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Louis Bromfield: Mansfield's Favorite Son

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Louis Bromfield

Louis Bromfield

(Library of Congress Collection/Public Domain)
The Main House at Malabar Farm, Mansfield

The Main House at Malabar Farm

(Courtesy of Malabar Farm State Park)
Louis Bromfield: Mansfield's Favorite Son

Louis Bromfield, born in 1896, was a prolific author of 31 fiction and non-fictions works, including the 1927 Pulitzer Prize-winning "Early Autumn." In addition to writing, he is known for his 1000-acre Richland County farm, Malabar Farm, one of the first organic, self-sustaining farms in the country.

Early Years:

Louis Bromfield was born in Mansfield in 1896, the son of Charles and Mary Bromfield. His father was a farmer, as had been his grandfather and great-grandfather before. His mother encouraged Louis to be a writer. She didn't want him to struggle as his father was forced to. Compromising, Louis attended Cornell University, but chose to study agriculture.

World War I:

Bromfield's university career was cut short by the outbreak of World War I in 1916. Like many writers of his age, he chose to enlist in the foreign service before the US involvement in the war, and worked as an ambulance driver in France. He saw action in seven battles and was awarded the French Legion of Honor Medal for his heroism.

Writing:

Bromfield returned to the United States after the war and began work as a journalist and book editor in New York City. He worked on his novels on the side, and in 1924, published his first novel, The Green Bay Tree. Bromfield married and had a daughter, Ellen. He would go on to write 31 novels and non-fiction works, including the Pulitzer-Prize winning Early Autumn in 1926.

In France:

In 1925, Bromfield and his family left for a vacation in France, a country he had come to love during the war. They stayed for thirteen years. Paris, between the wars was known for its expatriate community of American writers. Among the Bromfields' friends were Edith Wharton, the poet Natalie Barney, Sinclair Lewis, and Gertrude Stein.

Malabar Farm:

As World War II threatened Europe, the Bromfield family returned to the United States, where Bromfield bought 1000 acres near his native Mansfield Ohio. The farm, which he named "Malabar Farm" was to become his major work during his last 20 years. Bromfield was an early proponent of organic and self-sustaining gardening, and his farm was one of the first to ban pesticides. The farm was used as a government test site for soil conservation practices.

Bromfield and Hollywood:

Four of Bromfield's works have been the basis for movies, including When the Rains Came and Mrs Parkington. In addition, Bromfield is known for his many Hollywood friends, including James Cagney, Shirley Temple, and Erol Flynn. Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart were married at Malabar Farm.

His Legacy:

Bromfield has come to be recognized as a pioneer in organic farming. He was awarded the Audubon Medal for Conservationism in 1952 and in 1980 (after his death), he was inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of Fame.

Bromfield's novels, though lesser known today than his contemporaries Hemingway and Fitzgerald, are still mostly in print.

Malabar Farm is now an Ohio State Park and welcomes more than 35,000 visitors each year. The "Main House" has been left as it was when Bromfield lived there, complete with many of his possessions. The Farm complex includes a historic restaurant, a dormitory-style hostel, and a farm market.

Bibliography:

FICTION:

  • The Green Bay Tree, Stokes (New York, NY), 1924
  • Possession, Stokes, 1925, published as Lilli Barr, Unwin (London), 1926
  • Early Autumn, Stokes, 1926 (Winner of 1927 Pulitzer Prize)
  • A Good Woman, Stokes, 1927
  • The Strange Case of Miss Annie Spragg, Stokes, 1928
  • Twenty-four Hours, Stokes, 1930
  • A Modern Hero, Stokes, 1932
  • The Farm, Harper (New York, NY), 1933
  • The Man Who Had Everything, Harper, 1935
  • It Had to Happen, Cassell (London), 1936
  • The Rains Came: A Novel of Modern India, Harper, 1937
  • Night in Bombay, Harper, 1940
  • Wild Is the River, Harper, 1941
  • Until the Day Break, Harper, 1942
  • Mrs. Parkington, Harper, 1943
  • What Became of Anna Bolton, Harper, 1944Colorado, Harper, 1947The Wild Country, Harper, 1948
  • Mr. Smith, Harper, 1951
SHORT STORIES
  • Awake and Rehearse, Stokes, 1929
  • Tabloid News, Random House (Garden City, NY), 1930
  • Here Today and Gone Tomorrow: Four Short Novels, Harper, 1934
  • It Takes All Kinds, Harper, 1939, Bitter Lotus published separately, World Cleveland, OH), 1944
  • The World We Live In, Harper, 1944, Up Ferguson Way published separately, Tender Land (Mansfield, OH), 1981
  • Kenny, Harper, 1947
PLAYS
  • The House of Women (adaptation of his The Green Bay Tree), produced in New York, 1927, produced in London, 1928(With John Gearon) De Luxe, produced in New York, 1935
  • Times Have Changed (adaptation of a play by Edouard Bourdet), produced in New York, 1935
SELECTED OTHER WRITINGS
  • Pleasant Valley, Harper, 1945
  • (With others) Cities Are Abnormal, edited by Elmer T. Peterson, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1946
  • A Few Brass Tacks, Harper, 1946
  • Malabar Farm, Harper, 1948
  • Out of the Earth, Harper, 1950
  • The Wealth of the Soil, Ferguson (Detroit), 1952
  • A New Pattern for a Tired World, Harper, 1954
  • From My Experience: The Pleasures and Miseries of Life on a Farm, Harper, 1955
  • Animals and Other People, Harper, 1955
  • Walt Disney's Vanishing Prairie, Simon & Schuster, 1956


(last updated 9-28-12)

 

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