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Chateaubriand, François-René de (04 September 1768–04 July 1848), writer and statesman, was born in Saint-Malo, Brittany, the son of René-Auguste Chateaubriand and Apolline de Bedée. Chateaubriand’s well-educated mother came from a noble family in nearby Plancoët. His father, a descendant of illustrious ancestors, not only had restored the family fortune by serving as a gentleman corsair but in 1761 had also bought both the castle of Combourg and the title of vicomte de Combourg. The cold, turreted castle and its beautiful natural surroundings would leave a lasting impression on the boy, the youngest of six surviving children....

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Churchill, Winston (10 November 1871–12 March 1947), novelist and politician, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Emma Bell Blaine and Edward S. Churchill. His mother died shortly after his birth. Left in the care of his maternal grandmother until her death two years later, he was a short time thereafter taken in and raised by his mother’s half sister, Louisa Blaine Gazzam, and her husband, James Braiding Gazzam, who lived in genteel poverty. Two manuscripts written later in his life (Jonathan and Gideon mss., Baker Library) demonstrate the influence of Churchill’s upbringing on both his personal life and his novels. The absolute standards that the Gazzams instilled in him left him with lifelong feelings of guilt and inadequacy....

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Jeremiah Clemens. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109966).

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Clemens, Jeremiah (28 December 1814–21 May 1865), politician and novelist, was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the son of James Clemens, a merchant. His mother’s maiden name was Mills, but her first name is unknown. Clemens spent the formative years of his life in the northern Alabama upcountry town of Huntsville with his affluent family. He entered La Grange College in 1830, but in 1831 he moved to the newly opened University of Alabama, graduating in 1833. He also spent a year studying law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1834 he married Mary Read; they had one child....

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Heath, James Ewell (08 July 1792–28 June 1862), author and politician, was born in Virginia, probably in Northumberland County, the son of John Heath, first president of Phi Beta Kappa, and Sarah Ewell. Little is known about his early life. During 1814–1817 Heath represented Prince William County in the Virginia General Assembly, in his third term serving as a member of the Privy Council. In 1819 he became state auditor, a post he held for thirty years. From 1850 to 1853, he served as commissioner of pensions in President ...

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Kennedy, John Pendleton (25 October 1795–18 August 1870), politician and writer, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of John Kennedy, an Irish immigrant and intermittently successful copper merchant, and Nancy Clayton Pendleton, who was descended from a distinguished tidewater Virginia family that included the well-known jurist ...

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Elliott Roosevelt Henry A. Wallace, Elliot Roosevelt, Harlow Shaple, and Jo Davison, 1947. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-117441).

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Roosevelt, Elliott (23 September 1910–27 October 1990), advertising executive, public figure, and author, was born in New York City, the son of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the thirty-second president of the United States, and Eleanor Roosevelt. He attended Groton Academy in Massachusetts (1923–1929) and Hun School in New Jersey (1929–1930). He declined to follow the family tradition and did not go to Harvard but entered the business world instead. He was an advertising account executive in one firm (1930), vice president of another (1931), and then an account executive in yet another (1932). He became aviation editor for the ...