Hamlin Garland was born in West Salem, Wisconsin, on 14th September, 1860. His family were farmers struggling to make a living from the land. During his childhood his family moved from Wisconsin to Iowa and later to South Dakota.
Unable to afford a university education, Garland moved to Boston where he spent 14 hours a day reading in the public library. He eventually became a teacher at Moses True Brown's Boston School of Oratory. A brilliant teacher, Garland became a touring lecturer where he gave public talks on American, French and German authors.
Garland began contributing articles and stories to Harper's Weekly. A collection of his stories, Main Traveled Roads, appeared in 1891. Highly acclaimed, the book provided an unromantic view of farming. He dedicated the book to his parents: "whose half-century pilgrimage on the main roads of life has brought them only toil and deprivation."
Garland followed Main Traveled Roads with two other collections of short stories, Prairie Folks (1892) and Wayside Courtships (1897). In his book Crumbling Idols (1894), Garland put forward the theory of realistic fiction, which he called veritism. Stephen Crane, another supporter of veritism, explained that: "The realist or veritist is really an optimist, a dreamer. He sees life in terms of what it might be, as well as in terms of what it is; but he writes of what is, and, at his best, suggests what is to be."
Garland's novels were criticised as being overtly political propaganda. This included Jason Edwards (1892), A Member of the Third House (1892) and A Spoil of Office (1892). Other novels written by Garland included Rose of Dutcher's Coolly (1895) and The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop (1902).
Garland returned to form with two outstanding volumes of autobiography, A Son of the Middle Border (1917) and A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921). In 1922 Garland inherited a considerable fortune. A socialist, Garland decided to set up an institution to dispense money to radical, liberal and trade union causes.
Over the next few years the American Fund for Public Service provided financial help to the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People in its campaign against lynching, subsidized the radical magazine New Masses and aided the defence of Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco.
Hamlin Garland, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1922, died on 4th March, 1940.