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Adams, Charles Francis (27 May 1835–20 March 1915), railroad official, civic leader, and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), a diplomat and politician, and Abigail Brown Brooks. He was the grandson of John Quincy Adams (1767–1848) and great-grandson of ...

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Beveridge, Albert Jeremiah (06 October 1862–27 April 1927), U.S. senator and historian, was born in Highland County, Ohio, the son of Thomas Beveridge and Frances Parkinson, farmers. The family moved to Illinois when Beveridge was a child. Because of his father’s financial difficulties, Beveridge worked as a plowboy, railroad section hand, logger, and teamster. He attended Asbury College (now DePauw University), graduating in 1885. He made his mark there in oratory, and he had a reputation throughout his life as a spellbinding public speaker. He was admitted to the bar in 1887. He married Katherine Langsdale that same year; she died in 1900. He married Catherine Eddy in 1907; they had two children....

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Kennan, George F. (16 February 1904–17 March 2005), diplomat and historian, was born George Frost Kennan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Florence James and Kossuth Kent Kennan, a tax attorney who was fifty-two years old at the time. Tragically his mother died of a burst appendix two months after his birth, and he was team-raised by his father, several aunts, and a stepmother who displayed little affection for him. George attended the Fourth Street School in Milwaukee, where swift progress allowed him to skip eighth grade. His father then moved him to St John’s Military School, which was a difficult experience for the quiet and introverted boy. He enrolled at Princeton University in 1921 and graduated in 1925. Kennan later said that “Princeton had prepared my mind for further growth. It had not stimulated in that mind any great latitude of curiosity” (...

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Lodge, Henry Cabot (12 May 1850–09 November 1924), senator and historian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Ellerton Lodge, a wealthy merchant and shipowner, and Anna Cabot. He graduated from Harvard College in 1871 and on that day married Anna “Nannie” Davis, daughter of a naval officer; they had three children....

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Smith, John (1580–21 June 1631), colonial governor, promoter, and historian, was born in Willoughby by Alford in Lincolnshire, the son of George Smith, a yeoman, and Alice Rickard. His earliest schooling may have been under Francis Marbury, father of Anne Hutchinson, who was schoolmaster in Alford. Toward the end of his life Smith published an autobiography, one of the first examples of the modern genre, which he titled ...

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Terkel, Studs (16 May 1912–31 Oct. 2008), oral historian, radio broadcaster, and political activist, was born Louis Terkel in the Bronx, New York. He was the third son of Samuel Terkel, a tailor, and Anna (Annie) Finkel, a seamstress, who had immigrated from Russia in ...

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Williams, George Washington (16 October 1849–02 August 1891), soldier, clergyman, legislator, and historian, was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Williams, a free black laborer, and Ellen Rouse. His father became a boatman and, eventually, a minister and barber, and the younger Williams drifted with his family from town to town in western Pennsylvania until the beginning of the Civil War. With no formal education, he lied about his age, adopted the name of an uncle, and enlisted in the United States Colored Troops in 1864. He served in operations against Petersburg and Richmond, sustaining multiple wounds during several battles. After the war’s end, Williams was stationed in Texas, but crossed the border to fight with the Mexican republican forces that overthrew the emperor Maximilian. He returned to the U.S. Army in 1867, serving with the Tenth Cavalry, an all-black unit, at Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory. Williams was discharged for disability the following year after being shot through the left lung under circumstances that were never fully explained....

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Winthrop, John (12 January 1588–26 March 1649), first governor and chronicler of Massachusetts-Bay, was born in Edwardstone, Suffolk, England, the son of Adam Winthrop, lord of Groton Manor, and Anne Browne. His early life befitted a scion of the aspiring lesser gentry: matriculation at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1603; marriage in 1605 to Mary Forth (she died in 1615), a wealthy landowner’s sole heiress (shortcircuiting his college career); subsequent advantageous matches to Thomasine Clopton in 1615 (she died a year later) and Margaret Tyndal ( ...