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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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Bryant, John Emory (13 October 1836–27 February 1900), editor and politician, was born in Wayne, Maine, the son of Benjamin Franklin Bryant, a Methodist minister and (later) physician, and Lucy Ford French. Bryant was born into a family with firm religious convictions but limited financial resources. During his childhood, the family lived in several different Maine communities where his father was minister. His first profession was teaching. By offering “subscription” or “rate schools,” in which the teacher advertised for scholars and “subscribed” students for a short term, Bryant earned money to pay for his own education. In 1859 he received a college certificate from Maine Wesleyan Seminary....

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Bush, John Edward (15 November 1856–11 December 1916), businessman and politician, was born a slave in Moscow, Tennessee. In 1862 his master moved him and his mother to Arkansas to keep them from being freed when the Union army moved into western Tennessee. His mother died when Bush was only seven years old. He was educated in the freedmen’s and public schools of Little Rock and was considered a good student by his teachers. He paid his school tuition by molding bricks. In 1876 he graduated from high school with honors and was immediately appointed principal of Capital Hill School, a public institution for African Americans in Little Rock. In 1878 he moved to Hot Springs, where he was named to head that city’s African-American high school....

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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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Dabney, Wendell Phillips (04 November 1865–05 June 1952), journalist, political leader, and publisher, was born in Richmond, Virginia, the son of John Dabney, a caterer, and Elizabeth Foster. Dabney attended elementary and secondary school in Richmond. His childhood was characterized by rigorous inculcation of John Dabney’s religious and political views. His father, who had taught himself to read and write, instilled in his children the importance of religion as a vehicle for lessening racial oppression. John Dabney also passed on to his children his perception that Republicans helped African Americans and Democrats did not....

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Davis, Benjamin Jefferson (27 May 1870–28 October 1945), publisher and political figure, was born in Dawson, Georgia, the son of Mike Davis (who changed his name from Mike Haynes in 1868 or 1869) and Katherine Davis, farmers and ex-slaves. His formal education ended after the sixth grade, and Davis worked as a bricklayer and teacher before becoming a printer. He learned the trade while working for Tom W. Loyless, a white Dawson publisher and printer, and then opened his own printing business. He soon became a moderately wealthy man, living in a two-story, fifteen-room house while his siblings eked out their livings as sharecroppers. In 1898 he married Jimmie Willard Porter, a Dawson native who had been educated at Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes; they had a son and daughter....

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Duane, William (17 May 1760–24 November 1835), newspaper publisher and politician, was born near Lake Champlain in modern-day Vermont, the son of John Duane and Anastasia Sarsfield, Irish-immigrant farmers. The elder Duane died in 1765, and the family returned to the village of Clonmel in Ireland when William was about eleven. He received schooling with Franciscan friars, and his mother apparently wanted him to become a priest. However, believing that the Church helped make people passive and therefore abusable by the rich, political elite, he embraced secularism. That action strained relations with his mother. The two broke completely in 1779 when Duane married Catharine Corcoran, a nineteen-year-old Protestant. They had three children. After apprenticing in the printing trade for two years, Duane moved his family to London where he probably worked as a parliamentary reporter for the ...

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Azariah Cutting Flagg. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110026).

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Flagg, Azariah Cutting (28 November 1790–24 November 1873), newspaper editor and politician, was born in Orwell, Vermont, the son of Ebenezer Flagg and Elizabeth Cutting. In 1801 his parents apprenticed him to a cousin, a Burlington, Vermont, printer who over a period of five years taught him the trade. For the next five years, he was engaged in printing and publishing, and in 1811 he moved to Plattsburgh, New York. Two years later he founded the Plattsburgh ...

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Horace Greeley. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-110105).

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Greeley, Horace (03 February 1811–29 November 1872), newspaper editor and political figure, was born in Amherst, New Hampshire, the son of Zaccheus Greeley and Mary Woodburn, poor New England farmers. Greeley’s youth was marred by his father’s struggle to improve his family’s financial situation. During his first ten years, the family moved four times, from Amherst to Bedford, New Hampshire, back to Amherst, and in 1821 to Westhaven, Vermont. These years of economic uncertainty made a deep impression on young “Hod” Greeley. He was often absent from school because of the need to help his father; his formal education ended at the age of fourteen. Yet, both in school and on his own, he displayed a remarkable and lively intelligence. In later years Greeley paid tribute to the various influences of his Yankee childhood: the Scotch-Irish ancestry on his mother’s side and his English forebears on his father’s, the powerful hold of Calvinism, the promise of the Enlightenment from the revolutionary era....

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Green, Duff (15 August 1791–10 June 1875), journalist, political operator, and southern economic promoter, was born in Woodford County, Kentucky, the son of William Green, a revolutionary war veteran, and Lucy Ann Marshall. He was educated at home and briefly at Danville Academy in 1805. After studying medicine for a short time and teaching school, he enlisted as a private in the War of 1812, fighting in a number of battles under ...

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Joseph R. Hawley. From Harper's Weekly, 6 June 1868. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111073).

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Hawley, Joseph Roswell (31 October 1826–18 March 1905), soldier, editor, and politician, was born in Stewartsville, North Carolina, the son of Francis Hawley, a Baptist minister, and Mary McLeod. Hawley’s father wrote and spoke widely against the sins of affluence and slavery, and when the boy was eleven, his family moved to his father’s native state, Connecticut. Young Hawley was educated there and in New York. In 1847 he graduated from Hamilton College, and during the early 1850s he taught school and embarked on a law career....

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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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Gilbert M. Hitchcock. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-36752).

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Hitchcock, Gilbert Monell (18 September 1859–03 February 1934), lawyer, publisher, and politician, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Phineas W. Hitchcock, a lawyer and politician, and Annie M. Monell. Educated in Omaha and in Baden-Baden, Germany, he studied law at the University of Michigan. Graduating in 1881 with an LL.B., he passed the bar exam and practiced law in Omaha for four years. The young lawyer married Jessie Crounse in 1883; they had two children....

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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 ...