In Oak Park, Illinois, Ernest Hemingway’s life and work are laid out. His early 20 years in this Chicago suburb, surrounded by prairies and woodlands, groomed him for a life as a writer. Hemingway’s father encouraged him to like the outdoors and to pay great attention to nature. His mother took him to Chicago opera halls and museums so he could understand the inner life that the arts kindled. Hemingway sang in the choir and meditated on sermons at the church.

Hemingway obtained his only proper schooling at Oak Park. Ernest watched what was going on around him and within him in school in order to make his novels come to life for his readers. He wrote most eloquently about people, places, and events he had direct knowledge of. When Ernest moved from Oak Park, he continued to write about his travels across four continents, attempting to portray to readers what it was like. His writing focused on universal issues in people’s lives.

He received the Nobel Prize in 1954 for “The Old Man and the Sea,” a novella that exemplifies his powerful, style-making command of the art of contemporary narrative.  People throughout the world recall Hemingway’s exploits decades after his death in 1961, and younger generations of readers find new meaning in his work.



Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in what would later become Oak Park, Illinois, a western Chicago suburb. He was the second of six children born to Dr. Clarence Edmonds Hemingway and Grace Hall Hemingway.

Ernest’s family took him to Windemere, their summer home in northern Michigan, for the first time. Throughout 1917, Ernest would spend every summer there. His father would educate him how to study nature and live in the outdoors—hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting—both here and in the Oak Park region.


Ernest started first grade at Oak Park.


Ernest was a freshman at Oak Park and River Forest High Schools.


He started writing for the high school newspaper, covering a wide range of educational and extracurricular activities in which he was involved or observed.


He wrote poetry and short tales for his high school literary journal, generally based on his own experiences.


He performed in Beau Brummel, the senior production, as just one illustration of his many interests across four years, which included a rigorous liberal arts curriculum, team sports, and debate. He graduated in June and began work as a reporter for The Kansas City Star. Here, he learnt to observe and write for a broad audience, focusing on the core of universally captivating experiences and use clear information and concise, economical, unsentimental language.


He sailed to Europe on May 23 to drive an ambulance for the Italian Red Cross. He got seriously wounded in Fossalta in July after volunteering to deliver chocolate and cigarettes to frontline Italian soldiers. While recovering in Milan, he fell in love with a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky. Hemingway was the first American to be wounded in WWI.


While recuperating from his battle wounds in Oak Park, he received a letter from Agnes rejecting him and writing, “She hoped he would have a successful career.”


He accepted a position with Cooperative Commonwealth, a publication for farmers in the Midwest.


On September 3, he married Hadley Richardson.


He accepted a position delivering feature pieces from Europe to The Toronto Star. He and Hadley travelled to Paris with letters of introduction from novelist Sherwood Anderson. Hemingway covered a wide range of events in Europe, including a war and a peace conference. In Paris, he met poet Ezra Pound, who, along with authors Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce, came to admire Hemingway’s writing. 


In Pamplona, Spain, he attended his first bullfight. In October, he travelled to Toronto to give birth to his son, John Hadley. He resigned from The Star and relocated to Paris to pursue a career as a novelist. Three Stories & Ten Poems, his debut book published


He helped Ford Maddox Ford edit The Transatlantic Review, which published his writing. Several of his most well-known short stories published.


In Our Time was released, and it contained numerous stories set in Michigan concerning the development of a semi-autobiographical figure named Nick Adams, culminating with “Big Two-Hearted River.” Charles Scribner’s Sons became Hemingway’s publisher for the rest of his life.


The Sun Also Rises published by Charles Scribner’s Sons.


Men without Women published.  The latter is the only cinematic adaptation of one of Hemingway’s almost twenty stories that he claimed he actually liked. Hadley divorced him, and he married Pauline Pfeiffer.


He and Pauline fled Paris for Key West, Florida. Patrick, his son, was born. Ernest’s father commited suicide with a .32 handgun.


Despite Boston censoring the serialized edition in Scribner’s magazine, he published A Farewell to Arms to favorable reviews and sales.


In a car accident in Billings, Montana, he fractured his arm. This was just one of numerous unintentional injuries to his arms, legs, and brain that plagued him his whole life.


Gregory, his son, was born.


Winner Take Nothing published. He travelled on safari in Africa, which served as the backdrop for two of his major works, The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.


Green Hills of Africa, an account of his safari exploits published.


During the Spanish Civil War, he worked as a war journalist. He donated money to the Loyalist cause and published his most purely political work, To Have and Have Not.


He published Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories, a collection of his stories and a drama about the Spanish Civil War.


He married writer Martha Gellhorn and published For Whom the Bell Tolls, his critically acclaimed novel about Loyalist guerrillas fighting in the Spanish Civil War.


He equipped the Pilar, his yacht, to hunt for German submarines in the Caribbean.


As a war journalist, he witnessed D-Day and joined the 22nd Regiment, 4th Infantry Division for actions leading to the emancipation of Paris and the Battle of Hurtgenwald. He started a relationship with Mary Welsh, a journalist.


In December, Martha Gellhorn divorced him.


In March, he married Mary. They lived in his Finca Vigia in Cuba and then in Ketchum, Idaho.


Across the River and Into the Trees, a novel about a romance set in post-World War II Europe published. Many critics panned it, claiming that Hemingway had lost his touch.


The entirety of the novella The Old Man and the Sea published in an issue of Life magazine. It was a success for Hemingway after several years in which the public and critics questioned whether he would ever be considered a major writer again. Santiago, the hero of his narrative, is a virtually penniless old Cuban fisherman who demonstrates humility, compassion, and courage. 


In January, he was critically injured in two separate plane crashes in Africa.  He also won the Pulitzer Prize for his book “The Old Man and the Sea.”


Suffering deteriorating health, he attended the bullfights of Luis Miguel Dominguin and Antonio Ordez and celebrated his sixtieth birthday in Spain.


Based on his bullfighting experiences, he published a nonfiction piece for Life magazine called The Dangerous Summer. It was his final piece to be published during his lifetime. 


He received shock treatment for depression. He killed himself with a shotgun on July 2.

Hemingway and his Oak Park roots