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Burk, John Daly (1776?–?11 Apr. 1808), editor, historian, and dramatist, was born in Ireland, arriving in America at the age of twenty. His parents’ names are unknown. He was a student at Trinity College in Dublin, but he was dismissed for “deism and republicanism” and eventually forced to leave Ireland, presumably because of political difficulties. Legend has it that a woman named Miss Daly gave him her female attire to help him escape from the British, hence the use of Daly in his name....

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Collens, Thomas Wharton (23 June 1812–03 November 1879), Creole jurist and writer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of John Wharton Collens and Marie Louise de Tabiteau. Collens’s father was descended from an English officer who had settled in Louisiana in the eighteenth century. His mother was a member of one of the city’s French-speaking, Creole families. Raised in a bilingual, Catholic household of modest means, Collens overcame a limited education during an apprenticeship in the print shop to which he was sent as a youth. By the age of twenty-one he had advanced to the position of associate editor of the ...

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Jefferson, Eddie (03 August 1918–09 May 1979), jazz singer, lyricist, and tap dancer, was born Edgar Jefferson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Information about his parents is unknown. It is known that he started dancing around age eight. He also played tuba in a school band and taught himself guitar and drums, experiences that later gave his singing a firm musical foundation. In Pittsburgh he was accompanied by pianist ...

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Laurence Langner Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1934. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 663 P&P).

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Langner, Lawrence (30 May 1890–26 December 1962), patent agent, playwright, and theatrical producer, was born in Swansea, South Wales, the son of Baruch Bernard Freedman, a businessman, and Cecilia Sarah Langner. (He took his mother’s maiden name.) He attended private schools in Swansea and in Margate, England. After a brief stint as a clerk for a theatrical manager in 1903, he was apprenticed to Wallace Cranston Fairweather, a chartered patent agent in London. Langner passed examinations of the British Chartered Institute of Patent Agents in 1910....

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Smith, Richard Penn (13 March 1799–12 August 1854), lawyer and playwright, was born in Philadelphia, the son of William Moore Smith and Ann Rudulph. Smith’s father, an attorney, enjoyed writing poetry, and he did his best to raise his son to appreciate the literary arts. As a teenager Smith studied at John Johnson’s school at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. In 1818 he returned to Philadelphia to study law in the law office of William Rawle. He was admitted to the bar three years later....

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Tyler, Royall (18 July 1757–26 August 1826), author and jurist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Royall Tyler, a prominent merchant and revolutionary patriot, and Mary Steele. He was originally named William Clark Tyler, but in 1772 his mother, widowed the previous year, had his name officially changed to that of his father. Tyler, like his father, attended Harvard, graduating with a B.A. degree in 1776 (and he was awarded one from Yale ...