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Antebellum Period People
Who Made It Happen
P. T. Barnum
P. T. Barnum, or Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891), was an entrepreneur and showman from Connecticut, known for mastering the art of self-presentation. He helped to bring about a new era in America...
Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice
Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice (1808-1860) was an aspiring white actor from New York who gained notoriety in the 1830s when he delivered a performance in blackface before a theater audience in Pitts...
Joice Heth (c. 1754-1836) was a slave purchased for $1000 and exhibited in 1835 by showman P.T. Barnum. Claiming that she was 161 years old and once the nurse of George Washington, Barnum took her...
Jenny Lind (1820-1887) was a Swedish soprano who debuted in Europe in 1838 and made a spectacular American debut from 1850-52 thanks to marketing by her manager, P. T. Barnum. She then got married...
Edwin Booth (1833-1893) was one of the first great American actors. He was born into an acting family in Maryland and spent his childhood touring with his popular actor-father, Junius Brutus Booth....
James K. Paulding
James K. Paulding (1778-1860) was an American author, a dramatist, and a public official who is remembered for his engagement of Native American subjects in his work. Paulding began by writing sati...
Davy Crockett (1786-1836) was an American frontiersman and politician who became a popular hero during the antebellum period. Born on what was then the frontier in Tennessee, Crockett served in the...
William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) was the ninth president of the United States, serving the shortest term in office ever: just one month. Harrison was governor of Indiana Territory in 1800 and gai...
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) was the eighth president of the United States and a founder of the Democratic Party. A master political strategist, he was one of the most influential advisors in Andre...
Jonathan Cilley (1802-1838) was a Democratic Maine congressman who was killed in a duel with Whig Kentucky congressman William Graves. He was the last member of the U.S. House to die in a duel. Sta...
Benjamin Day (1810-1889) was an American printer and journalist who inaugurated the era of the inexpensive "penny press" when he launched the New York Sun in September 1833. He learned the printing...
James Gordon Bennett
James Gordon Bennett (1795-1872) was a Scottish-born newspaper publisher and editor whose work in the New York penny press established the foundation for modern journalism. In May 1835, he launched...
Helen Jewett (1813-1836) was a 23-year-old woman who had been working as a prostitute for six years when she was brutally murdered in her genteel New York brothel. Jewett was axed to death, before...
William Macready (1793-1873) was an English actor and manager who made a name for himself when he played Richard III at Covent Garden. The American actor Edwin Forrest quickly marked Macready as hi...
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau (1817-62) was an author, essayist, naturalist, and poet whose work went on to influence some of the greatest literary figures of the twentieth century. Thoreau expounded upon hi...
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was an American novelist and short-story writer, now considered one of the best authors of fiction in the country's history. He crafted his tales with frequent symbo...
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was an American abolitionist and novelist who wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of the most influential books in American history. Her father was Lyman Beecher, pastor...
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was a tortured literary genius and borderline alcoholic who mastered the genre of the Gothic horror story. Poe wrote one of the first "detective novels" in 1841, "The Mu...
Herman Melville (1819-1891) is one of the most prominent authors in the history of American literature. From 1841-42, Melville spent eighteen months on a whaling ship, but escaped with a friend dur...
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was a prominent lecturer, poet, and essayist. He was a mentor and friend to Henry David Thoreau. Known as the "Sage of Concord" for his place of residence in Massach...
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