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Allen, William Henry (21 October 1784–18 August 1813), U.S. naval officer and hero of the War of 1812, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of militia general William Allen, a veteran of the Revolution, and Sarah Jones, sister of William Jones, future governor of Rhode Island. William Henry’s parents were prosperous members of Providence society and intended for him to follow a civilian career. His early education provided him with a good grounding in penmanship and mathematics (the latter proved useful in his naval career) and also with considerable skill as an artist. He made very competent sketches in his letters and the blank pages of his journals and did pen and ink portraits of his family. His only surviving likeness, a profile portrait, is probably based on a sketch done by Allen himself....

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Bailey, Ann Hennis Trotter (1742–22 November 1825), revolutionary war scout, was born in Liverpool, England. Little is known about her parents, although it is believed that her father had been a soldier under the duke of Marlborough’s command. As Bailey was literate, she received an education in Liverpool, although details of it are not recorded. Orphaned as a young adult, she immigrated to America in the wake of relatives named Bell. She arrived in Staunton, Virginia, at the Bells’ home, in 1761. In 1765 she married Richard Trotter, a frontiersman and Indian fighter, and they had a son in 1767. Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, recruited men in 1774 to fight the marauding Indians who were disrupting the settlers on or near the Scioto River. Richard Trotter volunteered and followed Colonel Charles Lewis to the point where the Kanawha and Ohio rivers meet, known as Point Pleasant. He was killed in the battle there on 10 October 1774....

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Beamer, Todd Morgan (24 November 1968–11 September 2001), passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93, was born in Flushing, Michigan, a small town northwest of Flint, the son of David Beamer, a sales representative for IBM, and Peggy Jackson Beamer, a muralist. Todd and his two sisters, Melissa and Michele, were raised “with a strong biblical value system and work ethic” ( ...

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Bettelheim, Bruno (28 August 1903–13 March 1990), therapist, educator, and author, was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Anton Bettelheim, a lumber merchant, and Pauline Seidler. Following his father’s death in 1926, he dropped out of the university to take over the family firm. Although successful in business, he re-enrolled ten years later to become, in February 1938, one of the last Jews to obtain a Ph.D. from Vienna University before World War II. While he was a philosophy student, aesthetics was his main subject, but he also studied psychology under ...

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Billy the Kid (15 September 1859–14 July 1881), western outlaw and legendary figure in international folklore, was born Henry McCarty, probably in Brooklyn, New York, probably on the date given, and probably of Irish immigrants; all aspects of his origins, however, remain controversial. In 1873 his mother, Catherine, was remarried, to William Henry Antrim, whereupon the boy took his stepfather’s name and became Henry Antrim. Later, for reasons that are obscure, he adopted the sobriquet William H. Bonney. In adolescence he was called simply Kid, but not until the final few months of his life was he known as Billy the Kid....

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Daniel Boone. Oil on pieced canvas, 1820, by Chester Harding. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Boone, Daniel (02 November 1734–26 September 1820), pioneer and early settler of Kentucky, was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on what was then the western perimeter of English colonial settlement in America, the son of Sarah Morgan and Squire Boone, a weaver, land speculator, and farmer. Daniel Boone’s formal education is a much-disputed matter. He always insisted to his children that he never went to school a day in his life. A tale survives, however, that has young Daniel spiking his schoolteacher’s hidden bottle of whiskey with a potent tartar emetic. His older brother Samuel’s wife, Sarah Day, is said to have taught him the rudiments of the three R’s, but a glance at his letters confirms that he never mastered grammar and spelling. In 1750 Squire Boone moved his large family to the wild frontier country along the Yadkin River in North Carolina, and five years later Daniel, an accomplished backwoodsman, enlisted as a volunteer in the American militia to aid General ...

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Burroughs, Stephen (01 January 1765?–28 January 1840), rogue, imposter, and author, was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, the son of Eden Burroughs, a Presbyterian minister, and Abigail Davis Burroughs. Burroughs recalled in his autobiography that he was “the terror of the people where I lived, and all were unanimous in declaring, that Stephen Burroughs was the worst boy in town, and those who could get him whipped were most worthy of esteem.” When not perpetrating pranks on his neighbors, Burroughs spent his time reading novels and daydreaming, and at the age of fourteen he ran away from home to enlist in the Continental army. His father derailed his plan to enlist, but in characteristic fashion Burroughs tried again and again, eventually succeeding. After taking part in several skirmishes, however, Burroughs's military ardor cooled, and his father managed to obtain his son's discharge....

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Calamity Jane Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95040).

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Calamity Jane (01 May 1852–01 August 1903), legendary western woman, was born Martha Cannary in Princeton, Missouri, the daughter of Robert Cannary (also spelled Canary). Her mother’s identity is unknown. In 1865, enticed by news from the Montana gold fields, her father moved the family to Virginia City, Montana. After her mother died in 1866, the family settled in Salt Lake City. Following her father’s death in 1867, an adolescent but determined Calamity Jane traveled to Fort Bridger, Wyoming. From there she embarked upon the transient existence that would characterize her life in the West, especially in the Black Hills mining camps of South Dakota and Wyoming....

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Carney, William Harvey (1840–after 1901), Union army sergeant and first African American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Carney and Ann, a former slave. Little is known of his early years. As a young boy he expressed an interest in the ministry, and at the age of fourteen, in 1854, he attended a covertly run school under the tutelage of a local minister. Later he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he took odd jobs in the hope of saving sufficient funds to acquire his religious training....

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Kit Carson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107570).

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Carson, Kit (24 December 1809–23 May 1868), mountain man, army officer, and Indian agent, was born Christopher Houston Carson in Madison County, Kentucky, the son of Lindsey Carson, a farmer and revolutionary war veteran, and Rebecca Robinson. In 1811 Lindsey Carson moved his family to Howard County, Missouri, to find “elbow room.” He died in 1818, hit by a falling limb while clearing timber from his land. Christopher enjoyed no schooling and never learned to read or write, other than signing his name to documents. In 1825 his mother and stepfather apprenticed him to David Workman, a Franklin, Missouri, saddler whom Kit described as a kind and good man. Nevertheless, he ran away because he found saddlemaking tedious and distasteful work and yearned to travel. Following in the footsteps of a brother and a half-brother who were in the Santa Fe trade, Carson joined a caravan as a “cavvy boy” (an assistant to the wrangler in charge of the horse and mule herd). Though not unsympathetic, Workman was obliged by law to advertise for his runaway. But he misleadingly suggested to readers of the ...

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Chapman, John (26 September 1774–10 March 1845), pioneer nurseryman and folk hero, known as “Johnny Appleseed,” was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Chapman, a farmer and carpenter, and Elizabeth Simons (or Simonds). No authenticated account of Chapman’s childhood has come to light. It is likely, however, that he began to develop his remarkable woodsman’s skills during his childhood and youth along the Connecticut River near Longmeadow, Massachusetts, to which the family had moved following his father’s remarriage. As a young man, Chapman established an appletree nursery along the Allegheny Valley (1797–1798) in northwestern Pennsylvania. From there he gradually extended his operations into central and northwestern Ohio and then into eastern Indiana....

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Buffalo Bill Cody. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111880).

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Cody, William Frederick (26 February 1846–10 January 1917), frontiersman and entertainer, better known as “Buffalo Bill,” was born in Scott County, Iowa, the son of Isaac Cody and Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock. Cody’s father managed several farms and operated a state business in Iowa. In 1854 the family moved to the Salt Creek Valley in Kansas, where Cody’s father received a government contract to provide hay to Fort Leavenworth. After his father died in 1857, Cody went to work as an ox-team driver for fifty cents a day. Shortly thereafter, the firm of Majors and Russell hired him as an express boy. Cody attended school periodically, although his formal education ended in 1859 when he joined a party heading to Denver to search for gold. He prospected for two months without any luck. He arrived back in Kansas in March 1860 after a trapping expedition. He rode for a time for the Pony Express during its short lifetime (Apr. 1860–Nov. 1861). After the start of the Civil War he joined a group of antislavery guerrillas based in Kansas. Later the Ninth Kansas Volunteers hired him as a scout and guide. On 16 February 1864 Cody enlisted into Company F of the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He saw quite a bit of action in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas during his one year and seven months of duty. He was mustered out of the army as a private on 29 September 1865....

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Corbin, Margaret Cochran (12 November 1752–1800), revolutionary war heroine, was a . The details of her early life are based on an undocumented source that indicates she was born in Pennsylvania in what is now Franklin County, the daughter of Robert Cochran. Her mother’s name is not known. In 1756, Native Americans killed her father and abducted her mother. Margaret and her brother John, who might have been visiting their mother’s brother, escaped capture and were subsequently raised by their uncle. She was probably still living in Pennsylvania when she married John Corbin, a Virginian by birth, in about 1772. Although a 1782 source referred to a son being killed in the Revolution, the couple apparently had no children. When John went to war, Margaret, who at about five feet eight inches was tall for the era, accompanied him....

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Cortez Lira, Gregorio (22 June 1875–28 February 1916), cowboy and Mexican-American folk hero, was born in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, near the U.S.–Mexico border, the son of Roman Cortez Garza, a rancher, and Rosalia Lira Cortinas. In 1887 his family moved to Manor, Texas, near Austin. Two years later Cortez joined his older brother, Romaldo Cortez, in finding seasonal employment on the farms and ranches of South Texas. Some time in this period, Cortez married Leonor Díaz; they had four children. After eleven years as vaqueros, or cowboys, and farmhands, Cortez and his brother settled on a farm in Karnes County, Texas, renting land from a local rancher. Cortez and his first wife divorced in 1903, and in 1905 he married Estéfana Garza. They had no children and later separated....

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David Crockett. Engraving after a portrait by John Gadsby Chapman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93521).

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Crockett, Davy (17 August 1786–06 March 1836), frontiersman, Tennessee and U.S. congressman, and folk hero, was born David Crockett in Greene County, East Tennessee, the son of John Crockett, a magistrate, unsuccessful land speculator, and tavern owner, and Rebecca Hawkins. John Crockett hired his son out to Jacob Siler in 1798 to help on a cattle drive to Rockbridge County, Virginia, and Siler tried forcibly to detain young Crockett after the completion of the job. The boy ran away at night, however, and arrived home in late 1798 or early 1799. Preferring to play hooky rather than attend school, he ran away from home to escape his father’s wrath. His “strategic withdrawal,” as he called it, lasted about thirty months while he worked at odd jobs and as a laborer and a wagon driver. When he returned home in 1802, he had grown so much that his family at first did not recognize him. He soon found that all was forgiven and reciprocated their generosity by working for a year to settle the debts that his father had incurred....