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Brown, Hallie Quinn (10 March 1849–16 September 1949), educator, elocutionist, and entertainer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Arthur Brown, a steward and express agent on riverboats, and Frances Jane Scroggins. Both her parents were former slaves. When Hallie was fourteen years old she moved with her parents and five siblings to Chatham, Ontario, where her father earned his living farming, and the children attended the local school. There Brown’s talents as a speaker became evident. Returning to the United States around 1870, the family settled in Wilberforce, Ohio, so that Hallie and her younger brother could attend Wilberforce College, a primarily black African Methodist Episcopal (AME) institution....

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Emerson, Ralph Waldo (25 May 1803–27 April 1882), lecturer and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Emerson, a Congregational minister, and Ruth Haskins. Ralph was one of eight children. His father was a liberal, Concord-born minister of the First Church in Boston and active in the city’s intellectual and social life, being an editor of the ...

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King, Thomas Starr (17 December 1824–04 March 1864), Universalist minister and lecturer, was born in New York City, the son of Thomas Farrington King, a Universalist minister, and Susan Starr. Since his father moved from one pastorate to another, young King spent most of his formative years in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Charlestown, Massachusetts. He had little formal schooling and even that was terminated when he was fifteen years old because his father died. Forced to work in support of the family, he was at times a clerk, a bookkeeper in a dry-goods store, an assistant teacher in a grammar school (1840), a principal at another (1842), and in 1843 a bookkeeper at Charlestown Naval Yard. Throughout this time King actively pursued intellectual maturation. A voracious reader, he absorbed information at a remarkable pace and took advantage of lectures offered in Cambridge or Boston. His vigorous mind and thirst for knowledge drew the attention of Unitarian clergy and social reformer ...

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Pollock, Channing (04 March 1880–17 August 1946), playwright, journalist, and lecturer, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Alexander Lyon Pollock, an employee of the U.S. Weather Bureau, and Verona Larkin. Pollock’s early schooling took place in Omaha and Salt Lake City, where his father worked as a newspaper editor and publisher. He also went to the Untergymnasium in Prague, while visiting his father’s relatives, the elder Pollock having emigrated in the 1870s from Austria. He had tutors in San Salvador, where his father served as U.S. consul, dying of yellow fever. Enrolled in Bethel Military Academy, Warrenton, Virginia, he grew impatient to work as a writer. Already at school at eight, he had written and acted in ...

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Seton, Ernest Thompson (14 August 1860–23 October 1946), naturalist, artist, writer, and lecturer, was born Ernest Evan Thompson in South Shields, England, the son of Joseph Logan Thompson, a businessman, and Alice Snowden. Joseph Thompson claimed famous Scottish ancestry, including a title, never legally established, deriving from the fifth earl of Winton, Lord Seton. Ernest legally adopted the surname Seton in 1901....

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Stefansson, Vilhjalmur (03 November 1879–26 August 1962), Arctic explorer, writer, and lecturer, was born in Arnes, Manitoba, Canada, the son of Johann Stefansson and Ingibjorg Johannesdottir, Icelanders who had arrived in Canada in 1877. In 1881 the family moved to North Dakota, where Vilhjalmur attended school and eventually the University of North Dakota, the University of Iowa (B.A. 1903), and Harvard, where he entered the divinity school before transferring to anthropology. In 1906 he left school without graduating to join the Anglo-American Polar Expedition as ethnologist. After failing to rendezvous with other expedition members, who had been shipwrecked, Stefansson wintered among the Eskimos of Tuktoyyaktut, adapting to the Eskimo way of life and learning their language....

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Twain, Mark (30 November 1835–21 April 1910), author and lecturer, was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens in Florida, Missouri, the son of John Marshall Clemens, a lawyer, and Jane Lampton. Though he would intimate in good faith that his father descended from the gentry, his paternal grandparents were slave-owning farmers in Virginia, and his maternal grandparents in Kentucky, while better educated and more prosperous, were not wealthy. His father, having moved to Kentucky, was licensed to practice law in 1822. His parents moved in 1823 to Tennessee, where John Clemens accumulated a huge tract, perhaps as much as 75,000 acres, that would for decades figure in family councils as a potential fortune. He had minimal success as an attorney and speculator. In 1835 he embarked on various ventures in tiny Florida, Missouri, the home of John Adams Quarles, a capable farmer and storekeeper married to Jane Clemens’s younger sister....