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Dymond, John (03 May 1836–05 March 1922), planter, publisher, and politician, was born in Canada (exact location unrecorded), the son of Richard Dymond, a Methodist minister, and Anne Hawkens. During his early childhood Dymond’s family moved to Zanesville, Ohio, where he was educated in the local public schools and the Zanesville Academy before entering Bartlett’s College, a business school in Cincinnati. Following his graduation from Bartlett’s in 1857 he took a job as a clerk with his father, who had by that time established himself in the mercantile trade. He then toyed with the cotton manufacturing business in partnership with Homer White (trading under the name White & Dymond) before moving to New York City, where, on the eve of the Civil War, he took a job as a traveling salesman with a firm whose name has not survived. He returned to Zanesville on 3 June 1862 to marry Nancy Elizabeth Cassidy; they had six children....

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Gresham, Newt (20 February 1858–10 April 1906), labor organizer and editor, was born Isaac Newton Gresham in Lauderdale County, near Florence, Alabama, the son of Henry Gresham and Marcipia Narcissa Wilcoxon, tenant farmers. The family moved to Kaufman County, Texas, in 1859 (though some sources claim they moved after the Civil War). After his parents’ deaths in 1868, Gresham lived with his older brother Ben....

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Heard, Dwight Bancroft (01 May 1869–14 March 1929), investment banker, farmer, and publisher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Leander Bradford Heard, a wholesale grocer, and Lucy Bancroft. His father died in 1882. After Heard finished high school in Brookline, Massachusetts, his mother moved the family to Chicago, where Heard began work at the hardware sellers Hibbard, Spencer & Bartlett. The wife of the firm’s president, Adolphus Bartlett, was a distant relative of Heard, who quickly became Bartlett’s protégé. Heard was the company’s specialist in credit sales in Wisconsin and much of the Midwest. In 1893 he married Maie Pitkin Bartlett, Adolphus Bartlett’s daughter; they had one child....

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Polk, Leonidas LaFayette (24 April 1837–11 June 1892), farm editor and national president of the Farmers' Alliance, farm editor and national president of the Farmers’ Alliance, was born in Anson County, North Carolina, the son of Andrew Polk and Serena Autry, farmers. Although he would become a leader of the nation’s poor and militant farmers, Polk grew up in relatively affluent surroundings. His father’s ownership of 1,800 acres and thirty-two slaves placed him in the lower ranks of the planter class....

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Rodale, J. I. (16 August 1898–07 June 1971), health food publisher, was born Jerome Irving Cohen in New York City, the son of Michael Cohen, a capmaker and grocer, and Bertha Rouda. Both parents were Polish immigrants. Rodale studied at New York and Columbia Universities but did not earn any degrees. At age twenty he became an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service, and at twenty-one he moved to Pittsburgh, where he worked in a private accounting firm for three years. He wanted, however, for some vague reason that he never explained, to be a farmer and publisher. In 1920 he traveled to Kentucky on business and became enchanted with the Bluegrass State. “Being among farmers and in farm country I was more and more imbued with the ambition of some day having my own farm and riding to town with my children on a buck-board drawn by two trusty horses.”...

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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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Henry C. Wallace Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-95943).

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Henry Cantwell Wallace, c. 1922–1924. With a parrot resting on his left hand. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96673).

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Wallace, Henry Cantwell (11 May 1866–25 October 1924), farmer, editor, and U.S. secretary of agriculture, was born in Rock Island, Illinois, the son of Henry “Uncle Henry” Wallace, a Presbyterian minister, and Nancy Ann “Nannie” Cantwell. In 1877 he moved with his family to Winterset, Iowa, where his father began farming as well as writing a weekly agricultural column for the Winterset ...