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Beer, Thomas (22 November 1888?–18 April 1940), writer, was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the son of William Collins Beer, a corporate attorney and lobbyist, and Martha Ann Alice Baldwin. Though born in western Iowa, Thomas Beer spent most of his childhood in Yonkers, New York, with summers in Nantucket and on his grandfather’s farm in Bucyrus, Ohio. Wealth and position from his father’s Wall Street business gave Beer a distinct sense of social superiority, which he manifested in personal relations and cultural criticisms. Despising the bourgeoisie, the working-class masses, and the chic lifestyles of the Jazz Age, Beer projected an image of extreme conservatism and tesselated sophistication. At Yale, class of 1911, he was class poet, lifelong friend of the actor Monty Wooley, editor of the literary review, and contributor of twenty stories, essays, and poems. After college he spent five years as a dilatory student in the Columbia law school and as clerk in his father’s law firm, but when his father died at his professional nadir in 1916, Beer turned to letters. His first important short story—“The Brothers”—was published a few months later in the ...

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Griswold, Rufus Wilmot (13 February 1815–27 August 1857), editor and anthologist, was born on a farm in Benson, Vermont, the son of Rufus Griswold, a tanner and farmer, and Deborah Wass. Griswold’s early career consisted of a series of editorial and printing jobs for small-town papers in Vermont and New York. When ...

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Gaston B. Means Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109386).

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Means, Gaston Bullock (11 July 1879–12 December 1938), spy, swindler, and detective, was born in Blackwelder’s Spring, North Carolina, the son of William Gaston Means, an attorney, and Corallie Bullock. Means grew up in Concord, North Carolina, in a family that had lost most of its considerable wealth during the Civil War. He left the University of North Carolina in 1900, early in his third year, and served for two years as the superintendent of the elementary schools in Stanly County, adjacent to Concord. In 1902 he took a job as a salesman for the Cannon textile mills, living in New York City and traveling widely....