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Adams, Franklin P. (15 November 1881–23 March 1960), newspaper columnist, humorist, and radio personality, was born Franklin Pierce Adams in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Moses Adams, a dry-goods merchant, and Clara Schlossberg, both German-Jewish immigrants. During his childhood he was an avid reader of the classics, history, nineteenth-century fiction, and light verse. He studied mathematics and science at the Armour Scientific Academy in Chicago, graduating in 1899. He attended the University of Michigan for less than a year, during which he studied literature and after which he began to earn his own living....

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Ameringer, Oscar (04 August 1870–05 November 1943), humorist and socialist editor, was born in a Swabian village in Germany, the son of August Ameringer, a cabinetmaker. His mother’s maiden name was Hoffman, and she was the previously widowed owner of a twelve-acre farm. Relocated to Laupheim, Ameringer grew up in the relative comfort of the lower middle class, yet he despised the religiosity and anti-Semitism of his Lutheran schooling. An instinctive antimonarchist, storyteller, and musician, he seized his first opportunity, at age sixteen, to flee to the United States. There he would become the “Mark Twain of American socialism,” a famed literary comedian, stage entertainer, and labor and political organizer....

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Bagby, George William (13 August 1828–29 November 1883), journalist and humorist, was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, the son of George Bagby, a merchant, and Virginia Young Evans. A frail constitution forced Virginia Bagby to move to the mountain town of Covington, where she died when George was eight years old. Bagby’s father, who owned a general merchandise store in Lynchburg, sent him and his younger sister to live on the Cumberland County plantation of their aunt, Elisabeth Hobson. In 1843, at the age of fifteen, Bagby entered Delaware College. He then studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1849....

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Bangs, John Kendrick (27 May 1862–21 January 1922), humorist, editor, and lecturer, was born in Yonkers, New York, the son of Francis Nehemiah Bangs, a lawyer, and Frances Amelia Bull, and the grandson of Nathan Bangs, a Methodist clergyman. His ancestors were domineering and ferocious personalities whose achievements overshadowed Bangs’s career, and his perennial reluctance to take either religion or law seriously can be seen as a mild rebellion....

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Buchwald, Art (20 October 1925–17 January 2007), journalist and humorist, was born Arthur Buchwald in Mount Vernon, New York. His father, Joseph Buchwald, a Jewish immigrant from Austria, was a draper in New York City; his mother, Helen Klineberger, whom he never met, was placed in a mental hospital shortly after Arthur’s birth and remained institutionalized for the rest of her life. Arthur was the couple’s fourth child and only son....

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Burgess, Gelett (30 January 1866–18 September 1951), author, editor, and illustrator, was born Frank Gelett Burgess in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Harvey Burgess, a well-to-do painting contractor, and Caroline Matilda Brooks, a genteel Unitarian. After graduating from the English High School in Boston, Burgess attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned his B.S. in 1887. To avoid perceived restrictions of life in New England, he became a draftsman on survey work with the Southern Pacific Railroad (1888–1891), hiked and sketched his way through France and Spain, and instructed topographical drawing at the University of California at Berkeley (1891–1894). He was dismissed from his academic post for pulling down a cast-iron statue of Henry Cogswell, a prominent local dentist revered as a philanthropic teetotaler. Burgess designed furniture for a San Francisco firm at minimal pay, lived on Russian Hill, and puzzled his neighbors by appearing at odd hours with his 5′ 4″ frame draped in vivid capes....

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Clark, Charles Heber (11 July 1841–10 August 1915), journalist and humorist, known by the pseudonym “Max Adeler,” was born in Berlin, Maryland, the son of Annabella McCullough and William James Clark. Two years after Clark’s birth, his father, an itinerant Episcopal clergyman, moved his family to Churchtown, Pennsylvania, where his abolitionist sympathies were more acceptable to his congregation. In 1856 financial problems forced the family to live apart, and at age fifteen Clark found himself in Philadelphia, where he took a series of low-paying jobs. He served the Union cause as a member of the Blue Reserves for about one month in 1862 and slightly longer in the summer of 1863....

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Cobb, Irvin Shrewsbury (23 June 1876–10 March 1944), newspaperman, author, and humorist, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, the son of Joshua Clark Cobb, a Confederate army soldier and later a tobacco trader, steamboat businessman, and manager of a river-supply store, and Manie Saunders. Cobb attended Paducah schools until 1892 and then became a reporter for the ...

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Daly, Thomas Augustine (28 May 1871–04 October 1948), humorist, poet, and columnist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Anthony Daly and Anne Victoria Duckett, owners of the first Catholic bookstore in Philadelphia. He attended public schools and at age fourteen entered Villanova College, “majoring in cigarettes and baseball.” Daly dropped out in 1889 and completed two more years at St. John’s College (later Fordham University). In 1896 he married Nannie Barrett and settled in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. A 1910 ...

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De Quille, Dan (09 May 1829–16 March 1898), humorist and journalist, was born William Wright near Fredericktown, Ohio, to Paxson Wright and Lucinda Markley, farmers. Wright was the oldest of nine children. In 1847 his father moved the family to a farm near West Liberty, Iowa, but died soon afterward, leaving Wright with the responsibility for the farm and the rest of the family. In 1853 Wright married Caroline Coleman and started his own family. Five children were born in quick succession to the couple, two of whom died in infancy....

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Ephron, Nora (19 May 1941–26 June 2012), screenwriter, film director, journalist, and humorist, was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and grew up in Beverly Hills, California. Her parents, Henry Ephron and the former Phoebe Wolkind, were a successful screenwriting team best known for scripting such light-hearted fare as ...

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Joel Chandler Harris. Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103981).

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Harris, Joel Chandler (09 December 1848–03 July 1908), journalist and author, was born near Eatonton, Georgia, the son of Mary Harris. His father was apparently a young itinerant Irish day laborer who lived with Harris’s mother until the child was born and then deserted her. The Harrises moved to a cottage on the Andrew Reid plantation, where the boy was exposed to the major components of mid-nineteenth-century Georgia society—poor white farmers; the social and economic upper-class, plantation-owning elite; and black slaves. At this time Harris began thinking about becoming a writer. Recalling his early life in ...

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Jones, Hamilton C. (23 August 1798–10 September 1868), humorist, lawyer, and journalist, was born Hamilton Chamberlain Jones in Greenville County, Virginia, the son of William Jones and Martha Loftin. His father, about whom little is known, died while Jones was still an infant, soon after the family’s move to Stokes County, North Carolina. His mother then married Colonel James Martin, a wealthy and politically influential landowner and brother to ...

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Ring Lardner [left to right] President Warren G. Harding, Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, and Henry Prather Fletcher, c. 1922. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92898).

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Lardner, Ring (06 March 1885–25 September 1933), writer and journalist, was born Ringgold Wilmer Lardner in Niles, Michigan, the son of Henry Lardner, a prosperous businessman, and Lena Bogardus Phillips, a poet. Lardner’s childhood was idyllic. He grew up in a comfortable, upper-class home where nursemaids and other servants supplemented the indulgent, loving care of his parents. As a young child, Lardner, along with the brother and sister nearest him in age, wrote and performed in dramatic recitations, plays, and musical programs in the family home....

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Leland, Charles Godfrey (15 August 1824–20 March 1903), poet and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Charles Leland, a prosperous commission merchant, and Charlotte Godfrey. Leland graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1845 and then studied abroad for three years at the Universities of Heidelberg and Munich and the Sorbonne. He manned the barricades in Paris for three days during the revolution of 1848....

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Locke, David Ross (20 September 1833–15 February 1888), literary comedian and newspaper editor, was born in Vestal, Broome County, New York, the son of Nathaniel Reed Locke, a laborer, tanner, and farmer, and Hester Ross. He was apprenticed as a printer to the ...

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Lukens, Henry Clay (18 August 1838–1900?), humorist and journalist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he attended the public schools. (Nothing is known about his parents.) He began writing for local papers when he was fifteen. For a year, between 1858 and 1859, he served as associate editor of the ...

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Marquis, Don (29 July 1878–29 December 1937), columnist, short-story writer, and poet, was born Donald Robert Perry Marquis in Walnut, Illinois, the son of James Stewart Marquis, a country physician, and Virginia Whitmore. He attended local schools, lived with his mother while she ran a boardinghouse in Chicago (1888–1889), and held various odd jobs (1893–1899) both before and after briefly attending Knox College (fall 1898)....