Harry Sinclair Lewis was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885. His mother died shortly after he turned six, leaving his father to raise him and his two older brothers. A local doctor, the boy's father valued hard work above all other virtues and frequently chided Sinclair, who had decided at an early age that he wanted to be a writer, for mooning around.
Lewis entered Yale in 1903 and wrote for several school publications. He studied hard, but also sought adventure, spending one summer vacation sailing to Liverpool on a cattle boat. Graduating from Yale in 1908, Lewis took a job with an Iowa newspaper but after ten weeks moved to New York. A few months later he drifted west to San Francisco and a year later drifted back to New York, via Washington D.C. Once he discovered that he could support himself by writing short stories, he had time to hone his writing skills and work on his novels as well as travel. Between 1915 and 1930 he visited 40 states in America as well as Canada, Mexico, fourteen countries in Europe and three in South America.
He met Grace Hegger in 1912, in New York, and married her two years later. Their son, Wells, was born in 1917. Strained by Lewis's inability to settle down, as well as his increasing fame, the marriage ended in 1928. Grace wrote about her life with Lewis in her 1931 novel Half a Loaf and her 1951 autobiography With Love from Gracie.
Lewis quickly re-married, this time to the journalist Dorothy Thompson. Their son, Michael, was born in 1930. Afflicted by the same difficulties as his marriage to Grace, Lewis's second marriage ended in 1942. He divided the rest of the 1940s between Duluth, Minnesota, and a second home in Massachusetts. 1950 found him traveling in Europe. He died in January 1951, while visiting Italy, after suffering heart trouble.
From the guide to the Sinclair Lewis Family Papers TXRC99-A22., 1909-1962, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)