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Avery, Samuel Putnam (17 March 1822–11 August 1904), wood engraver, art dealer, and rare book and print collector, was born in New York City, the son of Samuel Avery and Hannah Parke. His father, variously listed as a shoe maker and a leather merchant, died of cholera in 1832. Through an apprenticeship in a bank-note company, Avery was able to learn the essentials of the wood-engraving trade. Officially recorded as an engraver in the 1842 New York City directory, he earned a living by engraving labels and making handbills for local merchants. At the same time he began a long involvement with the publishing trade, working for periodicals such as ...

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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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Day, F. Holland (23 July 1864–06 November 1933), publisher, photographer, and bibliophile, was born Fred Holland Day in Norwood, Massachusetts, the son of Lewis Day, an industrialist, and Anna Smith. The only child of wealthy parents, young Day was educated largely by private tutors. The family split their time between their Norwood house and an apartment in Boston, at that time considered the Athens of America. At fifteen Day accompanied his mother to Denver, where she recuperated from a lung disease. It was in Denver that he made his first sustained contact with a large colony of Chinese, and their art and material culture made a lasting impact on him. He began to draw with Chinese inks and brushes and purchased many Chinese artifacts; he remained fascinated by Oriental culture to his dying day. This fascination was abetted by the world-class Oriental collections at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts....

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Gardiner, Leon (25 November 1892–05 March 1945), African-American bibliophile, researcher, and photographer, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Jacob Gardiner and Martha (maiden name unknown). In 1902 he and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From childhood he was interested in reading, cross-country running, hiking, camping, and bicycling. Later he developed an interest in music, choir singing, and photography. Blatant racial discrimination kept him from attending the photography school of his choice in Philadelphia, to his great disappointment. In the very early 1900s he began to collect material of various kinds concerning the achievements of blacks, black institutions, and lynchings of blacks....

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Belle da Costa Greene. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-91222).

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Greene, Belle da Costa (26 November 1879–10 May 1950), library director, bibliographer, and art connoisseur, was born Belle Marion Greener, the daughter of Richard Greener, a lawyer and Republican party activist, and Genevieve Ida Fleet Greener. Her place of birth was probably Washington, D.C., where her father held a variety of jobs. But specifics concerning Greene's childhood and education are scarce because she preferred to keep them a mystery. Apparently, she attended Teachers College in New York City, where the family had relocated after Richard Greener was rewarded with a patronage job for his efforts on behalf of the Republican party. Around 1897, Belle Marion Greener's parents separated, the children staying with their mother, who within a few years changed the surname to Greene and some years thereafter altered her maiden name from Fleet to Van Vliet. During this time the Greenes fully “passed” in the white world, and Belle da Costa Greene (who claimed for herself nonexistent Portuguese forebears) never acknowledged her African lineage....

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Hamlin, Talbot Faulkner (16 June 1889–07 October 1956), architect, professor, and librarian, was born in New York City, the son of Alfred Dwight Foster Hamlin, a professor of architecture at Columbia University, and Minnie Florence Marston. He began his writing career at the age of twelve with a translation from the Latin of Pliny’s letter describing his Laurentine villa. He received a B.A. in classics and English at Amherst College (1910), where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. From there he proceeded to Columbia School of Architecture, where he received a B.Arch. in 1914. That same year he began to work as a draughtsman in the New York architectural firm of Murphy and Dana. In 1916 he married Hilda B. Edwards; they had three sons. That year he published his first book, ...

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Huntington, Henry Edwards (27 February 1850–23 May 1927), urban developer, railroad executive, and book and art collector, was born in Oneonta, New York, the son of Solon Huntington, a merchant, land speculator, and farmer, and Harriet Saunders. His father was conservative by nature, and it was his uncle, railway magnate ...

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Miner, Dorothy Eugenia (04 November 1904–15 May 1973), curator of manuscripts, librarian, and art historian, was born in New York City, the daughter of Roy Waldo Miner, a marine biologist, and Anna Elizabeth Carroll. In 1905 Miner’s father became a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York....

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Nash, John Henry (12 March 1871–24 May 1947), printer, bibliophile, and typographer, was born in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, the son of John Marvin Nash, a mechanical engineer, and Catherine Cain. Though withdrawn from public school at age sixteen to begin his practical education by learning his father’s trade, Nash insisted on becoming a printer. He began his career in 1888 with an apprenticeship at James Murray and Company, a Toronto printing firm. Despite his thorough training and seeming determination to become a printer, Nash left the business after a few years and embarked on the life of a bicycle racer. A major fad in the 1890s, bicycle racing offered the opportunity for wealth and fame, and both appealed to him. He traveled the racing circuit from around 1890 to 1892, when his passion for the sport waned and he decided to go back to printing. Nash returned to Toronto to work for Brough and Caswell and then for Milne-Burgham Company, where he remained until 1894. In the winter of 1894 he left Toronto to work for App-Stotts in Denver, Colorado; he stayed there a mere four months, after which he relocated to San Francisco....

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Quinn, John (24 April 1870–28 July 1924), lawyer, collector of art and manuscripts, and patron of the arts, was born in Tiffin, Ohio, the son of James Quinn, a prosperous baker, and Mary Quinlan. Quinn’s success as a lawyer came early. He took a law degree from Georgetown University in 1893 and a second law degree from Harvard in 1895. Practicing in New York City, he established himself as one of the city’s leading financial lawyers in 1905 by dealing with the legal complications of J. B. Ryan’s takeover of Equitable Life Assurance Association of the United States, a firm that controlled $400 million in assets. Hard-driving and demanding, Quinn once fired five junior partners in one year. Yet in spite of his preoccupation with his work, he performed inestimable services for the arts....

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Rosenwald, Lessing Julius (10 February 1891–24 June 1978), art and book collector and philanthropist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Julius Rosenwald, a businessman, and Augusta Nusbaum. In 1908 he went to Cornell University but left in 1911 to work as a shipping clerk for Sears, Roebuck, of which his father was president. In 1913 Rosenwald married Edith Goodkind; they had five children. He served as a seaman, second class, in the U.S. Navy during World War I; after the war he returned to Sears, Roebuck. In 1920 his father sent him to Philadelphia to start that city’s first Sears store....

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Schomburg, Arthur Alfonso (24 January 1874–10 June 1938), historian, bibliophile, and curator, was born Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Mary Joseph, an unwed midwife or laundress who had been born free in 1837 on St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Some sources claim that his father was Carlos Federico Schomburg, a German-born émigré merchant, but in a reply to a questionnaire from ...

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Winser, Beatrice (11 March 1869–14 September 1947), librarian and museum director, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the daughter of Henry Jacob Winser, a journalist, and Edith Cox. Two months after his daughter’s birth, Henry Winser left the New York Times for a twelve-year term as U.S. consul general at the court of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg; the family later returned to New York City....