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Adair, John (09 January 1757–19 May 1840), soldier, politician, and governor of Kentucky, was born in Chester County, South Carolina, the son of Baron William Adair and Mary Moore. Little is known about his childhood. As a young man, he fought in the revolutionary war and was captured by the British. During his imprisonment he suffered many cruelties, which apparently did little to deter him from becoming a career soldier. After the war Adair traveled west, eventually settling in Mercer County, Kentucky, in 1786. In 1784 he had married Katherine Palmer; they had twelve children....

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Alston, William (1757–26 June 1839), planter and legislator, was born in All Saints Parish (Georgetown District), South Carolina, the son of Joseph Allston and Charlotte Rothmaler, planters. He became the first of the Allston family to spell his surname with a single l...

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Benjamin W. Arnett. Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society.

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Arnett, Benjamin William (06 March 1838–09 October 1906), African-American religious, educational, and political leader, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel G. Arnett and Mary Louisa (maiden name unknown). Arnett was a man of “mixed Irish, Indian, Scots, and African ancestry” (Wright, p. 79). He was educated in a one-room schoolhouse in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. Arnett worked as a longshoreman along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and briefly as a hotel waiter. His career as a longshoreman and waiter ended abruptly when a cancerous tumor necessitated amputation of his left leg in 1858. He turned to teaching and was granted a teaching certificate on 19 December 1863. At that time, he was the only African-American schoolteacher licensed in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. For ten months during the academic year 1884–1885, Arnett served as a school principal in Washington, D.C. He returned to Brownsville in 1885, teaching there until 1887. Although largely self-educated, he attended classes at Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. A man of many interests, he was an occasional lecturer in ethics and psychology at the Payne Theological Seminary at Wilberforce University, served as a historian of the AME church, was a trustee of the Archaeological and Historical Society of Ohio, served as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Sociological Society, and was statistical secretary of the Ecumenical Conference of Methodism for the western section from 1891 to 1901....

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Baldwin, John Brown (11 January 1820–30 September 1873), Virginia legislator and Confederate congressman, was born near Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia, the son of Briscoe G. Baldwin, a lawyer and judge, and Martha Steele Brown. Baldwin lived his entire life in Staunton, an urban center in the fertile Shenandoah Valley. After attending the University of Virginia between 1836 and 1839, he studied law for two years with his father and soon developed his own practice. In 1842 Baldwin married Susan Madison Peyton; they had no children....

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Barnum, P. T. (05 July 1810–07 April 1891), showman, was born Phineas Taylor Barnum in Bethel, Connecticut, the son of Philo F. Barnum, a farmer and storekeeper, and Irena Taylor. While attending public school in Bethel, Barnum peddled candy and gingerbread. He later wrote that he had always been interested in arithmetic and money....

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Bedinger, George Michael (10 December 1756–08 December 1843), soldier, legislator, and businessman, was born in York County, Pennsylvania, the son of Henry Bedinger and Magdalene von Schlegel, innkeepers. In 1737 his grandfather had moved to Pennsylvania from the vicinity of Strasbourg in Alsace-Lorraine. At the time of George Michael’s birth, the family name was spelled Biedinger and German was the language spoken at home. Late in life Bedinger was described by a contemporary as a “full blooded Virginia Dutchman.”...

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Bingham, George Caleb (20 March 1811–07 July 1879), artist and politician, was born on a plantation near South River, in Augusta County, Virginia, the son of Henry Vest Bingham and Mary Amend, farmers. In 1819 the family moved to Franklin, Missouri, where Bingham’s father opened a tavern and bought a farm near Arrow Rock, Missouri. In 1821 he became a county judge but died in 1823. A year later Bingham’s mother established a girls’ school in Franklin and two years after that moved with the family to a farm in Arrow Rock. In 1827 Bingham was apprenticed to a carpenter and Methodist minister in Boonville, Missouri, but when he saw a portrait painter at work, he decided to become one himself. He also studied religion, preached, and read law until 1830, after which he became an itinerant portrait painter. In Columbia, Missouri, he painted his four earliest surviving portraits (1834), including one of ...

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Buckalew, Charles Rollin (28 December 1821–19 May 1899), senator, was born at Fishing Creek, Columbia County, Pennsylvania, the son of John McKinney Buckalew and Martha Funston, farmers. Buckalew was educated at Hartford Academy, Hartford, Pennsylvania, then taught school and clerked in a grocery store for a few years before beginning a systematic study of law with a local attorney. He was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty-two and after two years’ experience entered the Bloomsburg district prosecuting attorney’s office for Columbia County, where he practiced until 1847. In 1849 he married Permelia S. Wadsworth, with whom he had two children. At the age of twenty-nine, he was elected as a Democrat to the state senate, where he served from 1850 to 1858. In 1854 he was appointed one of the commissioners sent to negotiate a treaty with Paraguay. He became chairman of the state Democratic committee in 1857 and was elected again a state senator....

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Burnet, Jacob (22 February 1770–10 May 1853), Ohio lawmaker and U.S. senator, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of William Burnet, a doctor and farmer, and Mary Camp. His father was the son of Scottish Presbyterian immigrants and served in the Continental Congress and as surgeon general in the Continental army. Jacob Burnet graduated from Nassau Hall in September 1791, studied law, and gained admittance to the New Jersey bar in spring 1796. He promptly moved to Cincinnati in the Northwest Territory, where he married Rebecca Wallace, daughter of a former pastor of the Presbyterian church, in 1800. They had seven children....

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Burns, Otway, Jr. (1775–25 October 1850), privateer, shipbuilder, and state legislator, was born on Queen’s Creek, Onslow County, North Carolina, the son of Otway Burns and Lisanah (maiden name unknown), farmers. Little is known of Burns’s education or youth. Apparently he went to sea at an early age and became a skilled seaman. In 1806 the Onslow County Court apprenticed an orphan lad to Burns to learn navigation. Prior to the War of 1812, Burns was master of a merchantman engaged in the coastwise trade between North Carolina and New England....

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Calhoun, William Barron (29 December 1796–08 November 1865), lawyer, writer, and politician, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Andrew Calhoun, a merchant, and Martha Chamberlain. His father was one of the founders of Boston’s Park Street Church. Calhoun was prepared for college by Harvard graduate William Wells, then he attended Yale, graduating in 1814. While a senior at Yale, Calhoun was one of the editors of a student publication, the ...

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Caminetti, Anthony (30 July 1854–17 November 1923), California legislator and U.S. commissioner general of immigration, was born in Jackson Gate, near Jackson, California, the son of Italian immigrants Roche “Rocco” Caminetti, a farmer and miner, and Batistina Guisto. Caminetti was raised in the heart of the Mother Lode region in the turbulent frontier atmosphere of the gold rush, which had lured his parents from Boston to California in 1849 via the Cape Horn route. Young Anthony attended primary schools in Jackson until the age of ten. His parents then sent him to San Francisco, where he completed his grammar school education in 1867. Returning to Jackson, Caminetti spent the next three years working in a store owned by his uncle Biagio Caminetti. In 1870 Caminetti journeyed once again to San Francisco to begin the study of law as a clerk in the offices of Leander Quint and James H. Hardy. He remained with them until March 1871, when he enrolled at the University of California. Withdrawing in October 1873 because of poor health and finances, Caminetti resumed working in his uncle’s store and studying law under the tutelage of James T. Farley, a prominent Jackson attorney and Amador County politician....

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Connor, Henry Groves (03 July 1852–23 November 1924), legislator and judge, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, the son of David Connor, a carpenter, and Mary Catherine Groves. In 1855 the family moved to Wilson, North Carolina, where Connor’s father was employed in building the county courthouse. His father’s death in 1867 ended Connor’s schooling; following a brief stint as a shopkeeper’s assistant, he began the study of law in the office of George Howard and George W. Whitfield. After further study with William T. Dortch of Goldsboro, North Carolina, Connor was licensed to practice law in 1871, while still eighteen years old. It was later said of him that the only law he ever broke was the one requiring lawyers to be at least twenty-one. In November 1871 Connor married Katherine Whitfield, the daughter of his former mentor, with whom he had twelve children, nine of whom survived infancy. Leaving the Roman Catholic religion of his parents, Connor joined the Episcopal church, his wife’s denomination....

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Crary, Isaac Edwin (02 October 1804–08 May 1854), congressman and educator, was born in Preston, Connecticut, the son of Elisha Crary and Nabby Avery, farmers. He graduated from Trinity College in 1827 and spent two years practicing law in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1832 Crary moved to Marshall, Michigan, where he established that town’s first law firm. While law remained Crary’s profession, the advancement of education was his avocation, and he was instrumental in making Michigan a leader in the field of public education during the nineteenth century....

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David Crockett. Engraving after a portrait by John Gadsby Chapman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93521).

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Crockett, Davy (17 August 1786–06 March 1836), frontiersman, Tennessee and U.S. congressman, and folk hero, was born David Crockett in Greene County, East Tennessee, the son of John Crockett, a magistrate, unsuccessful land speculator, and tavern owner, and Rebecca Hawkins. John Crockett hired his son out to Jacob Siler in 1798 to help on a cattle drive to Rockbridge County, Virginia, and Siler tried forcibly to detain young Crockett after the completion of the job. The boy ran away at night, however, and arrived home in late 1798 or early 1799. Preferring to play hooky rather than attend school, he ran away from home to escape his father’s wrath. His “strategic withdrawal,” as he called it, lasted about thirty months while he worked at odd jobs and as a laborer and a wagon driver. When he returned home in 1802, he had grown so much that his family at first did not recognize him. He soon found that all was forgiven and reciprocated their generosity by working for a year to settle the debts that his father had incurred....

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Cruger, Henry, Jr. (22 November 1739–24 April 1827), merchant, member of Parliament, mayor of Bristol, England, and New York state senator, was born in New York City, the son of Henry Cruger and Elizabeth Harris. The Cruger family had long been prominent in the economic and political life of New York, and Henry Cruger, Jr., enjoyed an assured position in the Atlantic community throughout his career. His paternal grandfather had migrated in 1698 from Bristol, England, to New York, where he became a prosperous merchant and shipowner and also an alderman and mayor. His father was also a merchant and shipowner trading between England, North America, and the West Indies as well as a member of the provincial assembly and the governor’s council. John Cruger, his uncle, was the first president of the New York Chamber of Commerce, an alderman and mayor of New York, a member and speaker of the provincial assembly, and a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress of 1765. John Harris Cruger, an older brother, succeeded their father as a member of the governor’s council....

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Harry Daugherty. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107385).

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Daugherty, Harry Micajah (26 January 1860–12 October 1941), politician, was born in Washington Court House, Ohio, the son of John H. Daugherty, a farmer and merchant tailor, and Jane Draper. John Daugherty died of diphtheria when Harry was only four years of age, and Harry was weakened by the disease. The family struggled financially, and Harry learned to fend for himself, working in a series of odd jobs as a youth. Spurning his mother’s desire for him to become a Methodist minister, Daugherty instead chose law as a profession. Though he had not attended college, Daugherty enrolled at Michigan Law School and graduated in 1881. In 1884 he married Lucy Walker, and they had one son and one daughter....