Chronology of Thornton Wilder’s Life and Works 

Download a PDF of the Chronology



Born in Madison, Wisconsin (April 17)
— 1897
Moves to Hong Kong (May) and to Berkeley, California (October)
— 1906
Attends Emerson Public School in Berkeley
— 1906-10
Attends China Inland Mission School, Chefoo (Yantai), China
— 1910-11
Attends Thacher School, Ojai, California
The Russian Princess, Wilder’s first play known to be produced, is performed by Thacher students
— 1912-13
Graduates from Berkeley High School; active in school dramatics
— 1915


Attends Oberlin College; publishes regularly
— 1915-17
Receives B.A., Yale College (with brief service in 1918 with U.S. Army in 1918); many publications
— 1920
Teaches at Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey (’21-’25, and ’27-’28)
— 1920s
First residency at the MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire
— 1924
Receives M.A. degree in French, Princeton University
The Trumpet Shall Sound produced in New York Off-Broadway Laboratory Theatre
The Cabala (first novel)
— 1926


Second Novel: The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Pulitzer Prize)
— 1927
The Angel That Troubled The Waters (first published collection of drama–playlets)
— 1928
Part-time teacher, University of Chicago
(comparative literature and composition); lectures across the country;
first visit to Hollywood (1934); extensive foreign travel
— 1930s
The Woman of Andros (novel)
— 1930
The Long Christmas Dinner and Other Plays (six full one-act plays)
— 1931
Lucrece (translation of André Obey’s Le Viol de Lucrèce) opens on Broadway staring Katharine Cornell
— 1932
Heaven’s My Destination (novel)
— 1935
Adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for Broadway, starring Ruth Gordon (Broadway record for this play until 1999)
— 1937


Our Town opens on Broadway (Pulitzer Prize); performs role of The Stage Manager for two weeks
— 1938
The Skin of Our Teeth opens on Broadway (Pulitzer Prize)
Writes screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Shadow of a Doubt
— 1942
Military service with Army Air Force Intelligence in North Africa and Italy
— 1942-45
The Ides of March (novel)
Performs in his plays in summer stock
The Victors off-Broadway (translation of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Morts Sans Sépulture)
— 1948


Major role in Goethe Convocation in Aspen; lectures widely abroad
— 1949
Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard
— 1951-52
Gold Medal for Fiction, American Academy of Arts and Letters
— 1952
On cover of Time Magazine (January 12)
— 1953
The Matchmaker opens on Broadway with Ruth Gordon (revision of the 1938 play, The Merchant of Yonkers)
The Alcestiad produced at Edinburgh Festival (as A Life in the Sun) with Irene Worth
— 1955
Awarded German Booksellers Peace Prize, first American to receive this award
— 1957

LATER YEARS, 1961-75

Opera version of The Long Christmas Dinner (music by Paul Hindemith, libretto by Wilder) premieres in Mannheim, Germany (December 20)
— 1961
Plays for Bleeker Street (Someone from Assisi, Infancy, and Childhood) performed at Circle in the Square Theater in New York City
Operatic version of The Alcestiad (music by Louise Talma, libretto by Wilder) premieres in Frankfurt, Germany (February 28)
— 1962
Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
— 1963
Hello, Dolly! Opens on Broadway starring Carol Channing
— 1964
Awarded National Book Committee’s Medal for Literature
— 1965
The Eighth Day (novel); receives National Book Award for Fiction
— 1967
Dies in sleep in Hamden, Connecticut (December 7)
— 1975