Edward Ballantine was born in Oberlin, Ohio, on August 6, 1886, the son of William Gay Ballantine, the fourth president of Oberlin College, and Emma Frances Atwood (Anon. n.d.). One brother Arthur Atwood was the senior member of the New York law firm of Root, Clark, Buckner & Ballantine--later Dewey, Ballantine, Bushby, Palmer & Wood. Another brother Henry Winthrop was Professor of Law, at Boalt Hall School of Law (University of California (System) Academic Senate 1951). Through his paternal grandfather, Rev. Elisha Ballantine (Beaver 2003), he is distantly related to four U.S. Presidents, and descended from the first American female writer Anne Bradstreet, and from Massachusetts Bay Colony founder and first Governor John Winthrop (Earle 1895, 332).
He studied with Walter Spalding and Frederick Converse at Harvard University, where he received a BA in 1907. He was awarded highest final honors in music at Harvard University and an orchestral composition of his was played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Boston, Massachusetts on June 14, 1907 (Anon. 1907, 78). He then pursued his studies with Artur Schnabel, Rudolf Ganz, and Philippe Rüferthen in Berlin from 1907 to 1909. He returned to the United States where he joined the Harvard music faculty in 1912, where he remained until his retirement in 1947. His best-known compositions are two sets of piano variations on "Mary Had a Little Lamb" (1924, 1943), in which each variation is in the style of a different composer (Hitchcock and Meckna 2001).
In 1923 he married, as her second husband, Florence Foster Besse (Anon. 1974), a childhood friend and the daughter of Henrietta Louisa Segee and Lyman W. Besse, who owned an extensive chain of clothing stores in the Northeast known as "The Besse System" (Kabaservice 2004, 16; Cutter 1910, 2105-2107) She was a 1907 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wellesley College (Kabaservice 2004, 16-17). She had married as her first husband, Kingman Brewster, Sr. They separated in 1923 and were later divorced (Kabaservice 2004, 17). They were the parents of Kingman Brewster, Jr., who was an educator, diplomat, and president of Yale University.