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Adams, Ansel (20 February 1902–22 April 1984), photographer and environmentalist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Charles Hitchcock Adams, a businessman, and Olive Bray. The grandson of a wealthy timber baron, Adams grew up in a house set amid the sand dunes of the Golden Gate. When Adams was only four, an aftershock of the great earthquake and fire of 1906 threw him to the ground and badly broke his nose, distinctly marking him for life. A year later the family fortune collapsed in the financial panic of 1907, and Adams’s father spent the rest of his life doggedly but fruitlessly attempting to recoup....

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Hine, Lewis Wickes (26 September 1874–04 November 1940), photographer, was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the son of Douglas Hine, the operator of a coffee shop, and Sarah Hayes. Hine left Oshkosh after graduating from high school and working at a variety of menial jobs. In 1900 he enrolled at the University of Chicago for one year. In 1901 he began teaching nature study in New York City at the Ethical Culture School, upon the invitation of recently appointed superintendent Frank A. Manny, formerly a professor at the Oshkosh State Normal School. Within three years Hine was in touch with key figures in New York’s reform community, including ...

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Jacob A. Riis Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113814).

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Riis, Jacob August (03 May 1849–26 May 1914), journalist and social reformer, was born in Ribe, Denmark, the son of Niels Edward Riis, a Latin teacher, and Carolina Lundholm. After studying in his father’s school, Riis was apprenticed for four years to a carpenter in Copenhagen. Unable to find steady employment and spurned by Elisabeth Gortz, the young woman who in 1876 would marry him, Riis emigrated in 1870 to the United States. For the rest of his life he regularly compared the sociability and the close relationships of life in Ribe with the impersonality and harsh precariousness of American urban life....

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Stoddard, Seneca Ray (13 May 1843–26 April 1917), landscape photographer and conservationist, was born in Wilton, New York, the son of Charles Stoddard, a part-time farmer who also did craft work and/or lumbering, and Julia Ray Stoddard. Stoddard's childhood home, the Wilton hamlet of Dimick's Corners, was located in the shadow of Mount McGregor, the highest peak of the Adirondacks' Palmer Range....

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Washington, Augustus (1820 or 1821–07 June 1875), abolitionist, photographer, and Liberian statesman, was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Christian Washington, a former slave from Virginia who operated an oyster saloon, and a woman who is identified only as a native of South Asia. She apparently died soon after his birth, for his father remarried in October 1821. Washington was raised in Trenton and until early adolescence attended school with white students. When access to such schooling ended in the face of growing racism, he was left to continue his education on his own. He worked for his father for several years, studied intermittently, and became an avid reader of ...