Biographical & Bibliographical Timeline
Sherwood Anderson (1876-1941) was born in the small town of Camden, Ohio to Irwin McClain Anderson (d.1919) and Emma Jane Smith (d.1895). While Anderson excelled as a student, he quit school at the age of 14 to help support his family, taking on a wide variety of jobs. After his mother’s death, he relocated to Chicago for the first time, working and taking a few night classes. He served briefly in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, but was sent there after combat had ended. A few months later, he returned to Clyde, then moved to Springfield, Ohio, in 1899, where he completed his senior year at Wittenburg Academy, a prep school. His graduation speech resulted in his being offered a job as an advertising solicitor and he moved to back to Chicago.
In 1903, work travels took him to Toledo, Ohio, where he met Cornelia Pratt Lane, his first wife. The couple married in 1904 and had three children: Robert Lane (1907-1951), John Sherwood (1908-1995) and Marion (Mimi) (1911-1996). In 1906, they relocated to Cleveland when Anderson became the president of the United Factories Company, a mail-order firm. The following year he departed the company, took his family to Elyria, Ohio, and started the Anderson Manufacturing Co., another mail-order business.
In 1912, Anderson suffered a nervous breakdown. He returned to Chicago yet again and began work writing advertising copy, as well as becoming part of the writer and artist scene of the city. In 1916, he divorced Cornelia Pratt and married Tennessee Mitchell, a sculptor. He also published his first novel, Windy McPherson’s Son, the first of three books in a deal with publisher John Lane. It was the beginning of his writing career. 1919 saw the publication of his short story collection, Winesburg, Ohio, one of his most well-known works. In 1924, he divorced Tennessee Mitchell and married Elizabeth Prall. They lived in New York and New Orleans, and traveled in Europe. With profits from his 1925 novel Dark Laughter, Anderson bought Ripshin Farm, later just Ripshin, of Troutdale, Virginia, as a summer home in 1926. He also acquired both local newspapers, the Smyth County News and the Marion Democrat. His son, Robert, helped with, and eventually took over management of the newspapers in 1929. Around the same time, Anderson began a tour of the south and its factory towns with Eleanor Copenhaver, which shaped several of his later non-fiction publications.
In 1932, Anderson divorced Elizabeth Prall and the following year, married Eleanor Copenhaver (1896-1985). Southwest Virginia was a powerful influence on his later stories and novels. His life in and around Marion and Troutdale was the focus of his writing for the newspapers, as well. At the same time, he was still writing novels and short stories for magazines. In 1941, Sherwood and Eleanor Anderson left for a trip to South America. During the trip, after ingesting a toothpick, Anderson developed peritonitis and was hospitalized in Panama, where he passed away on March 8, 1941. He is buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Marion, Virginia.
Over his lifetime, Anderson published 8 novels, 4 collections of short stories, 2 collections of poetry, 1 collection of plays, and 12 works of non-fiction. Following his death, publishers and scholars have produced memoirs, critical editions, and several volumes of his collected letters. During his life, he was influential on the careers of William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway, and maintained extensive correspondence and friendships with authors, artists, publishers, and critics (though he later wrote that he had given up reading reviews).
This biography was created from the materials in Special Collections, our finding aids for Sherwood Anderson collections, and the biography of Sherwood Anderson available on the Encyclopedia Virginia.