Ickes, Harold (1874–1952) Ickes was born on a Pennsylvania farm, received a University of Chicago education, and became a lawyer and social reformer. President Franklin D. Roosevelt tapped him to serve as secretary of the interior, and Ickes set about transforming the department with the spirit and letter of New Deal reform. He strengthened the National Parks system, he brought strict and impartial enforcement to the stewardship of America’s forests and public lands—keeping real estate speculators, loggers, miners, and power interests from the unregulated exploitation of the nation’s land heritage—and he ended racial segregation throughout the department, including throughout the National Parks.
Ingersoll, Robert (1833–1899) This Illinois politician commanded lordly sums for lectures on humanism, the higher criticism of the Bible, and scientific rationalism. His audiences delighted in—or were provoked by—his skewering of what he called “orthodox superstitions.” Ingersoll was a representative figure of the scientific skepticism that characterized much of the late 19th century in America.
Insull, Samuel (1859–1938) A Londoner by birth, Insull worked as one of Thomas Edison’s British representatives, then came to the United States in 1881 as Edison’s private secretary. By 1891, he was president of the Chicago Edison Company, which furnished electrical power to the city. Insull expanded his utilities empire until, by the 1920s, his company was supplying not only all of Chicago, but most of the Midwest. The expansion was achieved through vigorous promotion of the stocks of his complex of holding companies—a practice that put him in a precarious position and caused his financial collapse during the Great Depression. Tried and acquitted on fraud and other charges, he fled to Europe.
Irving, Washington (1783–1859) Today remembered chiefly for his short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle,” Irving was a prolific man of letters and the first American writer to achieve a truly international reputation. His “Rip Van Winkle” is generally considered the first American short story, inaugurating a literary form in which American writers would excel.
Ives, Charles (1874–1954) Ives was the son of a bandleader who enjoyed experimenting with strange sounds and unconventional harmonies. Although Ives received a formal musical education at Yale University, he soon ventured down the path his father had pointed him toward and used familiar American folk tunes, hymn tunes, and popular tunes to create harmonically and rhythmically innovative music, including piano works, symphonies and other orchestral works, chamber music, and songs. While he was certainly an avant-garde—even defiantly idiosyncratic—composer, Ives was deeply rooted in American culture and experience. He neither sought nor received much recognition in his lifetime—he made his living as an insurance executive—but his best compositions are now considered among the nation’s most important “classical” music and anticipated many later developments in modern music.