Sherwood Anderson was born in Camden, Ohio, on September 13, 1876, as the third of
seven children. His parents, Irwin M. and Emma Anderson, moved from town to town
frequently after the failure of Anderson's father's business. Anderson attended
school only intermittently in order to help his family's finances by working a
variety of odd jobs including stable boy, house painter, and newsboy. He left
school at the age of 14. His father (a former Union soldier) worked as a
harness maker and house painter after the family finally settled down in Clyde,
Ohio. Anderson moved to Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 17, where he worked in
factory by day and was a business student by night. He joined the National
Guard in 1895 at the age of 19 and fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American
After his service ended, Anderson returned to Ohio and finished a final year of
schooling at Wittenberg College in Springfield.
Anderson moved around Ohio frequently until 1904 when he married Cornelia Lane, a
woman of good education and background, and fathered three children. He began
to write fiction while working in a manufacturing plant in Elyria. Anderson left
Lane and his children and moved back to Chicago after suffering an emotional
collapse in 1912, and stayed there working as a copy writer for the
Taylor-Critchfield Advertising Company. While in Chicago he also joined the "Chicago Group," which included other writers such as
Theodore Dreiser and Carl Sandburg. In 1916, Anderson divorced Lane; he later
claimed that she had been unsympathetic to his attempts at writing. He then
married sculptor and musician Tennessee Mitchell.
Shortly after his divorce, Anderson wrote his first two novels, Windy McPherson's Son (1916) and Marching Men (1917). In 1919, he began writing what would
eventually become his most famous work, Winesburg,
Ohio, a collection of related short stories. His short stories were soon
successful, and he published additional collections such as The Triumphs of the Egg (1921), Horses and
Men (1923), and Death in the Woods (1933).
Between 1920 and 1922, he wrote the novel Poor White
(1920) and various other works and ended his marriage to Mitchell.
In 1923, Anderson published the novel Many Marriages,
which was a moderate success and was praised by other authors such as F. Scott
Fitzgerald. Anderson married Elizabeth Prall and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana,
1924. It was here that he wrote his best-seller, Dark
Laughter (1925). Anderson's third marriage was beginning to break down
but was sustained with the help of Eleanor Copenhaver, a social worker who was
his future wife.
Anderson moved to Marion, Virginia, where he built a house and worked on his farm
also edited two newspapers he had purchased in 1927. He also wrote for the
newspapers (Smyth County News and the Marion Democrat) under the pen name of Buck Fever and
even lectured to earn extra income. Anderson finally separated from Prall in 1929
(officially divorced in 1932) and married Copenhaver in 1933.
Anderson died March 8, 1941, at the age of 64 of peritonitis while on a ship in the
Panama area. It was discovered in an autopsy that he had swallowed a toothpick
a martini which perforated his colon. He is buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Marion,