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Atsidi, Sani (1830–1917), Navajo silversmith, was born in Navajo country in present-day Arizona near Canyon de Chelly, a member of the Dibelizhini (Black Sheep) clan. His parents’ names and occupations are unknown. Given the era, it is safe to assume that his parents were typical members of Navajo society who raised sheep and farmed. As a young man, Atsidi Sani, or Old Smith in English, learned ironwork from a Mexican in the Mount Taylor area of western New Mexico. Nakai Tsosi (Thin Mexican), as the Navajos called him, apparently became friends with Atsidi Sani despite the frequent conflict between their two peoples during this period. Atsidi Sani’s initial efforts with ironwork concentrated in a commercially profitable endeavor: he learned to make bridles. Navajos who previously had been compelled to purchase bridles for their horses from Mexican ironworkers could now turn to a local source....

Article

Boyd, Louise Arner (16 September 1887–14 September 1972), Arctic explorer, photographer, and author, was born in San Rafael, California, the daughter of John Franklin Boyd, Sr., and Louise Cook Arner. Boyd was born to one of the wealthiest families in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. Her maternal grandfather, Ira Cook, had built a fortune in the mid-nineteenth century, and her father ran the family gold-mining business and an investment company. Boyd was educated privately, first by governesses, then at Miss Stewart’s School in San Rafael and Miss Murrison’s in San Francisco. She did not attend college or university and made her social debut in 1907. Throughout the next decade, during which her father trained her to become the financial manager of the family business, Boyd stayed busy with family concerns and community interests, helping care for her invalid brothers and emerging as a leading patron of music, art, and charitable causes in San Rafael and San Francisco. She also became expert at growing prize camellias....

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De Brahm, William Gerard (20 August 1718–03 July 1799?), surveyor-cartographer and military engineer, was born in Koblenz, Germany, the son of Johann Phillip von Brahm, court musician to the elector of Triers, and Johannetta Simonet. A member of the lesser nobility, De Brahm secured a broad education that included exposure to the burgeoning experimental sciences of his day. After attaining the rank of captain engineer in Charles VII’s imperial army, De Brahm married and renounced the Roman Catholic faith. Forced to resign his army commission because of his renunciation, he and his bride, Wilhelmina de Ger, found themselves nearly destitute....

Article

De Witt, Simeon (25 December 1756–03 December 1834), cartographer, surveyor, and land developer, was born in Wawarsing, Ulster County, New York, the son of Andries De Witt, a physician, and Jannetje Vernooy. His early education was typical of what a scattered agricultural community could provide in that period. Later he received classical instruction from the local minister, and then, on the eve of the American Revolution, he enrolled at Queen’s College (later Rutgers University) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was granted a B.A. degree in 1776 and an M.A. degree in 1788....

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Emory, William Hemsley (07 September 1811–01 December 1887), soldier, surveyor, and cartographer, was born on the family plantation, “Poplar Grove,” in Queen Annes County, Maryland, the son of Thomas Emory and Anna Maria Hemsley. In July 1826 William Emory enrolled in the United States Military Academy, where his classmates, to whom he was known as Bold Emory, included ...

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Freeman, Thomas (?–08 November 1821), surveyor, civil engineer, and explorer, was born in Ireland and immigrated in 1784 to America. Nothing is known of his parents, early life, or formal training, but he apparently had a background in the sciences. He may have acquired employment at Plymouth, Massachusetts, as an inspector and surveyor. In 1794 ...

Article

Gist, Christopher (1705–25 July 1759), explorer, surveyor, and Indian agent, was born in Baltimore Country, Maryland, the son of Richard Gist, a judge, and Zepporah Murray. His grandfather was Christopher Guest, but the surname was changed to Gist around 1700. Gist was highly educated for his time and place. During his youth in Maryland he acquired literacy and other skills that enabled him to develop a vocation as a cartographer and explorer in the service of the Ohio Company. In 1750, while he lived in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley (where he knew ...

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Hale, Susan (05 December 1833–17 September 1910), writer and painter, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Nathan Hale, owner and editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser, and Sarah Preston Everett, a linguist, writer, and the sister of statesman Edward Everett. Susan Hale grew up in a literary and intellectual environment that served as the major educational force of her early years. She studied with private tutors until she was sixteen and then attended ...

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Hutchins, Thomas (1730?–28 April 1789), cartographer and surveyor, was born on the New Jersey frontier. Orphaned before the age of sixteen, by the end of the French and Indian War, in 1756, he was an ensign with Pennsylvania troops. In 1760, after several years of frontier service, he took leave to become an Indian agent. His most publicized assignment was a diplomatic mission to tribes of the Northwest. Hutchins prepared well-written narratives of his travels and generally included maps with surveyed areas. In some instances he was the first person to attempt a map of a large region. His maps and reports led to an offer of a regular British army commission, without purchase fees. Hutchins accepted and gradually became North America’s premier frontier surveyor and mapper. In 1764, 1766, and 1768 he accompanied parties exploring the vast region of the eastern Mississippi River Valley from Minnesota to New Orleans. Other assignments also contributed to his geographic expertise. In 1763, for example, he traveled through the southern colonies as an army recruiter....

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Le Moyne de Morgues, Jacques (1533– May 1588), artist and cartographer, was born in Dieppe, France. Nothing is known of Le Moyne’s early life. In 1564 he was recruited by Gaspard de Coligny, admiral of France and sponsor of the French Florida colonization expeditions (1562–1565), to chart the coast and rivers of northeastern Florida. It is possible that Le Moyne was Charles IX’s cartographer and was chosen by Coligny for this reason. Because ...

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Mackay, James (1759?–16 March 1822), explorer and surveyor, was born in the Parish of Kildonan, county of Sutherland, Scotland, the son of George Mackay, a judge, and Elizabeth McDonald. A surveyor by trade, he was well educated, fluent in both French and Spanish, and played the violin. In 1776 he left Scotland for Canada, where he became a fur trader for the North West Company. Under the employ of the English he explored the upper lakes and Western region of Canada and stayed for a time at Fort Espérance (in Saskatchewan), near the Qu’Appelle and Assiniboine rivers. In 1787 Mackay, along with an expeditionary force of a few men, went south to the Mandan Indian towns, where they spent ten days. It was apparently one of the first contacts that the Mandans had with white men. The Mandans honored Mackay and his party by carrying them on buffalo robes into their earthen towns. During his travels he mapped the area toward the Rockies. These maps would be of great benefit to later explorations. After returning to Canada, sometime between 1792 and 1794, Mackay went on to St. Louis, where he was one of the first English-speaking settlers of Upper Louisiana. In St. Louis he became a Spanish subject....

Article

McCoy, Isaac (13 June 1784–21 June 1846), Baptist missionary, surveyor, and U.S. Indian agent, was born near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, the son of William McCoy, a clergyman. His mother’s name is unknown. When he was six years old, his family moved to Kentucky, where he attended public schools. At nineteen he married Christiana Polke, who had strong religious convictions and missionary spirit and became his dedicated partner throughout his life. They had thirteen children....

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Nampeyo (1859–20 July 1942), Native American potter, was born in Tewa Village (Hano), First Mesa, Hopi reservation, Arizona, the daughter of Qotsvema, a Hopi farmer from Walpi, and Qotcakao of the Corn Clan at Hano. She was named Tcumana (Snake Girl) by her paternal grandmother because her father was of the Snake Clan; however, her Tewa name, Numpayu (“Snake that does not bite”), was more commonly used because she lived at Hano....

Image

Nampeyo. Gelatin silver print, c. 1926, by Arnold Genthe. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Frederick Law Olmsted. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-36895).

Article

Olmsted, Frederick Law (26 April 1822–23 August 1903), landscape architect and travel writer, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of John Olmsted, a dry goods merchant, and Charlotte Hull. Olmsted’s mother died when he was three, and between the ages of seven and fifteen he received most of his schooling from ministers and private academies outside Hartford. In 1837, when he was about to enter Yale College, severe sumac poisoning weakened his eyes, leading to a decade of desultory education at the hands of a civil engineer and several farmers, interspersed with seven months with a dry goods firm in New York City, a year-long voyage to China, and a semester at Yale. In 1848 his father bought him a farm on Staten Island, where he lived for the next eight years, practicing scientific agriculture with special interest in tile drainage of soils. He read widely in these years, being especially influenced by ...

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Smith, Francis Hopkinson (23 October 1838–07 April 1915), mechanical engineer, writer, and artist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Francis Smith, a musician, mathematician, and philosopher, and Susan Teakle. Smith was reared in the genteel society of old Baltimore, where he studied for entrance to Princeton University. Smith’s family suffered economic ruin, however, and he never attended college. Before the Civil War he held jobs in a hardware store and an ironworks. Around 1858 he moved to New York City, where, after some training with a partner named James Symington, he set up an engineering firm. Over the years he increasingly complemented this enterprise with his work in the fine arts and as a speaker. He was usually thought of, and perhaps thought of himself, as a southern gentleman. In 1866 Smith married Josephine Van Deventer of Astoria, New York. They had two children....

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Van Braam Houckgeest, Andreas Everardus (01 November 1739–08 July 1801), diplomat, art collector, and author of the first book about China by an American, was born in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands, the son of François Thomas van Braam and Evardina Catherina van Nijmegen. After a brief term in the Dutch navy, he entered the service of the Dutch East India Company in December 1758 on a voyage to China. In 1763 he married Catharina C. G. van Reede van Oudtshoorn, a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, adding at that time Houckgeest to his name in honor of a line of artists on his mother’s side. Apart from two short voyages to Europe, he remained in Canton and Macao until 1773, when he returned to the Netherlands and established himself as a gentleman farmer in the province of Gelderland....

Article

Vincent, Frank (02 April 1848–19 June 1916), world traveler, author, and collector, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Frank Vincent, a wealthy dry goods merchant, and Harriet Barns. Vincent grew up on the family estate at Tarrytown-on-the-Hudson and attended Peekskill Military Academy. In 1866 he entered Yale College and completed two terms before having to leave because of health problems. He returned the following year, but ill health again forced him to discontinue his studies. While at Yale, he vowed to see the world and to write about its more obscure regions. He subsequently spent more than forty years fulfilling that vow....