The American Writers Museum celebrates American writers through innovative, state-of-the-art exhibitions and compelling programming.
Paris, Pamplona, Havana are cities that come to mind when you think of Ernest Hemingway, but the year and a half he spent living in the city of Chicago as an adult had a profound impact on his life and career.
Hemingway grew up in a deeply religious family in suburban Oak Park and longed to escape its middle-class mores. His father was a doctor and his mother an aspiring opera singer turned music teacher. While she may have fostered his interest in the arts, his father, an avid hunter and fisherman, strongly contributed to Hemingway's persona as a rugged adventurer. In high school, he edited his school newspaper, joined the football and swim teams, played the cello, and engaged in frequent boxing matches with friends. He yearned to serve in the army but was repeatedly rejected due to poor eyesight damaged by boxing.
After graduating from high school in 1917, he briefly worked the crime beat at the Kansas City Star newspaper. The Star’s style guide became Hemingway’s signature style: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.”
Looking for action in World War I, Hemingway volunteered as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross and was severely wounded in Italy. His injury and the war, in general, inspired his future writing. Once he could travel, he went home to Oak Park to recover. It took him a year to recuperate from the physical and emotional wounds of the "War to End All Wars."
In 1920, Hemingway got his second job in journalism and his first professional byline working for the Toronto Star Weekly. Still, he yearned to write fiction. He returned to Chicago, where he mainly lived in friends’ apartments on the north side. At that time, Chicago was the center of a literary renaissance led by authors and former journalists such as Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, and Carl Sandburg. Hemingway met Sandburg and Anderson, who encouraged him to pursue a career in writing. Anderson also persuaded him to move to Paris “where the interesting people live” and wrote him a letter of introduction to Gertrude Stein, whose Paris salon was the bastion of the Modernist movement. Stein would become his mentor.
In Chicago, Hemingway met Hadley Anderson, the first of his four wives. They lived in this Dearborn Street apartment for four months following their marriage. Shortly afterward, Hemingway was hired to be a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star and the couple sailed off to Paris.