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Thomas E. Dewey Right, with Thomas J. Curran, Republican party leader of Manhattan, 1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-94135).

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Dewey, Thomas Edmund (24 March 1902–16 March 1971), prosecutor, governor of New York, and presidential candidate, was born in Owosso, Michigan, the son of George Martin Dewey, Jr., a newspaper editor, and Annie Louise Thomas. The Deweys were a Republican family of newspaper editors and publishers. During his youth in Owosso, Thomas showed promise as a baritone, and he studied both music and law at the University of Michigan from 1919 to 1923, graduating with an A.B. In 1923 Dewey moved to New York after winning a summer scholarship for further vocal training, but he also enrolled at Columbia Law School and ultimately decided to abandon music for the law. After graduating with an LL.B. in 1925, he worked at two Wall Street law firms and became active in Republican party politics in Manhattan in the late 1920s. During this time he first encountered ...

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Robert M. La Follette Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G3999-0089-A).

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La Follette, Robert Marion (14 June 1855–18 June 1925), Wisconsin governor, U.S. congressman, and Progressive presidential candidate, was born in Primrose, Wisconsin, the son of Josiah La Follette and Mary Ferguson Buchanan, farmers. Only eight months old when his father died, La Follette throughout his life sought to measure up to an idealized image of the father he never knew. He was seven when his mother married John Z. Saxton, a stern, elderly merchant and Baptist deacon....

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Alf Landon. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-106389).

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Landon, Alfred Mossman (09 September 1887–12 October 1987), governor of Kansas and Republican presidential nominee, known as Alf, was born in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, the son of John M. Landon, an oil and natural gas executive, and Anne Mossman. Landon received a law degree from the University of Kansas in 1908. In 1915 he married Margaret Fleming, who died in 1918. They had a daughter. Landon married Theo Cobb in 1930, and they had a son and a daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, who was elected to the U.S. Senate from Kansas in 1978....

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George B. McClellan. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-62627).

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McClellan, George B. (03 December 1826–29 October 1885), general and presidential candidate, was born George Brinton McClellan in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of George McClellan, a physician, and Elizabeth Steinmetz Brinton. After two years at the University of Pennsylvania, he entered the U.S. Military Academy at age fifteen. Four years later he graduated second in the class of 1846....

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Horatio Seymour. Engraving, c. 1868. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90684).

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Seymour, Horatio (31 May 1810–12 February 1886), presidential candidate and governor of New York, was born in Pompey Hill, near Syracuse, New York, the oldest son of Henry Seymour, a storekeeper, entrepreneur, and political activist, and Mary L. Forman, the daughter of a prominent Madison County landowner. Seymour was educated in several local academies and then studied law in Utica, where the family had moved. Admitted to the bar in 1832, he moved in 1833 to Albany. He immediately became involved in state Democratic politics, drawing particularly close to ...

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Alfred E. Smith Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96099).

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Smith, Alfred E. (30 December 1873–04 October 1944), politician, was born Alfred Emanuel Smith in New York City, the son of a truckman and Union army veteran who passed his full name to his son and Catherine Mulvehill, a factory worker and shopkeeper. In his political career “Al” Smith, as he was commonly known, was to be the symbolic spokesman of the nation’s city dwellers of stock that Anglo-Americans have considered immigrant. For this role he had, most clearly on his mother’s side, an appropriate ancestry; she was the daughter of Irish immigrants. The noncommittal but normally English “Smith” obscures his father’s European origins, about which little is known. One scholar suggests Italian forebears. Enemies of Al Smith, probably trying to sever him from the Irish, spread rumors that the father had changed his name from “Schmidt.” Al Smith, at any rate, is remembered as Irish American and a product of New York City’s multiethnic culture....

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Harold E. Stassen. Photograph by Maurice Constant, USNR, c. 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (Maurice Constant Collection: LC-USZ62-92852).

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Stassen, Harold (13 April 1907–04 March 2001), governor and presidential candidate, was born Harold Edward Stassen in Dakota County, Minnesota, a rural area near Saint Paul, the son of William A. and Elsie Mueller Stassen, farmers. His father was the son of Norwegian and Czech immigrants; his mother's parents had emigrated from Germany. The fourth of five children, Harold worked on the family farm throughout his childhood while also excelling at his studies, and he graduated from Humboldt High School in Saint Paul in 1922. He was forced to delay going to college for a year in order to reach the mandatory minimal age required for enrollment by the University of Minnesota....

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Adlai Stevenson Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107668).

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Stevenson, Adlai Ewing, II (05 February 1900–14 July 1965), governor, diplomat, and two-time candidate for president, was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Lewis Green Stevenson, a businessman, and Helen Louise Davis. He was named after his grandfather, Adlai Ewing Stevenson...

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Strom Thurmond. At the States' Rights Convention following his nomination for the presidency of the United States, Birmingham, Alabama, 17 July 1948. Courtesy of AP Images.

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Thurmond, J. Strom (05 December 1902–26 June 2003), governor, U.S. senator, and presidential candidate, was born James Strom Thurmond in Edgefield, South Carolina, the son of John William Thurmond, lawyer and politician, and Eleanor Gertrude Strom Thurmond. Thurmond grew up in relative affluence on his father's farm and attended local schools before entering Clemson College (now University), from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in horticulture in 1923. During the next six years Thurmond taught agriculture and coached athletics at several high schools near his hometown. In 1925 he traveled to Florida to invest in real estate; that year a young African American woman, Carrie Butler, gave birth to his first child, a daughter named Essie Mae. The child was soon placed with Butler's relatives in Coatesville, Pennsylvania; the identity of her father remained a closely guarded secret until after Thurmond's death....

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Samuel J. Tilden. [left to right] Samuel J. Tilden and Thomas A. Hendricks. Presidential campaign poster, 1876. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZC4-3637).

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Tilden, Samuel Jones (09 February 1814–04 August 1886), governor of New York and presidential candidate, was born in New Lebanon, New York, the son of Elam Tilden, whose family had emigrated to Massachusetts in the 1630s, and Polly Jones, the stepdaughter of a local doctor. Tilden’s father, who was first a farmer, then a storekeeper, was an active Democratic party worker and longtime friend of ...