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George M. Cohan Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1933. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 236 P&P).

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Cohan, George M. (3 or 4 July 1878–05 November 1942), performer, writer of songs, musicals, and plays, and producer, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Jeremiah “Jerry” John Cohan and Helen “Nellie” Frances Costigan. (Cohan’s middle initial stands for Michael.) At the age of seven, Cohan was sent to the E Street School in Providence. His formal schooling lasted six weeks, after which the school sent him to rejoin his parents and sister, Josie, in their theatrical travels. He took violin lessons and played the instrument both in the theater orchestra and in a trick violin act he devised. The Cohans went on their first road show as a family in 1889; when the show failed they went back to ...

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Coward, Noël (16 December 1899–26 March 1973), playwright, songwriter, and performer, was born Noël Peirce Coward in Teddington, England, the son of Arthur Sabin Coward, a generally unsuccessful traveling piano salesman, and Violet Agnes Veitch. Coward’s American connections began at age sixteen as an extra in a ...

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Golden, John (27 June 1874–17 June 1955), theatrical producer, songwriter, and playwright, was born in New York City, the son of Joel Golden, a teacher and proprietor of a summer hotel, and Amelia Tyreler. Raised in Wauseon, Ohio, he went to New York at age fourteen to pursue a career as an actor. For seven years he struggled, accepting odd jobs and selling comic verses, the latter written after the manner of W. S. Gilbert, to the weekly humor magazines ...

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Kummer, Clare Rodman Beecher (09 January 1873–22 April 1958), playwright and songwriter, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Eugene Francis Beecher. Her father, a nephew of Henry Ward Beecher, was a man of comfortable means and an amateur tunesmith, and he encouraged his daughter’s interest in the arts. The young girl’s mother (whose name cannot be ascertained) was equally dedicated to the arts and frequently entertained guests at gatherings for the performance of music and the reading of plays. In 1885 at the age of twelve Clare Beecher was enrolled in the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn. Leaving after three years, she went on to study music privately. In 1895 she married Frederic Arnold Kummer, a civil engineer at the time, but better known in later years as a playwright and novelist. The couple had one child, a daughter, Marjorie, who in adulthood acted in her mother’s plays. The marriage ended in divorce, but the genteel theatrical press of the day omitted all mention of the divorce in interviews and almost invariably referred to Clare Kummer as “Miss Kummer.” Having gained a measure of fame under that surname, she retained it professionally for the rest of her life. In 1910 she married again, to Arthur Henry, also a playwright....