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William Evans Burton. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-90336).

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Burton, William Evans (24 September 1802–10 February 1860), actor and editor, was born in London, England, the son of William George Burton, a printer (maiden name unknown). Hoping his child would become a clergyman, the elder Burton enrolled him at St. Paul’s School, but at the age of eighteen Burton had to withdraw and take charge of his family’s printing business when his father died....

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Cowles, Gardner, Jr. (31 January 1903–08 July 1985), publisher and media executive, was born in Algona, Iowa, the son of Gardner Cowles, a banker, and Florence Call. In 1903 the senior Cowles bought the Des Moines Register and Leader, which within a few years after his acquisition of the ...

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Ford, Paul Leicester (23 March 1865–08 May 1902), historian and novelist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Gordon Lester Ford, a businessman and political figure, and Emily Ellsworth Fowler, a poet. As a baby Ford suffered a tragic fall that left him with a severely deformed spine, the pain from which would plague him all his life. Moreover, the nature of the injury dictated that Ford wear a special harness as a child. As a result he received very little formal schooling; instead, he was tutored at home and allowed the free run of his father’s private library of more than 50,000 volumes, including perhaps the largest private collection of Americana in the world. At age eleven he acquired a small printing press, with which he began publishing compilations of historical material gleaned from his father’s library....

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Gibbs, Wolcott (15 March 1902–16 August 1958), drama critic, editor, and author, was born Oliver Wolcott Gibbs in New York City, the son of Lucius Tuckerman Gibbs, an electrical engineer and inventor, and Angelica Singleton Duer. When Gibbs was six years old his father died, and his alcoholic mother lost custody of Gibbs and his sister. ...

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Hapgood, Norman (28 March 1868–29 April 1937), journalist, critic, and reformer, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Charles Hutchins Hapgood, a farm implement manufacturer, and Fanny Louise Powers. He grew up in wealth in Alton, Illinois. In 1890 he graduated with an A.B. from Harvard University, where he was strongly influenced by Professor ...

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Hornblow, Arthur, Sr. (1865–06 May 1942), editor, author, and dramatist, was born in Manchester, England, the son of William Hornblow and Sarah Jane Rodgers. Little is known of Hornblow’s childhood; however, he studied literature and painting in Paris before coming to the United States in 1889. While in Paris, Hornblow acted as a correspondent for both English and American newspapers....

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Horst, Louis (12 January 1884–23 January 1964), composer, arranger, dance critic and pedagogue, and publisher, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of German immigrants Conrad Horst, a cornet player, and Corline “Lena” Nickell. Horst’s family traveled to San Francisco, California, in 1893, where Louis studied violin and piano. From about 1900 to 1914 he worked as a pianist in pit orchestras and for silent films. While working at a summer resort he met and subsequently married in 1910 eighteen-year-old Bessie (called Betty) Cunningham. They had no children. In 1911 they went to New York City, where he continued to work as a part-time musician and studied composition and piano, but they returned to San Francisco by 1914....

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Isaacs, Edith Juliet Rich (27 March 1878–10 January 1956), editor and theatre critic, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the daughter of Adolph Walter Rich and Rosa Sidenberg. Her father, a Hungarian immigrant, owned a shoe factory. Isaacs graduated from Milwaukee-Downer College (now a part of Lawrence University) in 1897, with a bachelor of arts in English composition. She was literary editor for the ...

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Larsen, Roy Edward (20 April 1899–09 September 1979), publisher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Robert Larsen, a newspaperman, and Stella Belyea. Larsen was proud to proclaim himself a “first generation American,” for his father and mother had come to this country from Norway and Ireland, respectively. Larsen graduated from the Boston Latin School in 1917 and entered Harvard College. Drafted into the U.S. Army in his freshman year, Larsen served as a second lieutenant in the infantry. After the armistice, he returned to Harvard. Following his graduation in 1921, Larsen went to work for the New York Trust Company....

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Macdonald, Dwight (24 March 1906–19 December 1982), critic and editor, was born in New York City, the son of Dwight Macdonald, an attorney, and Alice Hedges, the daughter of a successful Brooklyn merchant. Though his family was primarily middle class, Macdonald attended Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University, from which he graduated in 1928 with a B.A. degree. The circumstances of Macdonald’s family were reduced in 1926 when his father died, but the new monthly magazine ...

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Moore, Donald Wynkoop (1905?–07 April 1986), magazine editor and writer, best known for his work on comic strips and teleplays. His birthplace and his parents’ names and occupations are unknown. He graduated second in his class with a bachelor’s degree in English from Dartmouth College in 1925. For several years after graduation he worked as a journalist, first in his parents’ hometown of Miami, Florida, at the ...

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George Jean Nathan, c. 1939–1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116934).

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Nathan, George Jean (14 February 1882–08 April 1958), drama critic and editor, was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the son of Charles Narét-Nathan, a landowner and businessman, and Ella Nirdlinger. Nathan was raised in a well-to-do family with international connections and social prominence; his father, a world-traveler, had prominent relatives in Belgium and France, where he owned vineyards; his mother’s family were among the founders of Fort Wayne. Members of the extended family had interests in the theater and journalism. After graduating from high school in Cleveland, Ohio, where the family had moved in 1888, Nathan attended Cornell (1900–1904). There he attained prominence of his own as editor of the campus newspaper and literary magazine and as an award-winning fencer. His midwestern upbringing was leavened with frequent summer excursions to Europe, and following his graduation he spent a year at the University of Bologna....

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Gilbert Seldes Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1932. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 1019 P&P).

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Seldes, Gilbert Vivian (03 January 1893–29 September 1970), critic and writer, was born in Alliance, New Jersey, the son of George Sergei Seldes, a pharmacist, and Anna Saphro, who died when Gilbert was three. His only sibling, George Seldes, became a distinguished journalist known for his coverage of European affairs between the world wars. Their father, a freethinker of Russian Jewish descent, sought to convert his farm into an anarchist utopian colony. When that did not succeed, he entered the drugstore business. He enjoyed friendships with ...

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Sparks, Jared (10 May 1789–14 March 1866), historian, editor, and clergyman, was born in Willington, Connecticut, the son of Eleanor Orcutt, who nine months later married Joseph Sparks, a farmer. His early life was somewhat unstable. In the mid-1790s he was sent to live with an aunt and uncle to relieve the burdens of the many children in the family, and with his adoptive family, he settled in 1800 in Camden, New York. In 1805 he moved home for a brief time and then went to live with another uncle in Tolland, Connecticut. There he apprenticed as carpenter and taught in local schools. Early on he displayed interests in literary and historical pursuits along with the more common interest in theology. While in Arlington, Vermont, he organized the Arlington Philosophical Society in 1808. He studied at the Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, beginning in September 1809, the result of Sparks’s early interests in the ministry and his receipt of a scholarship. There he met and became lifelong friends with another future New England historian, ...

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Spivak, Lawrence (11 June 1900–09 March 1994), publisher and producer of radio and television programs, was born Lawrence Edmund Spivak in New York City, the son of William Benjamin Spivak, a manufacturer of dresses and nurses’ uniforms, and Sonja Bershad. Spivak’s earliest experiences were mercantile as well as reportorial. After working for the ...