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Harriet Chalmers Adams. Harriet Chalmers Adams. Harriet Chalmers Adams, 1908. Glass negative. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-npcc-19900).

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Adams, Harriet Chalmers (22 October 1875–17 July 1937), explorer, lecturer, and writer, was born Harriet Chalmers in Stockton, California. Her father, Alexander Chalmers, Canadian via Scotland, came to California in 1864 to try his luck mining; he later ran a dry goods store with his brother before becoming a mine superintendent and part-owner. Her mother, Frances Wilkins, had grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. From the age of eleven Harriet and her sister Anna had private tutors. Her mother encouraged Harriet’s love of reading, while travels with her father developed her interest in the natural world as well as the Native American and Spanish-speaking cultures in the region. At thirteen Harriet and her father spent more than six months meandering the length of the Sierras from Oregon to Mexico, cementing her lifelong love of adventure. As a young woman Harriet continued her indoor and outdoor studies and had an active social life. She was fluent in Spanish and spoke Portuguese, French, Italian, and German as well....

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Frank Carpenter. Center, talking with the director of the Standard Oil fields in Roumania. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98528).

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Carpenter, Frank George (08 May 1855–18 June 1924), journalist and author of travel books, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of George F. Carpenter, an attorney, and Jeannette Reid. Frank attended public school in Mansfield and then went on to the University of Wooster, earning a Phi Beta Kappa key and graduating in 1877. He did further study at Ohio State University. In 1878 or 1879 he was hired as the Columbus (Ohio) correspondent for the ...

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John Dos Passos. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117477).

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Dos Passos, John (14 January 1896–28 September 1970), writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of John Randolph Dos Passos, a lawyer, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison. His parents were married in 1910, when his father’s first wife died, and in 1912 the boy took his father’s name of Dos Passos; before that he was known as John Roderigo Madison. As an illegitimate child he had lived a rootless life, traveling much in Europe with his mother. She died in 1915. The necessary secrecy of his boyhood, the mixture of admiration and fear Dos Passos felt toward his powerful father—who was both an important corporate lawyer and the author of books on trusts and the stock market—and his dependence on his beautiful, often unhappy southern mother affected him deeply. A timid boy, Dos Passos found excitement in reading, studying languages, and observing the art of the time; he discovered his greatest joy in writing. His early poems, with those of ...

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Harrison, Marguerite (23 October 1878–16 July 1967), journalist, spy, world traveler, and writer, was born Marguerite Elton Baker in Baltimore, Maryland, to Elizabeth Elton Livezey and Bernard Baker. Her wealthy family made its fortune in transatlantic shipping, and she spent many summers in Europe, where she enhanced her language skills. Her education was a combination of private tutors and attendance at St. Timothy’s School in Catonsville, Maryland, where she experienced some social awkwardness, but she also learned much about the wider world that would influence the rest of her life. After high school, she attended Radcliffe College for one semester and then in 1901 quickly married Thomas Harrison against her parents’ wishes. In contrast to her family’s high standing and social connections, Thomas came from a family of lesser means and status....

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Martineau, Harriet (12 June 1802–27 June 1876), author, was born in Norwich, England, the daughter of Thomas Martineau, a textile manufacturer, and Elizabeth Rankin. The family was Unitarian, republican, and laissez-fairist, and these traditions shaped both Harriet’s early thinking and her implicit belief in natural law and the rights of the individual. Although her education was inferior to that given her brothers, it was more rigorous than was customary for girls of the period. In adolescence she developed a hearing disorder that left her permanently hard of hearing, but, despite this disability and her inferior status as a woman in the nineteenth century, she made her living as a writer and earned an international reputation doing so....

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Morford, Henry (10 March 1823–04 August 1881), author and journalist, was born in the village of New Monmouth, Monmouth County, New Jersey, the son of William Morford, a merchant, and Elizabeth Willett. The Morford family had emigrated from England to New Jersey, where they engaged in farming as well as mercantile, coal, and lumber businesses. The Morfords were devout Baptists, and they were politically active as Whigs and, later, Republicans....

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Robinson, Solon (21 October 1803–03 November 1880), author, agricultural journalist, and Indiana pioneer, was born in Tolland, Connecticut, the son of Jacob Robinson, a farmer and cooper, and Salinda Ladd. His father died when Solon Robinson was about six, and then his mother married James Robinson, one of her deceased husband’s cousins. After his mother died and her second husband refused further responsibility for his stepchildren, Solon Robinson was in the care of William Bottom. He worked on his guardian’s farm, got a little education in a country school near Lisbon, Connecticut, and briefly worked as a carpenter’s apprentice, which was harder labor than his health could stand. In 1818, for unknown reasons, Solon successfully petitioned that Vine Robinson, an uncle in Brooklyn, Connecticut, be his guardian. Solon’s later devotion to temperance may have been learned from his uncle, but little more is known about the next few years of his life....

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Royall, Anne Newport (11 June 1769–01 October 1854), travel writer and journalist, was born near Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of William Newport and Mary (maiden name unknown). The Newports moved to the Pennsylvania frontier in 1772 and by 1775 were living near Hanna’s Town, the Westmoreland County seat, after which time William Newport disappears from the records. Anne learned to read at an early age from her father and briefly attended school in a log cabin. After the death of her mother’s second husband (c. 1782), she moved with her mother and her half brother to Middle River, Virginia. In 1787 she and her mother became domestics for William Royall of Sweet Springs Mountain, now in West Virginia....

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Scholte, H. P. (25 September 1805–25 August 1868), Reformed cleric, journalist, and founder of the Pella, Iowa, Dutch colony, was born Hendrik Pieter Scholte in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the son of Jan Hendrik Scholte, a sugar box factory owner, and Johanna Dorothea Roelofsz. The Scholte family for generations operated sugar refineries in Amsterdam, and young Hendrik, called “H. P.,” was destined to carry on the business tradition. Religiously, the family members were “outsiders” who belonged to a pietistic German Lutheran congregation rather than the national Dutch Reformed church, headed by the monarchy. The death of his father, grandfather, only brother, and mother, all within six years (1821–1827), freed Scholte to use his inheritance to enroll as a theology student at Leiden University. In 1832 he married Sara Maria Brandt. They would have five children before her death in 1844....

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Vincent Sheean. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1958. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103676).

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Sheean, Vincent (05 December 1899–15 March 1975), journalist and author, was born James Vincent Sheean in Pana, Illinois, the son of William Charles Sheean and Susan MacDermot; he was nicknamed Jimmy. After high school in Pana, he attended the University of Chicago from 1916 to 1920, taking courses in English literature, Romance languages, history, and philosophy, and worked on the school newspaper. When his mother died in 1921, he lacked funds to continue at the university and, without a degree, moved to Greenwich Village in New York, where he became a reporter for the ...

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Stanley, Henry Morton (28 January 1841–10 May 1904), journalist and African explorer, was born in Denbigh, Wales, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Parry. He was named John Rowlands, perhaps the name of his father, and at an early age was sent to be educated in a workhouse, from which he fled in 1856. He worked his way on shipboard from Liverpool to New Orleans, where he was befriended by a merchant, Henry Morton Stanley, whose name he took as his own....

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Walsh, Henry Collins (23 November 1863–29 April 1927), journalist and explorer, was born in Florence, Italy, the son of Robert W. Walsh and Margaret Blount Mullen, Americans who came from prominent Irish Catholic families. Walsh was brought to the United States by his parents when he was nine years old and spent the remainder of his childhood on the East Coast. He studied at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C., where he received an M.A. in 1888....

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Wellman, Walter (03 November 1858–31 January 1934), journalist and adventurer, was born in Mentor, Ohio, the son of Alonzo Wellman and Minerva Graves. Educated in local schools in Michigan, Wellman’s formal education ended when he was fourteen years old. He recalled that his most important childhood possession had been a dictionary, which helps to explain his later literary talent....