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Hays, Will S. (19 July 1837–23 July 1907), songwriter, poet, and editor, was born William Shakespeare Hays in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Hugh Hays, a successful manufacturer of farming equipment, and Martha Richardson, an amateur musician and writer. Although he early showed signs of musical aptitude, his formal training extended no further than a few violin lessons. He attended small colleges in Hanover, Indiana; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1856–1857. During this time he published his first song, “Little Ones at Home,” for which he wrote only the text. Hays returned to Louisville and worked in a music store. There he began to compose melodies for his poems, among the first of which was “Evangeline” (1857), musically in a style that acknowledged an important debt to the vogue for Italian opera. This turned out to be his first hit, selling perhaps as many as 300,000 copies. It was during his time at D. P. Faulds’s music store that Hays allegedly composed the original version of “Dixie,” a claim made by Faulds himself more than thirty years later and corroborated then by Hays. (This story has never been supported by evidence other than hearsay, and ...

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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.”...

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Smith, Samuel Francis (21 October 1808–16 November 1895), editor, Baptist clergyman, and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Smith and Sarah Bryant. Young Smith was educated at both the Eliot School and the Boston Latin School, where he received the distinguished Franklin medal in 1825. At Harvard College, Smith became part of the famous class of 1829, which also included ...