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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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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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Hentoff, Nat (10 June 1925–7 Jan. 2017), writer and social critic, was born Nathan Irving Hentoff in Boston to Simon Hentoff, a haberdasher, and Lena Katzenberg Hentoff. Both parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia. From an early age young Nat, as he was known, read widely and absorbed the intense political discussions that swirled around him in his Jewish working-class neighborhood, populated mostly by émigrés who were variously socialists, communists, and anarchists. Growing up in an Orthodox household, he often encountered anti-Semitism when he ventured outside his immediate milieu, giving him, he later recalled, an intense sympathy for the underdog. That experience also engendered a fierce desire to excel that gained him entrance to the Boston Latin School, a public institution that admitted only the brightest students in the city....

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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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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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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.”...