Harry Leon Wilson
Harry Leon Wilson was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

ist and dramatist best known for his novels, Ruggles of Red Gap
Ruggles of Red Gap
Ruggles of Red Gap was serialized beginning December 26, 1914 in the Saturday Evening Post and became a best selling novel in 1915 by Harry Leon Wilson, adapted for the Broadway stage as a musical the same year, and made into a movie several times, most famously in 1935.In the comedy Western film...

and Merton of the Movies
Merton of the Movies
Merton of the Movies is a 1919 book written by Harry Leon Wilson. In 1922, it was adapted into a Broadway play by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly. A 1924 silent movie version was directed by James Cruze and starred Glenn Hunter who had created the role on Broadway...

. His novel, Bunker Bean helped popularize the term flapper
Flapper in the 1920s was a term applied to a "new breed" of young Western women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior...



Harry Leon Wilson was born in Oregon, Illinois
Oregon, Illinois
Oregon is a city located in Ogle County, Illinois. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 3,721, down from 4,060 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Ogle County.- History :...

, the son of Samuel and Adeline (née Kidder). Samuel was a newspaper publisher, and Harry learned to set type at an early age. He began work as a stenographer, after leaving home at sixteen. He worked his way west through Topeka
Topeka, Kansas
Topeka |Kansa]]: Tó Pee Kuh) is the capital city of the U.S. state of Kansas and the county seat of Shawnee County. It is situated along the Kansas River in the central part of Shawnee County, located in northeast Kansas, in the Central United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was...

, Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska
Omaha is the largest city in the state of Nebraska, United States, and is the county seat of Douglas County. It is located in the Midwestern United States on the Missouri River, about 20 miles north of the mouth of the Platte River...

, Denver and eventually to California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. He was a contributor to the histories of Hubert Howe Bancroft
Hubert Howe Bancroft
Hubert Howe Bancroft was an American historian and ethnologist who wrote and published works concerning the western United States, Texas, Mexico, Central America, British Columbia and Alaska.-Biography:...

, and became the private secretary to Virgil Bogue
Virgil Bogue
Virgil Gay Bogue was born in Norfolk, New York, on July 20, 1846. He received a degree in civil engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, in 1868. Bogue worked consecutively on Oroya Railway in Peru to 1879, the Northern Pacific Railway to 1886...


In December 1886, Wilson's story, The Elusive Dollar Bill was accepted by Puck
Puck (magazine)
Puck was America's first successful humor magazine of colorful cartoons, caricatures and political satire of the issues of the day. It was published from 1871 until 1918.-History:...

 magazine. He continued to contribute to Puck, and in 1892 became assistant editor. When Henry Cuyler Bunner
Henry Cuyler Bunner
Henry Cuyler Bunner was an American novelist and poet.-Biography:Henry Cuyler Bunner born in Oswego, New York and was educated in New York City. From being a clerk in an importing house, he turned to journalism, and after some work as a reporter, and on the staff of The Arcadian , he became in...

 died in 1896, Wilson replaced him as editor. The publication of The Spenders allowed Wilson to quit Puck in 1902, and devote himself full time to writing.

I had to live ten years in New York

New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

. It was then a simple town, with few street lights north of Forty-second street. Now the place is pretty terrible to me, perhaps the ugliest city in the world. I decided that the only way to get out of New York was to write a successful novel. So I tried with The Spenders and when I got a substantial advance from publishers, I quit my job and beat it for the high hills of Colorado.

—Harry Leon Wilson

Wilson would return to New York, where he met Booth Tarkington
Booth Tarkington
Booth Tarkington was an American novelist and dramatist best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novels The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams...

 in 1904. Tarkington and Wilson would travel together to Europe in 1905. The two would complete the play, The Man at Home in 1906 in Paris. The play was a resounding success and was followed by more collaborations with Tarkington, but none would repeat the success of the first. Wilson was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1908.

When Wilson returned from Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, he settled in Carmel, California. Except for a few brief periods, he would remain there for the rest of his life. It was during this period that Wilson would write the books for which he is most well known. Bunker Bean was published in 1913. followed by Ruggles of Red Gap two years later. After a brief stint in Hollywood, he wrote Merton of the Movies in 1922. A severe auto accident in 1932 greatly affected his health during his remaining years. Wilson died of a brain hemorrhage on June, 28 1939 in Carmel.


Wilson was married three times. His first wife was Wilbertine Nesselrode Teters Worden, whom he married in 1898. The marriage ended in divorce in 1900. In 1902 he married Rose Cecil O'Neill Latham
Rose O'Neill
Rose Cecil O'Neill was an illustrator who created a popular period comic called Kewpie.-Early life:...

. O'Neill and Wilson worked together at Puck, and she was the illustrator for four of his books. They divorced in 1907. Wilson married Helen MacGowan Cooke in 1912. They had two children, Harry Leon Wilson, Jr. and Helen Charis Wilson
Charis Wilson
Helen Charis Wilson , most widely known as a subject of Edward Weston's photographs, was a model and writer.-Early life:...

. Cooke and Wilson divorced in 1927.

External links

  • Works by Harry Leon Wilson at Internet Archive
    Internet Archive
    The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly 3 million public domain books. The Internet Archive...

  • Harry Leon Wilson Papers, ca. 1879-1939 at the Bancroft Library
    Bancroft Library
    The Bancroft Library is the primary special collections library of the University of California, Berkeley. It was acquired as a gift/purchase from its founder, Hubert Howe Bancroft, with the proviso that it retain the name Bancroft Library in perpetuity...

     at the University of California
    University of California, Berkeley
    The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

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