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Burnett, Alfred (02 November 1824–04 April 1884), entertainer and journalist, was born in Bungay, Suffolk, England. The names of his parents and other facts about his early life are unknown. In 1828 he was sent to live with an aunt in New York City. After four years of schooling in Utica, New York, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1836. He later became proprietor of a confectionery business and by 1860 owned three such establishments....

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Dithmar, Edward Augustus (22 May 1854–16 October 1917), journalist, was born in New York City, the son of Henry Dithmar and Anna (maiden name unknown). His father was foreman of the composing room at the New York Evening Post. Dithmar’s public school education ended at seventeen when he joined his father at the ...

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Field, Kate (01 October 1838–19 May 1896), journalist, actress, and editor, was born Mary Katherine Keemle Field in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Joseph M. Field, an actor, journalist, and theater manager, and Eliza Riddle, an actress. After early schooling in St. Louis, at the age of sixteen Field went to Boston to visit her mother’s sister Cordelia, the wife of a millionaire, Milton L. Sanford. Sanford sent her to Lasell Seminary, Auburndale, Massachusetts (1854–1856), and introduced her to the world of the socially elite....

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Henderson, David (26 April 1853–27 May 1908), journalist and theatrical manager and producer, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of William Henderson and Elizabeth Bissett. Educated in Edinburgh, Henderson became apprenticed in the printing business at the age of twelve after his parents died. He began his journalistic career working for the ...

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Hoyt, Charles Hale (26 July 1859–20 November 1900), playwright, journalist, and theater director, was born in Concord, New Hampshire, the son of George W. Hoyt, a hotel manager and mail clerk, and Mary Ann Hale. He attended private school and the Boston Latin School before becoming a law student in Boston. Hoyt had a successful career writing “All Sorts,” a local-color column for the ...

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Redpath, James (24 August 1833–10 February 1891), journalist and entertainment impresario, was born in Berwick-on-Tweed, Scotland, the son of Ninian Davidson Redpath, a teacher, and Maria Main. After being educated in his father’s academy, Redpath emigrated with his family to the United States in 1849 and soon found work as a reporter for ...

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Will Rogers Left, with Will Hays, c. 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-83080).

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Rogers, Will (04 November 1879–15 August 1935), entertainer and social commentator, was born William Penn Adair Rogers near Oologah, Oklahoma, in what was then the Cooweescoowee District of Indian Territory, the son of Clement Vann Rogers and Mary America Schrimsher, Cherokee ranchers. Rogers County, which contains both Oologah, site of the historic Rogers home, and Claremore, site of the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum, is named after the prominent father, not the prominent son. “Uncle Clem” was a major player in Oklahoma politics before and after statehood (1907), serving as a judge, as a member of the Dawes Commission (to distribute Indian lands prior to statehood), and as the first local banker. Will’s loving wife, the former Betty Blake, whom he married in 1908, later remembered that “Will had everything he wanted. He had spending money and the best string of cow ponies in the country. No boy in Indian Territory had more than Uncle Clem’s boy.” (Yet being “Uncle Clem’s boy” could have its downside, too.)...

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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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Walton, Lester A. (20 April 1882–16 October 1965), diplomat, journalist, civil rights activist, and theater producer, was born Lester Aglar Walton in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Benjamin A. Walton, Sr., and Olive May Camphor Walton. After graduation from Sumner High School, Walton began his career as a journalist at the ...

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Weisgal, Meyer Wolfe (10 November 1894–29 September 1977), journalist, theater producer, and Zionist executive, was born in Kikol, Poland, the son of Solomon Weisgal, hasan (Jewish religious cantor), and Lea Friedman. He received a talmudic education in Poland before emigrating with his family to the United States in 1906 and settling in New York City. He served as a private in the U.S. Army in 1918. In 1923 he married Shirley Hirshfeld; the couple had three children....