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Allibone, Samuel Austin (17 April 1816–02 September 1889), lexicographer and librarian, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The family record is sketchy; genealogical records indicate that Allibone’s parents were probably William Allibone and Mary Smith, a descendant of Pennsylvania’s first English settlers. Little is known about Allibone’s early years or of his education except that he was a bibliophile from an early age. He married Mary Henry, the daughter of a prominent Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist, who helped him in his library work; the couple had one child. Allibone worked in the mercantile business and then for the Insurance Company of North America in Philadelphia. His first printed work, ...

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Bartlett, John (14 June 1820–03 December 1905), editor, publisher, and lexicographer, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the son of William Bartlett and Susan Thacher. Bartlett’s love of words manifested itself at an early age: at three years he was reciting verses from the Bible; by nine he had read it from cover to cover. Educated in Plymouth’s public schools, he left school at the age of sixteen. Soon after, he took a job at a bookbinding company that was then associated with the University Book Store serving Harvard University in Cambridge. His copious memory and love of books soon had the university faculty and students using him as a ready reference tool. “Ask John Bartlett” was the frequent answer to most questions. To help his memory, Bartlett began keeping a notebook of common phrases and quotations....

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Elwyn, Alfred Langdon (09 July 1804–15 March 1884), philanthropist and author, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of Thomas Elwyn and Elizabeth Langdon, occupations unknown. His maternal grandfather, John Langdon, was the first continental governor of New Hampshire and presiding officer of the first U.S. Senate. Reared amid affluence and the socially prominent, Alfred graduated from Harvard as Langdon Elwyn in 1823. He then attended lectures by Dr. Gorham in Boston and other noted physicians in Europe (1826–1829), returning for formal medical study at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received his degree in medicine in 1831. In 1832 he married Mary Middleton Mease. They had two children....

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Funk, Isaac Kauffman (10 September 1839–04 April 1912), publisher and reformer, was born near Clifton, Ohio, the son of John Funk and Martha Kauffman, farmers. Funk graduated from Wittenberg College in 1860 and from its theological seminary the following year. He subsequently held pastorates at Lutheran churches near Moreshill, Indiana, and in Carey, Ohio, before moving to St. Matthews’ English Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, New York, where he remained the longest. In 1863 he married Eliza Thompson; they had two children. The year after his wife’s death in 1868 he married her sister, Helen G. Thompson. The couple had one son....

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Goodrich, Chauncey Allen (23 October 1790–25 February 1860), educator, clergyman, and lexicographer, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Elizur Goodrich, a lawyer, judge, and mayor of New Haven, and Anne Willard Allen. He attended the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, passing from there in 1804 to “fitting” for college by Henry Davis. He entered Yale College in 1806 and joined the College Church by profession of faith in his sophomore year. At his graduation in 1810, he delivered an oration on “The Influence of Novelty.”...

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Hepburn, James Curtis (13 March 1815–21 September 1911), medical missionary, oculist, and lexicographer, was born in Milton, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel Hepburn, a lawyer, and Ann Clay, the daughter of the Reverend Slator Clay. Hepburn received his early education at home and at the Milton Academy. At the age of fourteen he matriculated as a junior in Princeton College, from which he graduated in 1832. He began his medical studies with Dr. Samuel Pollack of Milton, Pennsylvania, and then attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, from which he graduated with an M.D. in 1836. In 1835 he was awarded an A.M. by Princeton College....

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Kurath, Hans (13 December 1891–02 January 1992), dialectologist and lexicographer, was born in Villach, Austria-Hungary, the son of Johann Kurath, a craftsman, and Anna Raimund. The Kuraths immigrated to the United States in 1907, settling in the large German community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where Hans attended the German American Teacher's Seminary. A distinguished graduate of that school, the linguist Edward Prokosch, had become a professor of German at the University of Wisconsin, and the young Kurath began attending his classes in Madison. When Prokosch moved to the University of Texas in 1913, Kurath transferred to that school to maintain the contact and received his AB in German there the next year. He began his career as an instructor in German at Wisconsin, but the entry of the United States into World War I led the university to close the department; Kurath decided to continue his studies. He enrolled in the graduate school of the University of Chicago in 1918, and in 1919 he married Linda Eidel; the couple had one child....

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Moore, Clement Clarke (15 July 1779–10 July 1863), scholar and poet, was born in New York City, the son of Benjamin Moore, a clergyman, and Charity Clarke. Moore graduated from Columbia in 1798 as class valedictorian.

Although Moore had prepared for the ministry, he was never ordained, preferring the life of the scholar, somewhat in the style of the traditional polemical divine, of anti-Jeffersonian bent. In 1804 he published ...

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Ord, George (04 March 1781–24 January 1866), naturalist, writer, and lexicographer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of George Ord, a retired sea captain who in 1798 became a ship chandler and rope maker, and Rebecca Lindemeyer. Educated in Philadelphia, Ord devoted himself from an early age to the study of science and literature. He entered his father’s rope-making business in 1800 and continued the business after his father’s death in 1806; he retired from the business in 1829 to devote more time to his avocational interests. In 1804 Ord married Margarette Biays, with whom he had three children, only one of whom survived infancy....

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Robinson, Edward (10 April 1794–27 January 1863), biblical scholar, was born in Southington, Connecticut, the son of William Robinson, a clergyman, and Elisabeth Norton. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1816. After a year reading law at Hudson, New York, at the office of James Strong, he returned to Hamilton in 1818 as a tutor in Greek and mathematics. There he married Eliza Kirkland; they had no children. After her death in 1819, Robinson spent three years farming and in private study, preparing an edition of parts of the Iliad ( ...

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Rosten, Leo (11 April 1908–19 February 1997), writer, was born in Lodz, Poland, to Samuel C. Rosten and Ida Freundlich Rosten. (His full name was Leo Calvin Rosten.) His parents emigrated three years after his birth and settled in Chicago, where he was educated in the city's public schools and grew up in a traditional Jewish household. After high school he attended the University of Chicago, graduating with a degree in philosophy in 1930. He then taught English in night school to newly arrived immigrants and began contributing both comic pieces and serious articles on political issues to major magazines as a means of paying for graduate studies in political science at the university. He also studied briefly at the London School of Economics before receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1937....

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Vizetelly, Frank Horace (02 April 1864–21 December 1938), lexicographer and editor, was born Francis Horace Vizetelly in Kensington, London, England, to Henry Richard Vizetelly and Elizabeth Anne Ansell, a school teacher. His father, uncle, and two step-brothers were important English journalists, writers, and publishers of Italian descent. From 1865 to 1872 Henry Vizetelly was foreign correspondent to the ...

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Von Zedtwitz, Waldemar Konrad Anton Wilhelm Ferdinand (08 May 1896–05 October 1984), bridge champion and lexicographer, was born in Berlin. His father was Moritz Kurt Von Zedtwitz, a German baron with estates in Saxony, whose death in a yachting accident a few months after the birth gave his son the title. The baby had dual citizenship, for his mother was a member of a wealthy Kentucky family, Mary Eliza Breckinridge Caldwell, who died in 1910. Her grandfather was ...

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Noah Webster. Painting attributed to James Sharples. Courtesy of the National Archives (NWDNS-111-SC-93172).

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Webster, Noah (16 October 1758–28 May 1843), lexicographer, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Noah Webster and Mary Steele. The Websters could trace their roots to the earliest settlers of Connecticut; the family had not, however, significantly improved its fortunes over the years. Webster’s father, though a man of some importance in the village, possessed a modest ninety-acre farm. He had enough substance to send Noah to Yale, however. After graduating in 1778, Webster studied law as an apprentice under ...

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Wheeler, William Adolphus (14 November 1833–28 October 1874), lexicographer, bibliographer, and librarian, was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, the son of Amos Dean Wheeler, a Unitarian minister, and Louisa Warren. Having spent much of his youth at Topsham, Maine, Wheeler attended Bowdoin College, where he received an A.B. in 1853 and an A.M. three years later....

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William Dwight Whitney. Albumen silver print, c. 1868, by Garrett Brothers. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Emma Willard School.

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Whitney, William Dwight (09 February 1827–07 June 1894), linguist, Sanskrit scholar, and lexicographer, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, the son of Josiah Dwight Whitney, a businessman and banker, and Sarah Williston. At age fifteen he joined the sophomore class of Williams College, graduating three years later in 1845 as the class valedictorian after having spent “no small part of his time … roaming over the hills and through the valleys, collecting birds for the Natural History Society,” according to his autobiography (repr. in Silverstein, p. 1). This early interest in natural science was sustained throughout Whitney’s life and played an important role in his approach to the study of language....

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Worcester, Joseph Emerson (24 August 1784–27 October 1865), lexicographer and author, was born in Bedford, New Hampshire, the son of Jesse Worcester, a schoolteacher and farmer, and Sarah Parker. In 1794 the family moved to Hollis, New Hampshire, where Worcester spent his teenage years doing farm work during the day and pursuing a course of reading at night. When he was twenty-one, Worcester enrolled in Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and spent three months there as a member of the class of 1805. From 1805 to 1809 he continued to prepare for college and taught for at least two years in Salem, Massachusetts. At the age of twenty-five he entered the sophomore class of Yale University. He graduated in 1811 and returned to teaching secondary school in Salem....