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Agee, James Rufus (27 November 1909–16 May 1955), writer, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Hugh James Agee, a construction company employee, and Laura Whitman Tyler. The father’s family were poorly educated mountain farmers, while the mother’s were solidly middle class. Agee was profoundly affected by his father’s death in a car accident in 1916. He idealized his absent father and struggled against his mother and her genteel and (he felt) cold values. “Agee’s mother wanted him to be clean, chaste, and sober,” the photographer ...

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Allen, Henry Justin (11 September 1869–17 January 1950), politician and newspaper editor, was born in Pittsfield, Pennsylvania, the son of John Allen, a farmer, and Rebecca Goodwin. In 1870 the Allens settled on a farm in Clay County, Kansas, which they lost in 1879. The family relocated in Osage County, Kansas, where Allen graduated from Burlingame High School. Working as a barber to attend Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, he excelled at forensics, which led to his first newspaper job and forecast his later stature as one of America’s most popular public speakers. While at Baker, he met Elsie Jane Nuzman, and they were married in 1892. Only one of their four children survived to adulthood....

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Alvarez, Walter Clement (22 July 1884–16 June 1978), physician, medical researcher, and medical columnist, was born in San Francisco, California, the son of Luis Fernandez Alvarez, a physician, and Clementina Schuetze. When Alvarez was three, his family moved to Hawaii, where his father was a government physician in two isolated Oahu villages. Alvarez was eleven when his father established a Honolulu hospital for lepers and attempted to develop a serum to combat the disease. While assisting his father, Alvarez resolved to become a physician....

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Baker, Ray Stannard (17 April 1870–12 July 1946), journalist and author, was born in Lansing, Michigan, the son of Joseph Stannard Baker and Alice Potter. A descendant of pioneering stock, he grew up in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, where his family moved in 1875 and his father worked as a land agent. Baker later boasted that he had been brought up on the “last frontier.” His mother died in 1883, but his father, a Civil War veteran, strongly impressed Baker with his rugged character, integrity, and common sense. He attended the local schools, discovered the world of books in his parents’ library, and in 1885 enrolled at Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing. In college Baker discovered a special liking for science courses and also edited the school newspaper. After receiving the B.S. degree in 1889, he returned home to work in his father’s land office. In January 1892 Baker entered law school at the University of Michigan but dropped out after a few months. Meanwhile, he became interested in journalism, partly as the result of a seminar at the university. In the summer of 1892 he found a job with the Chicago ...

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Barrett, John (28 November 1866–17 October 1938), commercial publicist and diplomat, was born in Grafton, Vermont, the son of Charles Barrett and Caroline Sanford. His father, reportedly shy and withdrawn, served for a time as a town official and a Republican state legislator but devoted most of his life to artistic pursuits. His mother, who was more outgoing, had a lively regard for politics, law, journalism, theology, and economics, and Barrett’s letters to her suggest she strongly influenced him....

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Baum, L. Frank (15 May 1856–06 May 1919), children's author, journalist, and playwright, children’s author, journalist, and playwright, was born Lyman Frank Baum in Chittenango, New York, the son of Benjamin Ward Baum, a cooper and sawyer who had made a fortune in Pennsylvania oil, and Cynthia Stanton. He grew up on the family estate, “Roselawn,” outside Syracuse, New York. Suffering from a congenitally weak heart, he was educated at home. A stay at Peekskill Military Academy beginning in 1868—which gave Baum a lifelong antipathy to academics and the military—ended less than two years later in his having a heart attack. Back home, he published a family newspaper and periodicals on stamp collecting and the breeding of fancy chickens. In 1881 he studied theater in New York City and joined a repertory company, then managed an opera house in Richburg, New York, from 1881 to 1882, and, with his father’s financing, toured successfully with ...

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Bennett, James Gordon (01 September 1795–01 June 1872), newspaper editor, was born in Keith, Banffshire, Scotland, the son of a Roman Catholic farmer. After attending public school, Bennett at age fifteen entered the Catholic seminary at Aberdeen to train for the priesthood. He left the seminary after four years and spent the next five years reading and traveling, supported by an indulgent family, until 1819, when he impulsively decided to emigrate to the United States....

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Bierce, Ambrose Gwinnett (24 June 1842–1914?), author and journalist, was born in the Horse Cave settlement in Meigs County, Ohio, the son of Marcus Aurelius Bierce and Laura Sherwood, farmers. The family was poor and moved several times, eventually settling in Elkhart, Indiana. His parents were strongly evangelical Protestant, but Bierce early resented his religious indoctrination and moved toward agnosticism. He briefly attended the Kentucky Military Institute in 1859. He enlisted at once in the Union army when the Civil War began in 1861 and was soon appointed a sergeant. He was later commissioned a second lieutenant and had risen to first lieutenant when invalided out of the army because of wounds in January 1865. He was brevetted major by President ...

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Blair, Francis Preston (12 April 1791–18 October 1876), newspaper editor and presidential adviser, was born in Abingdon, Virginia, the son of James Blair, a lawyer and, later, attorney general of Kentucky, and Elizabeth Smith; he was usually called Preston. Reared in Frankfort, Kentucky, Blair graduated with honors from Transylvania University in 1811. In 1812 he married Eliza Violet Gist ( ...

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Bok, Edward William (09 October 1863–09 January 1930), editor, philanthropist, and peace advocate, was born in den Helder, Holland, the son of William John Hidde Bok and Sieke Gertrude van Herwerden, who, having lost their inherited fortune through unwise investments, immigrated to the United States in 1870. They settled in Brooklyn, where Bok and his older brother learned English in public school. With his father at first unable to find steady employment, Bok delivered newspapers, worked in a bakery, and wrote up childrens’ parties for the ...

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Borland, Solon (08 August 1811–15 December 1864), editor, U.S. senator, and diplomat, was born in Suffolk, Virginia, the son of Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. His father was politically active, serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Nansemond County between 1815 and 1820. In 1831 Borland married Huldah Wright, with whom he had two children. Following in the medical footsteps of his father, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School during the academic year of 1833–1834. He then practiced medicine in Suffolk, but upon the death of his wife in 1836 Borland moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he entered into a medical career with his brother, who was also a physician. In 1839 Borland married Eliza Hart, who died just a few months later. They had no children. By this time he had forsaken pills for politics, becoming the founding editor of the ...

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Bowles, Samuel (09 February 1826–16 January 1878), newspaper editor, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Bowles, the founder of the Springfield Republican in 1824, and Huldah Deming. The boy’s formal education was modest. He attended the local schools in Springfield, making satisfactory progress in his studies. He was a diligent student, a trifle slow in absorbing material, but he usually retained most of what he learned. He enjoyed school and had a strong desire for a college education. His headmaster offered encouragement, but Bowles’s hopes were dashed by his father, who thought college was unnecessary. College would also have been a financial hardship on the family. Throughout his adult life, in the pages of his newspaper, Bowles rationalized his lack of higher education by denigrating its value in the making of a newspaper editor....

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Bradlee, Benjamin Crowninshield (Ben) (26 Aug. 1921–21 Oct. 2014), newspaper editor and journalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Frederick Bradlee, Jr., an investment banker, and Josephine de Gersdorff Bradlee, both of whom came from wealthy and established backgrounds. Ben, as he was always known, grew up with two siblings in a comfortable home in the upper-class Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. He was educated privately, first at the Dexter School and then at St. Mark’s boarding school, where he played baseball. His upbringing included French and music lessons and frequent exposure to Boston’s cultural offerings. The family’s financial status changed dramatically, however, when they lost most of their investments following the collapse of the stock market in ...

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Brinkley, David (10 July 1920–11 June 2003), broadcast journalist, was born David McClure Brinkley in Wilmington, North Carolina, the son of William Graham Brinkley, a railroad worker, and Mary MacDonald West. Brinkley's father died when the boy was eight, leaving him in the care of a dour, deeply religious mother. Brinkley, seeking escape through reading, spent hours at the Wilmington Public Library. He also enjoyed writing. Encouraged by his high school English teacher, Brinkley worked part‐time at Wilmington's afternoon newspaper, the ...

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Brisbane, Arthur (12 December 1864–25 December 1936), journalist and newspaper editor, was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Albert Brisbane, a propagator of Fourier socialism, which advocated the establishment of model utopian communities, and his second wife, Sarah White. Extensive family real estate holdings had enabled Albert Brisbane to pursue a polymathic career, and when his wife died in 1866, Albert decided to use their two sons as test cases of his ideas on education. Arthur and his brother Fowell were brought up primarily on the family estate, “Fanwood Farm,” in New Jersey, where, as Albert put it, they were encouraged to run free “like wild colts.” Reared on a diet of salad, yogurt, and diluted red wine, the boys were forbidden to play with other children, to learn to read, or to cut their blond tresses. These methods failed to improve the health of Fowell, who was mildly retarded from birth. But Arthur, who learned to read in defiance of his father’s orders, appeared to thrive....

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Bromfield, Louis (27 December 1896–18 March 1956), novelist, experimental farmer, and newspaper columnist, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of Charles Bromfield, a banker and local Democratic office holder, and Annette Marie Coulter. His father was from an old New England family, and his mother was the daughter of a pioneer family of Richland County, Ohio; both ancestries would influence his later fiction. Bromfield attended Mansfield public schools, spending summers on his mother’s family’s farm. In 1914–1915 he studied agriculture at Cornell University and then briefly attended Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. He then studied journalism at Columbia University until his enlistment in the U.S. Army Ambulance Service in June 1917. He served with Section 577, attached to the French army, from December 1917 to February 1919. He participated in seven major battles during World War I and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He was discharged in June 1919 while still in France....

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Brooks, Erastus (31 January 1815–25 November 1886), journalist and politician, was born in Portland, Maine, the son of the late James Brooks (c. 1788–1814), a commander of a privateer in the War of 1812 who had gone down with his ship, and Betsey Folsom. The financial problems caused by his father’s early death meant that Erastus had to begin work at age eight as a grocery store clerk in Boston. Ever enterprising, he used his pocket money to buy books and attend night school. He soon was placed in a printing office, where he learned to set type. Knowledge of this trade enabled him to earn enough money to attend classes at Brown University, although he did not complete the course of study. Eager to work for himself, he started his own newspaper, the ...

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Bruce, Archibald ( February 1777–22 February 1818), physician, mineralogist, and editor, was born in New York City, the son of William Bruce, a British army medical officer, and Judith Bayard Van Rensselaer. Despite his father’s expressed wish, Bruce pursued medical education and practice. After taking an A.B. at Columbia College in 1797, he continued his studies in New York and then moved on to Edinburgh (M.D., 1800). As was common in this period, his medical education included exposure to the natural sciences, and Bruce developed a lifelong interest in mineralogy. After completing his M.D., he extended his European stay with travels on the Continent to study mineralogy and collect materials for his own mineralogical cabinet....

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Bryant, William Cullen (03 November 1794–12 June 1878), poet and journalist, was born in Cummington, Massachusetts, the son of Peter Bryant, a physician, and Sarah Snell, daughter of one of the first settlers. Young Cullen, as he was called, was a precocious child of poor health and nervous temperament. His mother taught him the alphabet at sixteen months. At twelve he was tutored in Latin by an uncle, Rev. Thomas Snell, and in Greek by Rev. Moses Halleck. His father, himself well versed in the classics as well as British poetry, shared his sizable personal library with his son and encouraged him to write poetry. Bryant’s mother kept a diary of observations on local events. Thus, the environment of his boyhood was not only conducive to an appreciation of culture and the disciplined development of his literary skills, but also to the nurture of spiritual and moral qualities. In particular, Bryant retained through his life vivid memories of long hours spent at the Congregational church, with its biblical orientation and rigorous Calvinism....

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Burton, William Evans (24 September 1802–10 February 1860), actor and editor, was born in London, England, the son of William George Burton, a printer (maiden name unknown). Hoping his child would become a clergyman, the elder Burton enrolled him at St. Paul’s School, but at the age of eighteen Burton had to withdraw and take charge of his family’s printing business when his father died....