“Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?”
— James Thurber

James Thurber, Writer, Cartoonist, and Lifelong Buckeye

James Thurber (1894-1961) was a humor writer and cartoonist whose work was met with tremendous popularity and prominence in the early 20th century.

The Writer’s House

The James Thurber House at 77 Jefferson Avenue in east Columbus is the restored home of the beloved humor writer and cartoonist of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. His popularity re-surged with the 2013 film entitled The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The original story was published in 1939 and has remained on school reading lists ever since.

According to thurberhouse.org: “Our programs include the Thurber Prize for American Humor, one of the highest recognitions of humor writing in the country; month-long residencies for writers of adult and children’s literature; author readings; writing classes for children and adults; and a museum of James Thurber memorabilia. Thurber House is a unique national treasure.”

It is thought that the acclaimed humorist wrote The Night the Ghost Got In (1933), an amusing short story, about this same house. Find and read it here: commonlit.org.

A bibliography designed to aid collectors of the writer’s work was published by Ohio State University Press in 1968.

Thurber in Columbus

Columbus is the large capitol city of Ohio with approximately triple the population residing there now versus during the writer’s time. He lived there since boyhood and attended Ohio State University.

In 2019, Ohio State University held a year-long 125th birthday celebration honoring Thurber’s life and work.

“The author of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and New Yorker writer and artist was widely considered the most influential and singular comedic voice of his time.” — https://www.osu.edu/alumni/news/ohio-state-alumni-magazine/issues/summer-2019

(Read about another Ohio State former student, publisher and philanthropist Frederick G. Ruffner, Jr., at Literary Fort Lauderdale. Like Thurber, he was a huge fan of the “Buckeyes,” and added visibility to Ohio State.)

The James Thurber House is the fifth stop on our Ohio Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart