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Ambrose, Stephen Edward (10 January 1936–13 October 2002), historian and biographer, was born in Decatur, Illinois, the middle son of Stephen Hedges Ambrose, a family physician, and Rosepha Trippe Ambrose. Rosepha raised her sons on a family farm in Whitewater, Wisconsin, during World War II after her husband enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Stephen Ambrose greatly admired the returning veterans who had served in the global conflict. The teamwork they had learned in the service, Ambrose would later write, enabled these men to build “modern America” (...

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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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Bacon, Leonard Woolsey (01 January 1830–12 May 1907), minister and author, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Leonard Bacon, a minister, and Lucy Johnson. Bacon graduated from Yale College in 1850. Beginning in September of that year he accompanied his father on a year-long tour of Europe and the East. When he returned to the United States, Bacon spent two years at Andover Theological Seminary and one year at Yale Divinity School, graduating from the latter in 1854. He turned next to medical study and received a degree from Yale Medical School in 1856....

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Bainton, Roland Herbert (30 March 1894–13 February 1984), historian of the Protestant Reformation, was born in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, England, the only son of James Herbert Bainton, a Congregational pastor, and Charlotte Eliza Blackham. Bainton’s family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia (1898), and then to Colfax, Washington (1902). He received the traditional British-inspired education in the classics, beginning the study of Latin at twelve and adding German at thirteen. The elder Bainton encouraged his reading and inquiry, and their discussions continued by mail after Bainton entered college. Bainton graduated from Whitman College (B.A. in classics, 1910–1914), Yale Divinity School (B.D., 1914–1917), and Yale University (Ph.D. in Semitics and Hellenistic Greek, 1917–1921)....

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Barzun, Jacques (30 November 1907–25 October 2012), historian, essayist, and cultural critic, was born Jacques-Henri-Louis-Roger Barzun in Créteil, near Paris, France, to Henri-Martin and Anne Rose Barzun. His father was a poet who, with other aspiring young writers, had founded a colony of artists called L’Abbaye after the dilapidated house they occupied in the small Parisian suburb. After moving to the nearby town of Passy, the Barzun family hosted a diverse group of musicians, painters, sculptors, and poets—...

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Beer, Thomas (22 November 1888?–18 April 1940), writer, was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the son of William Collins Beer, a corporate attorney and lobbyist, and Martha Ann Alice Baldwin. Though born in western Iowa, Thomas Beer spent most of his childhood in Yonkers, New York, with summers in Nantucket and on his grandfather’s farm in Bucyrus, Ohio. Wealth and position from his father’s Wall Street business gave Beer a distinct sense of social superiority, which he manifested in personal relations and cultural criticisms. Despising the bourgeoisie, the working-class masses, and the chic lifestyles of the Jazz Age, Beer projected an image of extreme conservatism and tesselated sophistication. At Yale, class of 1911, he was class poet, lifelong friend of the actor Monty Wooley, editor of the literary review, and contributor of twenty stories, essays, and poems. After college he spent five years as a dilatory student in the Columbia law school and as clerk in his father’s law firm, but when his father died at his professional nadir in 1916, Beer turned to letters. His first important short story—“The Brothers”—was published a few months later in the ...

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Brant, Irving Newton (17 January 1885–18 September 1976), biographer, journalist, and historian, was born in Walker, Iowa, the son of David Brant, the editor of the local newspaper, and Ruth Hurd Brant. Irving Brant decided on a career in journalism. He was educated in local schools and at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, from which he earned a BA in 1909....

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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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Dexter, Franklin Bowditch (11 September 1842–13 August 1920), educator, librarian, and historian, was born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, the son of Rodolphus Williams Dexter, a businessman, and Mary Hathaway Taber. He attended the Williston Seminary in preparation for Yale College, in New Haven, Connecticut, from which he graduated with an A.B. in 1861. He received an A.M. in 1864 and a Litt.D. in 1902. He taught Greek at the Collegiate and Commercial Institute in New Haven from 1861 to 1863 before returning to work at Yale....

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Drake, Francis Samuel (22 February 1828–22 February 1885), historian, author, and antiquarian, was born in Northwood, New Hampshire, the son of Samuel Gardner Drake and Louisa M. Elmes. His family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where his father became the proprietor of a popular antiquarian bookstore, wrote books concerning American history and Indians and edited other such books. Drake was educated in the Boston public schools, mainly at the Mayhew School, after which he worked in his father’s store and then as an accountant for a Boston company....

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Dumont de Montigny, Jean-François-Benjamin (31 July 1696–1760), officer in the French colonial military in Quebec and Louisiana, historian, and memoirist, was born in Paris, France, to Jacques-François Dumont and Françoise Delamare. His father was a magistrate in the parlement of Paris, the most important of the French high courts of appeal. He was the youngest of six sons and something of a black sheep compared with his brothers, who achieved prominence as lawyers and priests....

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English, William Hayden (27 August 1822–07 February 1896), congressman, vice presidential candidate, and historian, was born in Lexington, Indiana, the son of Elisha G. English and Mahala Eastin. Elisha, a landowner and railroad vice president, was a Democrat who served in the Indiana legislature for nearly twenty years and was friends with many important politicians. William benefited from his father’s contacts and status and was influenced by his views....

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Filson, John (10 December 1753?–01 October 1788), author, historian, and land surveyor, was born in East Fallowfield Township near Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Davison Filson and Eleanor Clarke, farmers. After attending common schools in the vicinity of his birthplace, Filson studied Greek, Latin, mathematics, and surveying at West Nottingham Academy in Colora, Maryland. He inherited part of a modest estate following his father’s death in 1776, but, eschewing life on the farm, he taught school and surveyed lands in the area during the American Revolution....

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James, Marquis (29 August 1891–19 November 1955), historian and biographer, was born in Springfield, Missouri, the son of Houston James and Rachel Marquis. His father’s law practice and his mother’s interest in reading and history were communicated early to James, whose future writings would often revolve around themes of past action and frontier glory. At the age of three, James moved with his parents to a prairie homestead in the Cherokee Strip near Enid, Oklahoma, then located on the leading edge of white settlement in the region. One year later, Rachel began teaching her son to read, typically with a history book as her text....

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Matthew Josephson Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116726).

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Josephson, Matthew (15 February 1899–13 March 1978), writer, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Julius Josephson, a banker, and Sarah Kasindorf. A child of Jewish immigrants from Romania and Russia, Josephson graduated from Columbia University in 1920. That same year he married Hannah Geffen, a nineteen-year-old reporter for the ...

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Kirk, Russell Amos (19 October 1918–29 April 1994), political theorist, conservative writer, and lecturer, was born in Plymouth, Michigan, to Russell Andrew Kirk, a railroad engineer, and Marjorie Pierce Kirk. In his youth Russell spent a good deal of time conversing with his grandfather Frank Pierce, who stimulated his interest in better understanding the world around him. Equally influential to Russell’s intellectual development were his annual summer visits to his mother’s relatives in Mecosta, a small village in central Michigan. Dwelling on the lives of his ancestors, whose portraits donned the walls of his great-grandmother’s home, Russell developed an interest in history, especially connections between the past and the present....

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Malone, Dumas (10 January 1892–27 December 1986), historian and biographer, was born in Coldwater, Mississippi, the son of John Wesley Malone, a Methodist minister and college president, and Lillian Kemp, a teacher. Malone graduated from Emory College at Oxford, Georgia (now Emory University at Atlanta), in 1910. After teaching in high school and junior college, he entered Yale University Divinity School (B.D., 1916). His thesis examined the controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees. He discovered that he was “relatively indifferent” to formal philosophy and systematic theology but had a love for history. His interest in people and his desire to write in narrative form drew him early to historical biography....