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Abraham (fl. 1826–1845), "Prophet", also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminoles. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida where he was adopted into the Seminole tribe. He enjoyed considerable status among the Seminoles, accompanying a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1826 and becoming an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole headman. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. In fact, ...

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Adair, James (1709–1783), trader and author, was born in County Antrim, Ireland. Although his parentage is not certain, he probably was a younger son of Sir Robert Adair, a scion of the “Old English” Fitzgerald family. Having noble connections, but not overburdened with wealth, Adair emigrated to South Carolina in 1735 and immediately began trading with Indians....

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Grizzly Adams. Illustration from T. H. Hittell, The Adventures of James Capen Adams, Mountaineer and Grizzly Bear Hunter of California, 1860. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92873).

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Adams, Grizzly (22 October 1812–25 October 1860), mountain man and wild animal tamer, was born John Adams in Medway, Massachusetts, the son of Eleazar Adams and Sybil Capen. Adams apparently served an apprenticeship as a cobbler, but when he was twenty-one he began hunting and trapping animals, for showmen, in the woods of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. He delighted in his work, which was cut short when he tried to control an unruly Bengal tiger. In doing this favor for an exhibitor, Adams was badly mangled. When he recovered his health, he went back to making boots and shoes....

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Harriet Chalmers Adams. Harriet Chalmers Adams. Harriet Chalmers Adams, 1908. Glass negative. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-npcc-19900).

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Adams, Harriet Chalmers (22 October 1875–17 July 1937), explorer, lecturer, and writer, was born Harriet Chalmers in Stockton, California. Her father, Alexander Chalmers, Canadian via Scotland, came to California in 1864 to try his luck mining; he later ran a dry goods store with his brother before becoming a mine superintendent and part-owner. Her mother, Frances Wilkins, had grown up in the Sierra Nevada foothills. From the age of eleven Harriet and her sister Anna had private tutors. Her mother encouraged Harriet’s love of reading, while travels with her father developed her interest in the natural world as well as the Native American and Spanish-speaking cultures in the region. At thirteen Harriet and her father spent more than six months meandering the length of the Sierras from Oregon to Mexico, cementing her lifelong love of adventure. As a young woman Harriet continued her indoor and outdoor studies and had an active social life. She was fluent in Spanish and spoke Portuguese, French, Italian, and German as well....

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Akeley, Mary Leonore Jobe (29 January 1878–19 July 1966), explorer, author, and educator, was born near Tappan, Ohio, the daughter of Richard Watson Jobe and Sarah Jane Pittis, farmers. (The year of her birth is sometimes erroneously given as 1886.) She received a Ph.B. at Scio College in Alliance, Ohio, in 1897. (Scio, a Methodist school, merged with Mount Union College in Alliance in 1911.) She took graduate courses at Bryn Mawr (1901–1903) and taught at Temple College (now Temple University). She was head of the Department of History and Civics at the New York State Normal School and Training School in Cortland, New York (1903–1906), studied history and English at Columbia University, and in 1907 began to teach American history at the Normal College of the City of New York (now Hunter College). She received her M.A. in history at Columbia in 1909....

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Hernando de Alarcón. Engraving, c. 1791. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99997).

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Alarcón, Hernando de (fl. 1540–1541), Spanish explorer, , is believed to have been born in Trujillo, Spain. The names of his parents and the circumstances and year of his birth are all unknown. The only documented period of his life is 1540–1541, when he acted in response to the commands of Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of New Spain (Mexico). In the spring of 1540 Mendoza directed Alarcón to sail north from Acapulco, Mexico, to support the land explorations of ...

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Alden, John (1599?–12 September 1687), farmer and magistrate, was one of the original settlers of Plymouth Colony, arriving in New England on the Mayflower in 1620. No definite information exists about his birth, parentage, childhood, or education. In 1620 he lived at Southampton, England, where the migrating Pilgrims stopped for provisions on their way from the Netherlands to the New World. There he was hired as the ship’s cooper in charge of its supply of beer and drinking water. Upon landfall, Alden joined in signing the now famous Mayflower Compact. After the colonists’ arrival in Plymouth, Governor ...

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Alden, Priscilla Mullins (1602–1684), one of the first settlers of Plymouth Colony, was born the daughter of William Mullins, a shoemaker, and Mary (maiden name unknown). She was probably born in Dorking, Surrey, England, though there is no record of her birth. Her father’s life is not well documented, but he may be the William Mollines who was brought before the Privy Council in April 1616. If so, his Puritan faith might have been the reason that he and his family joined the Separatists on their ...

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Ethan Allen at Ticonderoga. Reproduction of a painting by E. Percy Moran (1862–1935). Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96539).

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Allen, Ethan (10 January 1738–12 February 1789), frontier revolutionary leader and author of the first deistic work by an American, was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Allen served briefly in the French and Indian War and in 1762 began operating a productive iron forge in Salisbury, Connecticut. That same year he married Mary Brownson, with whom he would have five children. But Allen’s deism and aggressive personal conduct ruined his early prospects: he was warned out of Salisbury in 1765 and Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1767....

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Allen, Ira (01 May 1751–15 January 1814), frontier entrepreneur and Vermont political leader, was born in Cornwall, Connecticut, the son of Joseph Allen and Mary Baker, farmers. Little is known of his youth, but in 1770 he followed his five elder brothers north to the New Hampshire Grants region and joined the Yankee versus Yorker struggle, which stemmed from the 1764 Crown decree that New York rather than New Hampshire owned the area that would become Vermont. While brother ...

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Allerton, Isaac (1586– February 1659), merchant in the early years of the Plymouth colony, . Little is known of Allerton’s early life, and nothing is known regarding his education and religious orientation. He was a tailor in London at the time that he moved to Leiden, Holland, in 1608. When the Separatist congregation of John Robinson arrived in 1609 Allerton joined the church. In 1611 he married a fellow member, Mary Norris. In 1614 he became a citizen of the Dutch city....

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Alligator (fl. 1832–1846), Seminole war leader , famous for resisting attempts of the United States to remove the Indians from Florida, had the Indian name Halpatter Tustenuggee. Nothing is known of his parents or youth except that he migrated with his parents from a Eufala town on the Tallapoosa River. Although not a hereditary chief, Alligator was connected to two important Seminole bands. He was a war leader and adviser to Micanopy, hereditary chief of the Alachua. Micanopy was a brother-in-law to Philip, hereditary leader of the Mikasukis, and Alligator generally collaborated with both Alachua and Mikasuki activities....

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Álvarez de Pineda, Alonso (?–1520), ship captain and explorer, is presumed to have been born in Spain, although neither his place of birth nor the names of his parents are known. In the spring of 1519 Álvarez de Pineda was commissioned by Francisco de Garay, Spanish governor of Jamaica, to explore the still unknown northern Gulf Coast between the discoveries of ...

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James Markham Ambler. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B01766).

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Ambler, James Markham Marshall (30 December 1848–30 October 1881), naval surgeon and explorer, was born in Markham, Virginia, the son of Richard Cary Ambler, a physician, and Susan Marshall. At age sixteen Ambler became a volunteer in the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry. He studied a premedicine curriculum at Washington College in 1865–1867 and then entered the University of Maryland. After acquiring a medical degree in 1870, he practiced in Baltimore until his appointment as an assistant surgeon in the U.S. Navy. During 1874–1875, he was stationed in the North Atlantic. In 1877 he joined the staff of the Naval Hospital at Norfolk, Virginia....

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American Horse (1840?–16 December 1908), Oglala Lakota leader, known to his people as Waśiču Taśunka, was the son of Sitting Bear, an Oglala chief, and an unknown mother. His birthplace is not known.

The name American Horse carries a complex history. In addition to two unrelated Oglala leaders who lived during the same era, Sitting Bear may also have been called by the name, as was at least one Cheyenne. American Horse the elder, known to Oglalas as Iron Shield or Iron Plume, was born around 1830 and established a reputation as a warrior and leader, probably participating in ...