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John André. A rendering of his capture at Tarrytown, New York. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2395).

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André, John (02 May 1750–02 October 1780), British officer and spy, was born in London, England, the son of Anthony André, a merchant, and Marie Louise Girardot. His early schooling was with a tutor, the Reverend Thomas Newcomb, and he may have attended St. Paul’s School. In his teens André studied mathematics and military drawing at the University of Geneva, giving vent to his romantic temperament by dreaming of a military career. He was rudely brought back to reality by his merchant father when he was called home to work in the countinghouse before he completed a degree. Despising the family business, he nevertheless labored at it manfully for a number of years. After his father died on 14 April 1769, he felt a particular obligation as the eldest son to continue the business, even though his father had left him financially independent, with a small fortune of £5,000. In the summer of 1769 he joined a Lichfield literary group presided over by Anna Seward, a poet. The group included a young lady named Honora Sneyd, for whom he developed a passion. They became engaged and courted for a year and a half before she suddenly rejected him for another man at a Christmas party in 1770. Shattered by this betrayal, André revived his earlier ambition to become a soldier and in early 1771 bought a second lieutenant’s commission in the 23d Regiment, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Later he purchased a first lieutenancy in the same regiment....

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Angleton, James Jesus (09 December 1917–11 May 1987), counterintelligence official, was born in Boise, Idaho, the son of James Hugh Angleton, a cavalry officer and later a businessman, and Carmen Mercedes Moreno. His father’s business took the family to Italy during Angleton’s teenage years, and Angleton attended preparatory school in England. In 1937 he enrolled at Yale University, where he majored in English and was regarded as a highly intelligent student, though he neglected his academic studies in favor of literary pursuits. He wrote poetry and cofounded a first-rate literary magazine, ...

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Baker, La Fayette Curry (13 October 1825–03 July 1868), head of the U.S. Secret Service, was born in Stafford, New York, the son of Remember Baker and Cynthia (maiden name unknown), farmers. Named for the French aristocrat, the marquis de Lafayette, who aided the American cause during the revolutionary war, the youth in 1839 settled in Michigan with his parents and attended local schools. As a young man he lived in over a dozen states, including Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania, sometimes supporting himself as a mechanic. While operating a dry goods store in Philadelphia in 1852, he married Jennie C. Curry; they had no children. The next year they relocated to San Francisco, California, where Baker worked as a general laborer and belonged to the San Francisco Vigilance Committee. His work with the vigilantes helped bring order to a city known for its gambling houses, crime, and political corruption, and Baker gained valuable experience in investigation and surveillance....

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Bancroft, Edward (09 January 1744–08 September 1821), physician, scientist, and spy, was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Bancroft and Mary Ely, farmers. The elder Bancroft died in 1746 of an epileptic attack suffered in a pigpen, two months before the birth of his younger son, Daniel. His widow married David Bull of Westfield in 1751, and the family moved to Hartford, Connecticut, where Bull operated the Bunch of Grapes tavern. Edward Bancroft was taught for a time by the recent Yale graduate ...

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Elizabeth Bentley. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109688).

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Bentley, Elizabeth Terrill (01 January 1908–03 December 1963), Communist party activist and government witness, was born in New Milford, Connecticut, the daughter of Charles Prentiss Bentley, a newspaper editor and department store manager, and Mary Burrill, a schoolteacher. After growing up in small towns in Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, Bentley enrolled in Vassar College and in 1930 received an undergraduate degree in English. While at Vassar, she became involved in a variety of Socialist causes but did not demonstrate any interest in more radical left-wing ideas. For two years following graduation, she taught languages at the Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia, but left in 1932 for Columbia University, where she earned her M.A. in Italian in 1935. While working on her graduate degree, she accepted a fellowship that took her to the University of Florence for the 1933–1934 academic year....

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John Birch. In uniform with the rank of captain. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Birch, John (28 May 1918–25 August 1945), Baptist missionary and military officer, was born John Morrison Birch in Landaur, India, the son of George S. Birch and Ethel Ellis Birch. Both parents were Methodist missionaries under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. George Birch was also an agricultural professor at Ewing Christian College, Allahabad, India, while Ethel Birch tutored English there and conducted women's Bible classes nearby. In 1920 the family returned to the United States. George Birch became a fruit farmer in Vineland, New Jersey, where John Birch first went to school. In 1930 the family, by then including seven children, moved to Rome, Georgia, where Birch attended high school. After graduating at the head of his class, he entered Mercer University; there, he deepened his religious convictions and evangelical passion and graduated magna cum laude in 1939. He completed a two-year course at the Bible Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, in one year and then left in July 1940 for China, sponsored by a World's Fundamentalist Baptist Missionary Fellowship....

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Belle Boyd. Albumen silver print, c. 1864, by Unidentified Artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Boyd, Belle (09 May 1844–11 June 1900), Confederate spy, was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), the daughter of Reed Boyd, a store owner and manager of a farm, and Mary Rebecca Glenn. Both parents were from prominent Virginia families, and young Belle (christened Isabelle) was educated at Mount Washington Female College in Baltimore. When the Civil War broke out, she returned to her home and began raising funds for the Confederate army....

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Browne, John Ross (11 February 1821–08 December 1875), writer, world traveler, and government agent, was born in Beggars Bush, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Egerton Browne and Elana Buck. His father was a refugee from British rule. As the editor of three publications, Thomas Browne satirized British tithing measures and earned the enmity of the Crown, a fine, and a jail sentence for “seditious libel.”...

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Burke, Michael (08 June 1918–05 February 1987), intelligence operative and sports executive, was born in Enfield, Connecticut, the son of Patrick Burke, an attorney, and Mary Fleming. After Patrick Burke graduated from the Yale University Law School, the family moved to County Galway, Ireland, where they lived from 1918 to 1925. Each side of the family claimed ancestry as far back as the Norman invasion of 1169....

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Childs, Morris (10 June 1902–02 June 1991), Communist official and American intelligence double agent, was born Moishe Chilovsky in Kiev, Ukraine, the son of Joseph Chilovsky, a cobbler, and Anna Chilovsky. Joseph Chilovsky, a Jew, fled Tsarist oppression, arriving in America in 1910; he sent for the rest of his family late the next year. (In 1926 the spelling of their name was Americanized, and Morris became a naturalized citizen the following year.) In 1916 Morris went to work as an apprentice in his father's business; then he became a milkman. In 1919 he joined the Communist party in Chicago. Twice arrested for participating in street demonstrations, he soon became a protégé of future party leader ...

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Colby, William E. (04 January 1920–28 April 1996), intelligence officer, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of Elbridge Colby, an army officer and educator, and Margaret Mary Egan Colby, an ardent Catholic who guided her son in the path of that religion. William Colby was also influenced by his father's liberal views and by the family's peripatetic movements to locations as diverse as China and Vermont, where he studied at Burlington High School. He attended Princeton University, where he felt himself to be an outsider, educated as he had been at public schools and presenting, at five feet, eight inches, topped by eyeglasses, the appearance of a young man unlikely to win acceptance through athletic prowess. He graduated with an A.B. in 1940....

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Coplon, Judith (17 May 1921–26 February 2011), Soviet spy during the Cold War, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her father Samuel Coplon was a respected toy merchant; her mother Rebecca Moroh Coplon was a milliner. She and her older brother Bertram were raised in modest but comfortable circumstances. The petite Judith (just over five feet tall as an adult) was vivacious, pretty, and smart. At Brooklyn’s James Madison High School, she won awards, and her brilliant academic record earned her a scholarship to Barnard College. She threw herself into extracurricular activities, joined a communist youth group, and became an editor of the school newspaper. A history major fascinated by the development of the Soviet state, she compiled a superior academic record and graduated cum laude in 1943....

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Cvetic, Matthew C. (04 March 1909–26 July 1962), anti-Communist and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) "confidential informant", anti-Communist and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) “confidential informant,” was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Frank Cvetic and Barbara (maiden name unknown), who had emigrated from a Slovenian village in 1890. His father, after some travail, earned a comfortable living as a small businessman; his ventures included renting out a former hotel and running gas stations. Cvetic graduated from St. Mary’s parochial school, spent two years at St. Vincent’s College Preparatory School, and in 1927 completed a two-year course of study at Curry Business College in Pittsburgh. During the early 1930s he rounded out his education with mail-order courses in penology from the Seattle-based International School of Criminology....

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Denys de la Ronde, Louis (02 August 1675–25 March 1741), French military officer, explorer, and spy, was born in Quebec City, Canada, the son of Pierre Denys de la Ronde, a landowner and merchant (the Crown had given the aristocracy in Canada permission to engage in trade), and Catherine Leneuf de la Potherie. He entered naval service in 1687 as a midshipman in France. During the war of 1689–1697 he served in exiled British king James II’s expedition to Ireland, then off the coast of England, and finally on several voyages to New France and along the coast of New England. Captured at sea in 1695, he was soon released in an exchange of prisoners of war. He served in ...

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Digges, Thomas Attwood (04 July 1742–06 December 1821), gentleman, confidential agent, ne'er-do-well, and novelist, gentleman, confidential agent, ne’er-do-well, and novelist, was born in Warburton, Maryland, the son of William Digges and Ann Attwood, the owners of “Warburton Manor.” Digges was sent abroad to be educated. Family tradition holds that he attended Oxford University, but his Catholic faith and the absence of his name in university records make this unlikely. In 1767, after being disowned by his family for reasons that are not known, Digges purportedly went to live in Portugal, where he stayed until 1773 or 1774. In a subsequent letter to ...

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Allen W. Dulles [left to right] Allen W. Dulles, Theodore F. Green, and Robert D. Murphy, 1958. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103584 ).