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Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1820?–26 May 1907), White House dressmaker during the Lincoln administration and author, was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, the daughter of George Pleasant and Agnes Hobbs, slaves. Her birth date is variously given from 1818 to 1824 based on different documents that report her age. The identity of her father is also uncertain; in later life Keckley reportedly claimed that her father was her master, Colonel A. Burwell. George Pleasant, who was owned by a different master, was allowed to visit only twice a year and was eventually taken west....

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Perle Mesta Right, with U. S. Senate candidate Marjorie Bell Hinrichs at the Democratic party jubilee in Chicago. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92423).

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Mesta, Perle (12 Oct. 1889 or 1891–16 March 1975), political activist, businesswoman, diplomat, and hostess, was born Pearl Skirvin in Sturgis, Michigan, the daughter of William Balser Skirvin, a salesman, and Harriet Reid. The actual year of her birth was one of her best-kept secrets. Early in the twentieth century her father left Michigan for the oil fields of South Texas, where he made a fortune in the famed Spindletop field. The feisty “Billy” Skirvin moved to Oklahoma City, where he founded the American Oil and Refinery Company and built the luxurious fourteen-floor Skirvin Hotel. Pearl was educated in private schools in Galveston and studied voice and piano at the Sherwood School of Music in Chicago. In 1917 she married 54-year-old George Mesta, founder and president of the Mesta Machine Company located in Pittsburgh. During her years living in the nation’s steel capital she changed her name to the distinctive “Perle.”...

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Norton, Joshua Abraham (1818 or 1819–08 January 1880), merchant and self-proclaimed emperor of the United States and protector of Mexico, was born in London, England, the son of John Norton, a farmer and merchant, and Sarah Simmonds Norton. In 1820 the Nortons immigrated to Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope (now South Africa)....

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Post, Marjorie Merriweather (15 March 1887–12 September 1973), business owner, entertainer, and philanthropist, was born in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of Charles William Post, founder of Postum Cereal Company, and Ella Letitia Merriweather. After several of Charles Post’s entrepreneurial ventures failed, his family entered him in a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1891. The sanitarium’s doctor, ...

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Scott, Walter Edward (1870?–05 January 1954), prospector and publicist, also known as “Death Valley Scotty,” was born in Cynthiana, Kentucky, the son of a prosperous horse breeder. The names of his parents are not known. Dates suggested for his birth range from 1868 to 1876 (the date Scott himself claimed). At an early age Scott allegedly followed his older brother Warner to Nevada, where he was employed by a rancher, John Sparks. From there he went to Death Valley and reportedly drove a borax team at the Harmony Works in 1885. His subsequent job was as a sharpshooter and bronco rider for ...