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Cermak, Anton Joseph (09 May 1873–06 March 1933), mayor of Chicago, Illinois, was born in Kladno, Czechoslovakia (then a province in the Austro-Hungarian Empire), the son of Anton Cermak, a miner, and Catherine Frank. Cermak’s family arrived in the United States in 1874 and settled in Braidwood, Illinois, where young Cermak had a few years of schooling before he moved to Chicago in 1889. He engaged in a number of businesses including wood hauling, real estate, and insurance. In 1894 he married Mary Horejs, with whom he had three children. He began his political career in 1894 as an assistant precinct captain and gradually worked his way up until 1902 when he won election as state representative. From then until his death he always held one or more elective appointments in Chicago, Cook County, or the state of Illinois, as well as Democratic party offices. Beginning in 1902 he won four successive elections to the Illinois state legislature. In 1909 he was elected alderman in Chicago, representing a predominantly Czech ward. The Czech ethnic group was to be the base for his political success at the city, county, and state levels....

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James A. Garfield. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13020 DLC).

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Garfield, James Abram (19 November 1831–19 September 1881), twentieth president of the United States, was born in Orange township (now Moreland Hills) in the Western Reserve region of northern Ohio, the son of Abram Garfield and Eliza Ballou, farmers. After his father’s death in 1833, James was brought up amid rural poverty by his strong-willed mother. The hardships of those early years would later provide grist for campaign biographers, including ...

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Goebel, William (04 January 1856–03 February 1900), governor of Kentucky, was born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, the son of Johann Christian Goebel, a cabinetmaker, and Augusta Greenclay. Both parents had recently immigrated from Germany. About 1863 the family moved to Covington, Kentucky. As a boy, William Goebel was influenced by a reform-minded, crippled cobbler, who lent him books. After finishing high school in Covington, William served as an apprentice in a Cincinnati store while attending business college. He graduated from Cincinnati Law School in 1877. One of his examiners, ...

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Harrison, Carter Henry (15 February 1825–28 October 1893), mayor of Chicago, was born in Fayette County, Kentucky, the son of Carter Henry Harrison, a plantation owner, and Caroline Evalind Russell. Harrison was born in a log cabin, but this did not imply poverty or deprivation, simply the newness of his family estate in the bluegrass region of Kentucky. He came from a family that traced its lineage back to the 1630s in colonial Virginia, and he was distantly related to two American presidents, ...

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Thomas C. Hindman. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-99327).

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Hindman, Thomas Carmichael (28 January 1828–27 September 1868), general and congressman, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of Thomas Carmichael Hindman and Sallie Holt. His father moved to Jacksonville, Alabama, in 1832 as an Indian agent of the federal government and then to Ripley, Tippah County, Mississippi, in 1841, where he operated a large plantation. As the son of a well-to-do family, Hindman attended a variety of local private schools and graduated in 1846 from the Lawrenceville Classical and Commercial Institute located near Princeton, New Jersey....

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Jansson, Eric (19 December 1808–13 May 1850), founder of the Janssonist religious sect and Bishop Hill utopian community, was born in Biskopskulla, Sweden, the son of Johannes Mattson, a landowner, and Sara Ersdotter. Jansson was born into and raised as a member of the Swedish Lutheran church. At age twenty-two, however, Jansson felt a personal call from God and was miraculously relieved of recurring bouts of rheumatism. Because his healing had occurred without the benefit of clergy, Jansson indicted the state church. “It dawned on me,” he noted, “that I had been deceived in the faith which I had received from the so-called evangelical Lutheran teaching,” and he concluded that “all the preachers and teachers were blind leaders” (quoted in Elmen, p. 3). These ideas festered within Jansson over the next decade as he became a ...

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John F. Kennedy. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117124 DLC).

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Kennedy, John Fitzgerald (29 May 1917–22 November 1963), thirty-fifth president of the United States, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph P. Kennedy, a millionaire businessman and public official, and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, daughter of Boston mayor John F. Fitzgerald. John Kennedy’s education stressed preparation for advancement of a Catholic in an Anglo-Saxon, generally anti-Catholic society. He entered Harvard College in 1936. Kennedy, known to his friends and family as Jack, was an indifferent student at first but became more interested in his studies following a European summer vacation after his freshman year. A longer stay in Europe in 1939 led to his senior honors paper, “Appeasement in Munich,” which was published the following year as ...

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Robert F. Kennedy. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ61-1866).

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Robert F. Kennedy Speaking at the University of Mississippi, 1966. Courtesy of Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111226).

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Kennedy, Robert Francis (20 November 1925–06 June 1968), politician, was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, a capitalist, and Rose Fitzgerald. His father Joseph made a fortune in the stock market and through other investments and served from 1938 to 1940 as U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. The seventh of nine children, Robert, known as “Bobby,” graduated from Milton Academy in 1943. In March 1944 he enrolled in the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, leaving it in February 1946 to become an apprentice seaman aboard the destroyer USS ...

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Abraham Lincoln Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13016 DLC).

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Abraham Lincoln, c. 1846–1847. Daguerreotype attributed to Nicholas H. Shepherd. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-2439).

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Lincoln, Abraham (12 February 1809–15 April 1865), sixteenth president of the United States, was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, the son of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks, farmers. Thomas Lincoln had come to Kentucky from Virginia with his father Abraham in 1782. He acquired only enough literacy to sign his name but gained modest prosperity as a carpenter and farmer on the Kentucky frontier. He married Nancy Hanks, also illiterate, in 1806. Abraham was born in a log cabin on “Sinking Spring Farm” three miles south of Hodgenville. When he was two years old the family moved to another farm on Knob Creek about seven miles northeast of Hodgenville. On this farm of 230 acres (only thirty of which were tillable) Abraham lived for five years, helped his parents with chores, and learned his ABCs by attending school for a few weeks with his older sister Sarah....

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Huey Long Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111005).

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Long, Huey Pierce (30 August 1893–10 September 1935), governor of Louisiana and U.S. senator, was born in the hill country of Winn Parish, Louisiana, the son of Huey Pierce Long and Caledonia Tison, modestly prosperous farmers who lived comfortably by the standards of their community and sent six of their ten children to college. Huey, however, was not one of them. Even while attending high school, he worked for several years as a traveling salesman. Later, he briefly studied law at the University of Oklahoma and Tulane University. He received no degree, but he equipped himself to pass the Louisiana bar exam. By the summer of 1915, he was practicing law in his home town of Winnfield and starting a family with his wife of two years, Rose McConnell. They would eventually have three children....

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William McKinley. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-13025 DLC).

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McKinley, William (29 January 1843–14 September 1901), twenty-fifth president of the United States, was born in Niles, Ohio, the son of William McKinley and Nancy Allison, both of Scotch-Irish ancestry. McKinley’s father managed charcoal furnaces and manufactured pig iron in a small way. McKinley went to school in Niles and later in Poland, Ohio. At seventeen he entered Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, but a brief illness and financial problems forced him to drop out after a single term....