Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway's passport photo, 1923. Courtesy of the National Archives.
Ernest Hemingway passport photo, 1923. Source: National Archives & Records Administration.

Ernest Hemingway said he learned how to write while working as a reporter for The Kansas City Star when he was only 17 years old. A rebel in his Oak Park, Illinois, high school, he did not want to go to college. His uncle, Tyler Hemingway, had a friend who was chief editorial writer at the Star. Ernest got a job on the paper and was assigned to cover General Hospital, Union Station, and the 15th Street police station, often riding in police cars to the scene of a crime.

Eager to fight in World War I after turning 18, Hemingway tried 11 times to join the army, but could not pass the eye test. He joined the Red Cross ambulance corps and was sent to Italy to aid soldiers injured on the battlefield. He was injured by mortar fire, decorated by the Italian government, and came back a hero.

Hemingway later became a foreign correspondent in Paris and began writing novels based on his war experiences. He returned to the Kansas City area in 1928 and, with his second wife Pauline, stayed with his aunt in her home in Mission Hills, Kansas, where he completed A Farewell to Arms. In 1931 the couple lived on the Country Club Plaza, where Hemingway worked on Death in the Afternoon. The couple’s second son, Gregory, was born in Kansas City.

In his early novels Hemingway spoke for the soldiers who survived World War I and what the violence of the war had done to their lives. However, he seemed compelled to travel all over the globe to report on wars.

Ernest Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for The Old Man and the Sea in 1954. He killed himself in 1961. Some called him an almost mythical figure, a character in a novel that he might have written.


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