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Fisher Ames. Oil on wood, c. 1807, by Gilbert Stuart. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George Cabot Lodge.

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Ames, Fisher (09 April 1758–04 July 1808), Federalist party leader, member of Congress, essayist, and renowned orator, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Ames, Sr., a physician, tavern keeper, and almanac writer, and Deborah Fisher. Intellectually honed, Ames was admitted to Harvard at twelve. Steeped in the classics, he excelled in elocution and participated in a debating club, the Institute of 1770. Graduating in 1774, he served with the Dedham militia at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill but did not see combat. At home he pursued his scholarly interests, reading widely in classical literature and history. He also occasionally taught school. Under the tutelage of the prominent ...

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Giles, William Branch (12 August 1762–04 December 1830), congressman, senator, and political writer, was born in Amelia County, Virginia, the son of William Giles and Ann Branch. He attended Hampden Sydney College, then the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), from which he graduated in 1781. He studied law under ...

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Hopkinson, Francis (02 October 1737–09 May 1791), author, composer, and judge, was born in Philadelphia, the son of Thomas Hopkinson, a lawyer and Pennsylvania councillor, and Mary Johnson. Hopkinson’s father emigrated from England in 1731. Hopkinson matriculated in the first class of the College of Philadelphia (later the University of Pennsylvania) in 1751; he graduated in 1757 and, with other members of his class, received an M.A. degree three years later....

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Laidlaw, Harriet Burton (16 Dec. 1873–25 Jan. 1949), suffragist, essayist, and social reformer, was born Harriet Davenport Wright Burton in Albany, New York, the oldest of three children and only daughter of George Davidson Burton, a bank teller, and Alice Davenport Wright. After her father’s death in ...

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Livingston, William ( November 1723–25 July 1790), colonial politician, governor of New Jersey, and political satirist, was born in Albany, New York, the son of Philip Livingston, the second lord of Livingston Manor, and Catherine Van Brugh. As the scion of an elite New York clan, he headed the family faction that successfully challenged the rival De Lancey family for dominance in the colony. Rarely holding public office himself, Livingston nevertheless masterminded his faction’s protracted battles with the De Lanceys. His success rested in part on his abilities with the pen. He wrote on the model provided by the English Whig pamphleteers, and his essays in the ...

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James Russell Lowell. Engraving, c. 1894, from a drawing by S. W. Rowse, 1855. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100831).

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Lowell, James Russell (22 February 1819–12 August 1891), author and diplomat, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Lowell, a liberal Congregational minister, and Harriet Brackett Spence. Among New Englanders who were apt to take ancestry seriously, the Lowell family was already firmly established in the region’s ecclesiastical and legal annals. During the nineteenth century the Lowell name became synonymous with manufacturing wealth and State Street trusts, but Charles Lowell’s descendants benefited little from this tradition. Their area of prominence was in literature; both James Russell Lowell’s sister Mary Lowell Putnam and brother ...

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Anne Martin. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112008).

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Martin, Anne Henrietta (30 September 1875–15 April 1951), suffragist and feminist essayist, was born in Empire City, Nevada, the daughter of William O’Hara Martin, a state senator, merchant, and Reno bank president, and Louise Stadtmuller. She attended Bishop Whitaker’s School for Girls in Reno, then the University of Nevada (1892–1894), where she received a B.A. in history. After a second B.A. in 1896 and an M.A. in history in 1897, both from Stanford University, she founded the history department at the University of Nevada and headed it until 1899. From 1899 to 1901 she continued her studies at Chase School of Art, Columbia University, and the Universities of Leipzig and London; she then lectured in art history at Nevada until 1903....

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Piatt, John James (01 March 1835–16 February 1917), author and diplomat, was born at James’ Mills (later Milton), in Dearborn (now Ohio) County, Indiana, the son of John Bear Piatt and Emily Scott, farmers. Piatt attended school at nearby Rising Sun, on the Ohio River. In 1841 the family moved to a farm near Columbus, Ohio, where Piatt continued his education. At age fourteen he began an apprenticeship as a printer in the office of his uncle, Charles Scott, who published the ...

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Smith, William Loughton (02 October 1758–19 December 1812), congressman, diplomat, and essayist, was born in Charles Town (later Charleston), South Carolina, the son of Benjamin Smith, a wealthy merchant and colonial legislator, and Anne Loughton. He was educated by private tutors in London and Geneva and studied law at the Inns of Court (Middle Temple) in England from 1779 to 1782. He remained aloof from events in America during the Revolution and did not return from Europe until 21 November 1783....

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Thornton, William (20 May 1759–28 March 1828), architect, civil servant, and essayist, was born on the island of Tortola in the West Indies, the son of William Thornton, a planter, and Dorcas Zeagers. The senior Thornton died when his son was five years old, and the boy went to live with relatives in Lancashire, England. He served a medical apprenticeship in Lancashire, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and received a medical degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1784. After his graduation he traveled in France and the British Isles before returning to Tortola in 1786. Enamored of the republican ideals of the American Revolution, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1786 and became a citizen of the United States in 1788. He established a medical practice in Philadelphia but soon abandoned it, finding the practice boring and the fees unsatisfactory. Thornton enjoyed a creditable income from his West Indies plantation, which allowed him to pursue his intellectual and artistic interests. His education and European background won him admittance to intellectual circles in Philadelphia, including election to the American Philosophical Society. Thornton married Anna Marie Brodeau, a well-educated and cultured girl of fifteen, in 1790. They spent two years on Thornton’s plantation on Tortola, returned to Philadelphia, and in 1794 made their home in the new city of Washington, where they resided for the remainder of their lives. They had no children....