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Gertrude Atherton Arnold Genthe, 1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G432-0120).

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Atherton, Gertrude Franklin (30 October 1857–14 June 1948), author, biographer, and historian, was born Gertrude Franklin Horn in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Thomas Horn, a businessman, and Gertrude Franklin. Her maternal grandfather, a grandnephew of Benjamin Franklin, was a banker and editor of one of San Francisco’s first newspapers. Gertrude lived with him when her parents were divorced after three years of marriage. Although she was well read, her formal education was sporadic—while she was attending the Sayre Institute in Lexington, Kentucky, she contracted tuberculosis. After twice becoming engaged, she eventually eloped in 1876 with George H. Bowen Atherton, a former suitor of her mother’s. They had a daughter and a son who died at the age of six....

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Binns, Archie (30 July 1899–28 June 1971), novelist and historian, was born Archie Fred Binns in Port Ludlow, Washington, the son of Frank Binns, one of the early pioneers of western Washington, and Atlanta Sarah McQuah. Growing up in the Puget Sound area of northern Washington, Binns was nourished by both the soil and the sea. He spent his childhood working on the farm his father had cleared near Shelton and attending the district school he had established. Although Binns’s upbringing was distinctly rural, the Puget Sound region—which he would later describe as the “Sea in the Forest”—helped to sustain his interest in seafaring. Family tradition may have also fueled his sea-interests; his mother had been born aboard the SS ...

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Charles Brockden Brown. Watercolor on ivory, 1806, by William Dunlap. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; given in loving memory of Katharine Lea Hancock by her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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Brown, Charles Brockden (17 January 1771–22 February 1810), novelist, historian, and editor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Elijah Brown, a merchant and land conveyancer, and Mary Armitt. The fifth of six children in a prosperous Quaker family in the nation’s most cosmopolitan city and first capital, Brown was shaped in his early years by his Quaker background and the era’s tumultuous revolutionary politics. From 1781 to 1786 he received a classics-oriented secondary education under Robert Proud at the Friends’ Latin School of Philadelphia and displayed an enthusiasm for literary composition. Although his earliest work is lost, he composed derivative poetry in the “primitive” vein, based on the Psalms and Ossian and planned but never completed verse epics on the exploits of Columbus, Pizarro, and Cortez. The period’s political and ideological conflicts touched Brown’s family directly when revolutionary authorities exiled his father to Virginia for several months, deeming the father’s Quaker position of principled neutrality an aid to the British. While Brown’s Quaker background facilitated his early exposure to progressive British dissenting writers such as William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, who would become crucial influences, it left him outside the period’s Congregationalist and Presbyterian cultural elite and predisposed him to his lifelong stance of reasoned skepticism of utopian or perfectionist notions for political change. That is, Brown’s background and early years helped shape his career-long concern with the violent ideological controversies of the early republic, as well as his characteristic tendency to see both the destructive and productive aspects of the period’s far-reaching political upheavals....

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Buckmaster, Henrietta (1909–26 April 1983), writer and editor, was born Henrietta Henkle in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Rae D. Henkle, a newspaperman, and Pearl Wintermute. Her father moved with his family to New York City to become foreign editor of the New York Herald...

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Elizabeth A. Archuleta and Susan E. Gunter

Campbell, Walter Stanley (15 August 1887–25 December 1957), historian and author, was born Walter Stanley Vestal near Severy, Kansas, the son of Walter Mallory Vestal, a lawyer, and Isabella Louise Wood, a teacher. His father died shortly after his birth. In 1895 his mother met James Robert Campbell, whom she married in August 1896, and Walter assumed his stepfather’s name. James Campbell’s research work for H. H. Bancroft fostered Walter Campbell’s love for the Old West and developed his sympathetic views toward Native Americans....

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Cantwell, Robert Emmett (31 January 1908–08 December 1978), writer and historian, was born in Little Falls (now Vader), Washington, the son of Charles James Cantwell, a teacher and engineer, and Nina Adelia Hanson, a former teacher. His paternal grandfather founded Little Falls in the 1840s. In 1912 the family moved to Onalaska, a lumber-company town, where Charles Cantwell became a builder, then the superintendent of the lumber mill and the town. Later he was the superintendent of Carlisle, another company town nearby. Robert Cantwell attended schools in Onalaska, Chehalis, and Aberdeen, all in Washington, and beginning at age sixteen studied for one year at the University of Washington in Seattle, where his older brother James was also a student. Their father’s illness forced them to leave school, however, and Cantwell spent the next four years primarily as a veneer clipper operator in a plywood factory in Hoquiam, Washington. His father died in 1927....

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Crawford, F. Marion (02 August 1854–09 April 1909), novelist and historian, was born Francis Marion Crawford in Bagni di Lucca, Italy, the son of Thomas Crawford, an American sculptor, and Louisa Cutler Ward. The family lived in Rome, where Crawford began a cosmopolitan education in places that would later form the settings of his novels. Crawford’s parents made certain that their children never lost sight of their American roots. After her husband’s death in 1857 Louisa married Luther Terry, an American painter, and continued to make her home in Rome. Crawford’s early education was conducted mainly by private tutors until 1866 when he was sent to St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. After his return to Rome in 1869, he studied in a variety of places: Rome, England, Germany, and India. He left India in 1880, returned to Rome, and the following year came to Boston to seek literary employment and perhaps to enter politics....

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Davis, Samuel Post (04 April 1850–17 March 1918), journalist, author, and historian, was born in Branford, Connecticut, the son of the Reverend George R. Davis, an Episcopalian priest, and Sylvia Nichols. As Davis’s father accepted different pulpits, the family moved to Ansonia, Connecticut; Newark, New Jersey; and Racine, Wisconsin. In Racine, Samuel attended the Racine College private school but apparently did not complete the secondary curriculum. He accompanied his parents when they subsequently moved to Brownsville, Nebraska, then to Nevada City, California, and finally to Carson City, Nevada....

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Davis, William Stearns (30 April 1877–15 February 1930), historian and novelist, was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, the son of William Vail Wilson Davis, a Congregational minister, and Frances Stearns, both from old New England stock. Davis stated that one of the strongest influences of his boyhood was his maternal grandfather’s large library. William Augustus Stearns was president of Amherst College, Massachusetts, and Davis was born in his mansion. Because of the family’s frequent moves when William Davis accepted calls to new parishes, the library became a constant in his education. One of his favorite boyhood occupations was to study world atlases, which he read while standing on a hassock at a library table....

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Eggleston, Edward (10 December 1837–03 September 1902), author and historian, was born in Vevay, Indiana, the son of Joseph Cary Eggleston, a lawyer, and Mary Jane Craig. Often too ill to attend school, he read widely in his father’s private library but took too seriously such priggish books as ...

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Forbes, Esther (28 January 1891–12 August 1967), historian and novelist, was born in Westborough, Massachusetts, the daughter of William Trowbridge Forbes, a judge, and Harriette Merrifield, an author of published studies of historical artifacts and documents. Harriette Forbes contributed greatly to background research for her daughter’s writing. The Forbeses were a New England family with a long history, and Esther reputedly drew on that history for historical novels such as ...

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Horgan, Paul (01 August 1903–08 March 1995), writer, was born Paul George Vincent O'Shaughnessy Horgan in Buffalo, New York, the son of Edward Daniel Horgan, a printing company owner of English-Irish descent, and Rose Marie Rohr Horgan, the daughter of an émigré German poet. The family was Roman Catholic, and Paul Horgan professed that faith throughout his life. In 1915 Edward Horgan, suffering from tuberculosis and seeking a better climate, moved his wife and three children to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Young Paul was immediately captivated by the vast, sparsely settled landscape of his new frontier home, and its historic associations fired his romantic imagination. Legends of the conquistadors, the original Spanish settlers, abounded, as did tales of Apache warfare and the ways and wiles of local denizen ...

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Kinzie, Juliette Augusta Magill (11 September 1806–15 September 1870), historian, writer, and early Illinois settler, was born in Middletown, Connecticut, the daughter of Arthur William Magill, a banker, and Frances Wolcott. She received a richer and more complete education than that usually available to young women. She attended a boarding school in New Haven, Connecticut; was tutored by her uncle, Alexander Wolcott, in Latin and other languages while he was a student at Yale; and spent time at ...

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Lamb, Martha Joanna R. N. (13 August 1826–02 January 1893), author and editor, was born Martha Reade Nash in Plainfield, Massachusetts, the daughter of Arvin Nash and Lucinda Vinton. She was a precocious child and began to write poems and stories before she was ten. From an early age she enjoyed reading books from her father’s library, especially ones devoted to history. She lived for a while in Goshen, Massachusetts, and attended school both in Northampton and in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Tutored in mathematics, she became so adept that she not only taught for a while in a polytechnic institute but also revised a mathematics textbook for use in high schools. She also read widely in English literature and studied foreign languages....

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Latimer, Elizabeth Wormeley (26 July 1822–04 January 1904), novelist, translator, and historian, was born Mary Elizabeth Wormeley in London, England, the daughter of Rear Admiral Ralph Randolph Wormeley of the English Royal Navy and Caroline Preble of Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was born in Virginia, but as a boy he was taken to England, where he received his education and enlisted in the navy. Elizabeth spent her childhood in England, Boston, Virginia, and France. She was educated mostly by tutors, although she spent a brief time at a boarding school. When she was fourteen, the family moved to London, where she attended the funeral of King William IV and the coronation of Queen Victoria. In Paris she became acquainted with William Makepeace Thackeray and his mother, Mrs. Carmichael Smythe. She witnessed the second funeral of Napoleon and made her debut at the balls of Louis Philippe. In 1842 she traveled to America to visit at the home of friends. Here she met the historian ...

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Margaret Leech. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-112187).

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Leech, Margaret Kernochan (07 November 1893–24 February 1974), historian and novelist, was born in Newburgh, New York, the daughter of William Kernochan Leech, a milkman, and Rebecca Taggert (or Taggart). Leech grew up in the adult world of Newburgh’s Palatine Hotel, where, she later recalled, “we were rather nice hotel children” (Nichols, p. 8). After graduating from nearby Vassar College in 1915, Leech went to New York City, where she answered the complaints of subscribers to ...

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McElroy, John (25 August 1846–12 October 1929), journalist and author, was born in Greenup County, Kentucky, the son of Robert McElroy, an ironmaster, and Mary Henderson. The family background was Scotch-Irish. He left home at the age of nine, after his father’s death and his mother’s remarriage, dropping his middle name, Henderson, which was his mother’s maiden name. He worked his way to St. Louis, where he found a job as a printer’s devil. Befriended by journeymen printers, he learned how to set the type for popular songs and sold the songs on the streets of St. Louis. Through a program of reading and independent study he remedied the meagerness of his formal education. He was aided in this project by a photographic memory. He could recite most of Shakespeare’s plays, read French and German, and translate Greek and Hebrew. When the country was moving toward war, he traveled to Chicago. In 1862 he enlisted in ...