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Applegate, Jesse (05 July 1811–22 April 1888), Oregon pioneer and publicist, was born in Kentucky, the son of Daniel Applegate, a veteran of the revolutionary war, and Rachel Lindsay. When he was ten his family moved to Missouri, where his father was the village schoolmaster and deputy surveyor general. In 1827 and 1828 Applegate attended Rock Spring Seminary in Shiloh, Illinois, where he showed talent in mathematics and surveying. Later he continued private study of these subjects while teaching school. He then secured a position clerking for the surveyor general’s office in St. Louis and was promoted quickly to deputy surveyor general; he spent much of his time surveying in the western part of Missouri. In 1832 he married Cynthia Parker and settled on a farm in Osage Valley, where the couple lived for twelve years and had several children....

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Breen, Patrick (baptized 11 June 1795–21 December 1868), diarist of the Donner Party, was born in Barnahasken Townland, County Carlow, Ireland, the son of Edward “Ned” Breen and Mary Wilson, farmers. Breen spent his youth in Ireland on the family farm, which was left to Breen, his brothers, and mother when his father died in 1816. Breen was reared to be a strict and devoted Catholic, attending chapel from the time he was a baby. His religious convictions helped him tremendously in later life....

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Bridgman, Herbert Lawrence (30 May 1844–24 September 1924), newspaper executive and explorer, was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, the son of Richard Baxter Bridgman and Mary Nutting. Educated at local schools and at Amherst College, from which he graduated in 1866, Bridgman received a master’s degree in English from Amherst three years later....

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Browne, John Ross (11 February 1821–08 December 1875), writer, world traveler, and government agent, was born in Beggars Bush, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Egerton Browne and Elana Buck. His father was a refugee from British rule. As the editor of three publications, Thomas Browne satirized British tithing measures and earned the enmity of the Crown, a fine, and a jail sentence for “seditious libel.”...

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Frank Carpenter. Center, talking with the director of the Standard Oil fields in Roumania. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98528).

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Carpenter, Frank George (08 May 1855–18 June 1924), journalist and author of travel books, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of George F. Carpenter, an attorney, and Jeannette Reid. Frank attended public school in Mansfield and then went on to the University of Wooster, earning a Phi Beta Kappa key and graduating in 1877. He did further study at Ohio State University. In 1878 or 1879 he was hired as the Columbus (Ohio) correspondent for the ...

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Buffalo Bill Cody. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111880).

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Cody, William Frederick (26 February 1846–10 January 1917), frontiersman and entertainer, better known as “Buffalo Bill,” was born in Scott County, Iowa, the son of Isaac Cody and Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock. Cody’s father managed several farms and operated a state business in Iowa. In 1854 the family moved to the Salt Creek Valley in Kansas, where Cody’s father received a government contract to provide hay to Fort Leavenworth. After his father died in 1857, Cody went to work as an ox-team driver for fifty cents a day. Shortly thereafter, the firm of Majors and Russell hired him as an express boy. Cody attended school periodically, although his formal education ended in 1859 when he joined a party heading to Denver to search for gold. He prospected for two months without any luck. He arrived back in Kansas in March 1860 after a trapping expedition. He rode for a time for the Pony Express during its short lifetime (Apr. 1860–Nov. 1861). After the start of the Civil War he joined a group of antislavery guerrillas based in Kansas. Later the Ninth Kansas Volunteers hired him as a scout and guide. On 16 February 1864 Cody enlisted into Company F of the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry. He saw quite a bit of action in Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, and Kansas during his one year and seven months of duty. He was mustered out of the army as a private on 29 September 1865....

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Coggeshall, George (02 November 1784–06 August 1861), sea captain and author, was born in Milford, Connecticut, the son of William Coggeshall, a shipmaster, and Eunice Mallett. A Revolutionary War veteran, William Coggeshall was financially ruined when one of his vessels was seized by a British cruiser for trading at a French island, and another was captured by France for trading with English colonies. As a result, George Coggeshall and his six siblings were left destitute. Thus, he was denied a formal education and was forced to teach himself by reading every book available. A devoted son, Coggeshall determined that he would go to sea as soon as possible, thereby reducing the family’s expenses and affording him a chance to recoup his father’s losses....

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Colton, Walter (09 May 1797–22 January 1851), clergyman, journalist, and author, was born in Rutland County, Vermont, the son of Walter Colton, a weaver, and Thankful Cobb. The family soon moved to Georgia, Vermont. Colton was apprenticed to a cabinetmaking uncle in Hartford, Connecticut, where in 1816 he joined the Congregational church. He attended classes at the Hartford Grammar School until 1818, entered Yale College, won a prize for excellence in Latin, and graduated as valedictorian poet in 1822. He studied at the Andover Theological Seminary, graduating in 1825. Later that year he became a Congregationalist evangelist and joined the faculty of the Scientific and Military Academy in Middletown, Connecticut, where he taught moral philosophy and belles-lettres and was chaplain. Publishing essays and poems signed “Bertram” in the Middletown ...

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Delano, Amasa (21 February 1763–21 April 1823), New England mariner and author, was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Delano and Abigail Drew. His father, a well-to-do shipbuilder, joined the American army when the Revolution broke out and was almost immediately taken prisoner. “Treated with great harshness and severity,” he was released before the war ended and resumed his trade. Meanwhile, over his father’s objections, Delano had entered the army at the age of fourteen and shipped out on the privateer ...

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Denys de la Ronde, Louis (02 August 1675–25 March 1741), French military officer, explorer, and spy, was born in Quebec City, Canada, the son of Pierre Denys de la Ronde, a landowner and merchant (the Crown had given the aristocracy in Canada permission to engage in trade), and Catherine Leneuf de la Potherie. He entered naval service in 1687 as a midshipman in France. During the war of 1689–1697 he served in exiled British king James II’s expedition to Ireland, then off the coast of England, and finally on several voyages to New France and along the coast of New England. Captured at sea in 1695, he was soon released in an exchange of prisoners of war. He served in ...

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Dorris, Michael (30 January 1945–11 April 1997), writer and academician, was born Michael Anthony Dorris in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Jim Leonard Dorris, a soldier, and Mary Burkhardt Dorris. Jim Dorris was killed in the late stages of World War II or shortly after the war, depending on the source consulted. As a result, Dorris was raised by his mother, aunt, and two grandmothers. As a youngster, Dorris read voraciously, borrowing books from adults and spending time in libraries. Following high school, he enrolled at Georgetown University, the first member of his family to attend college. He earned a B.A. degree (cum laude) in 1967 and an M.Phil. from Yale University in 1970. He was a successful academician, holding faculty appointments at the University of Redlands (1970–1971), Franconia College (1971–1972), and Dartmouth College (1972–1989, adjunct 1989–1997). While at Dartmouth, he founded and taught in the Native American Studies Program. Dorris's ancestry has been described as mixed Irish, French, and Native American, with the latter more specifically identified as “Modoc on his father's side.”...

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John Dos Passos. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117477).

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Dos Passos, John (14 January 1896–28 September 1970), writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of John Randolph Dos Passos, a lawyer, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison. His parents were married in 1910, when his father’s first wife died, and in 1912 the boy took his father’s name of Dos Passos; before that he was known as John Roderigo Madison. As an illegitimate child he had lived a rootless life, traveling much in Europe with his mother. She died in 1915. The necessary secrecy of his boyhood, the mixture of admiration and fear Dos Passos felt toward his powerful father—who was both an important corporate lawyer and the author of books on trusts and the stock market—and his dependence on his beautiful, often unhappy southern mother affected him deeply. A timid boy, Dos Passos found excitement in reading, studying languages, and observing the art of the time; he discovered his greatest joy in writing. His early poems, with those of ...

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Olaudah Equiano. From the frontispiece of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, 1794. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-54026).

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Equiano, Olaudah (1745–31 March 1797), sailor, abolitionist, and writer, also known as Gustavus Vassa, was born in eastern Nigeria, the son of an Ibo village chief. When he was eleven, people from another Ibo village captured Equiano and his sister, beginning a six-month period during which he was separated from his sister and sold from one master to another until he reached the coast. There Equiano’s African masters sold him to white slave traders headed for Barbados. From Barbados he traveled to Virginia, where he was bought by Henry Pascal, the captain of a British trading vessel. During the spring 1757 voyage to England, Pascal gave Equiano the name Gustavus Vassa, which he used throughout his life, yet Equiano still included his African name on the title page of his autobiography....

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Flower, Richard (1761–02 September 1829), reformer and Illinois pioneer, was born in England, probably in Hertfordshire, the son of George Flower, a prosperous tradesman. His mother’s name is unknown. Establishing himself in Hertford as a brewer, Flower did well in business for over twenty years. He married a daughter (name unknown) of Edward Fordham of Kelshall; they had five children. He joined in the activities of his brother Benjamin Flower, who had become involved in dissenting politics and pamphleteering, and wrote ...

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Fodor, Eugene (14 October 1905–18 February 1991), writer and publisher, was born in Leva, Hungary (now part of Slovakia), the son of Matthew Gyula Fodor, a businessman, and Malvine Kurti. After he received his primary education in Leva, Eugene Fodor earned a baccalaureate degree in 1924 from a school in Lucenec, Czechoslovakia, before attending the Sorbonne and the University of Grenoble in France. At Grenoble, he majored in political economics, graduating in 1927. He did postgraduate work at the University of Hamburg, Germany, but did not receive an advanced degree. After studying at Hamburg, Fodor took a job with a French shipping line, working as a shipboard interpreter. A lover of travel who spoke five languages, his new position seemed ideal. He traveled all over Europe and polished his language skills as well. Soon, he was writing articles about life aboard ship and his visits to interesting ports of call for an in-house magazine published by the company. He sold articles about exotic places to newspapers in Hungary and France, and from 1930 to 1933 he also served as travel correspondent for the ...

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Freeman, Frederick Kemper (15 June 1841–09 September 1928), frontier journalist, was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, the son of Arthur Freeman, a railroad agent, and Mary Allison Kemper. Freeman attended schools associated with his mother’s family; between the ages of ten and about fourteen, Freeman attended Kemper Family School, later known as Kemper Military School, in Boonville, Missouri. After returning to Virginia, he attended Kemper College in Gordonsville. On 9 May 1861 he enlisted in the Confederate army, in which he participated in the battle of Manassas and rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Signal Corps....