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Brown, William Wells (1814?–06 November 1884), author and reformer, was born near Lexington, Kentucky, the son of George Higgins, a relative of his master, and Elizabeth, a slave. Dr. John Young, Brown’s master, migrated with his family from Kentucky to the Missouri Territory in 1816. Eleven years later the Youngs moved to St. Louis. Although Brown never experienced the hardship of plantation slavery, he was hired out regularly and separated from his family. He worked for a while in the printing office of abolitionist ...

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Cozzens, Frederick Swartwout (11 March 1818–23 December 1869), author and wine merchant, was born in New York City, the son of Frederick Cozzens, a chemist, naturalist, geologist, and mineralogist. His mother’s name is unknown. Cozzens’s maternal grandmother was from Carlisle on the Scottish border; as a child he enjoyed a “passionate love of poetry,” a result of hearing his grandmother’s retelling of the old Border ballads and legends in verse....

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Galt, John (02 May 1779–11 April 1839), author, lobbyist, and businessman, was born in Irvine, Scotland, the son of John Galt, a shipmaster and trader, and Jean Thomson. Galt left school to begin a career as a merchant at about age sixteen (one of his schoolmates was ...

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Hammett, Samuel Adams (04 February 1816–24 December 1865), merchant and writer, was born probably in Connecticut or New York, though the precise location remains uncertain, the son of Augustus J. Hammett, a merchant, and Mary Wright. In the fall of 1832 Hammett entered the newly formed University of the City of New York. His father’s declining health and business demanded much of Hammett’s time, however, and he discontinued his studies in 1835. Hammett soon left for the Southwest and arrived in present-day Texas toward the end of the year. He lived there for over a decade, as it won independence, established a republic, and eventually became a state. Hammett probably engaged in a variety of business activities during this time, most possibly land speculation or traveling sales. Either would have given him ample opportunity to observe the area’s people and customs, a background he drew on for later writings. Hammett joined other businessmen and set up general stores in Galveston and Houston during 1846. Following severe financial difficulties just a year later, he closed the last shop and returned to the East....

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Terhune, Mary Virginia Hawes (21 December 1830–03 June 1922), novelist and domestic expert, was born in Dennisville, Amelia County, Virginia. She was the second of seven surviving children of Samuel Pierce Hawes, a merchant originally from Massachusetts, and Judith Anna Smith Hawes, the daughter of well-to-do Virginia planters. Mary Virginia’s father gave his precocious daughter early access to classic literature and provided her with a broad education unusual for a southern girl of the period. She was schooled at home by tutors and governesses and spent two years attending a Presbyterian girls’ seminary in Richmond after the family moved to that city in 1845....

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Van Slyke, Helen Lenore Vogt (09 July 1919–03 July 1979), fashion executive and romance novelist, was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Frederick H. Vogt and Lenore Siegel. Helen began working in journalism as a teenager by selling advertisements for the Washington ...