When I first started as editor in chief for the Oak Leaves, people would say, “Y’know, Ernest Hemingway used to work for the Oak Leaves.” Neighbors told me, friends repeated it. Even community members would say, “I heard that Hemingway used to work for you guys.”
After a year of hearing this, I decided to hunt down the truth. And, after sifting through the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park Archives, it can definitely said: Yes and sort of.
Yes, Hemingway did work for the Oak Leaves. He delivered the newspaper in his early teens. The cover logo on this edition of the Oak Leaves, in fact, is in Hemingway’s handwriting, taken from his account book from 1913 (see our piece Inside the Hemingway Archives). He made $1.20 delivering the paper in most entries, compared to his allowance of 14 cents.
And while the budding author did work as a reporter, he primarily wrote for the Kansas City Star and the Toronto Star. However, the Oak Leaves did publish Hemingway.
After he was wounded as a Red Cross ambulance driver in World War I, Hemingway wrote home and his father submitted his letter to the Oak Leaves for publication.
The headline read: “Wounded 227 Times,” referring to the shrapnel wounds Hemingway suffered mostly in his legs, knees and feet during an Austrian mortar attack in Italy.
The 19-year-old Hemingway wrote: “…there must have been a great burble about my getting shot up. Oak Leaves and the opposition came today and I have begun to think. Family, that maybe you didn’t appreciate me when I used to reside in the bosom. It’s the next best thing to getting killed and reading your own obituary.”
He was, however, not happy with his father, who gave his letter to newspapers (The Kansas City Star also published the same letter). Hemingway feared he would be seen as a glory hound.
To his sister Marcelline, he wrote: “Now Kid who in hell is giving all my letters out for publication? When I write home to the family I don’t write to the Chicago Herald Examiner or anybody else — but to the family. Somebody has a lot of gall publishing them and it will look like I’m trying to pull hero stuff. Gee I was sore when I heard they were using my stuff in Oak Leaves. Pop must be Mal di Testa [“headache” in Italian].”
Appearances mattered to the young Hemingway and so did hometown news. In August of that year, he wrote: “Say, if it were not too difficult, send the Oak Leaves every week, will you?”Tags: Hemingway archive
See more of Oak Leaves' special Ernest Hemingway coverage by clicking here.