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Antheil, George (08 July 1900–12 February 1959), composer and writer, was born Georg Johann Carl Antheil in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Henry William Antheil, a merchant, and Wilhelmina Huse. Antheil’s parents were German immigrants who had done well enough to be able to afford him an economically secure childhood in Trenton. His musical training included private study in piano with Constantin von Sternberg in Philadelphia and from 1919 to 1921 with ...

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Engel, Carl (21 July 1883–06 May 1944), composer, editor, and librarian, was born in Paris, France, the son of German parents Joseph C. Engel and Gertrude Seeger. Engel studied music, philosophy, and psychology at the Universities of Strasbourg and Munich. His musical training included individual instruction on the violin and piano and composition with Ludwig Thuille. The Engel family immigrated to the United States in 1905, settling in New York City. Engel quickly affiliated with the city’s young composers and musicians interested in new music and, later, their New Music Society of America, a group dedicated to the performance of American works....

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Flanagan, William (14 August 1923–01 September 1969), composer and journalist, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of William Flanagan and Elona (maiden name unknown), both of whom worked for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. As his was a nonmusical family, Flanagan received very little training as a child besides exposure to the scores of ...

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Fry, William Henry (10 August 1813–21 December 1864), composer, journalist, and music critic, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Fry, publisher of the National Gazette, and Ann Fleeson. Fry began his musical education by listening to his older brother’s piano lessons. He composed an overture while a student at Mount St. Mary’s School in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and afterward studied theory and composition in Philadelphia with Leopold Meignen, a graduate of the Paris Conservatory. Fry was eager to make his musical mark early, and he composed three more overtures before his twentieth birthday....

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Gleason, Ralph Joseph (01 March 1917–03 June 1975), journalist and music critic, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Ralph A. Gleason and Mary Quinlisk. Gleason traced his devotion to jazz music to a day when, suffering from a case of the measles that kept him home from high school in Chappaqua, New York, he heard the music of ...

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Hays, Will S. (19 July 1837–23 July 1907), songwriter, poet, and editor, was born William Shakespeare Hays in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Hugh Hays, a successful manufacturer of farming equipment, and Martha Richardson, an amateur musician and writer. Although he early showed signs of musical aptitude, his formal training extended no further than a few violin lessons. He attended small colleges in Hanover, Indiana; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1856–1857. During this time he published his first song, “Little Ones at Home,” for which he wrote only the text. Hays returned to Louisville and worked in a music store. There he began to compose melodies for his poems, among the first of which was “Evangeline” (1857), musically in a style that acknowledged an important debt to the vogue for Italian opera. This turned out to be his first hit, selling perhaps as many as 300,000 copies. It was during his time at D. P. Faulds’s music store that Hays allegedly composed the original version of “Dixie,” a claim made by Faulds himself more than thirty years later and corroborated then by Hays. (This story has never been supported by evidence other than hearsay, and ...

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Horst, Louis (12 January 1884–23 January 1964), composer, arranger, dance critic and pedagogue, and publisher, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of German immigrants Conrad Horst, a cornet player, and Corline “Lena” Nickell. Horst’s family traveled to San Francisco, California, in 1893, where Louis studied violin and piano. From about 1900 to 1914 he worked as a pianist in pit orchestras and for silent films. While working at a summer resort he met and subsequently married in 1910 eighteen-year-old Bessie (called Betty) Cunningham. They had no children. In 1911 they went to New York City, where he continued to work as a part-time musician and studied composition and piano, but they returned to San Francisco by 1914....

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Elsa Maxwell Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1935. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103698).

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Maxwell, Elsa (24 May 1883–01 November 1963), international hostess, songwriter, and newspaper columnist, was born in a theater box during a touring company’s performance of Mignon in Keokuk, Iowa, the daughter of James David Maxwell, an insurance salesman and part-time journalist, and Laura Wyman. Her childhood was spent in a modest flat situated among the elegant homes on San Francisco’s Nob Hill. A disappointment there at age twelve may have influenced her later party giving. A neighbor, the wealthy senator ...

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Moore, John Weeks (11 April 1807–23 March 1889), music historian and newspaper editor, was born in Andover, New Hampshire, the son of Jacob Bailey Moore, a physician and amateur musician, and Mary Eaton. After attending high school in Concord, New Hampshire, and Plymouth Academy, Moore became an apprentice at the ...

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Peck, George Washington (04 December 1817–06 June 1859), author, editor, and music critic, was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, the son of George Washington Peck and Hannah Bliss Carpenter, farmers. Peck entered Brown University in 1833 and, after graduating in 1837, briefly taught school in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. In late 1837 he settled in Cincinnati, where he started the ...

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Redpath, James (24 August 1833–10 February 1891), journalist and entertainment impresario, was born in Berwick-on-Tweed, Scotland, the son of Ninian Davidson Redpath, a teacher, and Maria Main. After being educated in his father’s academy, Redpath emigrated with his family to the United States in 1849 and soon found work as a reporter for ...

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Root, Frederick Woodman (13 June 1846–08 November 1916), music teacher, author, and editor, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of George Frederick Root, a Civil War songwriter and teacher, and Mary Olive Woodman, a gifted singer. Frederick grew up in musical surroundings and became absorbed in his father’s educational and business pursuits. He studied piano with ...

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Carl Sandburg Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115064).

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Sandburg, Carl (06 January 1878–22 July 1967), poet, writer, and folk musician, was born Carl August Sandburg in Galesburg, Illinois, the son of August Sandburg, a railroad blacksmith’s helper, and Clara Mathilda Anderson. His parents were hardworking Swedish immigrants who had met when August Sandburg was working on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in Galesburg and Clara Mathilda Anderson, who had traveled on her own to the new world, was employed as a hotel maid in Bushnell, Illinois. The frugal couple instilled in their seven children the necessity of hard work and education, as well as a reverence for the American dream. When Carl Sandburg entered first grade, he Americanized his Swedish name, thereafter signing his school papers and his early work as a poet, orator, and journalist “Charles A. Sandburg.”...

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Smith, Samuel Francis (21 October 1808–16 November 1895), editor, Baptist clergyman, and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Smith and Sarah Bryant. Young Smith was educated at both the Eliot School and the Boston Latin School, where he received the distinguished Franklin medal in 1825. At Harvard College, Smith became part of the famous class of 1829, which also included ...