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Barnum, P. T. (05 July 1810–07 April 1891), showman, was born Phineas Taylor Barnum in Bethel, Connecticut, the son of Philo F. Barnum, a farmer and storekeeper, and Irena Taylor. While attending public school in Bethel, Barnum peddled candy and gingerbread. He later wrote that he had always been interested in arithmetic and money....

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Cahill, Holger (13 January 1887–08 July 1960), author and curator, was born Sveinn Kristjan Bjarnarson, in Snifellsnessyslu, Iceland, the son of Björn Bjarnarson, a laborer, and Vigdis Bjarnadóttir. Cahill, however, later claimed he was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1893. In the 1890s the Bjarnarsons emigrated to North Dakota, where they hoped to obtain land. Unable to purchase property, Björn worked as a hired hand. Vigdis, whom Cahill later described as a stern “peasant woman” with a poetic streak, and Björn, “a failure in almost everything he did,” quarreled frequently, separating when Cahill was eleven. Struggling to support her son and his younger sister after Björn departed, Vigdis sent the boy to live with an Icelandic family on a nearby farm. After the family removed him from school, put him to work in the fields, and pressured him to be confirmed in the Lutheran church, he ran away. Settled with another family, Cahill finished high school and then set off for Canada, where he worked as a farm laborer and cowherder. By 1907 he was back in the United States, holding a job as a railroad clerk in St. Paul. While there, he later recalled that he read “Tolstoi by the acre” and took a correspondence course in journalism. This was followed by short stints as a watchman on a Great Lakes steamer and as an insurance salesman in Cleveland....

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Vaillant, George Clapp (05 April 1901–13 May 1945), archaeologist, museum administrator, and cultural attaché, archaeologist, museum administrator, and cultural attaché, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of George Wightman Vaillant, a stockbroker, and Alice Vanlora Clapp. In 1918 he enlisted in the marines and served until World War I ended. Vaillant then entered Harvard, intending to study literature and history. He became interested in anthropology and archaeology serendipitously during the summer after his freshman year. His college friend Singleton Moorehead, the son of archaeologist Warren K. Moorehead, invited Vaillant to spend the summer working on his father’s archaeological excavation of a Native American burial site in Maine for the Peabody Museum. Vaillant’s interest was piqued during this experience. When he returned to Harvard as a sophomore, he concentrated in anthropology and archaeology. By the time he was twenty-six years old Vaillant had earned three degrees in anthropology from Harvard (A.B., magna cum laude, 1922; M.A., 1925; Ph.D., 1927). His unpublished but widely circulated doctoral dissertation “The Chronological Significance of Mayan Ceramics” was a pioneering work on the chronology and cultural history of the Maya. In this research, embracing a multidisciplinary approach, Vaillant synthesized both the techniques and findings of ethnology, ethnohistory, and archaeology. The Holmul sequence he developed was the first ceramic chronology of this area....