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Anderson, Sherwood (Sherwood Berton), 1876-1941



  • Existence: 1876 - 1941

Biographical Note

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 he 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 and 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 beginning of his writing career. 1919 saw the publication of his short story collection, Winesburg, Ohio, one of his most well-know works. In 1924, he divorced Tennessee Mitchell and marred Elizabeth Prall. They lived in New York and New Orleans, and traveled in Europe, too. With profits from his novel 1925 Dark Laughter, Anderson bought Ripshin Farm, later just Ripshin, 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 around Marion and Troutdale, Virginia, 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).

Found in 21 Collections and/or Records:

Sherwood Anderson Collection

Identifier: Ms-1973-002

This collection contains correspondence among author Sherwood Anderson and family members, most notably letters written by Anderson to his daughter Marian, as well as some of his professional correspondence. It also includes research material about Anderson gathered by Ray White and notecards--compiled by Dr. Charles Modlin--documenting the annotations in the books within Special Collections' Anderson book collection.

Dates: 1912 - 1938

Sherwood Anderson Correspondence with Llewellyn Jones

Identifier: Ms-2015-044

This collection consists of eight letters written by American author Sherwood Anderson to Llewellyn Jones between 1916 and 1924 with three undated (but likely from the same period). Jones was the literary editor for the Chicago Evening Post. The correspondence primarily discusses the reviews of Anderson's works by Jones and other critics.

Dates: 1916-1924, n.d.

Sherwood Anderson Photograph and Postcard

Identifier: Ms-2011-004

The collection consists of one postcard of Notre-Dame from Sherwood Anderson to Bert and Clara Dickenson and a photograph of Sherwood Anderson and Bert Dickenson in Florida with a line of fish in between the two men.

Dates: 1929, 1939

Danville Speech

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms1973-002_AndersonSherwood_DanvilleSpeech

Envelope, Sherwood Anderson Correspondence to Llewellyn Jones, Chicago, Il., September 9, 1916

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2015-044_AndersonSherwood_Letter_1916_0909env

Envelope, Sherwood Anderson to Llewellyn Jones, Chicago, Il., April 26, 1918

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2015-044_AndersonSherwood_Letter_1918_0426env

Envelope, Sherwood Anderson to Llewellyn Jones, Chicago, Il., July 27, 1916

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2015-044_AndersonSherwood_Letter_1916_0627env

Envelope, Sherwood Anderson to Llewellyn Jones, New Orleans, La., December 14, 1924

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2015-044_AndersonSherwood_Letter_1924_1214env

Envelope, Sherwood Anderson to Llewellyn Jones, New Orleans, La., July 22, 1924

 Digital Record
Identifier: Ms2015-044_AndersonSherwood_Letter_1924_0722env

James T. Farrell Letters to Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson

Identifier: Ms-2017-005

This collection contains four letters written by American author James T. Farrell to Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson between February 1952 and May of 1954.

Dates: 1952, 1954