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Edward W. Bok. In the background are, from left to right, Senators George H. Moses, James Reed, and T. H. Caraway. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103937).

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Bok, Edward William (09 October 1863–09 January 1930), editor, philanthropist, and peace advocate, was born in den Helder, Holland, the son of William John Hidde Bok and Sieke Gertrude van Herwerden, who, having lost their inherited fortune through unwise investments, immigrated to the United States in 1870. They settled in Brooklyn, where Bok and his older brother learned English in public school. With his father at first unable to find steady employment, Bok delivered newspapers, worked in a bakery, and wrote up childrens’ parties for the ...

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Hecht, George Joseph (01 November 1895–23 April 1980), publisher and philanthropist, was born in New York City, the son of Meyer Hecht and Gella Stern. He attended the Ethical Culture School from 1902 until he graduated in 1913, when he entered Cornell University. Hecht’s early schooling along with his parents’ interest in social welfare helped him develop his lifelong interest in helping others. It was at Cornell that he discovered his talent for publishing. He helped change the ...

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Straight, Dorothy Payne Whitney (23 January 1887–13 December 1968), publisher, educator, and philanthropist, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Flora Payne and William C. Whitney, then secretary of the navy. Her father had added a fortune made in urban railways to his wife’s dowry and with other socially prominent New Yorkers founded the Metropolitan Opera. Dorothy therefore enjoyed a materially and culturally rich childhood, whose comfort was marred by the death of her mother when Dorothy was six and of her father when she was seventeen. She then came into her own fortune and the temporary custody of her brother ...

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Wallace, DeWitt (12 November 1889–30 March 1981), editor and publisher, was born William Roy (or Roy William) DeWitt Wallace in St. Paul, Minnesota, the son of James T. Wallace, an educator, and Janet Davis. DeWitt’s high marks enabled him to skip two grades in elementary school, but his academic achievements after that were spotty. In high school, he was better known for pranks and athletic skills. Wallace enrolled at Macalester College, a Presbyterian institution where his father was president. After his sophomore year he took a job at a bank in Colorado. In his spare time, he read widely in current publications and formed a habit of making notes on articles he found most appealing and on his own ideas. He then returned to school at the University of California, Berkeley. During a visit to Tacoma, Washington, a friend introduced him to Canadian-born Lila Bell Acheson, who later became his wife and business partner....

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Wallace, Lila Bell Acheson (25 December 1889–08 May 1984), cofounder and co-owner of the Reader's Digest and philanthropist, cofounder and co-owner of the Reader’s Digest and philanthropist, was born in Virden, Manitoba, Canada, the daughter of T. Davis Acheson and Mary E. Huston. After Lila’s father completed his theological studies and became a Presbyterian minister, the family moved to the United States and became U.S. citizens. They lived in various small towns in the Midwest and West....