Addison Cairns Mizner was born on December 12, 1872, in Benicia, California. He was the sixth child of Lansing Bond and Ella (Watson) Mizner. He was a descendant of Lawrence Mizner, who emigrated to America in 1700 and was a founder of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Addison's father, born in Illinois, was a soldier at sixteen, a major at eighteen, and passed the sword at the surrender of Buena Vista and Mexico City. By 1848, he was in California, where he practised law at Benicia, then the state capital, engaged in politics, and acquired extensive properties. In 1889, he was appointed minister to the Central American states, with residence at Guatemala. He married in San Francisco Ella Watson, said to have been distantly related to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Her early life had been as adventurous as her husband's. After sojourns on the Mississippi, she and her family had sailed for San Francisco in 1853 by way of Panama, had been wrecked, and rescued on Santa Margarita Island off Lower California. "Mamma Mizner" was a grande dame, who presided with humor, understanding, and unruffled composure over her seven tumultuous offspring.