George Ade (1866–1944)
From The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works
“Give the People what they think they want.”
“One man’s poison ivy is another man’s spinach.”
“If it were not for the presents, an elopement would be preferable.”
“The time to enjoy a European trip is about three weeks after unpacking.”
“After being turned down by numerous Publishers, he had decided to write for Posterity.”
Born 152 years ago today (February 9), humorist and playwright George Ade was that rare thing in early twentieth-century America: a writer who made millions from his writing. His newspaper column in Chicago was an immediate success. Ten collections of his “fables in slang” were best sellers. His most famous play, the Broadway smash The College Widow, was performed by three tour companies (including one featuring baseball legend Ty Cobb), adapted as a musical and several movies, and parodied by the Marx Brothers. William Howard Taft even opened his 1908 presidential campaign at Ade’s 400-acre estate in Indiana.
Yet, in spite of Ade’s popularity with readers, audiences, and fellow writers early in the century, his contributions to “Posterity” have been relegated to books of humorous quotations. Some might find it perversely symbolic that a few months after his death in 1944 the merchant ship named after him was torpedoed by a German submarine off the cost of North Carolina.
Ade devoted his final years to honoring the memory of his idol, cofounding and then serving as the first president of the Mark Twain Society. Thirty years earlier, when Twain died in 1910, Ade wrote the tribute that appeared in Century Magazine, and we present it here as our Story of the Week selection.