Portal:Maryland/Selected biography

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Lord Baltimore by John Alfred Vinter.

George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore (c. 1580 – 15 April 1632) was an English politician and coloniser. He achieved domestic political success as a Member of Parliament and later Secretary of State under King James I, though he lost much of his political power after his support for a failed marriage alliance between Prince Charles and the Spanish royal family. Rather than continue in politics, he resigned all of his political offices in 1625 except for his position on the Privy Council and declared his Catholicism publicly. He was granted the title of 1st Baron Baltimore in the Irish peerage upon his resignation.

Calvert took an interest in the colonization of the New World, at first for commercial reasons and later to create a refuge for English Catholics. He became the proprietor of Avalon, the first sustained English settlement on the island of Newfoundland. Discouraged by the climate and the sufferings of the settlers there, Calvert looked for a more suitable spot further south and sought a new royal charter to settle the region that was to become the state of Maryland. Calvert died five weeks before the new charter was sealed, leaving the settlement of the Maryland colony to his son Cæcilius. Historians have long recognized George Calvert as the founder of Maryland, in spirit if not in fact.

Image of William Claiborne from Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography.

William Claiborne (c. 1600 – c. 1677) (also spelled William Clayborne) was an English pioneer and surveyor who was an early settler of Virginia and Maryland. Claiborne became a wealthy planter, a pioneering trader, and a major figure in the politics of the colony. He was a central figure in disputes between colonists of Maryland and Virginia, which partially revolved around his trading post on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Claiborne repeatedly attempted and failed to regain Kent Island, sometimes with force of arms, after it was included in the lands that were granted by a royal charter to the Calvert family, and thus became Maryland.

A puritan, Claiborne sided with Parliament during the English Civil War and was appointed to a commission charged with subduing and managing the Virginia and Maryland colonies. He played a role in the submission of Virginia to Parliamentary rule in this period. Following the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660, he retired from involvement in the politics of the Virginia colony. He died around 1677 at his plantation, Romancoke, on Virginia's York River. According to historian Robert Brenner, "William Claiborne may have been the most consistently influential politician in Virginia throughout the whole of the pre-Restoration period".

A daguerreotype of Poe taken when he was 39, a year before his death.

Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American poet, short story writer, editor, literary critic, and one of the leaders of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the early American practitioners of the short story and a progenitor of detective fiction and crime fiction. He is also credited with contributing to the emergent science fiction genre.

Born in Boston, Edgar Poe's parents died when he was still young and he was taken in by John and Frances Allan of Richmond, Virginia. Raised there and for a few years in England, Poe grew up in relative wealth, though he was never formally adopted by the Allans. After a short period at the University of Virginia and a brief attempt at a military career, Poe and the Allans parted ways. Poe's publishing career began humbly with an anonymous collection of poems called Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), credited only "by a Bostonian." Poe moved to Baltimore to live with blood-relatives and switched his focus from poetry to prose. In July 1835, he became assistant editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where he helped increase subscriptions and began developing his own style of literary criticism. That year he also married Virginia Clemm, his 13-year old cousin.

After an unsuccessful novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Poe produced his first collection of short stories, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque in 1839. That year Poe became editor of Burton's Gentleman's Magazine and, later, Graham's Magazine in Philadelphia. It was in Philadelphia that many of his most well-known works would be published. In that city, Poe also planned on starting his own journal, The Penn (later renamed The Stylus), though it would never come to be. In February 1844, he moved to New York City and worked with the Broadway Journal, a magazine of which he would eventually become sole owner.

In January 1845, Poe published "The Raven" to instant success but, only two years later, his wife Virginia died of tuberculosis on January 30, 1847. Poe considered remarrying but never did. On October 7, 1849, Poe died at the age of 40 in Baltimore. The cause of his death is undetermined and has been attributed to alcohol, drugs, cholera, rabies, suicide (although likely to be mistaken with his suicide attempt in the previous year), tuberculosis, heart disease, brain congestion and other agents.

Poe's legacy includes a significant influence in literature in the United States and around the world as well as in specialized fields like cosmology and cryptography. Additionally, Poe and his works appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, television, video games, etc. Some of his homes are dedicated as museums today.

Alger Hiss testifying

Alger Hiss (November 11, 1904 – November 15, 1996) was a U.S. State Department official involved in the establishment of the United Nations. He was accused of being a Soviet spy in 1948 and convicted of perjury in connection with this charge in 1950. Evidence revealed after Hiss's conviction has added a variety of information to the case, and the question of his guilt or innocence remains controversial. Some reliable sources have suggested that those who believe in Hiss's innocence are in the minority of scholarly opinion.

Born in Baltimore, to Mary Lavinia Hughes and Charles Alger Hiss, Alger Hiss's early life was repeatedly marred by tragedy. His father committed suicide when Alger was 2 years old, his older brother Bosley died of Bright's disease when Alger was 22, and he lost his sister Mary Ann to suicide when he was 25. His father had been a middle class wholesale grocer, and after his death Mary Hiss relied largely on family members for financial support in raising her five children. The Hiss family lived in a Baltimore neighborhood that was described as one of "shabby gentility."

Hiss was educated at Baltimore City College high school and Johns Hopkins University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was voted "most popular student" by his classmates. In 1929, he received his law degree from Harvard Law School, where he was a protégé of Felix Frankfurter, the future Supreme Court justice. Before joining a Boston law firm, he served for a year as clerk to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. That same year, Hiss married the former Mrs. Priscilla Hobson, a Bryn Mawr graduate who would later work as a grade school English teacher.

In 1933, he entered government service, working in several areas as an attorney in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, starting with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). Hiss worked for the Nye Committee, which investigated and documented wartime profiteering by military contractors during World War I, and served briefly in the Justice Department.

George Herman Ruth, Jr. (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948), also popularly known as "Babe", "The Bambino", and "The Sultan of Swat", was an American Major League baseball player from 1914-1935. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players in history. Many polls place him as the number one player of all time.

Although he spent most of his career as an outfielder with the New York Yankees, Ruth began his career as a successful starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. He compiled an 89-46 win-loss record during his time with the Red Sox and set several World Series pitching records. In 1918, Ruth started to play in the outfield and at first base so he could help the team on a day-to-day basis as a hitter. In 1919, appearing in 111 games as an outfielder, he hit 29 home runs to break Ned Williamson's record for a single season.

In 1920, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees. In his next 15 seasons in New York, Ruth led the league or placed in the top ten in batting average, slugging percentage, runs, total bases, home runs, RBI, and walks several times. Ruth's 60 home runs in 1927 was the single season home run record for 34 years until it was broken by Roger Maris. Ruth's lifetime total of 714 home runs was once considered one of Major League Baseball's "unbreakable" records, but Hank Aaron broke it in 1974. In contrast, after he was sold from the Red Sox, the Red Sox franchise floundered for decades after having been previously the most successful major league team prior to the trade. This great disparity of success between the Yankees and Red Sox eventually led to a superstition that was dubbed the "Curse of the Bambino", a "curse" that effectively ended in 2004 when the Red Sox won their first World Series title in 86 years.

Photo of Billie Holiday by Carl Van Vechten.

Billie Holiday (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959), born Eleanora Fagan and later nicknamed Lady Day (see "Jazz royalty" regarding similar nicknames), was an American jazz singer, a seminal influence on jazz and pop singers, and generally regarded [citation needed] as one of the greatest female jazz vocalists. [citation needed]

Billie Holiday had a difficult childhood, which greatly affected her life and career. Much of her childhood is clouded by conjecture and legend, some of it propagated by her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, published in 1956. This account is known to contain many inaccuracies.

Her professional pseudonym was taken from Billie Dove, an actress she admired, and Clarence Holiday, her probable father. At the outset of her career, she spelled her last name "Halliday," presumably to distance herself from her neglectful father, but eventually changed it back to "Holiday."

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