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Allen, Elizabeth Akers (09 October 1832–07 August 1911), poet and journalist, was born Elizabeth Ann Chase in Strong, Maine, the second of three daughters of Thomas Chase, a carpenter and circuit preacher, and Mercy Fenno Barton. Her childhood was traumatic. A fourth sibling died accidentally, and her frail mother, whose medical treatments led Elizabeth to vow to murder the doctor, died in 1836. Her father placed his daughters separately with acquaintances until he remarried the following year. Four-year-old Elizabeth’s foster parents forced her to work, whipped her, and shut her in the cellar when she failed to meet their expectations. She had some schooling at Farmington (Maine) Academy. She wrote her first verses at age twelve; these were published in a Vermont newspaper, having been submitted without her knowledge. Eager to escape a grim home, she began working at thirteen, first in a sweatshop-like bookbindery, later as a teacher....

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Benét, William Rose (02 February 1886–04 May 1950), poet and editor, was born in Fort Hamilton, New York, the son of James Walker Benét, an army ordnance officer, and Frances Neill Rose. He attended the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale University, graduating in 1907. While at Yale, Benét edited the ...

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William Cullen Bryant. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110144).

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Bryant, William Cullen (03 November 1794–12 June 1878), poet and journalist, was born in Cummington, Massachusetts, the son of Peter Bryant, a physician, and Sarah Snell, daughter of one of the first settlers. Young Cullen, as he was called, was a precocious child of poor health and nervous temperament. His mother taught him the alphabet at sixteen months. At twelve he was tutored in Latin by an uncle, Rev. Thomas Snell, and in Greek by Rev. Moses Halleck. His father, himself well versed in the classics as well as British poetry, shared his sizable personal library with his son and encouraged him to write poetry. Bryant’s mother kept a diary of observations on local events. Thus, the environment of his boyhood was not only conducive to an appreciation of culture and the disciplined development of his literary skills, but also to the nurture of spiritual and moral qualities. In particular, Bryant retained through his life vivid memories of long hours spent at the Congregational church, with its biblical orientation and rigorous Calvinism....

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Carleton, Will (21 October 1845–18 December 1912), poet, lecturer, and editor, was born William McKendree Carleton in Hudson, Michigan, the son of John Hancock Carleton, a pioneer farmer, and Celestia Elvira Smith. An earnest, sensitive lad with an early passion for reading, he began writing poetry in his diary in his early teens....

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Clarke, Joseph Ignatius Constantine (31 July 1846–27 February 1925), journalist, poet, and playwright, was born in Kingstown, near Dublin, Ireland, the son of William Clarke, a barrister, and Ellen Quinn. After the 1858 death of his father, Joseph Clarke moved with his family to London, where he began work as an apprentice in the reading room of the Queen’s Printers. In addition to the education he received as a boy in a series of Irish Catholic Schools, Clarke was privately tutored in French and Latin. He secured a civil service sinecure when he was sixteen....

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Timothy P. Twohill

Dwight, Theodore (15 December 1764–12 June 1846), author, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, the son of Major Timothy Dwight, a merchant, and Mary Edwards. Major Dwight died when Theodore was thirteen; thus, Theodore Dwight was raised by his mother to assume the responsibilities of the family farm. However, because of an injury, he was forced to give up farming in exchange for studying law. Dwight moved to New Haven, Connecticut, to be tutored by his uncle ...

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Gallagher, William Davis (21 August 1808–27 June 1894), poet, journalist, and government official, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Bernard Gallagher, apparently a printer or journalist, and Abigail Davis. At the age of eight Gallagher headed west with his three brothers and mother (a widow since 1814) and settled in Mount Pleasant, Ohio. There he attended the Lancastrian Seminary and learned the printing trade through an apprenticeship....

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Hays, Will S. (19 July 1837–23 July 1907), songwriter, poet, and editor, was born William Shakespeare Hays in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Hugh Hays, a successful manufacturer of farming equipment, and Martha Richardson, an amateur musician and writer. Although he early showed signs of musical aptitude, his formal training extended no further than a few violin lessons. He attended small colleges in Hanover, Indiana; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Georgetown, Kentucky, in 1856–1857. During this time he published his first song, “Little Ones at Home,” for which he wrote only the text. Hays returned to Louisville and worked in a music store. There he began to compose melodies for his poems, among the first of which was “Evangeline” (1857), musically in a style that acknowledged an important debt to the vogue for Italian opera. This turned out to be his first hit, selling perhaps as many as 300,000 copies. It was during his time at D. P. Faulds’s music store that Hays allegedly composed the original version of “Dixie,” a claim made by Faulds himself more than thirty years later and corroborated then by Hays. (This story has never been supported by evidence other than hearsay, and ...

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Lawson, James (09 November 1799–24 March 1880), editor, author, and insurance broker, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of James Lawson, a merchant. His mother’s identity is not known. Lawson entered the University of Glasgow at the age of thirteen but presumably did not graduate because he left Scotland in 1815. Settling in New York, he worked as an accountant in the firm of Alexander Thomson & Co., which was owned by and named for his maternal uncle. Lawson became a member of the firm in 1822 and remained there until 1826, when the company failed. This turned out to be a rather opportune event; Lawson had been sending submissions of his writing to his long-time friend James G. Brooks, one of the founders of the weekly ...

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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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Muñoz Rivera, Luis (17 July 1859–15 November 1916), resident commissioner for Puerto Rico in Washington, D.C., writer, and newspaper editor, was born in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, the son of Luis Ramón Muñoz Barrios, a merchant and landowner, and Monserrate Rivera Vásquez. Inhabitants of a small town in the mountainous interior of Puerto Rico, Muñoz Rivera’s parents sent him at age six to the only local school. At age ten he had gone beyond what formal education could be offered there and studied with private tutors. His father taught him the rudiments of bookkeeping and basic business practices, and Muñoz Rivera became a modestly successful businessman. His father was mayor of Barranquitas and a member of the pro-Spanish Conservative party, and his uncle Vicente was a member of the Liberal party, So Luis grew up listening to the political discussions that agitated the Spanish colony in the 1860s and 1870s. At issue was local autonomy versus control by Spanish-appointed governors and their hand-picked advisory councils. The issue continued to agitate Puerto Ricans despite a change of colonial masters after the Spanish-American War in 1898....

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Nicholson, Eliza Jane Poitevent Holbrook (11 March 1849–15 February 1896), newspaper publisher and poet, was born in Gainesville, Hancock County, Mississippi, the daughter of Captain William J. Poitevent, a builder-owner of steamboats and a lumber manufacturer, and Mary A. Russ. Because of her mother’s ill health, Eliza Poitevent spent much of her youth at the farm of her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Kimball, some twenty miles from her birthplace. In 1867 she graduated from the Amite (La.) Female Seminary. She would later describe her time there as “useless education,” given the academic instructions imposed on “intellectual women” in that era. She began writing poems during her early teens. However, it was not until after her graduation that her first published efforts appeared in the ...

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O’Reilly, John Boyle (28 June 1844–10 August 1890), writer, was born in Castle Dowth, near Drogheda, County Meath, Ireland, the son of William David O’Reilly, a schoolmaster, and Eliza Boyle. Educated by his father, O’Reilly early gained newspaper experience by working, beginning at age eleven, first as an apprentice for the Drogheda ...

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Testut, Charles (1819?–01 July 1892), Romantic literary artist, journalist, and physician, was born Charles-Hippolyte-Joseph Testut in Auxerre, France, and though he emigrated to the United States in the late 1830s when he was in his early twenties, he remained a French citizen until his death in New Orleans, Louisiana. The details of Testut’s personal life are sketchy. In his writings he alluded to a brother, Eugène, and a sister, Marie, and he cherished the memory of his father, whom he referred to as a high-ranking official in the Rosicrucian movement. He also mentioned his wife and children and spoke fondly of his dozen or so grandchildren. It appears, however, that when he settled permanently in New Orleans in 1871 his family resided elsewhere....

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Thompson, John Reuben (23 October 1823–30 April 1873), poet and editor, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of John Thompson, a store owner, and Sarah Dyckman. He was graduated from the University of Virginia in 1842 with a major in chemistry and again in 1845 with a degree in law. In 1847 his father purchased the ...

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Warman, Cy (22 June 1855–07 April 1914), journalist and author, was born near Greenup, Illinois, the son of John Warman, a farmer, and Nancy Askew. He was educated in the common schools and became a farmer. When “old enough to vote” he sold his crop and horses, took a partner, and started a wheat brokerage at Pocahontas, Illinois. The business lasted only two weeks because his first large shipment to St. Louis arrived just as the wheat market collapsed. In 1879 he married Ida Blanche Hays; they had no children, and she died in 1887....

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Williams, John (28 April 1761–12 October 1818), writer, was born in London, England. The names and occupations of his parents are not known. An exceptionally bright child, Williams attended the Merchant Taylor’s School, the master of which he satirized in a sharp epigram and was chastised for doing so. He was hired as a booksellers’ hack, mainly to produce translations. He became a journalist in Dublin, Ireland, where he worked for the ...

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Winchevsky, Morris (09 August 1856–18 March 1932), Yiddish poet, editor, and one of the founders of the socialist Jewish Daily Forward, Yiddish poet, editor, and one of the founders of the socialist Jewish Daily Forward, was born Lippe Ben-Zion Novachovitch in Yanovo, Lithuania, when it was part of Russia, the son of Sissel Novachovitch, who had no trade and worked odd jobs, and Golda (maiden name unknown), a storekeeper. Winchevsky once said he became a socialist “twenty-five years before my birth,” referring to the execution of his grandfather by the Russians for participating in the Polish rebellion of 1831. At age eleven the Lithuanian Jew took the unusual step of entering government school and learning Russian fluently. Languages came easily to him. He went on to learn German and English and translated Victor Hugo’s ...