50 Facts About Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Miller Hemingway is one of the most respected writers in history! Best known for his striking novels and short stories, Ernest was also a successful journalist and an unforgettable war correspondent during his life. His signature prose style – simple and spare – greatly shaped a generation of writers. But, there are so many things people don’t know about this titan of the literature world! Come with us on an insightful journey into the life of Ernest “Papa” Hemingway.

Fact 1: Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1989. 

  • He was born to Clarence and Grace Hemingway in Oak Park, Illinois.

Fact 2: Ernest earned an Italian Silver Medal of Valor.

  • During World War I, Ernest served the country as an ambulance driver in Italy. He got into a horrible fire accident on July 8, 1918, and was badly wounded. However, he was able to save tons of Italian soldiers and got them to safety. This heroic deed earned him an Italian Silver Medal of Valor. 

Fact 3: He was given a Bronze Star by the U.S. government. 

  • Ernest Hemingway was never short of anything valorous. 30 years after earning an Italian heroic commendation, Ernest was given a Bronze Star by the US government. This was to acknowledge his brave and dauntless act in covering the European theatre in World War II as a journalist.

Fact 4: But despite all his lionhearted recognitions, Ernest was also accused of war crimes. 

  • He was charged with grave offences, such as stockpiling weapons in his hotel room, leading a faction of Resistance fighters, and removing his journalist identification patch. But he was able to clear his name.  

Fact 5: Ernest Hemingway had 3 sons: Jack, Patrick, and Gregory.

  • Among the three, only Jack followed in his father’s footsteps. He was a Canadian-American fly fisherman, writer, and conservationist.

Fact 6: Gertrude Stein was godmother to Ernest’s son, Jack.

  • Gertrude Stein was an American modernist writer. She moved to Paris in 1903 and her salons were attended by popular figures of the time, including Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway in his younger years.

Fact 7: Ernest was called out as a KGB spy. 

  • However, documents revealed that he didn’t give any useful intel to the government, plus he wasn’t trained in espionage.

Fact 8: One of his famous works, ‘A Movable Feast’, was inspired by a stack of trinkets inside a steamer trunk that he left at the Ritz Hotel in 1930. 

  • Ernest wrote later in life about how he was able to come up with his memoir, ‘A Movable Feast’. He said that he remembered leaving 2 small steamer trunks in the basement of a hotel in Paris. These trunks contained notebooks he filled during the 1920s. These became the basis of a memoir consisting of different personal accounts, observations, and stories by Hemingway.

Fact 9: It’s likely that Ernest’s notable story of “Baby Shoes” isn’t true.

  • Many people credited Ernest for this story, however, it remains a myth even to this day. The story began with a drunk Ernest betting with his friends that he could write a six-word short story. Everybody put money on the table, and Ernest wrote his winning piece on a napkin: “For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”

Fact 10: He miraculously avoided 2 plane crashes in 2 days.

  • Ernest and his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, were travelling when their touring plane clipped a utility pole, leading to an unfateful crash. When they were about to be taken to a medical facility in Entebbe the following day, they boarded another plane that exploded on takeoff. This incident inflicted Ernest with a concussion, burns, and a leaking cerebral fluid on his brain. 

Fact 11: Ernest had a habit of leaving something for all of his wives in print.

  • He dedicated the following to each wife: “The Sun Also Rises” — Elizabeth Hadley Richardson
  • “Death in the Afternoon” — Pauline Pfeiffer
  • “For Whom the Bell Tolls” — Martha Gellhorn
  • “Across the River and Into the Trees” — Mary Welsh

Fact 12: Ernest had 4 wives.

  • It seemed like the irascible author had a routine: Each time he got divorced, he married again in the same year. The following were his four wives: First wife: Elizabeth Hadley Richardson (1921 – 1927)
  • Second wife: Pauline Pfeiffer (1927 – 1940)
  • Third wife: Martha Gellhorn (1940 – 1945)
  • Fourth wife: Mary Welsh (1946 – 1961)

Fact 13: Ernest’s house in Key West, Florida, contained a urinal that was actually a fountain.

  • When his favourite local bar, Sloppy Joe, went under renovation, he took the liberty of getting a urinal as a keepsake. He bantered that he poured money on the bar enough to take home the urinal.

Fact 14: Ernest had 6 siblings.

  • He was the 2nd child.

Fact 15: Ernest Hemingway penned 7 novels, with most of them becoming remarkable contributions in the history of literature.

  • He also wrote 6 short story collections, and 2 non-fiction books.

Fact 16: Before his passing, his last words were, “Goodbye my kitten.”

  • He told this to his wife Mary.

Fact 17: Ernest was a “cub reporter” at the age of 18.

  • Before becoming a famous novel writer, Ernest Hemingway honed his skills first as a journalist at ‘Kansas City Staron October 1917

Fact 18: He despised his first name.

  • Thus, he began introducing himself as “Papa”.

Fact 19: Grace, his mother, was an overbearing one.

  • She had always wanted a little girl. But she was blessed giving birth to one of the important figures in literature.

Fact 20: Ernest wore floral dresses during his childhood. 

  • Grace was so upset that he was a boy, that she dressed Ernest in cute, floral dresses just so he could look like a little girl. She even called him “Ernestine”. 

Fact 21: Despite playing dress-up with his mom, Ernest had a hankering for hunting from a young age. 

  • He started hunting with his father, at the age of 3.

Fact 22: Ernest’s mother wanted him to focus on becoming a good cellist. 

  • But is the legendary writer any better with cello than with his pen? In the words of Ernest Hemingway, “That cello – I played it worse than anyone on earth.” 

Fact 23: Working as an ambulance driver on the Italian front during World War I mean that most of the time, his duty warranted him to pick up human remains from the battle.

  • Ernest’s job in the Ambulance Corps led him to a serious injury. In July of 1918, he was caught up by a mortar shell, leaving shrapnel in both of his legs. This urged him to undergo several surgeries.

Fact 24: Ernest Hemingway wanted to fight in World War I.

  • But his heroic request was denied due to his poor eyesight. 

Fact 25: His favourite shotgun was purchased from Abercrombie & Fitch.

  • Unfortunately, this was also the gun he used in taking his own life.

Fact 26: He was hospitalized in the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota under the name “Saviers”.

  • The press thought ‘Papa’ was treated for hypertension.

Fact 27: Ernest Hemingway loved polydactyl cats. 

  • Polydactyl cats are those having 6 or more toes on each foot.

Fact 28: Ernest was fond of cats, his first feline pal was named “Snowball”.

  • It’s no secret that Ernest Hemingway was a cat lover. There were 50 cats comprising the so-called “Hemingway cats”.

Fact 29: Besides hunting, Ernest was also a great fisherman.

  • He enjoyed fishing and was actually great at it! He would even use a Thompson submachine gun to keep sharks away from eating the giant fish he was after.

Fact 30: In 1938, Ernest Hemingway set a world record by catching 7 marlins in a day!

  • Marlin fishing can be a dangerous game, but to Ernest who caught 7 marlins in a day, it sounded easy peasy! On average, marlins are 11 feet long, and can weigh between 200 to 400 pounds. They are one of the biggest and the fastest fish, making them difficult to catch. 
EH 2723P Milan, 1918 Ernest Hemingway, American Red Cross volunteer. Portrait by Ermeni Studios, Milan, Italy. Please credit “Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston”.

Fact 31: He rarely wrote when sitting down.

  • Most writers prefer to work at their desks, but that’s not the case with Ernest Hemingway. ‘Papa’ penned his works in his bedroom while standing up! He spent hours a day on his feet.

Fact 32: He would use 7 pencils a day to write his novels.

  • After a day of good work, he would’ve used at least 7 pencils to create his masterpieces!

Fact 33: When he finished “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, he celebrated his success with his family afterward.

  • He went out with his third wife, Martha, and their 2 kids. He also killed 400 jackrabbits in a day.

Fact 34: He fought Orson Welles.

  • Orson Welles was narrating Ernest’s film in a sarcastic way, which didn’t sit right with Ernest himself. The author was so furious about it that he got into a fistfight with Welles in a theater. Their fight ended with a big laugh. They became good friends after this bickering.

Fact 35: He had loads of illnesses.

  • In his lifetime, he survived a great number of illnesses including malaria, anthrax, pneumonia, a ruptured kidney, a ruptured liver, a fractured skull, a crushed vertebra, skin cancer, and hepatitis. Ernest even survived 3 car crashes, not to mention those 2 plane crashes within 2 days too!

Fact 36: He did not write films.

  • While most authors would be glad to write films, Ernest Hemingway refused to write for movies. However, he did not object to his work being put on film.

Fact 37: Ernest Hemingway suffered from depression. 

  • Whenever he had depression attacks, he would call these trying times “Black Dog Days”.

Fact 38: In a deliberate effort to treat Ernest Hemingway’s depression, he received electroconvulsive shock treatment up to 15 times in December 1960.

  • Unfortunately, instead of helping his depression, this treatment led to his memory loss.

Fact 39: Ernest couldn’t resist a combo of his favorite meal – a New York strip steak, Caesar salad, a baked potato, and a hefty glass of Bordeaux.

  • This was also Ernest’s final meal before ending his life.

Fact 40: His father also committed suicide.

  • Ernest’s father used the same method as he did – a shotgun to the head.

Fact 41: The legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald had Ernest Hemingway look at his penis.

  • ‘The Great Gatsby’ author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, wanted Ernest to judge his private part. This was after confiding to Ernest that his wife, Zelda, said that his penis was too small. So, Ernest examined Scott’s penis in a cafe bathroom and commented that it was “of normal size”.

Fact 42: Ernest Hemingway also penned famous recipes. 

  • He always had an intriguing appetite for life, adventure, drink – and of course, food. Many of his original recipes were published in Museum Ernest Hemingway, Finca Vigia, San Francisco de Paula, Cuba. This features the ever-popular, “Papa’s Favorite Hamburger”.

Fact 43: He used his fishing boat to hunt German U-Boats during World War II.

  • Ernest hunted German U-Boats that entered the Caribbean waters using a fishing boat that he called “Pilar”. Onboard were his direction tools, a machine gun, and hand grenades.

Fact 44: Ernest Hemingway’s masculinity was once questioned.

  • Max Eastman was the critic who questioned Ernest’s masculinity. He told the author to “come out from behind the false hair”. When the two met at an editor’s house years later, the furious Ernest showed Max his naturally hairy chest and slapped the critic on the face with a book.

Fact 45: Ernest was very disappointed when he saw the film adaptation of one of his best works, ‘The Old Man and The Sea’.

  •  He did not approve of Spencer Tracey’s performance in the movie. He felt like the artist didn’t do justice to the character of his book, Ernest commented, “[Tracey] looked less like a Cuban Fisherman and more like the rich, old actor he was”.

Fact 46: Besides his passion for writing and fishing, Ernest also had a liking for boxing.

  • His boxing skills were nurtured from a young age, given that his family’s home in Key West had a boxing ring in the backyard.

Fact 47: Ernest Hemingway’s fiction works were bred and inspired by his own experiences.

  • Looking at Ernest’s history, his life was a giant roller coaster ride. His experiences propelled him to write creatively, creating a few of the best works in literature. He believed that the writer’s duty is for what he creates to be an “absolute truth”.

Fact 48: On his conquest of spearing a shark, while fishing in Key West, he shot himself in both calves instead.

  • This was Ernest’s second shooting incident, preceded by his experience with the mortar shell lodged in both of his legs during World War I. This accident inspired him to write the dispatch “On Being Shot Again” for Esquire.

Fact 49: For his 60th birthday, Ernest’s wife Mary planned a lavish party that ended up lasting 24 hours.

  • Mary flew different foods in for the party from different parts of the world. She got Chinese food from London, codfish from Madrid, and champagne from Paris. She even hired staff for the party! Their guests included the Maharajah of Cooch Behar.

Fact 50: Ernest Hemingway died on July 2, 1961.

  • After his retirement, he continued battling some physical and mental illnesses. He took his life and died early on the morning of July 2, 1961, at his Ketchum home in Idaho.


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