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George Bancroft. Half-plate daguerreotype (hand-colored), c. 1847, by John Jabez Edwin Mayall. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Dr. and Mrs. Lester Tuchman and Gallery purchase.

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Bancroft, George (03 October 1800–17 January 1891), scholar and diplomat, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, the son of Aaron Bancroft, the founder of Worcester’s Second Congregational Society and later president of the American Unitarian Association, and Lucretia Chandler. The eighth of thirteen children, George passed his childhood in a frugal rural household dominated by paternal activism. In 1811 he entered the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, run by Benjamin Abbot, a family friend. Attending with a scholarship, Bancroft received a solid grounding in classics, which prepared him for Harvard, where he enrolled at the age of thirteen....

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Bowers, Claude Gernade (20 November 1878–21 January 1958), journalist, diplomat, and historian, was born in Westfield, Indiana, the son of Lewis Bowers, a storekeeper, and Juliet Tipton, a milliner and dressmaker. Reared in rural communities in central Indiana, Claude moved to Indianapolis with his divorced mother when he was thirteen. He was a voracious reader and became a confirmed Democrat while at Indianapolis High School. In 1898 Bowers graduated and also won the state oratorical contest but was unable to attend college for lack of funds. Instead he worked for the publishing firm that later became the Bobbs-Merrill Company. In 1900 Bowers became the major editorial writer for the ...

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Brodhead, John Romeyn (02 January 1814–06 May 1873), diplomat and historian, was born in Philadelphia, the son of the Reverend Dr. Jacob Brodhead, minister of the First Reformed Dutch Church, and Elizabeth Bleecker. He lived in Philadelphia until 1826, when his father was called to the Broome Street Reformed Dutch Church in New York City. Brodhead thereafter attended Albany Academy and Rutgers College. Graduating with honors from Rutgers in 1831, he studied law in the office of Hugh Maxwell for four years. After being admitted to the New York bar in 1835, he commenced a legal practice as Maxwell’s partner, but when his father fell ill two years later, Brodhead abandoned a legal career to care for his father at a summer home in Saugerties, New York, where he developed an interest in early American history....

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George F. Kennan. George Kennan, former ambassador to the Soviet Union, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, testifying in front of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Feb. 10 1966. Photograph by Warren K. Leffler. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ds-07025).

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Kennan, George F. (16 February 1904–17 March 2005), diplomat and historian, was born George Frost Kennan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Florence James and Kossuth Kent Kennan, a tax attorney who was fifty-two years old at the time. Tragically his mother died of a burst appendix two months after his birth, and he was team-raised by his father, several aunts, and a stepmother who displayed little affection for him. George attended the Fourth Street School in Milwaukee, where swift progress allowed him to skip eighth grade. His father then moved him to St John’s Military School, which was a difficult experience for the quiet and introverted boy. He enrolled at Princeton University in 1921 and graduated in 1925. Kennan later said that “Princeton had prepared my mind for further growth. It had not stimulated in that mind any great latitude of curiosity” (...

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Motley, John Lothrop (15 April 1814–29 May 1877), historian and diplomat, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Motley, a well-to-do merchant, and Anna Lothrop. Both parents were members of the Brahmin caste of New England, and their son would enjoy the advantages of that elite class. After attending the Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts—where he was taught German by ...

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Warden, David Bailie (1772–09 October 1845), diplomat and scholar, was born in Ballycastle, County Down, Ireland, the son of Robert Warden (occupation unknown) and Elizabeth Bailie. He was educated for the Presbyterian ministry and also took some medical training, receiving a certificate in midwifery. He received his master of arts from the University of Glasgow in 1797. He became involved with the United Irishmen through his friendship with Theobald Wolfe Tone and was arrested in 1798. In lieu of trial, Warden was offered banishment from Ireland. He emigrated to the United States in 1799. Instead of pursuing a life as a clergyman, Warden, who had a broad interest in mathematics, science, and literature, went into teaching. He became the principal of the Columbia Academy in Kinderhook, New York, and later, in 1801, became the head tutor in nearby Kingston Academy....

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Sumner Welles. Gouache on board, 1941, by Ernest Hamlin Baker. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Welles, Sumner (14 October 1892–24 September 1961), diplomat and author, was born Benjamin Sumner Welles in New York City, the son of Benjamin Welles and Frances Swan. The Welles family was socially prominent and wealthy, and the young man preferred to be called Sumner, reflecting the relationship to his famous ancestor, ...