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William Evans Burton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90336).

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Burton, William Evans (24 September 1802–10 February 1860), actor and editor, was born in London, England, the son of William George Burton, a printer (maiden name unknown). Hoping his child would become a clergyman, the elder Burton enrolled him at St. Paul’s School, but at the age of eighteen Burton had to withdraw and take charge of his family’s printing business when his father died....

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Gibbs, Wolcott (15 March 1902–16 August 1958), drama critic, editor, and author, was born Oliver Wolcott Gibbs in New York City, the son of Lucius Tuckerman Gibbs, an electrical engineer and inventor, and Angelica Singleton Duer. When Gibbs was six years old his father died, and his alcoholic mother lost custody of Gibbs and his sister. ...

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Hapgood, Norman (28 March 1868–29 April 1937), journalist, critic, and reformer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Charles Hutchins Hapgood, a farm implement manufacturer, and Fanny Louise Powers. He grew up in wealth in Alton, Illinois. In 1890 he graduated with an A.B. from Harvard University, where he was strongly influenced by Professor ...

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Hornblow, Arthur, Sr. (1865–06 May 1942), editor, author, and dramatist, was born in Manchester, England, the son of William Hornblow and Sarah Jane Rodgers. Little is known of Hornblow’s childhood; however, he studied literature and painting in Paris before coming to the United States in 1889. While in Paris, Hornblow acted as a correspondent for both English and American newspapers....

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George Jean Nathan, c. 1939–1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116934).

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Nathan, George Jean (14 February 1882–08 April 1958), drama critic and editor, was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the son of Charles Narét-Nathan, a landowner and businessman, and Ella Nirdlinger. Nathan was raised in a well-to-do family with international connections and social prominence; his father, a world-traveler, had prominent relatives in Belgium and France, where he owned vineyards; his mother’s family were among the founders of Fort Wayne. Members of the extended family had interests in the theater and journalism. After graduating from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, where the family had moved in 1888, Nathan attended Cornell (1900–1904). There he attained prominence of his own as editor of the campus newspaper and literary magazine and as an award-winning fencer. His midwestern upbringing was leavened with frequent summer excursions to Europe, and following his graduation he spent a year at the University of Bologna....

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Gilbert Seldes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1019 P&P).

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...