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Bangs, John Kendrick (27 May 1862–21 January 1922), humorist, editor, and lecturer, was born in Yonkers, New York, the son of Francis Nehemiah Bangs, a lawyer, and Frances Amelia Bull, and the grandson of Nathan Bangs, a Methodist clergyman. His ancestors were domineering and ferocious personalities whose achievements overshadowed Bangs’s career, and his perennial reluctance to take either religion or law seriously can be seen as a mild rebellion....

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Henry Walton Bibb. Lithograph on paper, 1847, by Unidentified Artist. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Bibb, Henry Walton (10 May 1815–1854), author, editor, and antislavery lecturer, was born into slavery on the plantation of David White of Shelby County, Kentucky, the son of James Bibb, a slaveholding planter and state senator, and Mildred Jackson. White began hiring Bibb out as a laborer on several neighboring plantations before the age of ten. The constant change in living situations throughout his childhood, combined with the inhumane treatment he often received at the hands of strangers, set a pattern for life that he would later refer to in his autobiography as “my manner of living on the road.” Bibb was sold more than six times between 1832 and 1840 and was forced to relocate to at least seven states throughout the South; later, as a free man, his campaign for abolition took him throughout eastern Canada and the northern United States. But such early instability also made the young Bibb both self-sufficient and resourceful, two characteristics that were useful against the day-to-day assault of slavery: “The only weapon of self defense that I could use successfully,” he wrote, “was that of deception.”...

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Burnett, Alfred (02 November 1824–04 April 1884), entertainer and journalist, was born in Bungay, Suffolk, England. The names of his parents and other facts about his early life are unknown. In 1828 he was sent to live with an aunt in New York City. After four years of schooling in Utica, New York, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1836. He later became proprietor of a confectionery business and by 1860 owned three such establishments....

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Carleton, Will (21 October 1845–18 December 1912), poet, lecturer, and editor, was born William McKendree Carleton in Hudson, Michigan, the son of John Hancock Carleton, a pioneer farmer, and Celestia Elvira Smith. An earnest, sensitive lad with an early passion for reading, he began writing poetry in his diary in his early teens....

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Coffin, Charles Carleton (26 July 1823–02 March 1896), novelist, journalist, and lecturer, was born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, the son of Thomas Coffin and Hannah Kilburn, farmers. He grew up on the family farm, attended the village school, and studied for a year at the local academy. Coffin, after his marriage to Sallie Russell Farmer in 1846, earned his living by farming and surveying, a skill he had taught himself. The couple had no children. In 1852, with his brother-in-law ...

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Fine, Benjamin (01 September 1905–16 May 1975), educational author, editor, and lecturer and school administrator, was born in New York City but was raised on a farm in Attleboro, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Fine and Rebecca Goldin, farmers. From his early youth Fine was rigorously active and would remain so for the rest of his life. He walked miles to get the school bus (good for later story enhancement), milked the cows, and did the farm chores, thus confirming philosopher ...

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Channing Pollock Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1934. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 932 P&P).

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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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Rukeyser, Merryle Stanley (03 January 1897–21 December 1988), financial columnist and lecturer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Isaac Rukeyser and Pauline Solomon. Rukeyser grew up in Manhattan, New York, and graduated from Townsend Harris High School at the age of sixteen. He began his newspaper career at the age of seventeen while attending Columbia University. During the summers of 1914 and 1915, he worked as a reporter for the ...

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Warner, Charles Dudley (12 September 1829–20 October 1900), author and editor, was born in Plainfield, Massachusetts, the son of Justus Warner and Sylvia Hitchcock, farmers. In 1837, three years after her husband died, Sylvia Warner took her two sons to a guardian in Charlemont, Massachusetts, and, in 1841, on to her brother in Cazenovia, New York. Warner attended classes at the Oneida Conference Seminary in Cazenovia, enrolled at Hamilton College, and graduated in 1851 with a B.A. While still a student he published articles in the ...