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Adams, John (19 October 1735–04 July 1826), second president of the United States, diplomat, and political theorist, was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1691–1760), a shoemaker, selectman, and deacon, and Susanna Boylston. He claimed as a young man to have indulged in “a constant dissipation among amusements,” such as swimming, fishing, and especially shooting, and wished to be a farmer. However, his father insisted that he follow in the footsteps of his uncle Joseph Adams, attend Harvard College, and become a clergyman. John consented, applied himself to his studies, and developed a passion for learning but refused to become a minister. He felt little love for “frigid John Calvin” and the rigid moral standards expected of New England Congregationalist ministers....

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Adams, John Quincy (11 July 1767–23 February 1848), secretary of state, sixth president of the United States, and U.S. congressman, was born in Braintree, Massachusetts, the son of John Adams (1735–1826), second president of the United States, and Abigail Smith Adams (Abigail Adams...

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Alcorn, James Lusk (04 November 1816–20 December 1894), governor of Mississippi and U.S. senator, was born in Golconda, Illinois, the son of James Alcorn and Hannah (maiden name unknown). Soon after his birth, Alcorn’s family moved to Salem, Kentucky, where his father farmed and served as a boatman on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. In 1836 Alcorn briefly attended Cumberland College in Princeton, Kentucky. He tried teaching in Jackson, Arkansas, but soon returned to Livingston County, Kentucky, to serve as deputy sheriff under his uncle. Alcorn also studied law and in 1838 was admitted to the Kentucky bar. In the same year he married Mary Catherine Stewart; they had four children....

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Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth (06 November 1841–16 April 1915), U.S. senator, congressman, and businessman, was born in Foster, Rhode Island, the son of Anan Aldrich and Abby Burgess, farmers. Having received a modest education in East Killingly, Connecticut, and at the East Greenwich Academy in Rhode Island, Aldrich was by age seventeen working in Providence. Eventually a large wholesale grocery firm, Waldron, Wightman & Co., hired him as a clerk and bookkeeper. His career there was briefly interrupted in 1862 by service with the Tenth Rhode Island Volunteers garrisoning Washington, D.C. After contracting typhoid that same year he returned to Providence and, by 1866, had been elevated to junior partner at Waldron, Wightman. He married Abby Chapman that year; the couple would have eleven children. His wife was of independent means, but Aldrich insisted on accumulating a fortune on his own account and gradually did so. He worked his way up to full partner at Waldron, Wightman, was a director of the Roger Williams Bank by 1872, and by 1877 was president of Providence’s First National Bank. He also headed the city’s Board of Trade in these years....

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Allen, William (18 December 1803–11 July 1879), U.S. senator and congressman and governor of Ohio, was born in Edenton, North Carolina, the son of Nathaniel Allen, a wealthy merchant and landowner, and Sarah Colburn. Allen’s father had surrendered his Quaker principles to fight in the American Revolution and was a delegate to the North Carolina convention convened to consider the federal Constitution in 1788. Both parents died shortly after William’s birth, and he was raised by his half sister, the wife of a Methodist Episcopal minister, the Reverend Pleasant Thurman. Although born into the gentry, the tangled genealogy of his family, owing to his father’s three marriages and various legal technicalities, denied Allen any inheritance of his father’s considerable assets....

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Ames, Adelbert (31 October 1835–13 April 1933), soldier and politician, was born in Rockland, Maine, the son of Jesse Ames, a sea captain, and Martha B. Tolman. After spending some time at sea as a teenager, Ames entered the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1861. He was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the Fifth Artillery. During the Civil War he was wounded at First Bull Run (First Manassas) on 21 July, and he later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism there in refusing to leave his post despite the wound. He served with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsula campaign of 1862, and for his actions at Malvern Hill he was brevetted lieutenant colonel. On 8 August 1862 he was named colonel in command of the Twentieth Maine Volunteer Infantry, with ...

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Ames, Fisher (09 April 1758–04 July 1808), Federalist party leader, member of Congress, essayist, and renowned orator, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Ames, Sr., a physician, tavern keeper, and almanac writer, and Deborah Fisher. Intellectually honed, Ames was admitted to Harvard at twelve. Steeped in the classics, he excelled in elocution and participated in a debating club, the Institute of 1770. Graduating in 1774, he served with the Dedham militia at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill but did not see combat. At home he pursued his scholarly interests, reading widely in classical literature and history. He also occasionally taught school. Under the tutelage of the prominent ...

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Ames, Oakes (10 January 1804–08 May 1873), businessman and politician, was born in North Easton, Massachusetts, the son of Oliver Ames, a manufacturer, and Susanna Angier. He was educated in local schools and, for a few months, at Dighton Academy. At the age of sixteen, he entered his father’s shovel factory as an apprentice, rising quickly to become the works superintendent and then his father’s assistant. In 1827 he married Evelina Orvile Gilmore, and for the next three decades lived with her and their four children in one wing of his father’s house opposite the factory....

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Arthur, Chester Alan (05 October 1829–18 November 1886), twenty-first president of the United States, was born in Fairfield, Vermont, of Irish and English descent, the son of William Arthur, a teacher and Baptist minister, and Malvina Stone. During his youth he and his family experienced considerable economic insecurity. Still, “Chet,” as friends called him, was given a solid classical education, and he graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, in 1848. At eighteen, Arthur was a tall, good-looking, charming, somewhat romantic young man who enjoyed debating and writing and who shared his father’s abolitionist beliefs....

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Atchison, David Rice (11 August 1807–26 January 1886), lawyer and U.S. senator, was born in Frogtown, in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, the son of William Atchison and Catherine Allen, farmers. Educated at Transylvania University, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1827. After practicing for three years in Carlisle, Kentucky, he moved to Liberty in western Missouri....

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Austin, Warren Robinson (12 November 1877–25 December 1962), U.S. senator and ambassador, was born in the rural community of Highgate Center, Vermont, near the Canadian border, the son of Chauncey Goodrich Austin, a successful country lawyer, and Anne Robinson. He attended the University of Vermont, receiving his Ph.B. in 1899. He married Mildred Lucas in 1901, and they had two children....

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Badger, George Edmund (17 April 1795–11 May 1866), U.S. senator and secretary of the navy, was born in New Bern, North Carolina, the son of Thomas Badger, a prominent attorney, and Lydia Cogdell. His father died when George was four, and he was raised by his mother. He attended Yale College for two years but left without graduating after a relative withdrew his financial support. He studied law under his maternal cousin, John Stanly, and received his license in 1814. Soon afterward he was appointed solicitor for the New Bern District. He represented the borough of New Bern in the general assembly of 1816....

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Baker, Howard Henry, Jr. (15 Nov. 1925–26 June 2014), politician and diplomat, was born in Huntsville, Tennessee, to Howard Henry Baker, Sr., a lawyer and politician who subsequently served in the US House of Representatives (1951–1964), and Dora Ladd Baker. The Baker family were staunch Presbyterians, members of the Republican Party since the Civil War, and longtime defenders of civil rights for the minority African American population. Young Baker’s paternal grandfather was a prominent judge, and his maternal grandmother was the first female sheriff in Tennessee....

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Baldwin, Roger Sherman (04 January 1793–19 February 1863), lawyer, governor, and senator, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Simeon Baldwin, a lawyer, judge, congressman, and mayor of New Haven, and Rebecca Sherman. Baldwin was a direct descendant of the Puritan settlers of Connecticut and the Founding Fathers of the nation. His father’s family was among the original New Haven colonists, and his mother was the daughter of ...

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Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss (30 January 1816–01 September 1894), congressman and Civil War general, was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel P. Banks, a textile mill foreman, and Rebecca Greenwood. He attended a school for factory children until he began work in the mills as a bobbin boy at age eleven. At seventeen he left factory work to assist his father in carpentry and to learn the machinist’s trade....

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Barbour, W. Warren (31 July 1888–22 November 1943), businessman and U.S. senator from New Jersey, was born William Warren Barbour in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, the son of Colonel William Barbour, president of The Linen Thread Company, and Julia Adelaide Sprague. Barbour was educated at the Browning School in New York City. Though admitted to Princeton in 1906, he instead entered the family's thread business. In 1908 Barbour enlisted in Squadron A of the New York National Guard....

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Barden, Graham Arthur (25 September 1896–29 January 1967), U.S. congressman, was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, near Turkey township, the son of James Jefferson Barden and Mary James. After Graham’s early years on the family farm, the Bardens moved to Burgaw so the children could attend high school. Following graduation from Burgaw High School, Barden enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. World War I intervened, and he enlisted in the navy about a month before the armistice. Discharged after five months of service, he returned to the university, where he earned his LL.B. in 1920. After passing the state bar examination, he taught and coached at New Bern High School to earn money for a law library. The next year he established his first law practice with a friend. He married Agnes Foy in 1922. They had two children. In 1931 he left his law firm to practice with his wife’s brother-in-law....

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Barkley, Alben William (24 November 1877–30 April 1956), vice president of the United States, was born in a log cabin in a community named Wheel, between the villages of Lowes and Fancy Farm, in Graves County, Kentucky, the son of John Wilson Barkley and Electra Smith, tenant tobacco farmers. Named Willie Alben, the “Willie” for two uncles, he changed his name as soon as he could (as he put it, as soon as he was old enough to assert himself), letting it be known that he was Alben William “and no foolishness!” Barkley grew up in poverty, working on the farm. He did not graduate from high school but managed to enroll in a tiny Methodist institution, Marvin College, in Clinton, Kentucky. Upon graduation in 1897 he sold cookware to pay his way through law school. The crockery cracked upon use, and he was reduced to going back to purchasers and paying them for their losses out of his own pocket. He managed to borrow $200 to attend a year of law school, 1897–1898, at Emory College (now Emory University), then located in Oxford, Georgia. Lacking means to continue, he taught a few months at Marvin and thereupon moved to Paducah, where, with a few shirts, fifty cents in change, and a letter of introduction to a local lawyer, he began reading law. He was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1901 and had his last formal instruction in law during a summer at the University of Virginia in 1902. The next year he married Dorothy Brower, with whom he had three children....

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Barnard, Daniel Dewey (11 September 1796–24 April 1861), lawyer, congressman, and diplomat, was born in East Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Timothy Barnard, a county judge, and Phebe Dewey. Barnard’s early years were spent on the family farm near Hartford, Connecticut. When he was twelve the family moved to Mendon, New York (near Rochester). His formal education started with a year at Lenox Academy, after which he transferred to Williams College, where he graduated in 1818....

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Barnes, Julius Howland (02 February 1873–17 April 1959), industrialist and government official, was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, the son of Lucien Jerome Barnes, a banker, and Julia Hill. Moving with his family, he attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and Duluth, Minnesota. Following his father’s death in 1886, Barnes left school to take a job as office boy with the Duluth grain brokerage firm of Wardell Ames. There he rose rapidly, becoming president of the company in 1910 and subsequently reorganizing it as the Barnes-Ames Company. By 1915 Barnes-Ames was the world’s largest grain exporter, and Barnes acquired other business interests, principally in shipbuilding and Great Lakes shipping. In 1896 he married Harriet Carey, with whom he had two children....