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Birkbeck, Morris (23 January 1764–04 June 1825), pioneer and author, was born in Settle, Yorkshire, the son of Morris Birkbeck, apparently a businessman, and Hannah Bradford, both of whom were Quakers. In 1774 the Birkbecks moved to the hamlet of Wanborough, Surrey, where a community of Friends had been established and where young Birkbeck was raised. He became a farmer, and by 1794 he was operating a 1,500-acre estate, which he leased. A slim, muscular, bald-headed man, Birkbeck was energetic, reflective, idealistic, and even-tempered. Frequently innovative, he was the first breeder of merino sheep in England. In 1794 he married Prudence Bush, also a Quaker, of nearby Wandsworth. She died in 1804, leaving him with seven children....

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Browne, John Ross (11 February 1821–08 December 1875), writer, world traveler, and government agent, was born in Beggars Bush, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of Thomas Egerton Browne and Elana Buck. His father was a refugee from British rule. As the editor of three publications, Thomas Browne satirized British tithing measures and earned the enmity of the Crown, a fine, and a jail sentence for “seditious libel.”...

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Frank Carpenter. Center, talking with the director of the Standard Oil fields in Roumania. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98528).

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Carpenter, Frank George (08 May 1855–18 June 1924), journalist and author of travel books, was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the son of George F. Carpenter, an attorney, and Jeannette Reid. Frank attended public school in Mansfield and then went on to the University of Wooster, earning a Phi Beta Kappa key and graduating in 1877. He did further study at Ohio State University. In 1878 or 1879 he was hired as the Columbus (Ohio) correspondent for the ...

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Castiglioni, Luigi (03 October 1757–22 April 1832), naturalist, author, and politician, was born in Milan, Italy, the son of Count Ottavio Castiglioni and Teresa Verri, both of distinguished families. In childhood, after the death of his father, Castiglioni and his older brother, Alfonso, were adopted by their mother’s brother, Pietro Verri, whose political ideas and writings placed him and his brother, Alessandro, among the central figures of the Italian Enlightenment. Although Verri provided his nephews with material comfort and intellectual guidance, their relationship was sometimes contentious....

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Coggeshall, George (02 November 1784–06 August 1861), sea captain and author, was born in Milford, Connecticut, the son of William Coggeshall, a shipmaster, and Eunice Mallett. A Revolutionary War veteran, William Coggeshall was financially ruined when one of his vessels was seized by a British cruiser for trading at a French island, and another was captured by France for trading with English colonies. As a result, George Coggeshall and his six siblings were left destitute. Thus, he was denied a formal education and was forced to teach himself by reading every book available. A devoted son, Coggeshall determined that he would go to sea as soon as possible, thereby reducing the family’s expenses and affording him a chance to recoup his father’s losses....

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Collier, Price (25 May 1860–03 November 1913), writer and minister, was born Hiram Price Collier in Davenport, Iowa, the son of Robert Laird Collier, a Unitarian clergyman who collected European labor statistics for the U.S. government, and Mary Price, whose father, Hiram Price, was a U.S. congressman. After his mother’s death in 1872 Collier spent five years in Europe with his father and became fluent in French and German. In 1882 Collier finished Harvard Divinity School, where he was the youngest student to graduate up to that time. He first occupied the pulpit of the First Parish Church in Hingham, Massachusetts, and in 1888 arrived at the First Unitarian Church of Brooklyn, New York, where he almost instantly became both a sought-after preacher and a man about town. Early in 1890 the New York ...

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Colton, Walter (09 May 1797–22 January 1851), clergyman, journalist, and author, was born in Rutland County, Vermont, the son of Walter Colton, a weaver, and Thankful Cobb. The family soon moved to Georgia, Vermont. Colton was apprenticed to a cabinetmaking uncle in Hartford, Connecticut, where in 1816 he joined the Congregational church. He attended classes at the Hartford Grammar School until 1818, entered Yale College, won a prize for excellence in Latin, and graduated as valedictorian poet in 1822. He studied at the Andover Theological Seminary, graduating in 1825. Later that year he became a Congregationalist evangelist and joined the faculty of the Scientific and Military Academy in Middletown, Connecticut, where he taught moral philosophy and belles-lettres and was chaplain. Publishing essays and poems signed “Bertram” in the Middletown ...

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Crèvecoeur, J. Hector St. John de (31 January 1735–12 November 1813), writer and government official, was born in Caen, Normandy, where, in the parish of St. Jean, he was baptized Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur. He was the elder son of Guillaume-Augustin Jean de Crèvecoeur and Marie-Anne-Thérèse Blouet, his father a substantial landowner and his mother also of the provincial nobility of Normandy. Crèvecoeur grew up in the manor house of Pierrepont, near the village of Creully. At the Jesuit Collège Royal de Bourbon at Caen, Crèvecoeur studied practical mathematics, learned surveying and cartography, and was graduated with distinction in literature and languages in 1750. He continued his education in Salisbury, England, and probably visited Lisbon, about which he wrote several times....

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Delano, Amasa (21 February 1763–21 April 1823), New England mariner and author, was born in Duxbury, Massachusetts, the son of Samuel Delano and Abigail Drew. His father, a well-to-do shipbuilder, joined the American army when the Revolution broke out and was almost immediately taken prisoner. “Treated with great harshness and severity,” he was released before the war ended and resumed his trade. Meanwhile, over his father’s objections, Delano had entered the army at the age of fourteen and shipped out on the privateer ...

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John Dos Passos. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117477).

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Dos Passos, John (14 January 1896–28 September 1970), writer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of John Randolph Dos Passos, a lawyer, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison. His parents were married in 1910, when his father’s first wife died, and in 1912 the boy took his father’s name of Dos Passos; before that he was known as John Roderigo Madison. As an illegitimate child he had lived a rootless life, traveling much in Europe with his mother. She died in 1915. The necessary secrecy of his boyhood, the mixture of admiration and fear Dos Passos felt toward his powerful father—who was both an important corporate lawyer and the author of books on trusts and the stock market—and his dependence on his beautiful, often unhappy southern mother affected him deeply. A timid boy, Dos Passos found excitement in reading, studying languages, and observing the art of the time; he discovered his greatest joy in writing. His early poems, with those of ...

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Du Chaillu, Paul Belloni (31 July 1835?–30 April 1903), explorer and author, was the son of Charles Alexis Du Chaillu, a Frenchman representing a Parisian firm trading in Gabon, on the west coast of central Africa. His mother, not identifiable by name, may have been an Italian, a Creole, or a mulatto. The possibility that Du Chaillu was illegitimate or that his mother was of mixed parentage could account for his never mentioning her in his writings. His date of birth is not known for certain; although 31 July 1835 is commonly accepted, it has also been published that he was born in 1831 and in 1838. His place of birth is also uncertain; various authorities say New Orleans, Paris, and the Indian Ocean island of Réunion (called Bourbon before the revolution of 1848). Du Chaillu’s father was in France in the 1830s, during which time Du Chaillu was very likely with him and began his schooling there. His father returned to Gabon in the 1840s, and Du Chaillu was there with him again around 1848, attending Protestant and Catholic mission schools there. By the age of fifteen, he was clerking for the local colonial administration. During his early years in Gabon, he hunted, roamed the interior, traded with natives, and picked up the rudiments of several local languages....

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Farnham, Thomas Jefferson (1804–13 September 1848), lawyer and author, was born apparently in Maine, though some sources list Vermont as his birthplace. The names and occupations of his parents are unknown. Farnham’s early years remain a mystery, but for some time prior to 1839 he was a lawyer in Peoria, Illinois. In 1836 Farnham married Eliza Wood Burhans ( ...

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Fielding, Temple Hornaday (08 October 1913–18 May 1983), author, was born in The Bronx in New York City, the son of George Thomas Fielding II, an electrical engineer and business executive, and Helen Ross Hornaday. Fielding lived a secure life during his formative years in Stamford, Connecticut. While growing up in Stamford, Fielding was a student at King School and worked at various odd jobs, including delivery boy, grocery clerk, and office boy, and he shoveled snow during winter months. He also attended Horace Mann School in New York; the Manlius School in Manlius, New York; and Brunswick, a prep school in Greenwich, Connecticut. In 1929 Fielding’s father lost his job and all his money as a result of the stock market crash. Shortly after the crash, Fielding flunked out of Brunswick and at the age of sixteen began selling refrigerators in Stamford to help support himself....

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Fodor, Eugene (14 October 1905–18 February 1991), writer and publisher, was born in Leva, Hungary (now part of Slovakia), the son of Matthew Gyula Fodor, a businessman, and Malvine Kurti. After he received his primary education in Leva, Eugene Fodor earned a baccalaureate degree in 1924 from a school in Lucenec, Czechoslovakia, before attending the Sorbonne and the University of Grenoble in France. At Grenoble, he majored in political economics, graduating in 1927. He did postgraduate work at the University of Hamburg, Germany, but did not receive an advanced degree. After studying at Hamburg, Fodor took a job with a French shipping line, working as a shipboard interpreter. A lover of travel who spoke five languages, his new position seemed ideal. He traveled all over Europe and polished his language skills as well. Soon, he was writing articles about life aboard ship and his visits to interesting ports of call for an in-house magazine published by the company. He sold articles about exotic places to newspapers in Hungary and France, and from 1930 to 1933 he also served as travel correspondent for the ...

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Hall, Basil (31 December 1788–11 September 1844), captain in the British navy and author of scientific works and books of travel, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Sir James Hall, a geologist of repute who published on a variety of other subjects as well, including architecture, and Helen Douglas. After a basic education in Edinburgh, Basil at age fourteen joined the Royal Navy and set out on the first of many voyages. By age twenty he was made lieutenant and at twenty-nine was a captain....

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Halliburton, Richard (09 January 1900–?24 Mar. 1939), travel writer and adventurer, was born in Brownsville, Tennessee, the son of Nelle Nance, a music teacher, and Wesley Halliburton, a civil engineer and land developer. He was brought up in an affluent household in Memphis, Tennessee. Although his father wanted him to stay in Memphis, his mother wanted him to go away to school. Halliburton attended the Lawrenceville prep school, a stepping stone to nearby Princeton, which he entered in 1917. Novelist ...

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Harriot, Thomas (1560–02 July 1621), scientist, linguist, and author of the first English book on North America, was born in Oxford (city or county), England; his parentage is unknown. As an undergraduate he entered St. Mary’s Hall (attached to Oriel College, Oxford) in 1576, matriculated in the University of Oxford in 1557, and graduated B.A. in 1580. He never married....

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Hines, Duncan (26 March 1880–15 March 1959), author, editor, and publisher of travel and restaurant guidebooks for motorists, was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the son of Edward L. Hines, a former Confederate army captain, schoolteacher, lawyer, and housebuilder, and Cornelia Duncan. Hines was raised by his grandmother after his mother died, and he attributed his appreciation of the art of dining to his grandmother’s southern cooking. Though he would achieve widespread name recognition as a restaurant critic, his career did not involve food until he reached his mid-fifties. In 1896 he enrolled in Bowling Green Business University but left after two years. For the next forty years he worked in a variety of jobs, mostly public relations; he designed, wrote, and produced corporate brochures, traveling widely from his home in Chicago to visit clients around the country. In 1905 he married Florence Chaffin; they had no children....