Our Own Hall of Fame
Ohio Author Quit Business at 36
DAYTON DAILY NEWS MARCH 26, 1961
BY MARY ELLEN LYNCH
Daily News Staff Writer
Sherwood Anderson was 36 years old and the manager of a paint factory in Elyria, when he walked out one day and never came back.
It was the beginning of his literary career, one that was to produce several well-received novels and win him a measure of immortality with “Winesburg, O.”
In later years, Anderson—a native of Camden—said that he deliberately staged his exit from the business world to give the impression that he was mentally disturbed.
HOWEVER, his brother Karl wrote more recently that Anderson told him he actually remembered nothing of the celebrated incident until he woke up in a Cleveland hospital, the victim of amnesia.
In any event, Anderson went on to Chicago to become an advertising copy writer, jot ideas for a book on his cuffs during the day and hurry home at night to write. “Winesburg” and fame were seven years away.
ANDERSON was born in a modest, two-family house on S. Lafayette St., in Camden in 1876, the son of an unsuccessful harness maker and a mother who was forced to take in washing to help support the family. Sherwood was still a baby when the Andersons moved to Clyde, a little town 35 miles from Cleveland.
It was Clyde that became “Winesburg” in his greatest book—a book that was once banned from the Clyde public library.
YOUNG Sherwood was the exuberant go-getter in a family of seven children. An avid reader (he used to borrow books from the superintendent of schools in the tiny town), he was an effortless student but won no honors. Finally he quit high school entirely to work as a stable boy and factory hand.
Anderson later attended old Wittenberg academy in Springfield briefly, then worked in a Chicago packing house, managed a baseball team and held other odd jobs before he took over the Elyria paint factory.
HIS FIRST novel—“Windy McPherson’s Son”—was about his stormy relationship with his father. It was published in England and, along with Anderson’s next three books, netted him royalties of $400. He published “Winesburg, Ohio” in 1919 and more than a dozen novels and volumes of poetry and many short stories after that.
Anderson was never a tremendous financial success and he was not praised 100 percent by the critics. Some listed him as a prolific but minor American writer who never blossomed to full flower. Others ranked Anderson as one of a handful of literary greats of this country and, perhaps, the world.
BEN HECHT said of him: “He reinvented the American soul, dead since David Harum.” In any event, Anderson wrote tenderly and deeply of small town American life.
His most productive period was between 1919 and 1929, but he was still writing when he left in 1941 for a South American cruise. He told friends: “I may be gone for a year, maybe two, maybe forever.”
IT TURNED out to be forever. Anderson died in Cristobal, Canal Zone, on Mar. 9, 1941.
He is buried in a hillside cemetery in Virginia and on his marker are words which many think sum up his philosophy of living: “Life, not death, is the great adventure.”
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