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Fisher Ames. Oil on wood, c. 1807, by Gilbert Stuart. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George Cabot Lodge.

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Ames, Fisher (09 April 1758–04 July 1808), Federalist party leader, member of Congress, essayist, and renowned orator, was born in Dedham, Massachusetts, the son of Nathaniel Ames, Sr., a physician, tavern keeper, and almanac writer, and Deborah Fisher. Intellectually honed, Ames was admitted to Harvard at twelve. Steeped in the classics, he excelled in elocution and participated in a debating club, the Institute of 1770. Graduating in 1774, he served with the Dedham militia at the time of the battle of Bunker Hill but did not see combat. At home he pursued his scholarly interests, reading widely in classical literature and history. He also occasionally taught school. Under the tutelage of the prominent ...

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Victor Berger. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-100903).

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Berger, Victor Louis (28 February 1860–07 August 1929), a founder and leader of the Socialist Party of America and a U.S. congressman, was born in the Nieder-Rehbach region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Romania) to Ignatz Berger and his wife, Julia (maiden name unknown), innkeepers. Berger attended the Universities of Vienna and Budapest for two years. His family suffered economic reversals and in 1878 emigrated to Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 1881 Berger settled in Milwaukee, where he taught school. In the heavily Germanic city he emerged as a leader, initially through the ...

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Cockran, William Bourke (28 February 1854–01 March 1923), orator and U.S. congressman, was born in Carrowkeel, Ireland, the son of Martin Cockran and Harriet Knight, prominent farmers. He attended school in France and college in Ireland. At the age of seventeen he emigrated to the United States. In 1876 he was admitted to the bar and two years later set up practice in New York City. Cockran amassed a substantial fortune through his civil practice. His expertise in public utilities brought clients from the major gas and electric companies in the New York City area. Cockran married three times but remained childless. In 1876 he married Mary Jackson, who died in childbirth in 1877; in 1885 he married Rhoda Mack, who died in 1895; and in 1906 he married Anne L. Ide. In 1887 he bought an estate, “The Cedars,” at Sands Point, Long Island, which remained his chief residence....

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Lowenstein, Allard Kenneth (16 January 1929–14 March 1980), lawyer, congressman, and political agitator, was born Allard Augustus Lowenstein in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Gabriel Abraham Lowenstein, a medical school teacher who turned restaurateur, and Augusta Goldberg. Lowenstein later chose Kenneth to replace Augustus, his given middle name. Only a year old when his mother died he was not told at first that his stepmother was not his birth mother, which he discovered when he was thirteen. In 1945 Lowenstein graduated from Horace Mann School in New York City and four years later graduated from the University of North Carolina. At North Carolina he succeeded in ending the practice of pairing Jewish students as roommates and gained them access to campus fraternities, and when the student state legislature met in Chapel Hill in December 1945 he got a resolution passed opening it up to black participation. Becoming a powerful personality on campus, Lowenstein found a hero and friend in the school’s president, ...

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Vito Marcantonio Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109679).

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Marcantonio, Vito Anthony (10 December 1902–09 August 1954), radical political figure and congressman, was born in East Harlem, New York City, the son of Sanario “Samuel” Marcantonio, an American-born carpenter, and Angelina deDobitis, a native of Italy. Though his father’s skills allowed a relatively comfortable existence, Marcantonio imbibed radical politics at DeWitt Clinton High School from his history teacher, a one-time Socialist candidate for Congress and teachers’ union organizer. Marcantonio organized a neighborhood rent strike while still a teenager and in 1921 was introduced to a kindred spirit, the president of the city’s board of aldermen, ...

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John Randolph. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-104245).

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Randolph, John (02 June 1773–24 May 1833), member of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. senator, and orator, known as John Randolph of Roanoke, was born at “Cawsons,” in Prince George County, Virginia, the son of John Randolph, a scion of the Virginian landed slaveholding elite, and Frances Bland. Both parents were descendents of the founding father of the Randolphs of Virginia, William Randolph of Turkey Island. The senior John Randolph died in 1775, and in 1778 his widow married ...

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Wright, Hendrick Bradley (24 April 1808–02 September 1881), congressman and Pennsylvania Democratic leader, was born in Plymouth, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Wright, a schoolteacher, merchant, and farmer, and Ellen Hendrick. His father’s family had migrated from England in 1681 with ...

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William Lowndes Yancey. Salted paper print, c. 1858. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Yancey, William Lowndes (10 August 1814–27 July 1863), U.S. congressman, secessionist, and Confederate senator, was born at the shoals of the Ogeechee River, on the boundary between Warren and Hancock counties, Georgia, the son of Benjamin Cudworth Yancey, an attorney and South Carolina state legislator, and Caroline Bird. Benjamin Yancey died in 1817, and in 1821 Caroline married ...