Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois as the second child of Dr. Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway. In 1913, he entered Oak Park and River Forest High School where he wrote for school magazines Trapeze and Tabula.
Hemingway's birthplace in Oak Park.
He graduated in 1917 and became a cub reporter for the magazine Kansas City Star to pursue his passion for journalism instead of going to college.
Though Hemingway tried to join the army, he was deferred due to his poor vision on his left eye. Instead, he volunteered as an ambulance driver in the Red Cross. He left Kansas City Star in 1918 and traveled to Europe at May that year. On July, he was severely wounded from an Austrian mortar shell that suddenly landed while carrying other soldiers who were injured; he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Valor for his sacrifice. This experience and his relationship with Agnes von Kurowsky, the nurse who took care of him, inspired him to write A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway recalled,
"When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you ... Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you."
Hemingway received about $1,000 for insurance for his war wounds, so he did not have to work for a year; he spent his time reading and questioning whether he really was a war hero. This sentiment is revealed in his story “Soldier’s Home,” and he discusses the frustration and shame returning home and how wars are not as glorious as they seem.
He began working as an editor for the Toronto Star Weekly even after he moved to Chicago in the fall of 1920.
He met Hadley Richardson and fell in love. They married in September 1921 and in November of the same year, Hemingway became the European correspondent of the Toronto Daily Star.
Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson in Switzerland, 1922
Hemingway and Hadley Richardson went to Paris, France, where a new literary movement was forming by writers like Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Ford Madox Ford.
Stein, who was one of the pioneers of the modernist movement in Paris, was Hemingway’s mentor as a writer and became a godmother to Hemingway’s son Jack. Stein introduced Hemingway to the “Lost Generation,” or the expatriate artists and writers of the Montparnasse Quarter. During this time, Hemingway also exchanged ideas with Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Juan Gris.
Hemingway met American poet Ezra Pound in 1922 at Sylvia Beach’s bookshop Shakespeare and Company. They bonded over literary exchanges while their trip to Italy in 1923 and living on the same street in 1924. Pound introduced Hemingway to the Irish writer James Joyce, whom later became Hemingway’s “alcoholic friend.”
On October 10, 1923, Hemingway's son John Hadley Nicanor was born. He also published his first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems.
In 1924, Hemingway helped Ford Madox Ford edit The Transatlantic Review with Pound, John Dos Passos, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and Stein. His short story “Indian Camp” was in this literary magazine, which was highly praised for giving new energy to the genre of short story.
In the same year, Hemingway met F. Scott Fitzgerald and the two formed a rivalrous friendship; when Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby, Hemingway decided that his next work must be a novel.