George Ade life and biography

George Ade picture, image, poster

George Ade biography

Date of birth : 1866-02-09
Date of death : 1944-05-16
Birthplace : Kentland, Indiana
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2011-05-10
Credited as : Author and playwright, newspaper columnist, Chicago Morning News

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George Ade was an American writer, newspaper columnist, and playwright.

In 1890 Ade joined the Chicago Morning News, which later became the Chicago Record, where McCutcheon was working. He wrote the column, Stories of the Streets and of the Town. In the column, which McCutcheon illustrated, George Ade illustrated Chicago-life. It featured characters like Artie, an office boy; Doc Horne, a gentlemanly liar; and Pink Marsh, a black shoeshine boy. Ade's well-known "fables in slang" also made their first appearance in this popular column.

Ade's literary reputation rests upon his achievements as a great humorist of American character during an important era in American history: the first large wave of migration from the countryside to burgeoning cities like Chicago, where, in fact, Ade produced his best fiction. He was a practicing realist during the Age of (William Dean) Howells and a local colorist of Chicago and the Midwest. His work constitutes a vast comedy of Midwestern manners and, indeed, a comedy of late 19th century American manners.

Ade's fiction dealt consistently with the "little man," the common, undistinguished, average American, usually a farmer or lower middle class citizen. (He sometimes skewered women, too, especially women with laughable social pretensions.)

Ade's followed in the footsteps of his idol Mark Twain by making expert use of the American language. In his unique "Fables in Slang," which purveyed not so much slang as the American colloquial vernacular, Ade pursued an effectively genial satire notable for its scrupulous objectivity. Ade's regular practice in the best fables is to present a little drama incorporating concrete, specific evidence with which he implicitly indicts the object of his satire—always a type (e.g., the social climber). The fable's actual moral is nearly always implicit, though he liked to tack on a mock, often ironic moral (e.g., "Industry and perseverance bring a sure reward").

As a moralist who does not overtly moralize, who is all too aware of the ironies of what in his day was the modern world, George Ade was perhaps our first modern American humorist. Through the values implicit in the fables, Ade manifests an ambivalence between the traditional rural virtues in which he was raised (the virtues of Horatio Alger and the McGuffey Readers) and the craftiness he saw all around him in booming Chicago.
Ade (left), with John T. McCutcheon, circa 1894-1895

The United States, in Ade's lifetime, underwent a great population shift and transfer from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Many felt the nation suffered the even more agonizing process of shifting values toward philistinism, greed, and dishonesty. Ade's prevalent practice is to record the pragmatic efforts of the little man to get along in such a world.

Ade propounds a golden mean, satirizing both hidebound adherence to obsolete standards and too-easy adjustment to new ones. His view is often an ambiguous, ambivalent, pragmatic reaction to the changing scene, but it remains an invaluable literary reflection of the conflicting moral tensions resident in our national culture at the turn of the century.

Ade was a playwright as well as an author, penning such stage works as Artie, The Sultan of Sulu (a musical comedy with composer Nathaniel D. Mann and lyricist Alfred George Whathall ), The College Widow, The Fair Co-ed, and "The County Chairman". He wrote the first American play about football.

Author of books:

Artie (1896)
Pink Marsh (1897)
Doc' Horne: A Story of the Streets and Town (1899)
Fables in Slang (1900)
Forty Modern Fables (1901)
The Girl Proposition (1902)
Handsome Cyril (1903)
Breaking Into Society (1904)
True Bills (1904)
In Pastures New (1906)
The Slim Princess (1907)
I Knew Him When-- (1910)
Hoosier Hand Book and Guide for the Returning Exile (1911)
Verses and Jingles (1911, poetry)
Knocking the Neighbors (1912)
Ade's Fables (1914)
Hand-Made Fables (1920)
Single Blessedness and Other Observations (1922)
Stay Me with Flagons (1922)
Bang! Bang! (1928)
The Old-Time Saloon (1931)
Revived Remarks on Mark Twain (1936)
One Afternoon with Mark Twain (1939)

Wrote plays:
The Sultan of Sulu (1902)
The County Chairman (1903)
Peggy from Paris (1903)
The Sho-Gun (1904)
The College Widow (1904)

After twelve years in Chicago, he built a home near the town of Brook, Indiana (Newton County). It soon became known for hosting a campaign stop in 1908 by William Howard Taft, a rally for Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party in 1912, and a homecoming for soldiers and sailors in 1919.

George Ade is one of the American writers whose publications made him rich. When land values were inflated about the time of World War I, Ade was a millionaire. The Ross-Ade football stadium at Purdue University was built with his (and David E. Ross's) financial support. He also generously supported his college fraternity, Sigma Chi, leading a fund-raising campaign to endow the Sigma Chi mother house at the site of the fraternity's original establishment at Miami University. Ade is also famous among Sigma Chis as the author of The Sigma Chi Creed, written in 1929, one of the central documents of the fraternity's philosophies.

George Ade died in Brook, Indiana, aged 78. He is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Kentland.

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