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Jarves, James Jackson (20 August 1818–28 June 1888), journalist, diplomat, and art connoisseur, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Deming Jarves, the inventor of Sandwich glass, and Anna Smith Stutson. Jarves received some formal education at Chauncy Hall School in Boston and enhanced his knowledge by extensive reading. At fifteen he was bedridden by what was diagnosed as a “rush of blood to the head” that left him temporarily blind and unable to continue at school. Gradually he improved but when the doctors recommended that he live in a milder climate than New England he had to forgo a Harvard education....

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John Mercer Langston. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

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Langston, John Mercer (14 December 1829–15 November 1897), African-American political leader and intellectual, was born free in Louisa County, Virginia, the son of Ralph Quarles, a wealthy white slaveholding planter, and Lucy Jane Langston, a part–Native American, part-black slave emancipated by Quarles in 1806. After the deaths of both of their parents in 1834, Langston and his two brothers, well provided for by Quarles’s will but unprotected by Virginia law, moved to Ohio. There Langston lived on a farm near Chillicothe with a cultured white southern family who had been friends of his father and who treated him as a son. He was in effect orphaned again in 1839, however, when a court hearing, concluding that his guardian’s impending move to slave-state Missouri would imperil the boy’s freedom and inheritance, forced him to leave the family. Subsequently, he boarded in four different homes, white and black, in Chillicothe and Cincinnati, worked as a farmhand and bootblack, intermittently attended privately funded black schools since blacks were barred from public schools for whites, and in August 1841 was caught up in the violent white rioting against blacks and white abolitionists in Cincinnati....

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Stillman, William James (01 June 1828–06 July 1901), journalist, artist, and diplomat, was born in Schenectady, New York, the son of Joseph Stillman, a machinist, and Eliza Ward Maxson. Enduring a strict, impoverished childhood, he retained an intense love of nature and an abiding religious faith. Potentially a brilliant student, and with some financial help from some of his older brothers, he graduated from Union College in Schenectady in 1848 after three years, regretting that he had not studied art....

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Vaillant, George Clapp (05 April 1901–13 May 1945), archaeologist, museum administrator, and cultural attaché, archaeologist, museum administrator, and cultural attaché, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of George Wightman Vaillant, a stockbroker, and Alice Vanlora Clapp. In 1918 he enlisted in the marines and served until World War I ended. Vaillant then entered Harvard, intending to study literature and history. He became interested in anthropology and archaeology serendipitously during the summer after his freshman year. His college friend Singleton Moorehead, the son of archaeologist Warren K. Moorehead, invited Vaillant to spend the summer working on his father’s archaeological excavation of a Native American burial site in Maine for the Peabody Museum. Vaillant’s interest was piqued during this experience. When he returned to Harvard as a sophomore, he concentrated in anthropology and archaeology. By the time he was twenty-six years old Vaillant had earned three degrees in anthropology from Harvard (A.B., magna cum laude, 1922; M.A., 1925; Ph.D., 1927). His unpublished but widely circulated doctoral dissertation “The Chronological Significance of Mayan Ceramics” was a pioneering work on the chronology and cultural history of the Maya. In this research, embracing a multidisciplinary approach, Vaillant synthesized both the techniques and findings of ethnology, ethnohistory, and archaeology. The Holmul sequence he developed was the first ceramic chronology of this area....

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Van Braam Houckgeest, Andreas Everardus (01 November 1739–08 July 1801), diplomat, art collector, and author of the first book about China by an American, was born in the province of Utrecht in the Netherlands, the son of François Thomas van Braam and Evardina Catherina van Nijmegen. After a brief term in the Dutch navy, he entered the service of the Dutch East India Company in December 1758 on a voyage to China. In 1763 he married Catharina C. G. van Reede van Oudtshoorn, a resident of Cape Town, South Africa, adding at that time Houckgeest to his name in honor of a line of artists on his mother’s side. Apart from two short voyages to Europe, he remained in Canton and Macao until 1773, when he returned to the Netherlands and established himself as a gentleman farmer in the province of Gelderland....