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Cahill, Holger (13 January 1887–08 July 1960), author and curator, was born Sveinn Kristjan Bjarnarson, in Snifellsnessyslu, Iceland, the son of Björn Bjarnarson, a laborer, and Vigdis Bjarnadóttir. Cahill, however, later claimed he was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1893. In the 1890s the Bjarnarsons emigrated to North Dakota, where they hoped to obtain land. Unable to purchase property, Björn worked as a hired hand. Vigdis, whom Cahill later described as a stern “peasant woman” with a poetic streak, and Björn, “a failure in almost everything he did,” quarreled frequently, separating when Cahill was eleven. Struggling to support her son and his younger sister after Björn departed, Vigdis sent the boy to live with an Icelandic family on a nearby farm. After the family removed him from school, put him to work in the fields, and pressured him to be confirmed in the Lutheran church, he ran away. Settled with another family, Cahill finished high school and then set off for Canada, where he worked as a farm laborer and cowherder. By 1907 he was back in the United States, holding a job as a railroad clerk in St. Paul. While there, he later recalled that he read “Tolstoi by the acre” and took a correspondence course in journalism. This was followed by short stints as a watchman on a Great Lakes steamer and as an insurance salesman in Cleveland....

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Coates, Robert Myron (06 April 1897–08 February 1973), writer, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Frederick Coates, an inventor of special tools and machinery, and Harriet Davidson. Coates’s father was a restless man, and the family rarely remained in one place for long. Their stay in any given town depended, Coates explained in his memoirs, ...

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Wright, Willard Huntington (15 October 1888–11 April 1939), editor, novelist, and critic, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, the son of Archibald Davenport Wright, a hotel proprietor, and Annie Van Vranken. In 1900 the Wrights moved to Santa Monica, California, a crucial move, for a good part of Wright’s early professional development occurred in southern California. Both Wright and his brother Stanton were regarded as precocious by their parents, and both gravitated toward the arts. Stanton Wright early settled on a painting career, but Willard Wright vacillated, experimenting with painting and music before concentrating on literature....