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Benedict Arnold. Engraving from a painting by John Trumbull. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-148-GW-617).

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Arnold, Benedict (14 January 1741–14 June 1801), revolutionary war general and traitor, was born in Norwich, Connecticut, the son of Benedict Arnold III, a merchant, and Hannah Waterman King. Of his mother’s eleven children, only he and a younger sister survived. At age eleven he was sent away to grammar school, but he left two years later when his alcoholic father lost the family’s fortune. Apprenticed to his mother’s cousin, an apothecary in Norwich, he volunteered in three campaigns (1757–1759) of the French and Indian War, deserting finally to be with his dying mother. His father died soon after, leaving little except debts, but his generous master paid the debts and set Arnold up in business when he decided to move to New Haven in 1762....

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Bayard, Nicholas (1644–1711?), merchant, was born probably in Alphen, near Utrecht, in the Netherlands, the son of Samuel Bayard, a and Anna Stuyvesant. Bayard was the nephew of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New Netherland. His mother Anna, Stuyvesant’s sister, with her four children, accompanied the Stuyvesants to New Amsterdam in 1647. Educated by his mother in English, French, and Dutch, he began a long and lucrative political career with a post as English clerk in Stuyvesant’s government. He also held posts under the English administration that commenced in 1664 and during the second brief Dutch occupation in 1673....

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Charles E. Bedaux. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107447).

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Bedaux, Charles Eugene (10 October 1886–18 February 1944), scientific manager, entrepreneur, and fascist collaborator, was born in Charenton-le-Pont, France, a suburb of Paris, the son of Charles Emile Bedaux, a railroad engineer, and Marie Eulalie, a dressmaker. Bedaux spent his first twenty years on the streets of Paris, doing odd jobs and usually avoiding school. He attended the Lycée Louis LeGrand in Paris but did not receive a regular degree. In 1906 he left Paris to seek his fortune across the Atlantic. In the United States Bedaux worked as a dishwasher, an insurance salesman, and a sandhog with the crews building the Hudson River tunnels. He also had a stint at the New Jersey Worsted Mills in Hoboken. He became a naturalized citizen in 1908....

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Billy (fl. 1781), a mulatto slave, also known as Will or William, was the subject of an alleged treason case during the American Revolution. The case is more significant for what it says about the ambivalence toward slavery of Thomas Jefferson and other Virginians than for the light it sheds on the life of Billy, or Will. Ironically, in 1710, another slave named Will had a brief flirtation with history. This earlier Will was freed for “his fidelity … in discovering a conspiracy of diverse negros … for levying war” in Virginia....

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Church, Benjamin (24 August 1734– January 1778?), physician, poet, and traitor, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the son of Benjamin Church, a vendue master, and Hannah Dyer. By 1740 the family had moved to Boston, and in 1750 young Benjamin entered Harvard College. It was at Harvard that Church first developed his writing skills, sharpening his talents through biting satires on his classmates and the professors. After graduating in 1754, Church studied medicine and for several months in 1757 served as surgeon aboard the Massachusetts snow-of-war, the ...

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Dunbar, Moses (14 June 1746–19 March 1777), first civilian executed in the state of Connecticut for the crime of treason, was born in Wallingford, Connecticut, the son of John Dunbar, a Congregationalist minister, and Temperance Hall. Dunbar’s father embedded in his children strong religious beliefs. However, these beliefs caused Moses in later years to end his relationship with his father. Little is known about Dunbar’s educational background. When he was fourteen years old, his family moved to Waterbury, Connecticut, and perhaps there he obtained his early education....

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Field, Noel Haviland (23 January 1904–12 September 1970), government official and alleged traitor, was born in London, the son of Herbert Haviland Field, a prominent American biologist, and Nina Eschwege Field. Herbert Field was descended from a long line of New England Quakers; his English-born wife was partly of German descent. During World War I, responding to anti-German feeling, the Eschwege family anglicized their surname; henceforth Herbert Field's wife was known as Nina Foote Field. The Field family, which grew to include three other children, lived in Zurich, where Herbert Field directed the Concilium Bibliographicum, an international institute that compiled scientific bibliographies. During the war the elder Field organized a Quaker-sponsored food-relief program, and his efforts attracted the attention of U.S. president ...

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Gillars, Mildred Elizabeth (29 November 1900–25 June 1988), radio propagandist, known as “Axis Sally,” was born Mildred Elizabeth Sisk in Portland, Maine, the daughter of Vincent Sisk, a railroad yardman, and Mae Hewitson. When Mildred was seven her parents divorced, and shortly after, her mother married Robert Bruce Gillars, a dentist, who moved his new family to Conneaut, Ohio. From her early years, Mildred was a stagestruck child whose mother encouraged her desire to be an actress. She appeared in a number of theater productions at Conneaut High School and at Ohio Wesleyan University, which she entered in 1918. In preparation for a career on the stage Gillars majored in English and oratory and minored in voice and piano. At Ohio Wesleyan Gillars’s performances were highly praised. She was an erratic student, however, and because of several incompletes and failures, she left the university in 1922 without graduating....