Claude Fayette Bragdon was born on August 1, 1866 in Oberlin, Ohio. He was was born of native stock, the only son of George C. and Katherine (Shipherd) Bragdon. He had a sister, May. Both parents had attended Oberlin College, which was founded by his mother's uncle. At the time Claude was born, his father was a journalist, and this profession soon took the family to New York.