Edgar Lee Masters

Edgar Lee Masters

Garnett, Anderson County, Kansas, USA
Death 5 Mar 1950 (aged 81)
Melrose Park, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Petersburg, Menard County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 682 · View Source
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Poet, Author. He published twelve plays, twenty-one books of poetry, six novels and six biographies, including those of Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Vachel Lindsay, and Walt Whitman. He was the son of a lawyer, Hardin Wallace Masters and his wife Emma J. Dexter. The family moved several times when he was a boy. For a time he lived on his grandparents’ farm, but by the time he was in high school, they were living in Lewistown, Illinois. He attended a private academy until the family’s funds were depleted, when his father’s law practice failed. He published his first article in the “Chicago Daily News”. He worked in his father’s law office, was admitted to the bar, and in 1893, had moved to Chicago to enter in a law partnership with the law firm of Kickham Scanlan. He was there for eight years. In 1898 he published his first collection, “A Book of Verses”, and married his first wife, Helen Jenkins. Before 1903, he was publishing his poems and essays under the pseudonym Dexter Wallace. During his law partnership with Clarence Darrow from 1903 to 1908, he defended the indigent; in 1911 he started his own law firm. Later, he wrote poems about his childhood in Illinois under the pseudonym Webster Ford; these short free-form poems were published in “Reedy’s Mirror”, a local literary publication. In 1915, these poems were bounded into on book, “Spoon River Anthology”. The collection was wildly successful, going through several editions rapidly and becoming one of the most popular books of poetry in the history of American literature. None of his other works measured up to this one. In 1917, he left his family; in 1920, he left his law firm to move to New York City; and in 1923, he and his wife would divorce. His residence became the Chelsea Hotel, which was a place to write. In 1926 he married Ellen Coyne, thirty years his junior. He wrote his autobiography, “Across Spoon River” in 1936; according to today’s genealogist, the genealogy in his autobiography has a problem in just before the time of the American Revolution. In his later years, he received several awards based on his earlier successes: a Poetry Society of America Award, the Shelley Memorial Award, a grant from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Academy Fellowship in 1946. His grave marker has lines from his 1918 poem "Tomorrow is My Birthday" from “Toward the Gulf”.

Bio by: Linda Davis

Family Members



Good friends, let’s to the fields…
After a little walk and by your pardon,
I think I’ll sleep, there is no sweeter thing.
Nor fate more blessed than to sleep.

I am a dream out of a blessed sleep-
Let’s walk, and hear the lark.



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 682
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Edgar Lee Masters (23 Aug 1868–5 Mar 1950), Find a Grave Memorial no. 682, citing Oakland Cemetery, Petersburg, Menard County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .