Dr. Hilary Justice (JFK Library).

Updated 11/2023.

A Childhood Timeline


July 21: Ernest Miller Hemingway was born the second child and first son of Dr. Clarence Edmonds (Ed) and Grace Hall Hemingway. Dr. Ed announced his son's arrival from the wraparound porch of the family home at 339 North Oak Park Avenue, in Oak Park, Illinois, playing a fanfare on his cornet.

A period photo of Hemingway's birthplace, a three-story Victorian home in Oak Park, Illinois.
Ernest Hemingway's birthplace. Ernest Hemingway Photographs Collection 06157P.

The new baby was named after his maternal grandfather, Ernest Hall, who owned the home and shared it with the young Hemingway family. The Hemingway children (there would eventually be six) called him "Abba."

Summer: Shortly after Ernest's birth, Ed and Grace took him and elder sister Marcelline (born 1898) to Bear Lake (later renamed Walloon Lake) in Michigan. Ernest would spent at least part of every summer in Northern Michigan through 1920.


Summer: The Hemingways spent the summer at Windemere, their summer cottage on Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan. 

Ernest Hemingway as a baby with his toddler sister, Marcelline, playing in the water, Walloon Lake, Michigan, c. 1901
Ernest and elder sister Marcelline playing in Walloon Lake, 1900. Photograph Clarence (Ed) Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway Photographs Collection 001 015 00577.


April: The Hemingways took Ernest and Marcelline to the Ringling Brothers' circus at the Chicago Coliseum. The family toured the Ringlings' "World's Greatest Menagerie" exhibition, which included a herd of 30 elephants. 

In the scrapbook Grace kept for Ernest until he was 18 years old, she wrote, "Ernest Miller went to Ringling Bro. Circus at about 21 months old, and enjoyed it hugely. He saw performing elephants and is never tired of having you tell him about them."

She describes his reaction to the menagerie: "he got too excited to hold in any longer."

Grace continues, "He loves to walk like an elephant and imitate all sorts of animals." He would awaken his parents "oh so early" in the morning, asking his father to "tell Ernie bout dat big elephant."

A full-color circus poster from the early 1900s featuring an elephant that is over twice the height of its human attendant.
Ringling Bros poster featuring "Big Bingo," "dat big elephant" that so captivated young Ernest. The Ringlings exhibited Bingo from 1896-1918. Visible text reads: "Big Bingo—Biggest brute that breathes—Giant "two-story" elephant now exhibited by Ringling Bros." BPL 11_06_000052. Courtesy Boston Public Library. Public domain.

May 20: In the months leading up to Ernest Hemingway's second birthday, Pawnee Bill's Wild West show performed in Oak Park. Grace and Clarence took their children Marcelline (age 3) and Ernest (22 months). 

Billed (and sold to progressive parents like the Hemingways) as a "Great Educational Exhibition," Pawnee Bill's Wild West show was an enormous traveling spectacle. 

The front page of The Oak Park Times for May 10, 1901.  Pawnee Bill's Wild West show has a double-column advertisement on the right.
Front page advertisement for Pawnee Bill's Wild West in The Oak Park Times, Friday, May 16, 1901. Courtesy Oak Park Public Library. [The advertisement contains sensitive language and is included for the historical record. The language does not reflect Hemingway at the JFK's current viewpoint but rather the social attitudes and circumstances of the time period when this newspaper was published.]

Prior to the day of the show itself, the troupe and its menagerie arrived on its own dedicated train. As the Oak Park Times promised, the show offered a daily "Strange and Startling Street Parade" of the show and menagerie to literally drum up business. As Oak Park Avenue was the village's major north/south thoroughfare, the parade route went right past the Hemingways' house.

He loves to play that he is Pawnee Bill...

Grace Hemingway Scrapbook for Ernest Miller, vol. 1

The Wild West shows' spectacles cycled and varied from year to year; one recurring Pawnee Bill spectacle was the bullfight.

A multicolored advertising poster for Pawnee Bill's Wild West show, featuring images of Pawnee Bill (in a cowboy hat) and bullfighter Romero Diaz (in a matador outfit).  An action scene showing a bullfight appears in the top half of the image; a parade led by brass players appears in the bottom half.  Visible text includes "A thrilling and true representation of Mexico's National Sport - the Bull Fight."
Pawnee Bill's Historic Wild West poster, c. 1900. Courtesy Library of Congress. 


April 29: Birth of sister Ursula (Ura).


Dr. Hemingway experienced a bout of depression, then called a "nervous condition."

Ernest received a Pawnee Bill costume and wore it incessantly until he grew out of it the following summer.

Hemingway, age 4, stands on the prow of a boat that sits in a field.  He is wearing a hat and a fringed Western costume, and he holds a toy rifle.
Ernest in Pawnee Bill costume holding a toy rifle. Michigan, 1903. Photographer Clarence Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway Photographs Collection 001 016 00599.


November 28: Birth of sister Madelaine (Sunny).


May 10: Death of grandfather Ernest Hall. Grace Hemingway inherited the family home.

Summer: The Hiawatha play (based on The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) opened at Petoskey, Michigan, performed by the Anishinaabe people of the Garden River First Nation. The play was performed in Anishinaabemowin, accompanied by an English narrator. The Hemingways would attend annually for the next several years.

A full-color vintage postcard. Souvenir from the Hiawatha Play performed near Hemingway's family's summer cabin.  The image shows "the gathering of the tribes" arriving by canoe.
"The gathering of the tribes, Hiawatha play, Wa-ya-ga-mug, near Petoskey, Michigan." Souvenir postcard, c. 1905. Private collection. Used by permission.

September: First day of school. At the age of six, Ernest Hemingway started attending the Oliver Wendell Holmes School on North Kenilworth Avenue in Oak Park. One of his first assigned readings was an excerpt from Longfellow's The Song of Hiawatha.

An old, slightly damaged color postcard showing a stately brick elementary school.  The building is long and low, with two wings symmetrically embracing a central three story building.  Visible text reads: Oliver Wendell Holmes School. Chicago and North Kenilworth Avenues, Oak Park, Ill.
The Oliver Wendell Holmes School in Oak Park, attended by Ernest Hemingway and his siblings for elementary school. Private Collection.


Grace Hall Hemingway designed a new family home a few blocks away, at 600 North Kenilworth Avenue. The North Kenilworth home was more modern than the Queen Anne Victorian on Oak Park Avenue. Its design shows some small influence of Oak Park-native architect Frank Lloyd Wright's "prairie school." The North Kenilworth Avenue house boasted an acoustically perfect music room in which Grace taught private lessons.

600 North Kenilworth Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois--a three-story prairie-style stucco home with a large porch and four dormer windows.
The North Kenilworth Avenue house. Architect Grace Hall Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway Photographs Collection 001 014 01136.


Dr. Ed Hemingway suffered another depressive episode and traveled to New Orleans for treatment.

Naturalists Carl and Delia Akeley began the installation of the "fighting elephants" display at Chicago's Field Museum.

Two African elephants (group taxidermy). Security guard in uniform stands on left side. Background shows columns draped with large white sheets. White plaster miniature sculpture from the World's Columbian Exposition, "Harvest," by Mr. M. A. Waagen. Columbian Rotunda of Field Columbian Museum, Jackson Park, Chicago. Taxidermy by Carl Akeley. Left elephants with two tusks has trunk raised; right elephant has one tusk.
Carl Akeley's "Fighting Elephants" in the Field Columbian Rotunda, 1908. Photographer Charles H. Carpenter. Courtesy of and © Field Museum of Natural History - CC BY-NC 4.0.

Akeley's Field Museum dioramas (taxidermy presented in a recreation of an animal's natural habitat) gave the child Ernest Hemingway his first glimpse of the greater kudu that would prove so elusive in Green Hills of Africa.

Diorama (taxidermy group) of three greater kudu, with rocks and plants included to indicate habitat.
Carl Akeley's greater kudu diorama (c. late 1890s) in the Field Columbian Museum. Photographer Charles H. Carpenter. Courtesy of and © Field Museum of Natural History - CC BY-NC 4.0.


Ernest Hemingway started following Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt's African safari in the Chicago papers.