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Caldwell, Erskine, 1903-1987



  • Existence: 1903 - 1987

Biographical Note

Erskine Caldwell was born in the town of White Oak, Georgia, on December 17, 1903. Caldwell's schooling was fragmentary; he attended high school sporadically and took college courses at the University of Pennsylvania, at Erskine College, in South Carolina, and at the University of Virginia.

As a young man, he worked in Atlanta, Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Baltimore as a mill laborer, farmhand, cotton picker, cook, stagehand in a burlesque house, and book reviewer. His prolific career as an author was launched by "The Bastard" (1929), "Poor Fool" (1930), and "American Earth" (1931).

But it was the 1932 publication of "Tobacco Road" that assured Caldwell's success. In 1933, "Tobacco Road" was dramatized and ran for a record-breaking seven years on Broadway, despite an obscenity charge that was brought against it by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. The charge was dismissed, as was a similar charge against Caldwell's next novel, "God's Little Acre" (1933).

In 1984, Caldwell was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1985, the Georgia Endowment for the Humanities invited him back to his native state for a series of teas and lectures in his honor.

A heavy smoker for all of his adult life, Caldwell twice underwent surgery for the removal of portions of his lungs. Lung cancer finally overtook him on April 11, 1987 in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Erskine Caldwell Papers

Identifier: Ms-1972-001

The collection consists of five typescript short stories and a set of galley proofs written and signed by Erskine Caldwell.

Dates: n.d.