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Bennett, James Gordon, Jr. (10 May 1841–14 May 1918), newspaper publisher and editor, was born in New York City, the son of James Gordon Bennett, the founder and editor of the New York Herald, and Henrietta Agnes Crean. The eldest child of the man who popularized sensational journalism, Bennett grew up in an environment of wealth and privilege. He spent most of his youth abroad, educated privately by tutors and then at the École Polytechnique in Paris. Returning to the United States in 1861, he served briefly in the navy as a lieutenant during the Civil War. After the war, Bennett entered journalism seriously for the first time, working as an intern at the ...

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Burk, John Daly (1776?–?11 Apr. 1808), editor, historian, and dramatist, was born in Ireland, arriving in America at the age of twenty. His parents’ names are unknown. He was a student at Trinity College in Dublin, but he was dismissed for “deism and republicanism” and eventually forced to leave Ireland, presumably because of political difficulties. Legend has it that a woman named Miss Daly gave him her female attire to help him escape from the British, hence the use of Daly in his name....

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Carey, Mathew (28 January 1760–16 September 1839), publisher and economist, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Christopher Carey, a prosperous baker, and Mary Sherridan, both Catholics. He was an avid reader but not a good student. He was taunted at school because of his lameness (the result of having been dropped by a nurse) and his small stature; for the rest of his life he was quick to take offense at any imagined slight to his dignity. In 1775 he was apprenticed to a bookseller who was also copublisher of the ...

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Chessman, Caryl Whittier (27 May 1921–02 May 1960), criminal and writer, was born in St. Joseph, Michigan, the son of Serl Whittier Chessman, whose occupations were varied and who spent some time on welfare, and Hallie Cottle. Because of his mother’s precarious health, Chessman and his parents moved to southern California a few months after his birth. Chessman was a sickly child, suffering from attacks of pneumonia, asthma, and encephalitis. (Psychiatrists suggest that his bout with encephalitis may have precipitated his psychopathic tendencies.) A serious car accident in Los Angeles in 1929 left his aunt dead, his mother paralyzed from the waist down, and Chessman with a broken nose and jaw. Overwhelming medical bills forced the family onto welfare, and he obtained a paper route to help out....

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Flagg, Edmund (24 November 1815–01 November 1890), author and civil servant, was born in Wiscasset, Maine, the son of Edmund Flagg and Harriet Payson. He graduated with distinction from Bowdoin College in 1835. Later that year he moved with his widowed mother and sister to Louisville, Kentucky, where he briefly taught the classics in a boys’ school. The following summer, he explored the Illinois and Missouri prairies and published in the ...

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Garreau, Armand (13 September 1817–28 March 1865), Romantic writer, journalist, and educator, was born Louis-Armand Garreau in Cognac, France, the son of Louis-Armand Garreau, a lawyer and veteran of the Napoleonic wars, and Marie Rose Dumontet, a native of Saint-Pierre, Martinique. Apparently Garreau left home at a very early age to receive a classical education in Paris at the Lycée Henri IV. Financial difficulties prevented him from completing law school, but before he left Paris to take up a teaching position in the department of Gironde he encountered a New Orleanian who impressed him with talk of opportunity in Louisiana....

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Gein, Edward (27 August 1906–26 July 1984), basis for Alfred Hitchcock's classic terror film Psycho, whose ghoulish crimes became the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic terror film Psycho, was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, the son of George Gein and Augusta Loehrke, farmers. In 1913 the family (which also included Gein’s older brother, Henry) moved to a small dairy farm near Camp Douglas, forty miles east of La Crosse. Less than one year later, they relocated again—this time permanently—to a 195-acre farm six miles west of Plainfield, a remote, tiny village in the south central part of the state....

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Goodman, Joseph Thompson (18 September 1838–01 October 1917), writer, publisher, and archaeologist, was born in Masonville, Delaware County, New York, the son of Caleb Goodman. His mother’s name is unknown. Little is known of his early life. Sometime during the 1850s, Goodman moved west with his brother and father and began to work as a typesetter for the ...

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Hope, James Barron (23 March 1829–15 September 1887), poet, was born at his grandfather’s house at the Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of Wilton Hope, a landed proprietor, and Jane A. Barron. His mother was the daughter of Commodore James Barron...

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Hughes, Robert William (6 or 16 June 1821–10 December 1901), writer and judge, was born in Powhatan County, Virginia, the son of Jesse Hughes, a farmer, and Elizabeth Woodson Morton. In 1822 Hughes’s parents died and the infant was taken in and reared by General Edward C. Carrington and his wife. At the age of twelve Hughes was apprenticed to a carpenter in New Jersey but later attended the Caldwell Institute in Greensboro, North Carolina, and in the early 1840s taught school in Hillsboro (now Hillsborough), North Carolina. In the mid-1840s he read law in Fincastle, Virginia, and began his law practice in Richmond in 1846. In 1850 he married Eliza M. Johnston, daughter of Charles C. Johnston, a U.S. congressman; the couple had two children....

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Leggett, William (30 April 1801–29 May 1839), journalist, was born in New York City, the son of Abraham Leggett, a merchant, and Catherine Wylie. After a childhood in New York, Leggett enrolled in Georgetown College in 1815 but did not graduate. In 1819 he joined his family’s trek to Illinois, where he wrote sentimental poetry for the ...

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Perry, Benjamin Franklin (20 November 1805–03 December 1886), journalist and governor, was born in Pendleton District, South Carolina, the son of Benjamin Perry, a slaveowning farmer and storekeeper, and Anna Foster. Perry received his early education at local schools. In 1821–1822 he attended the Asheville (N.C.) Academy, and in 1823 he attended the Greenville (S.C.) Academy. The following year Perry began the study of law in the office of Baylis J. Earle, solicitor of the Western Circuit of South Carolina, and in 1827 he was admitted to the bar. Perry resided at Greenville and developed a successful practice throughout the northwestern part of the state. In 1837 he married Elizabeth Frances McCall; they had seven children....

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Pleasants, John Hampden (04 January 1797–27 February 1846), journalist and political activist, was born in Goochland County, Virginia, the son of James Pleasants, a leading Virginia politician, and Susanna Rose. His father served in the Virginia General Assembly, in Congress, and as governor of the state. After attending and, in 1817, graduating from the College of William and Mary, he became a journalist. By 1822 he was the editor of the ...

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Pryor, Roger Atkinson (19 July 1828–14 March 1919), journalist, Confederate soldier and jurist, was born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, the son of Theodorick Bland Pryor, a lawyer, and Lucy Eppes Atkinson. His mother died before Pryor was two years old, so he was raised by his father, who had become a Presbyterian minister. Pryor attended the Classical Academy in Petersburg before entering Hampden-Sidney College in 1843, where he graduated as class valedictorian in 1845. He went on to study law at the University of Virginia for two years, taking his degree in 1847....

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James Watson Webb. Illustration in Harper’s Weekly, 1858. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111860).

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Webb, James Watson (02 February 1802–07 June 1884), editor and statesman, was born at Claverack, New York, the son of Brigadier General Samuel Blatchley Webb, a revolutionary war hero and merchant, and Catherine Hogeboom. Orphaned early, he was raised by a sister and brother-in-law in Cooperstown, New York, where he was apprenticed to a merchant. Bored, and conscious of his father’s military fame, Webb obtained an army commission at age seventeen. As a second lieutenant he was stationed at Governor’s Island, New York, and at Detroit....