Taft, Robert A. (1889–1953) Son of President William Howard Taft, Robert A. Taft was a Republican leader in the U.S. Senate from 1939 to 1953. He represented the most conservative wing of the Republican Party and was a strong advocate of isolationism and a foe of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal (which he denounced as Socialist). The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act (which he cosponsored) restricted the rights of organized labor.
Taft, William Howard (1857–1930) Taft was handpicked by Theodore Roosevelt as his Republican successor to the presidency. He served from 1909 to 1913, but his conservatism was a disappointment to Roosevelt, who ran against him on the Progressive (Bull Moose) ticket in 1912, and the incumbent Taft came in a humiliating third behind Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Wilson’s successor, Warren G. Harding, appointed Taft chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He served from 1921 to 1930.
Taney, Roger B. (1777–1864) Taney was the fifth chief justice of the Supreme Court, serving from 1836 until his death in 1864. On March 6, 1857, he handed down the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, holding that Scott, a slave suing for his freedom on the grounds of having lived in the free state of Illinois, was ineligible to sue because neither slaves nor free blacks were citizens; Taney further held that the Missouri Compromise (under which suit was brought) was unconstitutional. Taney’s decision put the slavery issue beyond peaceful compromise and virtually ensured the coming of civil war.
Tarbell, Ida (1857–1944) Tarbell was a pioneering investigative journalist whose 1904 History of the Standard Oil Company charted the rise of a giant business monopoly, chronicling a litany of unfair practices by which the company achieved its success. Tarbell was one of the leaders among the “muckrakers,” writers who exposed corruption in American society and whose work triggered the reforms of the Progressive movement.
Taylor, Edward (1645?–1729) Taylor immigrated to New England, studied at the newly founded Harvard College, and became a minister in Westfield, Massachusetts. During his life spent in this frontier ministry, he composed 400 pages of poems, most of them religious meditations in elaborate metaphysical style with complex metaphors.
Taylor, Frederick Winslow (1856–1915) In 1911, this former steel plant foreman published The Principles of Scientific Management, in which he presented a rigorous system for rationalizing the human element in industrial production. “Taylorism” soon swept American industry, whose managers strove to replace idiosyncrasy and “outmoded” individuality of craftsmanship with strict control of all work procedures and production methods so that the pace of production would never be tied to any particular worker or set of workers. While Taylorism increased productivity, it also created profound dissatisfaction among workers, who felt dehumanized, exploited, and alienated.
Taylor, Maxwell (1901–1987) During World War II, Taylor was one of the creators of the 82nd Airborne Division and was commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division. He pioneered the tactics and doctrine of airborne (paratroop) assault, which was widely used by the United States in World War II and afterward.
Taylor, Zachary (1784–1850) Taylor was a military hero of the U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848) and was tapped by the Whig Party as its presidential contender in 1848. He took office in 1849 and was immediately faced with the problem of whether to extend or to prohibit slavery in the territories acquired from Mexico. Taylor had little time to deal with this and other problems—including a Cabinet-level financial scandal—because he succumbed to cholera 16 months after taking office. He was succeeded by his vice president, Millard Fillmore.
Tecumseh (1768–1813) A Shawnee chief, Tecumseh traveled extensively in an effort to unite various tribes in order to make effective resistance against white invasion of the Ohio country. He allied himself and his followers with the British during the War of 1812 in hopes of stemming the tide of American westward-moving settlement. Although he succeeded in drawing together more tribes than any previous leader, Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames (in Ontario, Canada) on October 5, 1813, by troops under William Henry Harrison.
Teller, Edward (1908–2003) Born in Hungary, the Jewish Teller immigrated to the United States in 1935 to escape a Europe increasingly under the sway of Nazi anti-Semitic ideology. Already recognized as a major physicist, Teller taught at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) and worked with Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago beginning in 1941 to create the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. In 1943, he joined J. Robert Oppenheimer’s team of Manhattan Project scientists at Los Alamos, New Mexico, to create the atomic bomb. After the war, Teller advocated taking the bomb to the next step, using nuclear fission (the mechanism of the atomic bomb) to trigger a far more powerful explosive release of energy by means of nuclear fusion (hydrogen bomb). The fruit of Teller’s labors was successfully tested at Enewetak atoll in the Pacific on November 1, 1952. Teller had given birth to the age of thermonuclear weapons.
Terkel, Studs (1912– ) Terkel was born in New York City but grew up in Chicago. He was active during the Depression in the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and became a radio script writer and later a television personality on early Chicago television. It is, however, for his popular oral histories that he is best known—remarkable books compiled from interviews of mostly ordinary people. His best-known oral histories include Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970) and The Good War (1985), an oral history of World War II, which won a Pulitzer Prize.
Thalberg, Irving (1899–1936) Sickly and frail, Thalberg worked with the brilliance and intensity of someone who knew he would die young. By the time he was 21, Thalberg was manager of Universal Pictures. Four years later, when MGM was formed, he was head of production and had authority to reedit any film. His management made MGM the most prestigious studio in the world, with such films as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), the Marx Brothers’ A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937), and Camille (1937).
Tharp, Twyla (1941– ) Tharp studied at the American Ballet Theatre School and with Richard Thomas, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and others before joining the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 1963 then forming her own company in 1965. As a choreographer, she created innovative dances, which, in contrast to much modern dance, were also laced with good humor.
Thomas, Clarence (1948– ) Born in rural Georgia, Thomas was raised by his grandfather, educated in Catholic schools, and received his law degree from Yale University in 1974. After working in the private sector and in government, he served as a justice on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia from 1990 to 1991, when he was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to replace Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court. Both Thomas and Marshall were black, but whereas Marshall (retiring for reasons of age and ill health) was a liberal, Thomas was a staunch conservative. His televised Senate confirmation hearing was bitter, marked by accusations of sexual harassment from Anita Hill, a former colleague. Thomas’ appointment shifted the Supreme Court toward conservatism.
Thompson, J. Walter (1847–1928) In 1868, Thompson went to work as a bookkeeper for William James Carlton, who sold advertising space in religious magazines. Thompson became an ad salesman for the company, which he purchased in 1877, renaming it the J. Walter Thompson Company. Whereas advertisers traditionally wrote their own ads, Thompson introduced professional copywriting and illustration, the twin cores of modern advertising. Thompson’s company was an advertising giant for more than a century.
Thoreau, Henry David (1817–1862) In the 1830s, Thoreau fell under the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson and became his intellectual disciple, contributing to the magazine Emerson had started, The Dial. In 1845, Thoreau built a cabin on Walden Pond, two miles south of Concord, Massachusetts, on land owned by Emerson. He lived there alone, keeping a journal of his thoughts and observations in what became an experiment in stripping life to its essential core. He lived at the pond for two years, and in 1854 published Walden, a masterpiece of contemplative prose, which combined great nature writing with an internal record of Thoreau’s experiment in living. Although reclusive, Thoreau was hardly disengaged from society. In 1846, he was briefly jailed for failing to pay his poll tax. He declared that he could not support a government that would wage an unjust war on Mexico (U.S.-Mexican War, 1846–1848), and he wrote his most famous essay, “Civil Disobedience,” which influenced generations of activists, from Gandhi to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thorpe, Jim (1888–1953) A member of the Sauk and Fox tribe, Thorpe was twice on All-American football teams (1911 and 1912) and won the decathlon and the pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics, but was subsequently stripped of his gold medals because he had played semiprofessional baseball in 1909 and 1910. Thorpe played professional baseball from 1913 to 1919 and professional football from 1919 through 1926.
Tibbets, Paul (1915– ) Tibbets was an outstanding bomber pilot in World War II and was chosen in September 1944 to command the 509th Composite Group, which would drop the first atomic bombs on Japan. On August 6, 1945 Tibbets flew his B-29, named Enola Gay after his mother, from Tinian Island in the Marianas and dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m. local time.
Tiffany, Charles Lewis (1812–1902) Connecticut-born Tiffany went to New York City in 1837 and, with John B. Young opened a stationery store that soon also offered jewelry and silverware. By 1853, Tiffany gained sole control of the firm, which he named Tiffany & Co.—today the most famous name in American jewelry.
Tiffany, Louis Comfort (1848–1933) Son of the jeweler Charles Lewis Tiffany, Louis Tiffany became a stained-glass artist in 1875, attaining leadership in the field by the 1890s and fashioning decorative glass that created the dominant look of the Art Nouveau period. Tiffany also went on to create blown-glass works of great artistry, then expanded into lamps, jewelry, and pottery.
Tilden, Samuel J. (1814–1886) During 1865–1875, Tilden reorganized the Democratic Party of New York City, ousting the infamously corrupt Tweed Ring and generally reforming the city’s politics. He went on to election as New York governor in 1874 and earned national recognition for his reforms. Nominated by the Democratic Party for president in 1876, he outpolled Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, but the election was contested and in a backroom deal, the Democrats conceded the election to Hayes in return for his pledge that he would bring an immediate end to post-Civil War Reconstruction (including military government) in the South. Tilden accepted the deal for what he considered the good of the country.
Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805–1859) A French political scientist and historian, Tocqueville toured the United States during 1831–1832 and produced the four-volume Democracy in America (1835–1840), a brilliant analysis of American government, politics, society, and the collective national psyche. It is among the most perceptive analyses of American culture ever written.
Toomer, Jean (1894–1967) Toomer was a leading black literary figure of the 1920s, who wrote poetry and fiction. He is best known for his 1923 novel Cane, which used experimental literary techniques, imagery, and symbolism to explore the history of black America.
Tower, John (1925–1991) Tower, a conservative Republican senator from Texas, was appointed on December 1, 1986, by President Ronald Reagan to chair a commission charged with investigating the National Security Council and its role in the Iran-Contra affair, by which arms were to be illegally sold to Iran in exchange for Iran’s help in freeing American hostages held in Lebanon; profits from the arms sales were to be illegally funneled to the “contras,” the right-wing opponents of the leftist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Tower delivered the commission’s report on February 26, 1987. To the surprise of many, who expected a whitewash, the report criticized the council and although it did not conclude that the president was aware of the extent of the illegal scheme, it also criticized him for lacking control over council staff.
Travis, William B. (1809–1836) Travis was an attorney and soldier who settled in Texas in 1831 as one of the early American colonists of what was then a Mexican possession. He became an advocate of independence from Mexico and was in command of the Texas forces that garrisoned the Alamo (in San Antonio) when it was attacked by far superior numbers of Mexican soldiers under General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Travis died along with the Alamo’s other defenders on March 6, 1836.
Trist, Nicholas P. (1800–1874) Trist studied law under Thomas Jefferson and served as private secretary to Andrew Jackson. President James K. Polk sent him to negotiate an end to the U.S.–Mexican War, and he emerged with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (February 2, 1848), which ceded to the United States California and most of what is now the American Southwest.
Truman, Harry S. (1884–1972) Truman was a U.S. Senator from Missouri who came to national prominence when his Truman Committee cleaned up corruption and waste among War Department contractors. He was tapped by Franklin D. Roosevelt as his running mate in 1944, and, just three months after taking office, found himself president when FDR succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage. It fell to Truman to lead the nation through the last stages of World War II, culminating in his decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. Truman then formulated the “Truman Doctrine,” a policy of “containing” the aggressive expansion of Soviet (and then Chinese) Communism through economic and military action. The biggest tests of the new doctrine came with the Soviet blockade of West Berlin, which Truman circumvented by the Berlin Airlift of 1948–1949, and the Communist invasion of South Korea, which became the Korean War of 1950–1953. Few pundits believed Truman could win reelection in his own right in 1948, but he defeated Republican challenger Thomas E. Dewey. Largely because of the Korean War (and his firing, for insubordination, of Douglas MacArthur as commander in chief of U.S. and UN forces there), Truman was unpopular when he left office in January 1953, but he lived long enough to see himself reevaluated as one of the great presidents of the 20th century.
Trumbo, Dalton (1905–1976) Trumbo was a successful screenwriter (one of Hollywood’s highest paid) and novelist who became one of the “Hollywood Ten,” a group that refused to “name names” when summoned in 1947, during the postwar “red scare,” by the U.S. House Committee on Un American Activities about their alleged communist ties and the communist ties of their associates. Blacklisted—meaning that no studio would hire him—Trumbo was also imprisoned for contempt of Congress for 11 months.
Truth, Sojourner (1797–1883) This New York slave was born Isabella Van Wagener. Freed when New York outlawed slavery in 1827, she took the name Sojourner Truth in 1843 and became an itinerant evangelist, who combined her religious message with a campaign for abolition and for women’s rights.
Tubman, Harriet (circa 1821–1913) Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Dorchester County, Maryland, and escaped to freedom about 1849. Not satisfied with having achieved her own deliverance, she repeatedly risked recapture throughout the 1850s by journeying back into slave territory to lead some 300 other fugitives, including her parents, to liberty. She was a founder of the “Underground Railroad,” the abolitionist network that smuggled thousands of fugitives to freedom before the Civil War. During the war, she risked her life as a spy in Maryland and Virginia.
Turner, Frederick Jackson (1861–1932) On July 12, 1893, Turner, a University of Wisconsin history professor, delivered a speech as part of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in which he presented census statistics that revealed the “closing” of the American frontier; that is, he explained, the population figures no longer demarcated a distinct western limit of settlement. With the frontier closed, Turner declared his belief that the “restless, nervous energy…dominant individualism…buoyancy and exuberance” traditionally engendered in the American character by the presence of the frontier would now be channeled into ventures abroad, and the United States would enter an age of imperialism.
Turner, Nat (1800–1831) Just before dawn on August 22, 1831, Turner, a slave and lay preacher, led 50 or more fellow slaves in a rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner and his band killed 60 whites before he and most of the others were apprehended. With 19 followers, Turner was quickly tried and hanged on November 11, 1831. Local whites retaliated against the uprising by randomly killing African Americans in the area. Uprisings such as Turner’s were a great fear of white southerners during the era of slavery.
Turner, Ted (1938– ) The son of the owner of a billboard advertising company, Robert Edward “Ted” Turner III took over the failing business after his father committed suicide. After making it profitable again, he invested in the purchase of a failing UHF Atlanta television station in 1970 and turned it around. In 1975, he transformed the station into “Superstation” by using communications satellite technology to broadcast to a national cable television audience. In 1980, he created the nation’s first 24-hour cable news network, CNN (Cable News Network). Superstation and CNN radically changed the nature of television broadcasting.
Twain, Mark (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835–1910) Raised in the Mississippi River town of Hannibal, Missouri, Samuel Langhorne Clemens learned to love life on the river. He worked as an itinerant printer and journalist, but his favorite job was as a riverboat pilot before the Civil War, a position from which he observed human nature on the rough-and-tumble American frontier. When he began to write humorous stories—his first big hit, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (1865) was a slice of life from California gold country—he adopted the pseudonym Mark Twain, the call of the Mississippi riverboat leadsman indicating a depth of two fathoms, ample for safe passage. As Mark Twain, Clemens wrote often hilarious (and tremendously popular) works that nevertheless portrayed the darker side of human nature and of life on the frontier. His Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) is a masterpiece of narrative art, a look at life in America on the eve of civil war through the eyes of a high-spirited, warm-hearted twelve-year-old orphan.
Tweed, William Marcy “Boss” (1823–1878) Boss Tweed was a powerful ring leader for New York City Democrats known then as Tammany Hall. Using his position as city supervisor, he appointed cronies and the party faithful, creating a thoroughly corrupt city government known as the “Tweed ring.” The most famous of the 19th century urban “bosses,” Tweed was exposed in the satiric cartoons of Thomas Nast and was ultimately tried and convicted on charges of forgery and larceny.
Tyler, John (1790–1862) Tyler was a Democrat who became president when William Henry Harrison died within a month of taking office. Tyler was the first vice president called on to succeed the president, and this created a crisis. The Constitution did not make clear whether a vice president, upon succession, became president or merely acting president. Tyler asserted himself as president, an assertion that has not been challenged since.
Tyler, Royall (1757–1826) Born William Clark Tyler, Royall Tyler was a Vermont attorney and teacher, who also wrote plays. His 1787 The Contrast pits a naïve Yankee against a sophisticated Englishman for the affections of the same girl. A delightful comedy—on a par with the best produced in England at the time—The Contrast also created an enduring cultural stereotype in the character of Jonathan, “the Yankee.”