular culture, was born most probably in Sonora, Mexico. The story of Murieta has been told in many versions, all based on John Rollin Ridge’s 1854 account, The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murieta...

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Railroad Bill (?–07 March 1896), thief and folk hero, was the nickname of an African-American man of such obscure origins that his real name is in question. Most writers have believed him to be Morris Slater, but a rival candidate for the honor is an equally obscure man named Bill McCoy. But in song and story, where he has long had a place, the question is of small interest and Railroad Bill is name enough. A ballad regaling his exploits began circulating among field hands, turpentine camp workers, prisoners, and other groups from the black underclass of the Deep South, several years before it first found its way into print in 1911. A version of this blues ballad was first recorded in 1924 by ...

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Thaw, Harry Kendall (01 February 1871–22 February 1947), heir to an industrial fortune who became notorious for his murder of the renowned New York architect Stanford White, heir to an industrial fortune who became notorious for his murder of the renowned New York architect ...