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Aiken, George L. (19 December 1830–27 April 1876), actor and playwright, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Lemuel G. Aiken, an actor, and Susan A. Wyatt. His “first remembrance [was] of a theater,” and it was not long before his services were enlisted in children’s roles at Boston’s Tremont Theatre. Douglas Jerrold’s ...

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Zoë Akins. Photograph by Arnold Genthe. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0608-C-001).

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Akins, Zoë (30 October 1886–29 October 1958), playwright and screenwriter, was born in Humansville, Missouri, the daughter of Thomas J. Akins, a postmaster, and Elizabeth Green. During Zoë’s childhood, the family moved to St. Louis, where Thomas Akins was postmaster as well as a member of the Republican national committee. At age twelve, Akins was sent to Monticello Seminary in Godfrey, Illinois, and later to Hosmer Hall in St. Louis....

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Anderson, Garland (1886–31 May 1939), playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Garland completed four years of school (the only formal education he ever received) before his father moved his family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Garland’s mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the ...

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Maxwell Anderson. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112706).

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Anderson, Maxwell (15 December 1888–28 February 1959), playwright, was born James Maxwell Anderson on a farm near Atlantic, Pennsylvania, the son of William Lincoln Anderson, a lumberman and later a railroad fireman and Baptist preacher, and Charlotte Perrimela Stephenson. His restless parents moved the family to Andover, Ohio, in 1890; to Richmond Center and then Townville, Pennsylvania; and in 1895 to Edinboro, Pennsylvania, where Anderson first went to school. They lived in McKeesport, New Brighton, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; moved to Jefferson, Ohio, in 1901; then to Algona, Iowa; and in 1904 to New Hampton, Iowa, where Anderson first attended high school. In 1907 they moved again, to Jamestown, North Dakota. A year later Anderson graduated from high school and entered the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, graduating in 1911. That same year he married Margaret Ethel Haskett; the couple had three children....

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Andrews, Regina (21 May 1901–05 February 1993), librarian and dramatist, was born Regina M. Anderson in the Hyde Park section of Chicago, Illinois, to Margaret Simons Anderson, a clubwoman and ceramics artist, and William Grant Anderson, an attorney. Regina grew up in an upper-middle-class family because of her father’s success as a defense attorney, which earned him the nickname “Habeas Corpus.” Her views about race were no doubt shaped by her father’s fighting for racial justice for his clients and his collaboration with the antilynching advocate ...

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Ardrey, Robert (16 October 1908–14 January 1980), anthropologist, playwright, and novelist, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Robert Lesley Ardrey, an editor and publisher, and Marie Haswell. Ardrey earned a Ph.D. in the natural and social sciences from the University of Chicago in 1930. After taking a writing course taught by ...

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Armstrong, Paul (25 April 1869–30 August 1915), playwright, was born in Kidder, Missouri, the son of Richard Armstrong, a steamship businessman, and Harriet Scott. Armstrong’s family settled in Bay City, Michigan, where he finished high school. By the age of twenty-one he had become a licensed master of steam vessels on the Great Lakes. He eventually became the purser of a steamship....

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Sholem Asch. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112710).

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Asch, Sholem (01 November 1880–10 July 1957), Yiddish novelist, dramatist, and short story writer, was born in Kutno, Poland, a small town near Warsaw, the son of Moishe Asch, a cattle dealer and innkeeper, and Malka Wydawski. Asch was raised in a small town and was essentially self-educated. His father taught him the alphabet from the Bible, which was, as Asch later noted, “the first book that I ever held in my hand” (Siegel, p. 3). The Bible served as his grammar, geography, and history textbooks, as well as a storybook of sorts; later the Scriptures became a source of continual literary inspiration. As an adult Asch became a serious collector of rare biblical editions. He attended local schools to train for the rabbinate, studying the Talmud but also reading German classics and Shakespeare. Finally, against his family’s wishes, Asch made up his mind to become a writer....

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Bacon, Frank (16 January 1864–19 November 1922), actor and author, was born in Marysville, California, the son of Lyddell Bacon, a rancher, and Lehella Jane McGrew. A few years after Frank’s birth, the family moved to San Jose, California. Bacon received little formal education and by the age of fourteen had left school to work in a photography studio. Until his early twenties, Bacon was intermittently employed as a photographer, a newspaper advertising solicitor, and a journalist. He started newspapers in Mountain View and Mayfield, California, and was for a time co-owner of the Napa ...

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Baker, Benjamin Archibald (04 April 1818–06 September 1890), playwright and theater manager, was born in New York City. Little about Baker’s early life is known; rumor has it that he ran away from home, arriving in New Orleans as a harness maker, later repairing cavalry gear for ...

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Balderston, John Lloyd (22 October 1889–08 March 1954), dramatist and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Lloyd Balderston, a British doctor, and Mary Alsop, an American. He attended local Philadelphia schools. Early transatlantic travels prefigured his internationally varied career. In 1911 Balderston became the New York correspondent for the ...

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Barnes, Charlotte Mary Sanford (1818–14 April 1863), playwright and actress, was born in New York City, the daughter of John Barnes and Mary Greenhill, British actors who achieved success on the New York stage as early as 1816. At age three Charlotte appeared on stage in her mother’s arms in ...

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Barnes, Djuna (12 June 1892–19 June 1982), writer, was born Djuna Chappell Barnes in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, the daughter of Wald Barnes (born Henry Budington, recorded as Buddington), a musician, and Elizabeth Chappell. She was raised mostly in her birthplace, Fordham, and Huntington, Long Island, New York. The Barnes family, which believed in sexual freedom, included four brothers by Djuna’s mother, plus Wald’s mistress Fanny Faulkner and their three children; they were supported largely by Wald’s mother, Zadel Barnes Budington Gustafson, a journalist and suffragist. Djuna’s parents and grandmother Zadel tutored the children, especially in the arts. With the blessing of her father and grandmother (over the objections of her mother), at seventeen Djuna eloped with a soap salesman, Percy Faulkner, brother of Fanny Faulkner, but stayed with him only a few weeks. Djuna attended school sporadically, if at all; later she attended Pratt Institute (1913) and the Art Students League of New York (1915), studying life drawing and illustration....

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Barry, Philip (18 June 1896–03 December 1949), playwright, was born Philip James Quinn Barry in Rochester, New York, the son of James Corbett Barry, the owner of a marble and tile business, and Mary Agnes Quinn. He attended Nazareth Hall Academy, a Roman Catholic private school, Rochester’s East High School, and Yale University. His father’s death the year after Philip’s birth motivated Barry’s second Broadway production, ...

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Barrymore, Maurice (21 September 1849–25 March 1905), actor-playwright, was born Herbert Arthur Chamberlayne Hunter Blyth in Amritsar, India, the son of William Edward Blyth, a deputy commissioner, and Charlotte Matilda de Tankerville. At age ten, following the tradition of prominent Anglo-Indians, Herbert sailed for England to prepare for a direct appointment to the East India Company’s service. Bright, spirited, athletic, and strikingly handsome, he opted instead for the less restrictive pleasures of London, becoming, to the horror of his proper Victorian family, the middleweight boxing champion of England in 1872. That same year, going from bad to untenable in the estimate of his relatives, he made his acting debut on 1 April at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, as Cool in ...

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L. Frank Baum. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103206).

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Baum, L. Frank (15 May 1856–06 May 1919), children's author, journalist, and playwright, children’s author, journalist, and playwright, was born Lyman Frank Baum in Chittenango, New York, the son of Benjamin Ward Baum, a cooper and sawyer who had made a fortune in Pennsylvania oil, and Cynthia Stanton. He grew up on the family estate, “Roselawn,” outside Syracuse, New York. Suffering from a congenitally weak heart, he was educated at home. A stay at Peekskill Military Academy beginning in 1868—which gave Baum a lifelong antipathy to academics and the military—ended less than two years later in his having a heart attack. Back home, he published a family newspaper and periodicals on stamp collecting and the breeding of fancy chickens. In 1881 he studied theater in New York City and joined a repertory company, then managed an opera house in Richburg, New York, from 1881 to 1882, and, with his father’s financing, toured successfully with ...