Hamlin Garland, Wisconsin’s Son Of The Middle Border

By Erika Janik | September 7, 2016


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A prolific writers of novels, short stories, and essays, Wisconsin-born writer Hamlin Garland broke with the romanticism of his time to describe the harsh realities of farm life in his books. 

Garland was born Hannibal Hamlin Garland on September 14, 1860, in West Salem, Wisconsin. His family then moved to Iowa to farm where Garland spent most of his childhood before moving to Boston to pursue a career as a writer and orator.

His first real success came with a collection of short stories called “Main-Traveled Roads” in 1891, which were inspired by his time on the farm. Having worked on his family’s farm, Garland had no interest in the romantic picture of rural life and farming often depicted in late 19th century novels. “It appears to me that the time has come to tell the truth about the barn yard’s daily grind,” asserted Garland.

He continued to write many novels, short stories, and essays, and in 1917, published his autobiography, “A Son of the Middle Border,” to great acclaim. His wrote a sequel, “Daughter of the Middle Border,” that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1922. He also promoted a wide variety of political reforms to improve the lives of farm families, including women’s rights.

Garland moved to California in the late 1920s, devoting his final years to investigating psychic phenomena. 




Erika Janik

Erika Janik

Erika Janik is the co-creator and former executive director of Wisconsin Life. She is the author of six books, including Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction, Apple: A Global History, and  Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She’s currently the executive...

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