On July 21, 1899, at 8:00 in the morning, Dr. Clarence Edmunds
Hemingway and his wife, Grace Hall Hemingway, welcomed their second
child (and first son) into the world. Ernest Miller Hemingway had thick
black hair, was 23 inches long, and weighed nine and a half pounds.
Even amid the celebration of his birth, no one could have predicted his
eventual fame. He was simply the latest child of a middle class family
from suburban Chicago.
The Hemingways lived in Oak Park, Illinois, a pleasant and
prosperous suburb 10 miles west of downtown Chicago. Clarence Hemingway
was a respected family doctor whose office was at the family home and
who specialized in obstetrics. He visited his patients using his horse
and buggy and later, a new Model T Ford. He was also a man who enjoyed
being outside and he spent many hours hunting and fishing and studying
the natural world. He liked gathering plants and bringing them back to his office and looking up information in his library.
He delighted in taking his children to the zoo and the
natural history museum and taught them to be careful observers of
enjoyed cooking and canning preserves and typically he was soft spoken
and affectionate but he was given to mood swings and could be harsh in
his punishments. His Christian beliefs were strong and he disliked the use of tobacco and alcohol.
Grace Hall Hemingway was a talented and modern woman for the time period.
Before her marriage to Clarence Hemingway in 1895, she had prepared for
a career as a professional singer and had even spent time in New York
City taking lessons and performing. After the marriage, she turned to
giving music lessons and, according to her daughter, the income she
received from these often was greater than the money her husband made
as a doctor. She disliked traditional household responsibilities
(cooking, cleaning, and sewing) and benefited from having one or two
hired girls to perform these chores. She was very involved in cultural
affairs and took it upon herself to see that her children experienced
art, music and theater. Eventually she also discovered that she had
talent as a landscape painter. She was strong willed, verbal, and, like
Clarence, was a strict and devout Christian.
When Ernest was born the Hemingways lived with Grace's father, Ernest Hall, in a large Victorian home. After
his death in 1905, the Hemingways built a new three story modern home
at that had eight bedrooms, a music room for Grace and a medical office
uncle Tyler "Tyley" Hancock was a traveling salesman who often stayed
with the family and he always had a room set aside for him. He
would also visit them at their Michigan cottage where he and Dr.
Hemingway would go on fishing trips - sometimes as far away as to
Brevort Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
family would eventually grow to six children - Marcelline (b. 1898),
Ernest (b. 1899), Ursula (b. 1902 ), Madelaine "Sunny" (b. 1904), Carol
(b. 1911), and Leicester (b. 1915). (Beach family portrait) The
children were all very involved in church and community activities and
the Hemingway household was one in which everyone was expected to be
God fearing, educated, and active. Dr. Hemingway especially disliked
idleness and was quick to make sure the children were always involved
in doing something worthwhile.