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Barnes, Djuna (12 June 1892–19 June 1982), writer, was born Djuna Chappell Barnes in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, the daughter of Wald Barnes (born Henry Budington, recorded as Buddington), a musician, and Elizabeth Chappell. She was raised mostly in her birthplace, Fordham, and Huntington, Long Island, New York. The Barnes family, which believed in sexual freedom, included four brothers by Djuna’s mother, plus Wald’s mistress Fanny Faulkner and their three children; they were supported largely by Wald’s mother, Zadel Barnes Budington Gustafson, a journalist and suffragist. Djuna’s parents and grandmother Zadel tutored the children, especially in the arts. With the blessing of her father and grandmother (over the objections of her mother), at seventeen Djuna eloped with a soap salesman, Percy Faulkner, brother of Fanny Faulkner, but stayed with him only a few weeks. Djuna attended school sporadically, if at all; later she attended Pratt Institute (1913) and the Art Students League of New York (1915), studying life drawing and illustration....

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Bennett, Gwendolyn (08 July 1902–30 May 1981), writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on a Native American reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Bennett’s father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. Her parents divorced and her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with her stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York....

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Browne, Carl (1846–16 January 1914), political agitator, reform journalist, and organizer of "Coxey's Army", political agitator, reform journalist, and organizer of “Coxey’s Army,” was born in Springfield, Illinois. (The date and place of his birth are sometimes less reliably given as 4 July 1849 in Newton, Iowa). Browne was working as a sign painter in western Iowa in 1869 when he suddenly decided to move to California. At that time he desired more than anything else to paint a gargantuan panorama of the Yosemite Valley. He later exhibited this painting up and down the Pacific Coast, such panoramas being a popular form of folk art in the nineteenth century. One unfriendly critic observed, “As an artist Carl Browne belongs to a distinct school. In fact, he constitutes the entire school.” Browne’s response to critics was to affirm that as a young man he had apprenticed with a carriage and house painter (an experience that probably accounted for his love of huge panoramic images and garish colors such as might adorn a circus wagon)....

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Draper, Dorothy (22 November 1889–10 March 1969), interior decorator and columnist, was born in Tuxedo Park, New York, the daughter of Paul Tuckerman and Susan Minturn. She grew up in the environs of New York in an exclusive resort community where her parents were among the founding members in 1886. Educated primarily at home with a governess and tutor, her formal schooling was minimal, including two years at the Brearley School, a private girls’ school in New York City. Annual trips to Europe gave her a cosmopolitan exposure to the world, and she was presented at Sherry’s in 1907. Although she did not have any academic design training, her background and upbringing among the elite families of the Northeast contributed to her subsequent success as a decorator. She had complete confidence in her taste, and her social connections proved to be important in acquiring future clientele....

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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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McBride, Henry (25 July 1867–31 March 1962), art critic and writer, was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Little is known about his early life except that his parents were Quakers and that McBride’s first job after graduating from high school was writing and illustrating seed catalogs for a local nursery. By 1887 he had saved $200 and moved to New York City to study art. He attended the Artists’ and Artisans’ Institute for four years under iconoclast John Ward Stimson, then continued his studies at the Art Students League, eventually teaching at both organizations....

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Millet, Francis Davis (03 November 1846–15 April 1912), artist and writer, was born in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, the son of Asa Millet, a physician, and Huldah A. Byram. He served as a drummer boy in the Union army in 1864. During this time he also acted as an assistant surgeon in the Army of the Potomac, helping on one occasion to amputate a wounded soldier’s arm. Millet graduated from Harvard in 1869 and was granted a master’s degree in modern languages and literature three years later. Meanwhile, he worked on the ...

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Jacob A. Riis Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113814).

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Riis, Jacob August (03 May 1849–26 May 1914), journalist and social reformer, was born in Ribe, Denmark, the son of Niels Edward Riis, a Latin teacher, and Carolina Lundholm. After studying in his father’s school, Riis was apprenticed for four years to a carpenter in Copenhagen. Unable to find steady employment and spurned by Elisabeth Gortz, the young woman who in 1876 would marry him, Riis emigrated in 1870 to the United States. For the rest of his life he regularly compared the sociability and the close relationships of life in Ribe with the impersonality and harsh precariousness of American urban life....

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Ripley, Robert LeRoy (26 December 1893–27 May 1949), cartoonist and creator of the newspaper feature "Believe-It-or-Not", cartoonist and creator of the newspaper feature “Believe-It-or-Not,” was born LeRoy Ripley in Santa Rosa, California, the son of Isaac Davis Ripley, a carpenter, and Lily Belle Yucca (or Yocka). Throughout his life he claimed 25 December as his birthday because, he said, he preferred it that way....

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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....