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Barrett, John (28 November 1866–17 October 1938), commercial publicist and diplomat, was born in Grafton, Vermont, the son of Charles Barrett and Caroline Sanford. His father, reportedly shy and withdrawn, served for a time as a town official and a Republican state legislator but devoted most of his life to artistic pursuits. His mother, who was more outgoing, had a lively regard for politics, law, journalism, theology, and economics, and Barrett’s letters to her suggest she strongly influenced him....

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Borland, Solon (08 August 1811–15 December 1864), editor, U.S. senator, and diplomat, was born in Suffolk, Virginia, the son of Thomas Wood Borland, a physician, and Harriet Godwin. His father was politically active, serving as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Nansemond County between 1815 and 1820. In 1831 Borland married Huldah Wright, with whom he had two children. Following in the medical footsteps of his father, he attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School during the academic year of 1833–1834. He then practiced medicine in Suffolk, but upon the death of his wife in 1836 Borland moved to Memphis, Tennessee. There he entered into a medical career with his brother, who was also a physician. In 1839 Borland married Eliza Hart, who died just a few months later. They had no children. By this time he had forsaken pills for politics, becoming the founding editor of the ...

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Daniels, Josephus (18 May 1862–15 January 1948), publisher, secretary of the navy, and ambassador, was born in Washington, North Carolina, during a bombardment by Union gunboats, the son of Josephus Daniels, Sr., a shipbuilder, and Mary Cleaves Seabrook. His father refused to join the Confederate forces and died in 1865. His mother raised three sons by opening a millinery shop and served as the town’s postmistress. She was later fired from the latter position because of her son’s anti-Republican editorials....

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Griscom, Lloyd Carpenter (04 November 1872–08 February 1959), diplomat, lawyer, and newspaper publisher, was born in Riverton, New Jersey, the son of Clement Acton Griscom, a shipping company executive, and Frances Canby Biddle. Shortly after his birth, Griscom moved with his family to Haverford, Pennsylvania. He enjoyed a privileged and cosmopolitan upbringing, attending private schools in Europe and mingling from childhood with America’s political and business elite. He received his Ph.B. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1891 and then attended the university’s law school....

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King, Rufus (26 January 1814–13 October 1876), soldier, editor, and diplomat, was born in New York City, the son of Charles King, a merchant and the ninth president of Columbia College, and Eliza Gracie. After attending the preparatory academy of Columbia, Rufus entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1829. After graduating fourth in the class of 1833, he was commissioned into the elite corps of engineers but resigned three years later to accept a position as a civil engineer with the New York & Erie Railroad. In 1839 he began a career as a newspaper editor. After two years with the ...

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Lowell, James Russell (22 February 1819–12 August 1891), author and diplomat, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Charles Lowell, a liberal Congregational minister, and Harriet Brackett Spence. Among New Englanders who were apt to take ancestry seriously, the Lowell family was already firmly established in the region’s ecclesiastical and legal annals. During the nineteenth century the Lowell name became synonymous with manufacturing wealth and State Street trusts, but Charles Lowell’s descendants benefited little from this tradition. Their area of prominence was in literature; both James Russell Lowell’s sister Mary Lowell Putnam and brother ...

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Mesta, Perle (12 Oct. 1889 or 1891–16 March 1975), political activist, businesswoman, diplomat, and hostess, was born Pearl Skirvin in Sturgis, Michigan, the daughter of William Balser Skirvin, a salesman, and Harriet Reid. The actual year of her birth was one of her best-kept secrets. Early in the twentieth century her father left Michigan for the oil fields of South Texas, where he made a fortune in the famed Spindletop field. The feisty “Billy” Skirvin moved to Oklahoma City, where he founded the American Oil and Refinery Company and built the luxurious fourteen-floor Skirvin Hotel. Pearl was educated in private schools in Galveston and studied voice and piano at the Sherwood School of Music in Chicago. In 1917 she married 54-year-old George Mesta, founder and president of the Mesta Machine Company located in Pittsburgh. During her years living in the nation’s steel capital she changed her name to the distinctive “Perle.”...