Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Edgar Lee Masters  

Pen Name: Webster Ford

Genre: Poetry

Audience: Adult;

Born: August 23, 1868 in Garnette, Kansas

Died: March 5, 1950

-- Edgar Lee Masters on Modern American Poetry Website --
-- Edgar Lee Masters on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Masters was raised in Petersburg and Lewistown in Menard County. He also lived in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Edgar Lee Masters was a poet, novelist and biographer. He was one of the most important poets of the Chicago Renaissance. His Spoon River Anthology (1915) beccame the single most widely read book of American poetry. He was raised in Petersburg and Lewistown, Illinois, and studied law and literature.Masters, along with Vachel Lindsay and Carl Sandburg, was one of the three important poets of the Chicago Renaissance. A Chicago lawyer, he wrote Spoon River Anthology (1915), a series of monologues in which residents of the small town of Spoon River speak from beyond the grave of the narrowness, constriction and disappointments of their lives. The book was immensely popular, becoming the single most widely read book of American poetry. It also had an important impact on the development of modern poetry, with its ironic, anti-romantic tone, freedom of form and plain, colloquial diction. Later works include a biography of Vachel Lindsay (1935), Across Spoon River (1936) and The Sangamon (1942).

Selected Titles At Your Library


  • Mark Twain Silver Medal, 1936
  • Poetry Society of America medal, 1941
  • Academy of American Poets Fellowship, 1942
  • Shelley Memorial Award, 1944
  • Illinois Author of the Year, Illinois Association of Teachers of English, 1974
  • Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990
  • Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2014