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Appleton, Thomas Gold (31 March 1812–17 April 1884), writer and artist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Nathan Appleton, a merchant, and Maria Theresa Gold. Nathan Appleton, whose family had settled in New England in 1635, helped develop Lowell, Massachusetts, into an industrial center and amassed a fortune that made it possible for Thomas to pursue his interests freely. After a year at the Boston Latin School and three at the Round Hill School conducted by Joseph Green Cogswell and ...

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Benson, Eugene (01 November 1839–28 February 1908), art critic, painter, and essayist, was born in Hyde Park, New York, the son of Benjamin Benson. His mother’s name is not known. He went to New York City in 1856 to study painting at the National Academy of Design; he also learned portraiture in the studio of J. H. Wright. Taking up residence at the New York University Building, he formed close friendships with several other artists who lived there, most notably ...

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Filson, John (10 December 1753?–01 October 1788), author, historian, and land surveyor, was born in East Fallowfield Township near Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Davison Filson and Eleanor Clarke, farmers. After attending common schools in the vicinity of his birthplace, Filson studied Greek, Latin, mathematics, and surveying at West Nottingham Academy in Colora, Maryland. He inherited part of a modest estate following his father’s death in 1776, but, eschewing life on the farm, he taught school and surveyed lands in the area during the American Revolution....

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Marsden Hartley Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1939. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 490 P&P).

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Hartley, Marsden (04 January 1877–02 September 1943), artist, essayist, and poet, was born Edmund Hartley in Lewiston, Maine, the son of Thomas Hartley, a spinner in a cotton mill, and Eliza Jane Horbury. His childhood was marred by the death of his mother in 1885, at which time her eight children were separated. Hartley remained with his father and an older married sister, Elizabeth, in Auburn, Maine, until 1889, when his father remarried Martha Marsden, an Englishwoman, and moved with her to Cleveland, Ohio. (In 1908 Hartley dropped his first name and decided to call himself Marsden, his stepmother’s maiden name, which he had adopted in 1906.) Left behind with Elizabeth, Hartley dropped out of school at fifteen and worked in a shoe factory. In 1893 he moved to Cleveland, where he joined his family and took a job as an office boy in a marble quarry....

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Mabel Dodge Luhan Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1934. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106861).

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Luhan, Mabel Dodge (26 February 1879–13 August 1962), writer and patron, was born in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Charles Ganson and Sarah Cook, members of the upper class who lived on inherited wealth. Like most Victorian women of her class, Luhan was educated to charm and groomed to marry. Stultified emotionally and intellectually at home and at the various finishing (or boarding) schools she attended, she worked throughout her life to create a world that would simultaneously establish her identity and serve as a model for the larger European and American communities that surrounded her. She moved from one “cosmos,” as she called them, to the next, with the expectation that each would provide the answer to her own and her contemporaries’ need to connect with something larger than the dying legacy of individualism left them by late Victorian culture....

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Maclay, William (20 July 1737–16 April 1804), surveyor, legislator, and diarist, was born in New Garden Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Maclay and Eleanor Query, farmers, both of whom had emigrated from Lurgan in County Antrim, Ireland, three years earlier. In 1742 the family moved to what became Lurgan Township in Franklin County, three miles north of what is now Shippensburg. John Blair presided over an academy there at which William began his formal education. To further his studies he was sent to ...

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Morris, Wright (06 January 1910–25 April 1998), writer, was born Wright Marion Morris in Central City, Nebraska, to William Henry Morris, a railroad employee and failed chicken farmer, and his wife, Ethel Grace Osborn Morris. His mother died when Wright was only six days old, and his father, who was something of a ladies' man, had a series of girlfriends who were indifferent to his son. When Wright was eight, his father married a teenage dancer who soon abandoned the family. Father and son then moved around the state several times before settling in Omaha in 1919....

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Mumford, Lewis (09 October 1895–26 January 1990), urban historian and cultural critic, was born in Flushing, New York, the illegitimate son of Lewis Charles Mack, a Jewish businessman from New Jersey, and Elvina Conradina Baron Mumford, a German Protestant. Mumford never knew his father, learning his identity only in 1942. He grew up in a lower middle-class environment in Manhattan and in 1912 graduated from Stuyvesant High School, where he was chiefly interested in science and technology. New York’s museums and libraries contributed much to his education. Beginning in 1912 Mumford studied at City College, Columbia University, New York University, and the New School for Social Research. He earned enough credits for a degree but never graduated. Between 1914 and 1918 Mumford suffered from what he then regarded as incipient tuberculosis but which he later believed to have been a thyroid problem. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1918 to 1919. Having begun his career as a freelance writer, Mumford joined the staff of ...

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Pennell, Elizabeth Robins (21 Feb. 1855–7 Feb. 1936), author, art critic, and culinary writer, was born Elizabeth Robins in Philadelphia to Edward Robins, a member of the Philadelphia Exchange, and Margaret Miller, who died shortly after giving birth to her. In spite of the family’s devout Episcopalian background, Robins converted to Catholicism and enrolled his daughter in a convent at Conflans, France, and then at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Torresdale, a suburb of Philadelphia, where she was a bright, capable student. At the Convent of the Sacred Heart, she met Agnes Repplier, who would also go on to become a writer, with whom she maintained a lifelong friendship....

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Roerich, Nicholas (09 October 1874–13 December 1947), artist, author, humanitarian, was born Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Konstantin Roerich, a lawyer and notary, and Maria Kalashnikova Roerich. He was raised in the comfortable environment of an upper-middle-class Russian family and enjoyed contact with the writers, artists, and scientists who often came to visit. At an early age he showed a curiosity and talent for archeology, paleontology, botany, and geology. The young Roerich also showed a particular aptitude for drawing, and at the age of sixteen he began to think about pursuing a career as an artist. In 1893, to satisfy his father, who did not consider painting to be a fit vocation for a responsible member of society, Nicholas enrolled in both the Academy of Art and St. Petersburg University, where he studied law....

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Charles M. Russell. Photographic print, late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114799).

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Russell, Charles Marion (19 March 1864–24 October 1926), artist and author, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Charles Silas Russell, a wealthy businessman, and Mary Elizabeth Mead. As a child, Russell always preferred modeling in clay, drawing, and playing hooky. In 1879 his parents sent him to a military academy in New Jersey, but after a year they relented and allowed him to realize his dream of becoming a cowboy. He moved to the Judith Basin in Montana, where he tended sheep (1880), did chores for a hunter and trapper (1881–1882), and sketched western activities and scenery in his spare time. After a visit back in St. Louis for a month in 1882, he returned to the Great Northwest as a horse wrangler and cow puncher for several Montana cattlemen (1882–1893), but he continued to sketch and paint as much as he could....

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Ruzicka, Rudolph (29 June 1883–20 July 1978), artist, typographer, and author, was born in Kourim in central Bohemia, the son of Václav Ruzicka, a tailor, and Josefa Reichman. Accompanying his parents to the United States in 1894, he settled in Chicago, where he completed seven grades of public school in three years while at the same time learning to speak English. He then left in 1897 to begin an apprenticeship at the Franklin Engraving Company, where he learned to engrave on wood and to work a Washington hand press. In subsequent employment in other firms, Ruzicka learned the electrotype and photogravure processes while studying art at Hull-House and the Art Institute of Chicago....

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Thornton, William (20 May 1759–28 March 1828), architect, civil servant, and essayist, was born on the island of Tortola in the West Indies, the son of William Thornton, a planter, and Dorcas Zeagers. The senior Thornton died when his son was five years old, and the boy went to live with relatives in Lancashire, England. He served a medical apprenticeship in Lancashire, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and received a medical degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1784. After his graduation he traveled in France and the British Isles before returning to Tortola in 1786. Enamored of the republican ideals of the American Revolution, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1786 and became a citizen of the United States in 1788. He established a medical practice in Philadelphia but soon abandoned it, finding the practice boring and the fees unsatisfactory. Thornton enjoyed a creditable income from his West Indies plantation, which allowed him to pursue his intellectual and artistic interests. His education and European background won him admittance to intellectual circles in Philadelphia, including election to the American Philosophical Society. Thornton married Anna Marie Brodeau, a well-educated and cultured girl of fifteen, in 1790. They spent two years on Thornton’s plantation on Tortola, returned to Philadelphia, and in 1794 made their home in the new city of Washington, where they resided for the remainder of their lives. They had no children....

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Tuthill, Louisa Caroline Huggins (06 July 1799–01 June 1879), author, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the daughter of Ebenezer Huggins, a prosperous merchant, and Mary Dickerman. Louisa was educated at seminaries for girls in New Haven and Litchfield, Connecticut. In 1817 she married Cornelius Tuthill, a minister from Hopewell, New York. They had four children. After continued ill health forced Cornelius to give up the ministry in 1818, he began editing the semiweekly literary periodical ...