Thornton Wilder at Age 13
Thornton Wilder at Age 13. Photo courtesy of The Thornton Wilder Estate.

1897  | Wilder is born in Madison, Wisconsin on April 17.

1906 | He moves to Hong Kong in May and to Berkeley, California in October.

1906-10 | Wilder attends Emerson Public School in Berkeley.

1910-11 | He attends China Inland Mission School, Chefoo, China (one year).

1912-13  | He attends Thacher School, Ojai, California (one year). His first known play The Russian Princess is produced.

1915 | Wilder graduates from Berkeley High School; he is active in school dramatics.

1915-17 | Wilder attends Oberlin College; he is published regularly.

1920 |  He receives his BA from Yale College (three-month service in 1918 with U.S. Army in 1918).

1920-21 | Wilder attends American Academy in Rome (8-month residency).

1920s | He works as French teacher at Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey (’21-’25 & ’27-’28).

1924 | He visits MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire for the first time.

The Goodman’s 1975 production of Our Town. Photo by Terry Shapiro.

1926 | Wilder receives his MA in French literature from Princeton University. The Trumpet Shall Sound is produced off-Broadway (American Laboratory Theatre). The Cabala, his first novel, is published.

1927 | His novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey receives the Pulitzer Prize.

1928The Angel That Troubled the Waters marks his first published collection of drama.

1930s | He serves as a part-time faculty member at the University of Chicago (comparative literature and composition), lectures across the country and receives first Hollywood screenwriting assignment (1934).

1930The Woman of Andros is published.

1931The Long Christmas Dinner and Other Plays, a collection of six one-act plays, is published.

1932Lucrece (a translation of André Obey’s Le Viol de Lucrèce) opens on Broadway, starring Katharine Cornell.

1935 | His novel Heaven’s My Destination is published.

1937 | His translation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House opens on Broadway, starring Ruth Gordon.

Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten in the trailer for Shadow of a Doubt.
Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten in Shadow of a Doubt.

1938Our Town (Pulitzer Prize recipient) and The Merchant of Yonkers open on Broadway.

1942The Skin of Our Teeth opens on Broadway, he again receives the Pulitzer Prize for the work. He also pens the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Shadow of a Doubt.

1942-45 | He serves with the Army Air Force in North Africa and Italy (Lieut. Col. at discharge –Bronze Star and O.B.E.)

Playwright and director Garson Kanin and his wife, actress Ruth Gordon.
Playwright and director Garson Kanin and his wife, actress Ruth Gordon.

1948 | His novel The Ides of March is published; he also performs in his plays in summer stock during this period. The Victors (a translation of Sartre’s Morts sans sépulture) opens off-Broadway.

1949 | He holds a major role in Goethe Convocation in Aspen; lectures widely.

1951-52 | He serves as Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University.

1952 | He receives the Gold Medal for Fiction, American Academy of Arts and Letters.

1953 | He is featured on the cover of Time magazine (January 12).

Publicity photo of Carol Channing and David Burns in Broadway play, Hello Dolly!.
David Burns and Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly!

1955The Matchmaker opens on Broadway, starring Ruth Gordon. The Alcestiad is produced at the Edinburgh Festival (as A Life in the Sun) with Irene Worth.

1957 | He receives the German Peace Prize.

1961 | He pens the libretto for The Long Christmas Dinner (music by Paul Hindemith), which premieres in Mannheim, West Germany.

1962Plays for Bleecker Street, featuring Wilder’s Someone from Assisi, Infancy and Childhood, premiere at New York’s Circle in the Square Theatre. He writes the libretto for The Alcestiad (music by Louise Talma), which premieres in Frankfurt, West Germany.

Photo of Thornton WIlder courtesy of The Thornton Wilder Estate.
Photo of Thornton Wilder courtesy of The Thornton Wilder Estate.

1963 | Wilder receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom

1964 | Carol Channing stars in a musical adaptation of The Matchmaker titled Hello, Dolly! on Broadway

1965 | Wilder receives the National Book Committee’s Medal for Literature.

1967 | He receives the National Book Award for Fiction.

1973 | His novel Theophilus North is published.

1975 | Wilder dies in his sleep in Hamden, Connecticut on December 7. He is buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery.


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