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Thomas Jefferson Page. Wood engraving of a photograph from the studio of Mathew B. Brady, 1859. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107249).

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Page, Thomas Jefferson (04 January 1808–26 October 1899), naval officer and explorer, was born in Shelly, Gloucester County, Virginia, the son of Mann Page, a plantation owner, and Elizabeth Nelson. Page’s varied and interesting career began in 1827 when he was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy (aboard a ship in New York) by President ...

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Strain, Isaac G. (04 March 1821–14 May 1857), explorer and naval officer, was born in Roxbury, Pennsylvania, the son of Robert Strain and Eliza Geddes. His middle name was probably Geddes, although this has never been confirmed. Little is known about his early life, but he received sufficient education to enter the U.S. Navy as a midshipman in December 1837. After nearly five years of service in the West Indies and along the coast of Brazil, Strain was assigned to a naval school in Philadelphia in 1842 and remained there for nearly one year....

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Charles Wilkes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8172-1371).

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Wilkes, Charles (03 April 1798–08 February 1877), naval officer and explorer, was born in New York City, the son of John de Ponthieu Wilkes, a banker, and Mary Seton. He was educated in private schools and with tutors, concentrating on mathematics, scientific subjects, surveying, and navigation, though he studied languages and drawing as well. Determined to go to sea but at first denied a naval commission, Wilkes made three voyages as a merchant seaman between 1815 and 1818. He received his appointment as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy on 1 January 1818. Promotion to lieutenant came two days after his marriage to Jane Jeffrey Renwick on 26 April 1826. The couple had four children. On 12 March 1833 he reported for duty as head of the navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments. In August 1836 Wilkes traveled to England and France to obtain equipment, books, and maps for the recently authorized exploring expedition to the Pacific Ocean. He hoped to play a significant role in the expedition as he had “studied with this view ever since the first Expedition was talked of” ( ...