James Fenimore Cooper, acclaimed as one of the first American novelists, was born in Burlington, N.J., on September 15, 1789. When he was one year old, his family moved to Cooperstown, N.Y., which was founded by his father. Cooper attended various grammar schools in Burlington, Cooperstown, and Albany, and entered Yale University in 1803 at the age of 13. In 1806, Cooper was expelled from Yale for pushing a rag with gunpowder under a classmate's door, causing it to explode. He then spent some time as a merchant seaman and served as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy from 1808-1811. In 1811, Cooper married Susan De Lancey, and lived the life of a country gentleman until one day in 1820. Cooper and his wife were reading a book together. When Cooper told Susan that he could write a better book than the one they were reading, she challenged him to do so. Thus began his career as an author, with Precaution (first published anonymously). Cooper is known for writing more than 50 works under his own name, Jane Morgan, and Anonymous. His works included fiction, nonfiction, history, and travel sketches. He gained insight for his travel works while the Cooper family lived in Europe from 1826 to 1833. Cooper is best known for the novel The Last of The Mohicans, which has been made into several motion picture adaptations, the most recent starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye. The Last of the Mohicans is part of The Leatherstocking Tales, which includes the other novels, The Pioneers, The Deerslayer, and The Pathfinder. Hawkeye, whose given name is Nathaniel Bumpo, is a recurring character in the series which accurately chronicles early American pioneering life and events during the French and Indian War. In 1851, Cooper developed a liver condition, dying on September 14th of that year, just one day before his 62nd birthday.
Thomas Berger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 20, 1924. During World War II, he enlisted in the Army and served in England and Germany as part of the Medical Corps. He received a baccalaureate degree with honors from the University of Cincinnati in 1948 and pursued graduate work in English at Columbia University until 1951. He worked as a librarian at the Tamiment Institute and Library in New York and as a summary writer for The New York Times Index. His first novel, Crazy in Berlin, was published in 1958. He wrote numerous books during his lifetime including Killing Time, Who Is Teddy Villanova?, Adventures of the Artificial Woman, Sneaky People, The Houseguest, Meeting Evil, Suspects, Best Friends, and The Feud. Several of his novels were adapted into films including Little Big Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Neighbors starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. He died on July 13, 2014 at the age of 89.
John Stauffer has published numerous articles on photography and social reform in America, and is the recipient of grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, The Pew Program in Religion and American History, and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. His forthcoming book, The Black Hearts of Men, won the 1999 Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize for the best dissertation in American Studies from the American Studies Association. He is Assistant Professor of English, History and Literature at Harvard University.