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Baldwin, Joseph Glover (21 January 1815–30 September 1864), attorney and author, was born in Friendly Grove Factory, Virginia, the son of Joseph Clarke Baldwin, a mill owner, and Eliza Cook. He was educated at Staunton Academy (Virginia), where he learned Latin and read widely in English and American authors. He left school at fourteen and became a clerk in the chancery court. This experience turned him toward a legal career, and after private study and law school he qualified as a lawyer at twenty. Baldwin also worked for a time as a newspaperman in Virginia and suffered a disappointment in love. In March 1836 he set out for the “Southwest”—specifically Alabama and Mississippi....

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Maxwell Bodenheim. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112040).

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Bodenheim, Maxwell (26 May 1892–07 February 1954), poet, critic, and novelist, was born in Hermanville, Mississippi, the son of Solomon Bodenheimer and Caroline Herman. An emigrant from Alsace, Solomon Bodenheimer never found financial or professional security; his career included stints as a traveling whiskey salesman and unsuccessful forays into clothing stores and men’s haberdashery. The daughter of a distinguished and wealthy surgeon, Caroline Bodenheimer came from a milieu that was vastly different from that of her husband. Indeed, the town of Hermanville itself obtained its name from Caroline Bodenheimer’s uncle, M. B. Herman, who had founded the town and established a small mercantile empire there. Caroline’s tales of lost prosperity provided a bitter contrast to the impoverished world in which Maxwell Bodenheim was reared....

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Brackenridge, Hugh Henry (1748–25 June 1816), author and judge, was born Hugh Montgomery Breckenridge near Campbeltown, Scotland, the son of William Breckenridge, an impoverished farmer. His mother’s name is unknown, but apparently she was a person of great intellect. Seeking to escape poverty, the family moved to Pennsylvania when Hugh was five, later settling in rural York County. Eventually Hugh changed his middle name to Henry, and he altered the spelling of his last name “because I found the bulk of the same stock spelt it so.”...

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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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Dana, Richard Henry, Jr. (01 August 1815–06 January 1882), lawyer and author, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Henry Dana, Sr., a poet and journalist, and Ruth Charlotte Smith. After routine earlier schooling, Dana interrupted his attendance at Harvard College because of weakened eyesight aggravated by measles. In August 1834 he sailed from Boston as a common seaman on a five-month voyage around Cape Horn and on to California, where he then worked ashore mainly at collecting, storing, and curing hides. He returned home in September 1836, resumed his studies at Harvard, graduated with the class of 1837, was confirmed in the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. Paul, in Boston, and studied at Dane Law School, Harvard (1837–1840). He was admitted to the bar (1840) and began a lucrative private practice, largely in admiralty law....

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Deming, Philander (06 February 1829–09 February 1915), author and pioneer in court stenography, was born in Carlisle, New York, the son of Julia Ann Porter and Rufus Romeo Deming, a minister in the Champlain Presbytery. As his father moved from one pulpit to another, Deming spent his childhood in various small towns in the Adirondack Mountain and Champlain Valley regions of New York State. In such circumstances his father’s library provided much of his education, and he was steeped in writers of the New England tradition such as Emerson and Longfellow. After living for a time in Huntingdon, Quebec, the family returned to upstate New York and settled in the village of Burke in Franklin County. As a young man, Deming savored solitude, and could often be found walking about the countryside, fishing, hunting, and rambling. Among the inhabitants of Burke, he was considered “odd” and uncommunicative, yet he still managed to secure a teaching post there from 1852 to 1854. During that time Deming and his two brothers also built themselves a sawmill, which Deming helped operate as he prepared for college. After studying at Whitestown Seminary in Whitesboro, New York, he matriculated at the University of Vermont from which he graduated in 1861, having been elected Phi Beta Kappa. Three years later he received an advanced degree from the university, remaining active in its alumni programs throughout most of his life....

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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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Flagg, Edmund (24 November 1815–01 November 1890), author and civil servant, was born in Wiscasset, Maine, the son of Edmund Flagg and Harriet Payson. He graduated with distinction from Bowdoin College in 1835. Later that year he moved with his widowed mother and sister to Louisville, Kentucky, where he briefly taught the classics in a boys’ school. The following summer, he explored the Illinois and Missouri prairies and published in the ...

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Gardner, Erle Stanley (17 July 1889–11 March 1970), lawyer and popular author, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Walter Gardner, a civil engineer, and Grace Adelma Waugh. When Gardner was ten, his family moved to Oregon and then to Oroville in northern California. After graduating from high school in Palo Alto, California in 1909, he studied law briefly at Valparaiso University in Indiana. He returned to California to study with local attorneys and was admitted to the California bar in 1911. He practiced criminal law actively for twenty years in Oxnard and Ventura, exercising a flair for courtroom dramatics that he later magnified and assigned to his most famous character, Perry Mason. Gardner married Natalie Frances Beatrice Talbert in 1912. The couple had one child; they separated in 1935, but Gardner did not remarry until after Natalie’s death in 1968, when he married his longtime secretary, Agnes Jean Bethell....

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Grant, Robert (24 January 1852–19 May 1940), novelist and jurist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Patrick Grant, a patrician Boston commission merchant, and Charlotte Bordman Rice. Grant later sketched his early life on Beacon Hill in the first chapters of his juvenile novel ...

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Higgins, George V. (13 November 1939–06 November 1999), lawyer and writer, was born George Vincent Higgins in Brockton, Massachusetts, the son of John Thompson Higgins and Doris Montgomery Higgins, schoolteachers. Theirs was an Irish Catholic household in a working-class neighborhood. He read Ernest Hemingway...

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Hosmer, Hezekiah Lord (10 December 1814–31 October 1893), judge and author, was born in Hudson, New York, the son of Hezekiah Lord Hosmer and Susan Throop. He was educated in Oxford, New York, and in 1830 moved west to Cleveland, Ohio, to reside with his kinsman John W. Allen, under whose tutelage he read law. Hosmer was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1835 and began the practice of law in Willoughby, later moving to Painesville. Following the onrush of settlers to the Maumee Valley of northwestern Ohio, he moved to Maumee City and then to Perrysburg, where as a young lawyer he rode the circuit of seven or eight counties in northwestern Ohio. It was also during this time that Hosmer began to devote a portion of his time to journalistic pursuits....

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Kirkland, Joseph (07 January 1830–28 April 1894), lawyer and author, was born in Geneva, New York, the son of William Kirkland, a one-time professor at Hamilton College, and Caroline Matilda Kirkland, who became a prominent editor and writer (first under a pseudonym and then under her married name). The family moved to the Michigan peninsula to homestead in 1835, though the experiment was a financial failure, and they returned to New York eight years later. Largely educated at home, Joseph Kirkland traveled to Europe in 1847–1848 and clerked briefly in the editorial offices of the original New York ...

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Lewis, Alfred Henry (20 January 1857–23 December 1914), lawyer, journalist, and author, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Isaac Jefferson Lewis, a carpenter, and Harriet Tracy. He attended Cleveland public schools, read for the law, and passed the Ohio bar in Columbus in 1876, placing first among those examined. He practiced law, dabbled in politics, became prosecuting attorney in the Cleveland police court (1880–1881), and moved to Kansas City, Missouri, with his parents and brothers. He turned to cowboy hobo-ing on ranches in Meade County, Kansas, along the Cimarron River and into Oklahoma Territory, driving cattle up to Dodge City, Kansas, and riding in Texas and Arizona. He was a journalist in New Mexico Territory—as the ...

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Little, Sophia Louisa Robbins (1799–1893), writer and reformer, was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the daughter of U.S. senator Asher Robbins, an attorney, and Mary Ellery. Educated locally, she married William Little, Jr., of Boston in 1824; they had three children. Her first publication was a poem, “Thanksgiving,” included in a Boston gift book, ...

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Lunt, George (31 December 1803–16 May 1885), lawyer and author, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the son of Abel Lunt, a sea captain, and Phoebe Tilton. As a youth Lunt attended Phillips Academy at Exeter, New Hampshire. Then, having graduated from Harvard College in 1824, the young scholar returned to Newburyport, where he taught school before reading law with a local attorney, Asa W. Wildes. In 1831 Lunt passed the Massachusetts bar and entered private practice. During this period the young lawyer began a lifelong pursuit of belles lettres, publishing several mostly neglected collections of poetry, including ...

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Tourgée, Albion Winegar (02 May 1838–21 May 1905), activist, judge, and author, was born in Williamsfield, Ohio, the son of Valentine Tourgée and Louisa Emma Winegar, farmers. His mother died when Tourgée was five. He grew up both in Kingsville, Ohio, in the Western Reserve, a center of antislavery sentiment, and in Lee, Massachusetts, where he spent two years with an uncle....

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Train, Arthur (06 September 1875–22 December 1945), lawyer and writer, was born Arthur Cheney Train in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Russell Train, a lawyer and politician, and Sara Maria Cheney. After growing up in Boston and Concord, New Hampshire, Train received a B.A. from Harvard in 1896 and an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1899. He married Ethel Kissam in 1897; they had four children. After the death of his wife in 1923, he married Helen Coster Gerard in 1926; they had one child....

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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 ...