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Adamson, Joy (20 January 1910–03 January 1980), writer and conservationist, was born Friederike Viktoria Gessner in Troppau, Austria, the daughter of Victor Gessner, a civil servant, and Traute Greipel. Before her first marriage, to automobile company official Viktor von Klarwill in 1935, Adamson studied piano and took courses in other arts, including sculpture. She made her first trip to Kenya in 1936, to investigate that country as a possible new home for herself and her husband, whose Jewish background made him eager to leave Austria at this time of Nazi advance. During this trip she became involved with Peter Bally, a Swiss botanist whom she married in 1938 after becoming divorced from von Klarwill in 1937....

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Alston, Melvin Ovenus (07 October 1911–30 December 1985), educator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. Of middle-class background in terms of an African-American family in the urban South in the 1920s, he grew up in a house that his family owned, free of any mortgage. After attending Norfolk’s segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated from Virginia State College (B.S., 1935), honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship, and began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School in 1935. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men’s Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church....

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Blitzstein, Marc (02 March 1905–22 January 1964), composer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Marcus Blitzstein, a banker, and Anna Levitt. Blitzstein was afforded every opportunity for early musical training. He began piano studies at age three and at age seven made his concert debut and began to compose. He attended Philadelphia public schools and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a full merit scholarship. In 1921 he was the gold medalist in a Philharmonic Society of Philadelphia contest, leading to a performance with the Academy of Music orchestra the following season. In 1922 he left the university without taking a degree and studied piano privately with Alexander Siloti in New York....

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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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California Joe (08 May 1829–29 October 1876), plainsman and army scout, was born Moses Embree Milner in Standford, Kentucky, the son of Sarah Ann and Embree Armstead Milner, planters. Plantation life in the Kentucky wilderness was hardly genteel; the Milner home was a log cabin, as was the schoolhouse where the young Milner was an able student. Along with “book learning,” Milner excelled in tracking and hunting, which meant his family always had fresh meat to eat. Even as a boy he was known for his skill in shooting his father’s long-barreled rifle, a talent his family regarded as wholly in keeping with his father’s past military experiences in ...

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Edward R. S. Canby. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-6574).

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Canby, Edward Richard Sprigg (09 November 1817–11 April 1873), Civil War general, was born in Piatt’s Landing, Kentucky, the son of Israel T. Canby, a land speculator and politician, and Elizabeth Piatt. Canby received an appointment to West Point and graduated thirtieth out of thirty-one in the class of 1839. Shortly after graduation he married Louisa Hawkins; they had one child, who died young. He began his military career as a second lieutenant with the Second Regiment of the U.S. Infantry. Canby gained his first military leadership experience during the confrontation with the Seminole Nation in northern Florida, 1840–1842, and his first administrative experience in the Adjutant General’s Office during garrison duty at Fort Niagara, 1842–1846. At the end of this duty, in June 1846, he received promotion to first lieutenant and, in 1847, to captain as assistant adjutant general. During the Mexican War Canby fought beside ...

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Cermak, Anton Joseph (09 May 1873–06 March 1933), mayor of Chicago, Illinois, was born in Kladno, Czechoslovakia (then a province in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), the son of Anton Cermak, a miner, and Catherine Frank. Cermak’s family arrived in the United States in 1874 and settled in Braidwood, Illinois, where young Cermak had a few years of schooling before he moved to Chicago in 1889. He engaged in a number of businesses including wood hauling, real estate, and insurance. In 1894 he married Mary Horejs, with whom he had three children. He began his political career in 1894 as an assistant precinct captain and gradually worked his way up until 1902 when he won election as state representative. From then until his death he always held one or more elective appointments in Chicago, Cook County, or the state of Illinois, as well as Democratic party offices. Beginning in 1902 he won four successive elections to the Illinois state legislature. In 1909 he was elected alderman in Chicago, representing a predominantly Czech ward. The Czech ethnic group was to be the base for his political success at the city, county, and state levels....

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Colvocoresses, George Musalas (22 October 1816–03 June 1872), naval officer, was born on the Greek island of Chios, the son of Constantine Colvocoresses and Franka Grimaldi. In 1822 he was kidnapped by Turks, who massacred most of the Greek population of the island, and was taken to Smyrna. His father, who survived the slaughter, ransomed him with the assistance of relatives. Seeing little hope for the boy’s future in Greece, the elder Colvocoresses seized an opportunity through the Greek Relief Committee to put his son on board the U.S. brig ...