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Henry Justin Allen. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96805).

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Allen, Henry Justin (11 September 1869–17 January 1950), politician and newspaper editor, was born in Pittsfield, Pennsylvania, the son of John Allen, a farmer, and Rebecca Goodwin. In 1870 the Allens settled on a farm in Clay County, Kansas, which they lost in 1879. The family relocated in Osage County, Kansas, where Allen graduated from Burlingame High School. Working as a barber to attend Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, he excelled at forensics, which led to his first newspaper job and forecast his later stature as one of America’s most popular public speakers. While at Baker, he met Elsie Jane Nuzman, and they were married in 1892. Only one of their four children survived to adulthood....

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Anthony, Henry Bowen (01 April 1815–02 September 1884), newspaper editor and U.S. senator, was born in Coventry, Rhode Island, the son of William Anthony, a cotton manufacturer, and Mary Kinnicutt Greene. Preparatory school in Providence preceded Anthony’s entrance into Brown University. He graduated in 1833, fifth in a class of twenty. His lifelong regard for literature and Brown University culminated in the bequest of an exceptional collection of poetry volumes....

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Brownlow, William Gannaway (29 August 1805–29 April 1877), minister, newspaper editor, and governor of Tennessee, was born in Wytheville, Virginia, the son of Joseph A. Brownlow and Catherine Gannaway, farmers. Born into a moderately comfortable, slaveholding family, Brownlow was taken in by a maternal uncle after both parents died in 1816. From ages eleven through eighteen he worked on his uncle’s farm and attended the local common schools when possible, although most of his education came through his own private reading. In 1823 he moved to Abingdon, Virginia, to learn the carpentry trade from another uncle. His work as a carpenter ended abruptly when he experienced a religious conversion at a Methodist camp meeting in nearby Sulphur Springs in 1825. Following this meeting, he completed his current carpentry jobs and moved back to Wytheville to study for the ministry with William Horne. After a year of training, he was licensed for the ministry by the church’s Holston Conference and began a career as an itinerant preacher....

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James M. Cox [left to right] Franklin D. Roosevelt and James M. Cox, c. 1920. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-96173).

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Cox, James Middleton (31 March 1870–15 July 1957), newspaper publisher and politician, was born in Jacksonburg, Ohio, the son of Eliza Andrews and Gilbert Cox, farmers. He attended a one-room school until he was sixteen. His parents divorced, and in 1886 Cox moved to nearby Middletown to live with his mother. Cox’s brother-in-law John Q. Baker, who published the ...

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Orval Faubus [left to right, foreground] President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Orval Faubus, after a meeting, 1957. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-107805).

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Faubus, Orval (07 January 1910–14 December 1994), publisher and governor of Arkansas, was born Orval Eugene Faubus in Combs, Arkansas, the son of John Samuel Faubus and Addie Joslen, poor farmers. The elder Faubus was a follower of the Socialist party presidential nominee ...

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Hill, Isaac (06 April 1788–22 March 1851), editor and politician, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Isaac Hill and Hannah Russell, farmers. Hill had a difficult childhood because his family was poor, his father became insane, and he himself was left permanently lame by an early accident. In 1798 his mother moved the family to Ashburnham on the New Hampshire border, where Hill received a few months of formal schooling before being apprenticed in 1802 to the publisher of the ...

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Hobby, William Pettus (26 March 1878–07 June 1964), newspaper publisher and governor, was born in Moscow, Texas, the son of Edwin E. Hobby, a state senator and district judge, and Eudora Adeline Pettus. The family lived in Livingston, Texas, until 1893 when they moved to Houston. Hobby quit school in 1895 to work as a circulation clerk for the ...

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Holden, William Woods (24 November 1818–02 March 1892), editor and political leader, was born near Hillsboro, North Carolina, the illegitimate son of Thomas Holden, a relatively prosperous mill owner, and Priscilla Woods. When he was two or three years old, he went to live with his father. He briefly attended a local “field school,” and at age nine or ten he became a printer’s apprentice in the office of the ...

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Johnson, John Albert (28 July 1861–21 September 1909), newspaper editor and governor of Minnesota, was born in a log cabin near St. Peter on Minnesota’s agricultural frontier, the son of Swedish immigrant parents Gustav Johnson, a farmer and blacksmith, and Caroline Christine Hedén. Because of his father’s alcoholism and shiftlessness after the family had moved into the town of St. Peter, his mother supported the family by taking in washing. Johnson and his older brother Edward assisted her by delivering laundry to customers. Years later, after he had entered politics, his humble beginnings and youthful poverty worked to his advantage; his boosters freely likened his past to that of ...

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Martin, John Alexander (10 March 1839–02 October 1889), journalist, army officer, and governor of Kansas, was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, the son of James Martin, a justice of the peace, boardinghouse keeper, and postmaster, and Jane Montgomery Crawford. He attended public school in Brownsville and at age fifteen was apprenticed as a printer on the town newspaper, the ...

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Maxwell, William (1766 or 1767?–10 September 1809), pioneer printer, newspaper editor, and office holder, was long thought, based on statements made by his descendants, to have been born about 1755 in New York or New Jersey, the son of William Maxwell, an immigrant from Scotland. Current scholarship infers a probable birth date of 1766 or 1767 from a contemporary newspaper obituary and suggests several additional mid-Atlantic states (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland) as possible places of origin. Little is known of Maxwell’s early life, including his mother’s identity. Although he is reputed to have served as a revolutionary war soldier, his participation has not been confirmed by extant military records....

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McLemore, Jeff (13 March 1857–04 March 1929), journalist, state legislator, and congressman, was born Atkins Jefferson McLemore near Spring Hill in Maury County, Tennessee, the son of Robert Anderson McLemore and Mary Howard McEwen, farmers. He had an “aversion to teachers” and recalled that he “never saw the inside of a schoolroom after he was fourteen years of age” ( ...

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Medary, Samuel (25 February 1801–07 November 1864), editor, politician, and territorial governor of Minnesota and Kansas, was born in Montgomery Square, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the son of Jacob Medary, a farmer, and Mercy Bennett, a member of the Society of Friends. He attended an academy in Norristown, where he wrote poetry for a local newspaper and taught intermittently in a nearby Quaker school to pay for his education. After spending five years in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Georgetown, District of Columbia, he settled in Batavia, Ohio, in 1825 and was elected county surveyor, county auditor, and a school trustee. He married Eliza Scott in 1823; they had twelve children....

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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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O’Sullivan, John Louis (13 November 1813–24 March 1895), lawyer, journalist, and legislator, was born aboard a British man-of-war off the coast of Gibraltar, the son of John Thomas O’Sullivan, a U.S. diplomat and sea captain, and Mary Rowly. Descended from a long line of colorful Irish expatriates and soldiers of fortune, in childhood O’Sullivan eagerly absorbed tales of the family’s adventures. The romantic twist of his birth aboard an enemy ship during the War of 1812 was repeated throughout his life’s uneven course. ...

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Osborn, Chase Salmon (22 January 1860–11 April 1949), governor of Michigan, journalist, and entrepreneur, was born in Huntington County, Indiana, the son of George Augustus Osborn and Margaret Ann Fannon, hydropathic physicians. Osborn was named by his abolitionist-oriented parents after Ohio’s then-U.S. senator and soon-to-be ...

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Pelham, Benjamin B. (1862–07 October 1948), newspaper publisher, municipal official, and political leader, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Robert Pelham, a plasterer and mason, and Frances Butcher. The Pelhams were a prosperous free black family who at one time owned a farm in Petersburg, Virginia. They were forced to sell, however, because of the harassment of townspeople, who were probably jealous of the family’s success. The need to leave Virginia became apparent when the Pelhams attempted to purchase a license for their pet dog but were turned down by local authorities, who claimed that only whites and slaves could purchase dog licenses. The family decided to head north, and around 1862, after brief stops in Columbus, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Pelhams settled in Detroit shortly after Benjamin’s birth....