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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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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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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 ...