A Brief Biography of Sherwood Anderson

The Writer

Sherwood Anderson was a great American writer. He is the author of 27 works including Winesburg, Ohio, and seven novels that include Poor White, Many Marriages, and Dark Laughter (see Library for a complete list).


In the 1920s, author and social critic H. L. Mencken called him "America's Most Distinctive Novelist." Anderson was also a poet and a playwright, a newspaper editor and a political journalist. As a writer, Anderson is obscured by the generation of writers that followed him, by Hemingway and Faulkner especially, both of whom he helped to get started.


The Businessman

Sherwood Anderson began his professional life as an advertising man with an agency in Chicago called Taylor-Critchfield. He was also president of United Factories Company in Cleveland and president of his own company, Anderson Manufacturing Company (later American Merchants Corporation), in Elyria. Anderson Manufacturing was known for its paint and roofing products, notably, Roof-Fix.


Anderson was representative in his efforts to realize the American dream. His emotional breakdown while president of his own company, however, hastened his move from the business world to the world of letters because he recognized that his own personal values were superior to "money-making as an end in itself."


After his commercial success as a writer, Anderson re-entered the business world and combined his business and writing talents by buying two independent newspapers in rural Virginia. For both newspapers, he operated the business side as publisher and managed the editorial side as editor.


The Husband and Father

Sherwood and his wife Cornelia had three children, all born in Elyria, Ohio: Robert, John, and Marion (called Mimi). When Sherwood wasn't managing the affairs of his business, networking with other businessmen or playing golf with business associates, he was sometimes seen playing charades in the yard with his children. He taught them to act out real-life situations, an approach he took to his own problem solving and his writing.


In modern terms, Sherwood would have called a workaholic. When he wasn't working, however, he was mostly writing. This strained his relationship with Cornelia. When they parted ways in 1914, Sherwood did not forget his obligation to Cornelia and their children. He continued to support them financially as long as he had income.


Sherwood married four times, but had no other children. He moved frequently throughout his life, eventually settling in rural Virginia.


His Death

Sherwood Anderson died in Panama after accidentally swallowing a toothpick and contracting peritonitis. He is buried at Round Hill Cemetery in Smyth County Virginia.