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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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Atherton, Gertrude Franklin (30 October 1857–14 June 1948), author, biographer, and historian, was born Gertrude Franklin Horn in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Thomas Horn, a businessman, and Gertrude Franklin. Her maternal grandfather, a grandnephew of Benjamin Franklin, was a banker and editor of one of San Francisco’s first newspapers. Gertrude lived with him when her parents were divorced after three years of marriage. Although she was well read, her formal education was sporadic—while she was attending the Sayre Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, she contracted tuberculosis. After twice becoming engaged, she eventually eloped in 1876 with George H. Bowen Atherton, a former suitor of her mother’s. They had a daughter and a son who died at the age of six....

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Bettmann, Otto (15 October 1903–01 May 1998), historian and photo archivist, was born in Leipzig, Germany, to Hans Bettmann, an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, Charlotte Frank. The family was Jewish, and Otto grew up in a highly cultured environment, where he was especially drawn to his father's extensive collection of medical literature. As a child he enjoyed working in the darkroom of the elder Bettmann's clinic, where Hans Bettmann pioneered in the use of X-rays for diagnosis. Young Otto made copies of pictorial images he found in his father's books and collected from free publications offered by German medical firms, and in 1916, for his father's birthday, he presented a pictorial history of medicine that he had created from these images....

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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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Boorstin, Daniel J. (01 October 1914–28 February 2004), historian and Librarian of Congress, was born Daniel Joseph Boorstin in Atlanta, Georgia, to Samuel Aaron Boorstin, an attorney, and Dora Olsan Boorstin. His Jewish grandparents fled pogroms in czarist Russia. His parents fled again in 1915, when his father's client, Leo Frank, was lynched by an anti-Semitic mob in Atlanta....

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Commager, Henry Steele (25 October 1902–02 March 1998), historian, educator and editor, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of James Williams Commager and Anna Elizabeth Dan Commager. Orphaned as a child, Commager was raised by his maternal grandfather, of Danish origin, in Toledo, Ohio, and Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from high school in Chicago, he attended the University of Chicago. He received a Ph.B. in 1923, an M.A. in 1924, and in 1928 a Ph.D. in history, his dissertation, unpublished, being “[Johann Friedrich von] Struensee and the Reform Movement in Denmark.” Later Commager studied at the University of Copenhagen, Cambridge University, and Oxford University. He taught American history at New York University, as instructor (1926–1929), assistant professor (1929–1930), associate professor (1930–1931), and professor (1931–1938). He then established long careers as professor at Columbia University (1939–1956) and Amherst College (1956–1972). Between 1941 and 1975 Commager, who enjoyed traveling and associating with American and foreign students, was guest professor at twenty or more universities in the United States and in Chile, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Trinidad. During World War II, he served in the War Department's Office of War Information (England, 1943; France and Belgium, 1945). In 1928 Commager married Evan Carroll, with whom he had three children; she died in 1968. Eleven years later, Commager married Mary E. Powlesland....

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Coues, Elliott (09 September 1842–25 December 1899), naturalist and historian, was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the son of Samuel Elliott Coues and Charlotte Haven Ladd. His father, a prominent peace advocate, received a position in the U.S. Patent Office and moved the family to Washington, D.C., in 1854. There, under the tutelage of ...

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Durant, Will (05 November 1885–07 November 1981), and Ariel Durant (10 May 1898–25 October 1981), America's foremost popularizers of history and philosophy. , were among America’s foremost popularizers of history and philosophy. William James Durant was born in North Adams, Massachusetts, the son of Joseph Durant, a celluloid plant supervisor, and Marie Allors. His parents, who were French Canadians and devout Catholics, hoped that he would become a priest. After living in several New England mill towns, the family moved in 1892 to Kearny, New Jersey, and about six years later settled in Arlington. In 1900 Durant entered St. Peter’s College, a Jesuit institution in Jersey City. There he completed high school and in 1907 earned his undergraduate degree. In this period, encounters with the theories of Darwin shook Durant’s faith, and adolescent flirtations tested his suitability for the priesthood. He tried a brief stint as a cub reporter for the ...

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Josephson, Matthew (15 February 1899–13 March 1978), writer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Julius Josephson, a banker, and Sarah Kasindorf. A child of Jewish immigrants from Romania and Russia, Josephson graduated from Columbia University in 1920. That same year he married Hannah Geffen, a nineteen-year-old reporter for the ...

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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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Leech, Margaret Kernochan (07 November 1893–24 February 1974), historian and novelist, was born in Newburgh, New York, the daughter of William Kernochan Leech, a milkman, and Rebecca Taggert (or Taggart). Leech grew up in the adult world of Newburgh’s Palatine Hotel, where, she later recalled, “we were rather nice hotel children” (Nichols, p. 8). After graduating from nearby Vassar College in 1915, Leech went to New York City, where she answered the complaints of subscribers to ...

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Leland, Waldo Gifford (17 July 1879–19 October 1966), historian and archival theorist, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of Luther Erving Leland and Ellen Maria Gifford, public school teachers. Leland attended Newton High School and Brown University, graduating with a B.A. in sociology in 1900. While at Brown he studied with history professor ...

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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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Lord, Walter (08 October 1917–19 May 2002), author, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of John Walterhouse Lord, a lawyer, and Henrietta Hoffman Lord. His father died when Walter was three years old, but his mother was left with means sufficient to provide a comfortable household for her son and his sister, who died in 1929. Walter was educated at the Gilman School, a private institution in Baltimore, and enjoyed writing for the school newspaper as well as participating in debate, track, and theater productions. Admitted to Princeton University in the fall of 1935, he graduated four years later with an honors degree in history and received the C. R. Joline Prize for outstanding work in American history....

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Mahan, Alfred Thayer (27 September 1840–01 December 1914), naval officer and author, was born in West Point, New York, the son of Dennis Hart Mahan, a professor of military engineering and dean of faculty at the U.S. Military Academy, and Mary Helena Okill. Raised in a household run on two guiding principles, strict military obedience and a stern literalist and fundamentalist form of Episcopalianism that emphasized constant prayer, Mahan did not have a happy childhood. In his autobiography, ...

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Moore, Charles (20 October 1855–25 September 1942), city planner, journalist, and historian, was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the son of Charles Moore, a merchant, and Adeline MacAllaster. His parents died when he was fourteen years of age, and his brother-in-law became his guardian. Moore’s parents left an inheritance that permitted him to attend Harvard College (now University), where he studied humanities and eventually became the editor of the student newspaper, ...

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Morison, Samuel Eliot (09 July 1887–15 May 1976), historian and educator, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Holmes Morison, a lawyer, and Emily Marshall Eliot. He was raised in the fashionable Beacon Hill home of his grandfather, the historian Samuel Eliot...

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Nevins, Allan (20 May 1890–05 March 1971), journalist and historian, was born Joseph Allan Nevins on a farm near Camp Point, Illinois, the son of Joseph Allan Nevins, a farmer, and Emma Stahl, a former schoolteacher. Although he attended the local country school, Nevins received his most meaningful education at home from his parents. A sober-minded Calvinist, whose extensive personal library of 500 volumes lacked novels and poetry, Nevins’s father required his children to spend their spare hours performing farm chores. At the age of eighteen, Nevins escaped farm drudgery by enrolling at the University of Illinois, where, studying the works that had been denied him as a child, he majored in English literature. His ceaseless industry was a matter of concern for his mentor, Professor ...

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Prescott, William Hickling (04 May 1796–28 January 1859), historian, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of William Prescott, a lawyer and successful investor, and Catherine Greene Hickling. Prescott’s family was prominent in Massachusetts history, his grandfather William Prescott (1726–1795) having commanded the American forces at Bunker Hill. Afforded the advantages of Brahmin life, Prescott grew up in Boston, where he attended private school before entering Harvard as a sophomore in 1811. The fun-loving and highly sociable Prescott did not distinguish himself as a student until he was sobered by an accident in his junior year that left him blind in his left eye. He became serious about his studies, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a senior, and graduated in 1814....