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James Agee Photograph by Walker Evans, 1937. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103100).

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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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Aldrich, Richard (17 August 1902–31 March 1986), theatrical producer, manager, and author, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Edward Irving Aldrich, a rubber company executive, and Mary Pickering Joy. Both parents were members of wealthy, prominent New England families. Aldrich in childhood formed a lifelong love of the theater, which he fostered in school productions and summer student performances. He did further stage work while he attended Harvard College, both with a touring student group called the Jitney Players during summers and with the Harvard Dramatic Club, which he served as president. Though tall and well-featured, Aldrich consistently preferred to work behind the scenes as producer and business manager rather than to perform on stage. He completed his education at Harvard in 1925....

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Allen, Steve (26 December 1921–30 October 2000), comedian, author, songwriter, was born Stephen Valentine Patrick William Allen in New York City, the son of vaudeville comedians Carroll William Allen and Isabelle Donohue, who performed under the stage names Billy Allen and Belle Montrose. Literally born into show business, Allen toured the vaudeville circuit with his parents from infancy until his father died suddenly when Allen was only eighteen months old. Because his mother chose to continue her career, she left her young son in the care of her eccentric family in Chicago. In his first autobiography, ...

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Steve Allen Used with the permission of Bill Allen, Meadowlane Enterprises, Inc.

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Emerson, Edward Waldo (10 July 1844–27 January 1930), editor and writer, was born in Concord, Massachusetts, the son of the essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and his second wife, Lidian “Lydia” Jackson. Concord was to remain Emerson’s lifelong place of residence. He was of a slight build and subject throughout life to various illnesses, at times debilitating. His ambition as a young man was to enlist as a cavalryman in one of the many regiments then forming in Massachusetts, but his health was precarious and he had been discouraged moreover by his mother’s decree that one should not consider enlisting so long as the cause was to preserve the Union rather than to emancipate the slaves. Emerson’s alternative was to enter Harvard as an undergraduate in August 1861 only to find after six weeks that “he had no strength for College,” as a sister reported, “and is at home again trying to get well … doing nothing but ride on horseback when he is able, and amuse himself with society and painting or lying down when he isn’t, and his papa is brokenhearted that College is lost” (...

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Green, Ely (11 September 1893–27 April 1968), author, black activist, and clairvoyant, was born near Sewanee, Tennessee, the son of a college student, Edward H. Wicks, later a Texas attorney, and Lena Green, a fourteen-year-old kitchen servant and daughter of a privy cleaner who had been a slave. In Green’s own words, he “was a half-white bastard.” His mother died when he was eight. He was reared by Mattie Davis, a sympathetic neighbor who worked as a domestic. He did not finish the second grade but was largely self-taught. His phenomenal vocabulary came about because, so he said, “I studied from every man who would talk to me.”...

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Louis Kronenberger Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1955. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 640 P&P).

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Kronenberger, Louis (09 December 1904–30 April 1980), writer and critic, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Louis Kronenberger, Sr., a merchant, and Mabel Newwitter. From 1921 to 1924 he attended the University of Cincinnati, but he left without completing a degree; instead, he moved to New York City to become a writer. He took a clerical job at the ...

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Teichmann, Howard Miles (22 January 1916–07 July 1987), biographer and writer for stage, screen, and radio, was born in Chicago, Illinois. Teichmann graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1938. He then moved to New York City, where he began his professional career as a stage manager for ...