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Cassin, John (06 September 1813–10 January 1869), ornithologist and printing company executive, was born near the present site of Media, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Cassin, a Quaker farmer, and Rachel Sharpless. Cassin attended a Quaker School in Westtown, Pennsylvania, and studied under private tutors. His interest in natural history developed as the result of the emphasis placed on the subject by Quaker schools at that time; this proved decisive in Cassin’s choice of avocation. He began observing and identifying birds on the family property in his mid-teens, and as an adult he regretted that he had not gotten out into the field more often to go birdwatching. At age twenty-one he went to Philadelphia, where he worked first in merchandising and then at the U.S. Customs House. When J. T. Bowen, an engraver and lithographer, died, Cassin assumed the management of Bowen’s firm and continued to supply illustrations for various scientific books and periodicals and for federal government publications....

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Cowley, Malcolm (24 August 1898–28 March 1989), literary critic and editor, was born in a farmhouse near Belsano, Pennsylvania, the son of William Cowley, a homeopathic physician, and Josephine Hutmacher. After attending Pittsburgh public schools, in which he began a lifelong friendship with the critic ...

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Doubleday, Frank Nelson (08 January 1862–30 January 1934), book publisher, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of William Edwards Doubleday, a hat manufacturer, and Ellen M. Dickinson. Doubleday’s formal education was limited. After completing public primary school, he attended Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute for only “two or three years” ( ...

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Hubbard, Elbert Green (19 June 1856–07 May 1915), author and publisher, was born in Bloomington, Illinois, the son of Dr. Silas Hubbard, a physician, and Juliana Frances Read. After Elbert’s birth, the family moved to rural Hudson, Illinois. Elbert’s childhood was ordinary enough. He paid as little attention to school as possible, but he couldn’t avoid religion, which he got in triple doses from his father’s family prayers, the nearby Baptist church, and from the Bible readings that formed a part of the school curriculum of the day. He never submitted to baptism and in his later writings took the position that religion was a crutch that lessened a man’s self-reliance. Although he tried to avoid as much religion and school as possible, Hubbard could not stay away from horses. The first twelve dollars he saved from his chores went to purchase a horse, and in his later writings he often said that he preferred the company of a good horse to that of many a man he had met....

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Knopf, Alfred A. (12 September 1892–11 August 1984), publisher, was born Alfred Abraham Knopf in New York City, the son of Samuel Knopf, an advertising executive and financial consultant, and Ida Japhe. His mother died when he was four years old, and, although his father remarried, his father remained the primary influence in his life as he grew up. Knopf attended public schools in New York City until his college preparatory training at the MacKenzie School in Westchester County, from which he graduated in 1908....

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Knopf, Blanche Wolf (30 July 1894–04 June 1966), publisher, was born in New York City, the daughter of Julius W. Wolf, a wealthy jeweler, and Bertha Samuels. The younger of two children and the only daughter, she was raised in a prosperous Jewish household in New York City. She was taught by French and German governesses and attended the Gardner School. In 1911, while her family was spending the summer on Long Island near the Knopf residence, she met ...

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Norris, Charles Gilman Smith (23 April 1881–25 July 1945), writer and editor, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Benjamin Franklin Norris, a traveling jeweler, and Gertrude Glorvina Doggett, a former actress. His mother had hoped for a daughter, and her apparent indifference to her son troubled Charles Gilman Norris (the Smith was ultimately dropped) throughout his life as he sought to establish a literary name for himself apart from his more celebrated brother, ...

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Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy (28 July 1929–19 May 1994), First Lady and cultural icon, was born in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, the daughter of John “Black Jack” Bouvier, an independently wealthy stock speculator, and Janet Lee. Jacqueline’s father was a scion of the wealthy and respected Bouvier family. A notorious playboy, he lost most of his inherited wealth in the Great Depression, shortly after Jacqueline’s birth. In 1936 the combination of his infidelities and financial irresponsibility resulted in his separation and later divorce from Jacqueline’s mother....

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Perkins, Maxwell E. (20 September 1884–17 June 1947), editor, was born William Maxwell Evarts Perkins in New York City, the son of Edward Clifford Perkins, a Boston lawyer who had moved to and practiced in New York, and Elizabeth Hoar Evarts. Perkins grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, and shortly after his father’s early death in 1902 entered Harvard, where he forced himself to major in economics, feeling that doing so would be useful “bad-tasting medicine.” Always reading voraciously, he later regretted that he had not formally studied literature at Harvard. After earning a B.A. in 1907, he was a sometimes daring reporter for the ...

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Revere, Paul ( December 1734–10 May 1818), craftsman, patriot, and businessman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Paul Revere, a goldsmith, and Deborah Hichborn (or Hitchborn). Revere’s father, born Apollos Rivoire, emigrated from France to Boston in 1715 at the age of thirteen and apprenticed with John Coney, a prominent local gold/silversmith. Shortly before his marriage he changed his name, first to Paul Rivoire and then to Paul Revere. The son’s birth date has long been the source of confusion since only his baptismal date, 22 December 1734 OS and 1 January 1735 NS, is recorded. Revere’s early life, fairly typical of boys of his day and economic status, included basic schooling at the North Writing School. During his teens he entered into a formal agreement with fellow North End youths to ring the bells at Christ Church for a fee. Revere’s own words, “My Father was a Goldsmith. … I learned the trade of him,” confirm that as the eldest surviving son, he apprenticed with his father, thus beginning his most enduring occupation. Though overshadowed by the fame of his son, the elder Revere’s skill as a gold/silversmith may actually have equaled that of his son. The younger Revere noted that his father died “in the year 1754, he left no estate, but he left a good name.” Just nineteen years old, Revere ran the shop with the help of his mother. In 1756 he received a commission as a second lieutenant of artillery and spent the better part of a year on an unsuccessful expedition to capture the French fort at Crown Point on Lake Champlain....

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Seaton, William Winston (11 January 1785–16 June 1866), journalist, was born at his family’s stately homestead, “Chelsea,” in King William County, Virginia, the son of Augustine Seaton and Mary Winston, Virginia gentry. Seaton was tutored at home before he attended Ogilvie’s Academy in Richmond. At age seventeen he learned the printing trade in the offices of the ...

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Thomas, Isaiah (19 January 1749–04 April 1831), printer and newspaperman, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Moses Thomas and Fidelity Grant. His grandfather, Peter Thomas, was a successful merchant, but his father fell victim to a roving spirit and failed to settle on an occupation. Left to his mother’s tutelage after his father’s death in 1752, Isaiah Thomas began his printing apprenticeship in June 1756 in the shop of Zechariah Fowle, whom he later described in his ...