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Joel Allen Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102410).

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Allen, Joel Asaph (19 July 1838–29 August 1921), zoologist and museum official, was born near Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Joel Allen, a carpenter, housebuilder, and later a farmer, and Harriet Trumbull, a former schoolteacher. Allen attended the local public schools in the wintertime, but his father, a rigidly puritanical Congregationalist, insisted that he work on the family farm during good weather. From the age of about fourteen, as Allen’s interest in natural history, particularly birds, increased, his interest in farming diminished. He nevertheless worked long hours for his father in a spirit of filial loyalty, possibly laying the foundation for the serious bouts of ill health that would plague him in later years. Whenever possible, he prepared study specimens of birds and animals for his own private collection. From 1858 to 1862 Allen’s father supported his intermittent attendance at nearby Wilbraham Academy....

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Angle, Paul McClelland (25 December 1900–11 May 1975), historian and museum director, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of John Elmer Angle, a grocer, and Nellie Laverne McClelland. After spending his freshman year at Oberlin College, he transferred to Miami University at Ohio and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1922. Two years later, he received an M.A. in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He then took a job with the American Book Company selling textbooks and in 1925 accepted the secretaryship of a little-known historical society in Springfield, Illinois, the Abraham Lincoln Centennial Association. In 1926 he married Vesta Verne Magee, a fellow student at Miami; they had two children....

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Anthony, Harold Elmer (05 April 1890–29 March 1970), mammalogist, museum curator, and author, was born in Beaverton, Oregon, the son of Alfred Webster Anthony and Anabel Klink. His father, a mining engineer and amateur ornithologist and collector, encouraged the boy’s interests in natural history. Anthony was an avid hunter, as were other lads in his community, but he early evinced an interest in preserving small mammal and bird skins for further study. Educated in the local public schools of Portland, Oregon, Anthony attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, for one year (1910–1911)....

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Barbour, Thomas (19 August 1884–08 January 1946), naturalist and museum director, was born on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, the son of William Barbour and Julia Adelaide Sprague. The Barbours lived in New York City, but William Barbour, an international businessman dealing primarily in linen thread manufacture, often traveled, sometimes accompanied by his family. Thus, by the time he was eight, Thomas Barbour had visited various natural history museums in Europe. Also in his youth he began to collect reptiles and amphibians, both in the Adirondack Mountains during the summers and one winter at his grandmother’s house in Florida. In New York Barbour spent a lot of time at the Bronx Park Zoo as it was being developed in the late 1890s; there he begged zoo officials to let him have deceased reptiles for his collection. After a visit to the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University when he was fifteen, Barbour decided that he would someday become director of that facility....

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Barnum, P. T. (05 July 1810–07 April 1891), showman, was born Phineas Taylor Barnum in Bethel, Connecticut, the son of Philo F. Barnum, a farmer and storekeeper, and Irena Taylor. While attending public school in Bethel, Barnum peddled candy and gingerbread. He later wrote that he had always been interested in arithmetic and money....

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Barr, Alfred Hamilton, Jr. (28 January 1902–15 August 1981), museum official and art historian, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Alfred Hamilton Barr, Sr., a Presbyterian minister, and Annie Elizabeth Wilson. Barr attended Princeton University, receiving a B.A. in art history in 1922 and an M.A. in the same subject in 1923. The teachers at Princeton who made the most lasting impression on him were ...

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Baur, John I. H. (09 August 1909–15 May 1987), museum director, curator, and art scholar, was born John Ireland Howe Baur in Woodbridge, Connecticut, the son of Paul V. C. Baur, a Yale University professor of archaeology, and Susan Whiting. Jack Baur, as he was known, attended Yale, graduating in 1932 with a degree in English. He had difficulty finding teaching jobs because of the depression, and he was lured back to Yale by an art history scholarship, although he had little background in the subject. Baur studied under Henri Focillon, the author of ...

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Bickmore, Albert Smith (01 March 1839–12 August 1914), educator and museum director, was born in Tenant’s Harbor, St. George, Maine, the son of John Bickmore, a sea captain and shipbuilder, and Jane Seavey. Bickmore’s passion for natural history began during childhood, when he was an avid collector of shells, birds, and insects, and his enthusiasm for travel was ignited by a sailing trip with his father to Bordeaux. Following preparatory education at New London Academy in New Hampshire, Bickmore graduated from Dartmouth in 1860 with an A.B. He then enrolled in the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard to study under the renowned zoologist ...

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Breeskin, Adelyn Dohme (19 July 1896–24 July 1986), museum administrator and art historian, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of Alfred Dohme, an industrial chemist and founder of the Sharpe and Dohme drug company, and Emmie Blumner. While a student at the Bryn Mawr preparatory school in Baltimore, she planned a career as an artist. Briefly attending first Bryn Mawr College and then Radcliffe College, she graduated from Boston’s School of Fine Arts, Crafts, and Decorative Design in 1918. By this time she had become interested in museums....

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Cahill, Holger (13 January 1887–08 July 1960), author and curator, was born Sveinn Kristjan Bjarnarson, in Snifellsnessyslu, Iceland, the son of Björn Bjarnarson, a laborer, and Vigdis Bjarnadóttir. Cahill, however, later claimed he was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1893. In the 1890s the Bjarnarsons emigrated to North Dakota, where they hoped to obtain land. Unable to purchase property, Björn worked as a hired hand. Vigdis, whom Cahill later described as a stern “peasant woman” with a poetic streak, and Björn, “a failure in almost everything he did,” quarreled frequently, separating when Cahill was eleven. Struggling to support her son and his younger sister after Björn departed, Vigdis sent the boy to live with an Icelandic family on a nearby farm. After the family removed him from school, put him to work in the fields, and pressured him to be confirmed in the Lutheran church, he ran away. Settled with another family, Cahill finished high school and then set off for Canada, where he worked as a farm laborer and cowherder. By 1907 he was back in the United States, holding a job as a railroad clerk in St. Paul. While there, he later recalled that he read “Tolstoi by the acre” and took a correspondence course in journalism. This was followed by short stints as a watchman on a Great Lakes steamer and as an insurance salesman in Cleveland....

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Frank M. Chapman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-102412).

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Chapman, Frank Michler (12 June 1864–15 November 1945), ornithologist and museum curator, was born in Englewood Township, New Jersey, the son of Lebbeus Chapman, Jr., a partner in a New York City law firm, and Mary Augusta Parkhurst. His father died when his son was eleven. In addition to possessing a strong ornithological interest from the age of eight, Chapman inherited a musical ear from his mother, and his daughter-in-law, ...

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Dana, John Cotton (19 August 1856–21 July 1929), librarian and museum director, was born in Woodstock, Vermont, the son of Charles Dana and Charitie Scott Loomis. His father ran a general store and raised his sons with a New England emphasis on education and reading. Throughout his life, Dana maintained strong ties with his birthplace....

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Dow, George Francis (07 January 1868–05 June 1936), antiquarian, editor, and museum curator, was born in Wakefield, New Hampshire, the son of George Prince and Ada Bingham Tappan. He grew up in Topsfield, Massachusetts, and lived there most of his life. After attending a commercial school in Boston, Dow entered the wholesale metal business, in which he was engaged from 1885 to 1898. During this time he became increasingly interested in local history and material culture. In 1893 Dow began to publish a local newspaper, the ...

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Du Simitière, Pierre Eugène (18 September 1737–?10 Oct. 1784), artist, collector, and museum proprietor, was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the son of Jean-Henri Ducimetière (also spelled Dusimitière), a broker with the East Indies, and Judith-Ulrique Cunegonde Delorme. Du Simitière was baptized in the Calvinist church. He studied drawing with an unidentified Geneva artist, probably before going to Amsterdam where he joined the Eglise Wallonne in 1754. He may have served in the army in Flanders. In 1757 he sailed from Amsterdam to St. Eustatius, in the Dutch West Indies. He spent more than five years at St. Eustatius and nearby Saba Island, Curaçao, Jamaica, and Saint-Domingue. Intending to write a natural history of the region, he collected samples or made drawings of plants and animals and noted information about the language and customs of the people living there....

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Force, Juliana Rieser (23 December 1876–28 August 1948), museum director and early champion of American art, was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Maximilian Rieser, a hatter and grocer, and Julianna Schmutz Kuster. As a girl she wanted to be a writer and hoped to go to college; when that proved financially impossible, she temporarily settled for teaching English and stenography at a business school in Hoboken, New Jersey, where the family had moved in 1886....

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Friedmann, Herbert (22 April 1900–14 May 1987), ornithologist and museum director, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Uriah M. Friedmann, a druggist, and Mary Behrmann, a teacher. Growing up in New York City, he developed an interest in nature and art through frequent visits to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During high school Friedmann joined a bird club and began making observations of the local avifauna. Friedmann graduated from the City College of New York with a B.Sc. in biology in 1920. Shortly thereafter he published his first ornithological paper, “The Weaving of the Red-billed Weaver Bird in Captivity” ( ...

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Goode, George Brown (13 February 1851–06 September 1896), zoologist, museum administrator, and historian of science, was born in New Albany, Indiana, the son of Francis Collier Goode, a merchant, and Sarah Woodruff Crane. Goode’s mother died just eighteen months after his birth, and he was raised by his father and stepmother, Sally Ann Jackson. In 1857 his father retired to Amenia, about 100 miles north of New York City. Family study and private tutors prepared Goode for entrance into Wesleyan College in Middletown, Connecticut, from which he graduated with an A.B. in 1870. He attended the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University and apparently spent some time in ...

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Goodrich, Lloyd (10 July 1897–27 March 1987), author, art historian, and museum officer, was born in Nutley, New Jersey, the son of Henry Wickes Goodrich, a lawyer and amateur artist, and Madeleine Lloyd. Interested in art from early boyhood and encouraged by his friend and neighbor ...