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Burnett, Alfred (02 November 1824–04 April 1884), entertainer and journalist, was born in Bungay, Suffolk, England. The names of his parents and other facts about his early life are unknown. In 1828 he was sent to live with an aunt in New York City. After four years of schooling in Utica, New York, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1836. He later became proprietor of a confectionery business and by 1860 owned three such establishments....

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William Evans Burton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90336).

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Burton, William Evans (24 September 1802–10 February 1860), actor and editor, was born in London, England, the son of William George Burton, a printer (maiden name unknown). Hoping his child would become a clergyman, the elder Burton enrolled him at St. Paul’s School, but at the age of eighteen Burton had to withdraw and take charge of his family’s printing business when his father died....

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Dithmar, Edward Augustus (22 May 1854–16 October 1917), journalist, was born in New York City, the son of Henry Dithmar and Anna (maiden name unknown). His father was foreman of the composing room at the New York Evening Post. Dithmar’s public school education ended at seventeen when he joined his father at the ...

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Field, Kate (01 October 1838–19 May 1896), journalist, actress, and editor, was born Mary Katherine Keemle Field in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Joseph M. Field, an actor, journalist, and theater manager, and Eliza Riddle, an actress. After early schooling in St. Louis, at the age of sixteen Field went to Boston to visit her mother’s sister Cordelia, the wife of a millionaire, Milton L. Sanford. Sanford sent her to Lasell Seminary, Auburndale, Massachusetts (1854–1856), and introduced her to the world of the socially elite....

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Fiske, Harrison Grey (30 July 1861–02 September 1942), theatrical editor and manager-producer, was born in Harrison, New York, the son of Lyman Fiske, a hotel owner, and Jennie Durfee. Fiske’s well-to-do family moved to New York City when he was a child, and there he developed a lifelong passion for the theater. He was educated by tutors and at private schools and traveled in Europe. Thanks to family influence with the owners of the papers, while still an adolescent Fiske began reviewing plays for two newspapers, the ...

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Gibbs, Wolcott (15 March 1902–16 August 1958), drama critic, editor, and author, was born Oliver Wolcott Gibbs in New York City, the son of Lucius Tuckerman Gibbs, an electrical engineer and inventor, and Angelica Singleton Duer. When Gibbs was six years old his father died, and his alcoholic mother lost custody of Gibbs and his sister. ...

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Hapgood, Norman (28 March 1868–29 April 1937), journalist, critic, and reformer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Charles Hutchins Hapgood, a farm implement manufacturer, and Fanny Louise Powers. He grew up in wealth in Alton, Illinois. In 1890 he graduated with an A.B. from Harvard University, where he was strongly influenced by Professor ...

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Henderson, David (26 April 1853–27 May 1908), journalist and theatrical manager and producer, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of William Henderson and Elizabeth Bissett. Educated in Edinburgh, Henderson became apprenticed in the printing business at the age of twelve after his parents died. He began his journalistic career working for the ...

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Hornblow, Arthur, Sr. (1865–06 May 1942), editor, author, and dramatist, was born in Manchester, England, the son of William Hornblow and Sarah Jane Rodgers. Little is known of Hornblow’s childhood; however, he studied literature and painting in Paris before coming to the United States in 1889. While in Paris, Hornblow acted as a correspondent for both English and American newspapers....

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Hoyt, Charles Hale (26 July 1859–20 November 1900), playwright, journalist, and theater director, was born in Concord, New Hampshire, the son of George W. Hoyt, a hotel manager and mail clerk, and Mary Ann Hale. He attended private school and the Boston Latin School before becoming a law student in Boston. Hoyt had a successful career writing “All Sorts,” a local-color column for the ...

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Isaacs, Edith Juliet Rich (27 March 1878–10 January 1956), editor and theatre critic, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the daughter of Adolph Walter Rich and Rosa Sidenberg. Her father, a Hungarian immigrant, owned a shoe factory. Isaacs graduated from Milwaukee-Downer College (now a part of Lawrence University) in 1897, with a bachelor of arts in English composition. She was literary editor for the ...

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George Jean Nathan, c. 1939–1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116934).

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Nathan, George Jean (14 February 1882–08 April 1958), drama critic and editor, was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the son of Charles Narét-Nathan, a landowner and businessman, and Ella Nirdlinger. Nathan was raised in a well-to-do family with international connections and social prominence; his father, a world-traveler, had prominent relatives in Belgium and France, where he owned vineyards; his mother’s family were among the founders of Fort Wayne. Members of the extended family had interests in the theater and journalism. After graduating from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, where the family had moved in 1888, Nathan attended Cornell (1900–1904). There he attained prominence of his own as editor of the campus newspaper and literary magazine and as an award-winning fencer. His midwestern upbringing was leavened with frequent summer excursions to Europe, and following his graduation he spent a year at the University of Bologna....

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Redpath, James (24 August 1833–10 February 1891), journalist and entertainment impresario, was born in Berwick-on-Tweed, Scotland, the son of Ninian Davidson Redpath, a teacher, and Maria Main. After being educated in his father’s academy, Redpath emigrated with his family to the United States in 1849 and soon found work as a reporter for ...

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Will Rogers Left, with Will Hays, c. 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-83080).

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Rogers, Will (04 November 1879–15 August 1935), entertainer and social commentator, was born William Penn Adair Rogers near Oologah, Oklahoma, in what was then the Cooweescoowee District of Indian Territory, the son of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher, Cherokee ranchers. Rogers County, which contains both Oologah, site of the historic Rogers home, and Claremore, site of the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum, is named after the prominent father, not the prominent son. “Uncle Clem” was a major player in Oklahoma politics before and after statehood (1907), serving as a judge, as a member of the Dawes Commission (to distribute Indian lands prior to statehood), and as the first local banker. Will’s loving wife, the former Betty Blake, whom he married in 1908, later remembered that “Will had everything he wanted. He had spending money and the best string of cow ponies in the country. No boy in Indian Territory had more than Uncle Clem’s boy.” (Yet being “Uncle Clem’s boy” could have its downside, too.)...

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Gilbert Seldes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1019 P&P).

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...

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Walton, Lester A. (20 April 1882–16 October 1965), diplomat, journalist, civil rights activist, and theater producer, was born Lester Aglar Walton in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Benjamin A. Walton, Sr., and Olive May Camphor Walton. After graduation from Sumner High School, Walton began his career as a journalist at the ...