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Levenson, Sam (28 December 1911–27 August 1980), comedian, author, and educator, was born Samuel Levenson in New York City, the son of Hyman Levenson, a tailor, and Rebecca Fishelman. Levenson attended Brooklyn College (now part of the City University of New York), graduating with a B.A. in 1934. From that year until 1946 he taught Spanish in Brooklyn high schools, also serving as a guidance counselor for the final five years. In 1936 he married his childhood sweetheart, Esther Levine, with whom he had two children. His former students and academic advisees still remember him as a warm and funny teacher who took a personal interest in them and their future....

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Gilbert Seldes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1019 P&P).

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...

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Terkel, Studs (16 May 1912–31 Oct. 2008), oral historian, radio broadcaster, and political activist, was born Louis Terkel in the Bronx, New York. He was the third son of Samuel Terkel, a tailor, and Anna (Annie) Finkel, a seamstress, who had immigrated from Russia in ...

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Hendrik Willem van Loon, c. 1939–1941. Photograph by Louis Fabian Bachrach. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116935).

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van Loon, Hendrik Willem (14 January 1882–11 March 1944), popular historian and writer, was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the son of Hendrik Willem van Loon, a jeweler, and Elisabeth Johanna Hanken. In 1890 his father moved the family to The Hague and van Loon came under the informal guardianship of his maternal uncle, Jan Hanken, a surgeon, art connoisseur, and amateur musician. Unlike his father, van Loon’s uncle encouraged the boy’s intellectual pursuits, particularly painting, music, and history. When his uncle left for the United States in 1902, van Loon followed him and enrolled at Cornell University. He graduated with a B.A. in 1905....