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Disney, Walt (05 December 1901–15 December 1966), animator and motion picture producer, was born Walter Elias Disney in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Elias Disney, a building contractor, and Flora Call, a teacher. After a childhood near Marceline and in Kansas City, Missouri, Disney studied at the Chicago Institute of Art in the evening while attending McKinley High School during the day. In 1918 he enlisted in the American Ambulance Corps, serving in France and returning to employment as an artist at the Pesmen-Rubin Commercial Art Studio, where he befriended artist ...

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Forepaugh, Adam (28 February 1831–22 January 1890), circus owner, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Forepaugh, a butcher and veterinary surgeon, and Susannah Heimer. After leaving Philadelphia at the age of sixteen, he worked his way westward to Cincinnati and eventually earned a small fortune as a livestock speculator. After returning to his hometown he began to invest in omnibus lines while buying and selling horses for horsecar lines in New York City, where he next set up business....

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Gibbons, Artoria (16 July 1893–18 March 1985), tattooed lady, was born Anna Mae Burlingston in Linwood, Wisconsin, the daughter of the Norwegian immigrant and farmer Gunder Huseland, who at the time went by the name Frank Burlingston, and his wife Amma Mabel Mason. Anna was one of seven children. The farm was located on an island in the Wisconsin River that was referred to as “Treasure Island” or “Burlingston Island.” In 1907 the family moved to Colville, Washington, and shortly thereafter, Anna's father died. She and two of her sisters went to work as domestic servants in Spokane, Washington, to help support the family. She met the tattoo artist Charles “Red” Gibbons in Spokane; he was working in an arcade and had been tattooing professionally for a number of years. They married in Spokane in 1912; the couple had one daughter....

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Leitzel, Lillian (1891?–15 February 1931), circus performer, was born Lillian Alize Elianore in Breslau, Germany, the daughter of Edward Elianore, a Hungarian army officer turned theatrical impresario, and Elinor Pelikan, a Bohemian circus aerialist. There is much dispute over her birth date and name. The year of her birth is variously recorded somewhere between 1891 and 1895. There are also half a dozen variations on her given names and their spelling, although Leitzel never used her father’s name for any length of time during her life. If the facts of Leitzel’s life are clouded in controversy it is because she, herself, made it a habit to change the facts of her story each time she told it to a different reporter. Being exceedingly vain, she would also have taken care to present herself as being as young as possible....

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Patkin, Max (10 January 1920–30 October 1999), baseball clown, was born in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel H. Patkin, a delicatessen operator and later a repairman, and Rebecca Patkin (maiden name unknown); both parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants. He graduated from West Philadelphia High School; two years at Brown Prep confirmed his lack of academic promise. Since seeing ...

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Pickett, Bill (05 December 1871–02 April 1932), African-American rodeo entertainer, was born in Jenks-Branch community in Travis County, Texas, the son of Thomas Jefferson Pickett, a former slave, and Mary “Janie” Virginia Elizabeth Gilbert. The second of thirteen children, Pickett reportedly grew to be 5′ 7″ tall and approximately 145 pounds. Little is known about his early childhood, except that he attended school through the fifth grade. Afterward he took up ranch work and soon developed the skills, such as roping and riding, that would serve him well in rodeo. On 2 December 1890 Pickett married Maggie Turner of Palestine, Texas, the daughter of a white southern plantation owner and his former slave. They had nine children. The Picketts joined the Taylor Baptist Church, where Pickett served as deacon for many years....

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Rogers, Will (04 November 1879–15 August 1935), entertainer and social commentator, was born William Penn Adair Rogers near Oologah, Oklahoma, in what was then the Cooweescoowee District of Indian Territory, the son of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher, Cherokee ranchers. Rogers County, which contains both Oologah, site of the historic Rogers home, and Claremore, site of the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum, is named after the prominent father, not the prominent son. “Uncle Clem” was a major player in Oklahoma politics before and after statehood (1907), serving as a judge, as a member of the Dawes Commission (to distribute Indian lands prior to statehood), and as the first local banker. Will’s loving wife, the former Betty Blake, whom he married in 1908, later remembered that “Will had everything he wanted. He had spending money and the best string of cow ponies in the country. No boy in Indian Territory had more than Uncle Clem’s boy.” (Yet being “Uncle Clem’s boy” could have its downside, too.)...