This Week in History

Happy Birthday Papa!


No, it’s not my Dad’s birthday. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I sent him a card that cracked a joke about him being old. Rather, today is Papa’s birthday: the legendary Ernest Hemingway was born July 21, 1899. If he were alive today, he would be 101 111 and way more deserving of an “old guy” joke than my dad.

Hemingway is a fascinating man. Bullfighting aficionado, Nobel Prize winner, deep sea fisherman, war correspondent, world traveler and, of course, writer are just a sampling of the activities he undertook in his full life. Hemingway was a complicated man. Opinionated, irascible, prone to wanderlust, passionate and narcissistic are some of the characteristics that made him a man with many friends, many enemies and many wives. Reading his life story is arguably more captivating than some of his books, although they are pretty good too.

That said, here are some museum-related ways you can celebrate Papa’s birthday…

  • Hemingway was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. He was an energetic, active and popular student at Oak Park River Forest High School (just a few blocks from my own high school alma mater). Swing by the Hemingway Museum and Birthplace on Oak Park Avenue for an illuminating look at the childhood years of this larger than life man, then I would highly recommend grabbing an Oberweis milkshake just two blocks south of the museum.
  • Key West was home to Hemingway for over 10 years. A Farewell to Arms was written during his tenure here and his island friends make appearances in To Have and Have Not. Sloppy Joe’s bar is an essential stop on your Hemingway Key West itinerary, but even more important is Papa’s house on Whitehead Street. Take a tour of the home and marvel at the six-toed cats that roam the property.
  • Havana, Cuba was one of the many places that Hemingway called home. Check out his favorite room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and which is preserved as a museum. Just outside of town is Papa’s homestead Finca Vigia, also a museum and the writing venue for such works as The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream.
  • Bullfighting was one thing Hemingway was particularly passionate about. He encountered the sport during his travels to Spain. Want to check it out for yourself? Head to the Bullfighting Museum of the Royal Cavalry Order of Ronda or Madrid’s Museo Taurino.
  • Want to see Hemingway’s Paris? Then take a stroll along the Left Bank of the Seine, stop in St. Germain, visit Montparnasse, drink at Harry’s New York Bar near the Opera, and consider countless other hangouts reminiscent of Paris between the wars.

And, if you find yourself unable to pay a visit to any of these Hemingway haunts, you can always just head down to your local bar. Drinking was possibly Papa’s favorite pastime. However, heed the man’s advice: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” What can we say? The man had a way with words.

2 Responses to “Happy Birthday Papa!”

  1. Joani on July 22nd, 2010

    🙂 Hemingway is indeed worth celebrating (even though I have often found his female character obnoxious and even stupid)
    Also, I think you will find that if he were alive today, he’d be 111, which is extra cool because it is 3 – 1’s in a row!!!
    You may have inspired me to read some more Hemingway, it’s been awhile! I’m sure his writing hasn’t changed, but I’m equally sure my perspective has changed.

  2. Museumist on July 22nd, 2010


    You are quite right. Math was never my strong suit. Thanks for the heads up!

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