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Preparing for War and Writing

Reading the Young Hemingway's Kansas City Star, 1917-18

By STEVE PAUL The Kansas City Star
This article is reprinted from The Hemingway Review, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Spring 2004). Copyright 2004 The Ernest Hemingway Foundation. Used by permission. For information about The Hemingway Society and Foundation, see its Web site:


On a fast track to manhood and making his way in the world, Ernest Hemingway began working at The Kansas City Star in the middle of October 1917. The United States had begun training troops for the brutal war under way in Europe. Ernest might rather have stayed in Chicago, but the newspapers there weren't hiring. Hemingway's uncle in Kansas City knew some higher-ups at The Star and that connection led to Ernest's hiring as a cub reporter (Fenton 29, Baker 32, Sanford 150). He was eighteen, and just out of high school, but what he lacked in experience he made up for in enthusiasm.

Biographers and essayists have long distilled Hemingway's Kansas City apprenticeship into two basic story lines: It was an exciting, productive time for the budding writer, and he sure got a lot of mileage out of the newsroom writing rules he was made to follow (“Use short sentences”). This paper, however, will look at Hemingway's Kansas City experience differently from most of those previous accounts. It will examine Hemingway's likely newspaper reading in the months before he joined the ambulance corps in Italy. It will suggest that the feature stories and news of the day helped to prepare him for the war and, in perhaps only subtle and ineffable ways, for writing as well.

Day in and day out, in The Star's morning and afternoon editions, he read items about the local war-bond drive and dispatches from the European fronts. War news consumed much of the Page 1 acreage and a good amount of space inside. Almost every edition of the paper carried a one-column picture of a local enlistee headed for service overseas.

In Hemingway's very first week as a journalist,[1] he was met with headlines such as “Peace Is Far Off” and “Army Is Training Experts.” The latter story was a dispatch from American Field Headquarters in France about a new training camp meant to turn young lieutenants into captains. “The flower of American young manhood,” it began, “was brought together in a temporary camp today, training to become officers of America's first contingent” (Kansas City Star, 22 Oct. 1917, 2). One day the paper offered a collage of pictures showing trainees as they learned to dig trenches and throw bombs – “two of the most important things to know in the style of fighting to which the American troops will devote themselves” (“American Troops Training in France,” 17 Oct. 1917, 10). For Hemingway, trenches and bombs – the physical realities of war – were still more than eight months in the future. But his education about war from one of the nation's great newspapers had already begun. His literary education continued as well. The newspaper carried long excerpts from books of the day. Its literary department was a magnet for avid readers and writers in the newsroom (Fenton, 37-38). Hemingway might have caught this wry observation in an editorial column one day: “Fiction is where you read about the woman who returns his letters unopened” (Kansas City Star, 22 Oct. 1917, 14).

The young Hemingway's first newspaper published a series of long dispatches from the French and Italian fronts. Written by Burris A. Jenkins, several of these thoughtful accounts ran during Hemingway's first week on The Star's staff. That very week, Jenkins, a Kansas City minister and civic leader, also began a series of public lectures on his travels in Europe, talking about the action on three fronts and his encounters with British, French, American and Italian soldiers (“Dr. Jenkins Home Today,” Kansas City Star 14 Oct. 1917, 1). Hemingway could have attended those lectures after his day in the newsroom was over.

Before his first week in Kansas City had ended, he might also have been attracted by “Angel of the Marne Here,” a feature story published in The Star, complete with a two-column line drawing, about a European nurse, the Countess Mazzuchi. In America on a fund-raising tour, she headed the war hospitals in Italy, and had tales to tell of courage, adventure, danger, and healing. In retrospect, that story could have offered Hemingway a glimpse into his own future. It was only nine months later when he landed in a Red Cross hospital in Italy, tended by a nurse who would break his heart.

Within days came a turn in the war that eventually would become of utmost interest to Hemingway. The first headline, on 24 October 1917, was ominous: “Striking at Italy.” The next morning brought more details in a brief story. German troops were massing in support of the Austrians from Monte Rombon to the Bainsizza Plateau (“Plan Big Drive on Italy,” Kansas City Times, 25 Oct. 1917, 3). By the afternoon edition, the situation became worse: “Break Italian Line” (Kansas City Star, 25 Oct. 1917, 1). And over the next few days the stories detailed how the Italian army was under siege and fleeing its positions on the Isonzo front. More than ten years later, Hemingway would revisit the action of those very days as he researched and wrote his Italian novel, A Farewell to Arms.

There is little doubt that the news stories from the Italian front helped feed Hemingway's rising hunger to join the action. By early November Hemingway was telling his sister, Marcelline, that he intended to enlist in the Canadian Army, and soon he joined the Missouri National Guard. “(B)elieve me,” he wrote to Marcelline, “I will go not because of any love of gold braid glory etc. but because I couldn't face any body after the war and not have been in it” (qtd. in Sanford, 271).

Is it possible that Hemingway also found the seeds of A Farewell to Arms in the pages of The Kansas City Star after a mere one week on the job? Biographer Michael S. Reynolds essentially dismissed the wire-service accounts that Hemingway would have encountered in The Star as insufficient fodder. Reynolds concluded, in Hemingway's First War, that The Star was not a major source for A Farewell to Arms (137). The amount of research Hemingway brought to bear when writing the crucial sections involving the Italian retreat at Caporetto surely outweighs whatever memory he might have had of the news accounts ten years earlier.

Still, Reynolds offers little detail about the extent of his examination of The Star's pages during Hemingway's apprenticeship. As this paper will show, there remains much of interest to the Hemingway world in the details of the stories that Hemingway very likely read and that Reynolds and others might have overlooked. While it's true that few verifiable connections exist between Hemingway's Italian writings and that distant pool of journalism, the record is full of possibilities for comparison, insight, and speculation.


On 17 October 1917, as Ernest Hemingway was poised to join the action in the second-floor newsroom of The Kansas City Star, he would have found on Page 8 of the afternoon edition a bylined piece that might have given him something to linger over and dream about. The byline belonged to Burris A. Jenkins, a Kansas City minister and experienced journalist. Jenkins had spent six months in Europe on a YMCA lecture tour and had arranged with The Star to supply a series of dispatches. Jenkins had only recently returned to the city.

Jenkins's story that day was headlined “In a Land of Camouflage.” It was an up-close view of the front at Champagne. Placed above the story was an illustration that took up three full columns and ran about five inches deep. It was a reproduction of Jenkins's press pass, issued by the French war office. Hemingway might have imagined his own face imprinted on such a document, his own signature on press credentials some day. At the least, seeing Jenkins's wartime credentials reminds us today of a similar document a bearded Hemingway would carry during the next big war, in France, a quarter century later.

When Hemingway read Jenkins's story at the beginning of his newspaper life, he found a closely observed piece of first-person journalism. “It was on the Champagne front,” Jenkins's story begins. “We stood talking, a group of us, in the offices of a half destroyed factory upon a hill. The Boche lines were a few kilometers away. We had just been looking down upon them. Thank God, we can look down upon them at most places now. We had been talking with the manager of the factory about his difficulties in keeping employees. No wonder. Shells come there every day; he pointed out the spot where a man had been killed a few days before in the courtyard” (Kansas City Star, 17 Oct. 1917, 8).

Jenkins's report was authoritative and seasoned with a veteran traveler's observations. “Of all the sad sights along the French frontier,” he writes, “there is nothing sadder than the once beautiful city of Reims.” He takes note that even though the land was covered in shell fragments, the Champagne countryside was still producing grapes. “Crowning many of the crests of these hills, and clothing all the northern slopes of them, are deep forests, where the wild boar was hunted in the days of Caesar and Charlemagne and is hunted today, or would be, if men were not too busy hunting each other.” Jenkins also had a flourish for political rhetoric: “Germany never made a greater mistake than when she thought France defenseless, unless it was when she thought Britain decadent and America negligible” (Kansas City Star, 17 Oct. 1917, 8).

It is not difficult to think of Hemingway, reflecting on Jenkins's essay, and projecting himself into a similar situation. In Hemingway's First War, Reynolds describes Hemingway's travel writing in A Farewell to Arms and other works as astute and accomplished (223-237). Hemingway would soon begin a lifetime of traveling. But at the time of his first trip to Europe, Hemingway once recalled, he had much to learn. “I was an awful dope when I went to the last war,” he said two decades later (qtd. in Baker, 38). But he may very well have carried with him echoes of Burris A. Jenkins's journalism from the war zones.

On 24 October, Hemingway likely read the first of several pieces Jenkins had reported a few weeks earlier from the Italian front, a place that would become central to Hemingway's life and writing. Today we are taught to appreciate how Hemingway crafted scenes under the influence of Cézanne's vision. Yet, before Hemingway learned from Cézanne, perhaps he was primed by Jenkins's observations, such as this evaluation of the unique topographical spectacle of the Italian front:

The Alps lift the whole line up and hang it in festoons over their shoulders. You can look down upon the evening's guns, watch their fire, trace their projectiles, hear and see them fall and explode. You can stand behind your own guns and see the effect of your fire on a spot four miles away, which, through the clear air, seems only half a mile.

You can see a whole battle field tilted up on edge, hung like a picture on the wall. You can walk from peak to peak, or ride, and examine the field from different angles. You can look down beneath at the gorges where wind the silver mountain rivers, with their pontoons yet bloody from recent daring conquests. You can look face to face upon mountain precipices, upon which Alpini have scaled like mountain goats, rifles strapped on shoulders and knives in teeth, in the fashion of the old days of chivalry.

Something of the sordid muddiness and undiluted industrialism of modern war here gives way to the romantic, dramatic spectacular. It is thrilling. (“Italian Front a Keystone,” Kansas City Star, 24 Oct. 1917, 6)

A “battle field tilted up on edge, hung like a picture on the wall.” Isn't that how Cezanne painted? And the “sordid muddiness.” Hemingway's Italian war stories are never far from the mud: it's rain-soaked mud in A Farewell to Arms, sun-baked mud in “A Way You'll Never Be.”

Hemingway may very well have recoiled at Jenkins's most florid touches, and in his youthful arrogance perhaps he vowed to do better himself someday. “(W)ar in the mountains is the most beautiful of all war” (CSS 339), Hemingway wrote years later in “A Natural History of the Dead,” his brutal reflection on bloated bodies and dead generals. The vision of snow-capped, mountainous spectacle might be similar to Jenkins's, but Hemingway's dark sensibility was shaped by first-hand violence and evolved far beyond the minister's arm's-length outing.

A hallmark of Hemingway's prose is the crisp, steady attention to detail, a trait undoubtedly drilled into him by the seasoned writers and editors at The Star. He defines a place and orients his readers to what he, or his characters, can see. He takes inventory of dusty tree trunks and falling leaves. Jenkins displayed his own perceptive journalist's eye in descriptive passages like the following: “I was surprised at the rice fields. Somehow I had never gotten it through my head that Italy grew rice in quantities. But there were the canals and irrigation ditches cutting the fields and there was the crop, gold ripe, and being cut, acres and acres, miles and miles of it, and there were the threshing floors — great circular, hardbeaten spaces on the bare earth, with the grain in piles around the edges, and the flails beating, the dust rising, in the middle” (“Italy, A Country of Song,” Kansas City Star, 25 Oct. 1917, 8). Jenkins's long, rhythmic, and detail-packed third sentence is nothing if not Hemingwayesque.

In one of his Italian essays, published on the eve of the Caporetto disaster, Jenkins laments the absence of American troops, whose attentions and resources remained farther west in France. He suggests the war surely could be won quickly when they arrive. Jenkins writes:

One is overpowered by the thought that here, on the Italian front, is, after all, the weak spot in the Central Empire's defenses. Here concentration of allied artillery and airplanes would turn the trick, smash through, break quietly like a mountain torrent out of the mountains, upon the plateaus, run away to Vienna and cut the Central confederacy in two. This may be an amateur's estimate, but it is backed up by much good expert opinion.

The Italians have men enough; they need only guns and munitions. There must be reasons, in the jealous councils of the powers, otherwise this wedge would surely have been driven. Maybe America can lend a hand, if not in driving it, at least in promoting a more unified spirit among the Allies. (Kansas City Star, 24 Oct. 1917, 6)

By early December, Hemingway could have read in The Star that American aid to the Italian front was not far off. Much later, Hemingway visits Jenkins's point in “A Way You'll Never Be.” In that Italian war story, Nicholas Adams wears an American uniform. He serves as a harbinger, meant to raise the spirits of the Italian solders. “If they see one American uniform,” he tells an Italian battalion commander, “that is supposed to make them believe others are coming” (CSS 308). Later Nick says there'll be “untold millions wearing this uniform swarming like locusts” (312). Nick, in this story, has been wounded and carries a heavy load of what we now call post-traumatic stress syndrome. Hemingway didn't need Jenkins to point him toward that dark theme. That, he developed on his own.

At the beginning of “Now I Lay Me,” another of Hemingway's Italian stories, the sleepless Nick tries to center his mind. The story begins: “That night we lay on the floor in the room and I listened to the silkworms eating. The silkworms fed in racks of mulberry leaves and all night you could hear them eating and a dropping sound in the leaves” (CSS 276). Surely Hemingway heard the silkworms himself at some time during his Italian experience. Or perhaps someone told him of their nighttime noise.

But, coincidentally, the silkworms didn't escape the notice of Burris Jenkins. If Hemingway had read Jenkins's piece on Italy in The Star of 25 October 1917, he would have encountered Jenkins's observation of “the mulberry trees, great orchards of them, Edens for the silkworm, who is pampered and nurtured, cared for as sedulously as if he were of royal blood; and royal is his product of Italian silk” (“Italy, a Country of Song,” 8). Jenkins doesn't mention the feeding sound of silkworms, but perhaps he gave Hemingway a thread to pull. After all, “Now I Lay Me” is a story of memory. Nick in the night tries “to remember everything that had ever happened to me, starting with just before I went to the war…” (CSS 277). Hemingway, Nick's creator, may be trying at the same time to recall what he had learned before going to war.

By the end of 1917, Burris Jenkins had republished his Star dispatches in a book titled Facing the Hindenburg Line.

Had Hemingway's interest been piqued by what he had been reading in the newspaper, the book would have allowed him to catch up with Jenkins's earlier essays. A dozen of them appeared in the early days of Hemingway's apprenticeship; eleven ran earlier. It's not recorded whether Hemingway indeed read the pieces in book form, or possessed a copy of Facing the Hindenburg Line. Yet, if Hemingway had perused it, he might have read Jenkins's cautionary notes in the Preface: “No man can come into close contact with this world misfortune and, if he have any imagination or any soul, come away with egoism accentuated. When many of the choicest men of earth: artists, scholars, musicians, men of letters, are dying – common soldiers in trenches – one can only feel the insignificance of self.''

The soul of a man – his relative insignificance in a time of war – is a subtext of A Farewell to Arms. Jenkins's observation is not terribly unique. But to an eighteen-year-old high school graduate, who had not yet discovered for himself the brutality of war, the sentiment might have been thought-provoking. The closing words of Jenkins's Preface gave a simple writer's creed: “I have written down what I saw and heard”(5). [2]

Burris A. Jenkins was a liberal, independent-minded Christian. He returned to Europe in 1918 and following that trip was persuaded to moonlight as editor of the competing Kansas City Post. That position gave him a platform to promote his passion – the League of Nations as a path to world peace. After three years, he gave up his newspaper job and returned full-time to the church. He was widely known for his provocative sermons and progressive practices, such as Sunday night services featuring movies and music, and for his motto: ``Live dangerously” (“Burris A. Jenkins Dies,” Kansas City Star, 13 March 1945, 1).

Jenkins's church-related archives are deposited at the Community Christian Church in Kansas City, a distinctive white-stucco building designed and later disowned by another Oak Park, Illinois boy, Frank Lloyd Wright. (Selecting the modernist Wright to build what remains the most distinctive looking church in town was a typically non-conformist gesture by Jenkins, his Page 1 obituary in The Star noted on 13 March 1945.) Alas, Jenkins's scrapbooks and boxes of sermons and other writings, including the manuscript of his 1939 autobiography, Where My Caravan Has Rested, contain no mention of a boy named Hemingway. One would wish for references to the fresh-faced kid who wanted to be a journalist peppering Jenkins with questions after his return from Europe in 1917 or before one or the other of them sailed to the continent in 1918. But such connections haven't turned up.

Yet there is a slight possibility that Hemingway knew Jenkins. In Hemingway: The 1930s, Michael Reynolds reports that a Burris Jenkins was among several visitors to Key West in the winter of 1936 (220). Hemingway mentions him in a letter to John Dos Passos in January 1936 (SL 443). This guest, however, was Burris A. Jenkins Jr., the minister's son. He also became a journalist, drawing editorial cartoons for the New York Journal-American (“Burris A. Jenkins Dies,” Kansas City Star, 13 March 1945, 1). The younger Jenkins's father was still alive at the time, and perhaps evidence exists somewhere that his son's visit with Hemingway included recognition or discussion of the elder Jenkins's contributions to The Star and to Hemingway's Italian experience.


Just a day or two after Ernest Hemingway began working at The Kansas City Star, and nine months before he was wounded at the Italian front, a heroic nurse crossed his path in print. It was Friday, 19 October 1917. Page 10B of the newspaper carried a feature story credited to the Detroit News. The three-deck headline offered much to attract a reader interested in the war: “Angel of the Marne Here,” read the first head. “Countess Chiquita Mazzuchi won an officer's rank./ The head of Twenty-Seven Hospitals on the Italian Front, She has Twice Been Wounded and ‘Gassed' Once.” If that headline didn't stop the eighteen-year-old Hemingway from turning the page, perhaps the illustration did. It was a two-column line drawing of an attractive woman in her nurse's uniform. It is not too much of a stretch to suggest that she looks a bit like Agnes von Kurowsky, who would turn Hemingway's head the next summer.

“Blue fire flashes from the eyes of the Countess Mazzuchi,” the story began, “angel of the Marne and valiant friend of the soldiers on the Italian firing line, as she tells of what her ‘children' are enduring ‘over there'” (Kansas City Star, 19 Oct. 1917, 10B). The Countess was 30 years old. She was the daughter of a Spanish ambassador and an English woman, and the niece of a cardinal. She was small, girlish, and very attractive, according to the Detroit journalist. Her husband, apparently her second, was the Italian consul-general in the Marne district of France. “But her chateau in the Marne district has 5,000 shell holes in it today and her jewels have all been sold. Part of the string went first to raise money for Belgian soldiers; then a part was sold to help French soldiers; the last of it was turned into money to pay for supplies for the Italian hospitals” (10B). She ran a chain of 27 hospitals for Italy's Third Army and wanted to open three more.

This was a fearless woman. She took a bullet during the battle of the Marne and still carried it in her body. “There was a boy,” she explained, “who had seventeen wounds. He had 122 pieces of shrapnel in his leg and I was down on my knees picking them out with pincers. I had two hundred wounded about me. Do you know that I was so intensely absorbed in what I was doing that I didn't even know I had a dirty German bullet in me until I tried to get up?” (Kansas City Star, 19 Oct. 1917, 10B).

The countess later was injured on the Italian front, and she attributed her hacking cough to “gas.” One long section of the story described her work and let her tell the story in her own words:

In the Italian military hospital Countess Mazzuchi's day begins at 4 o'clock and lasts until any hour when she happens to be needed. Lights are out in all of these places when danger begins to come too close and a bell is rung. Then, no matter what the hour, the intrepid little woman dashes into her clothes – giving only two minutes to the great feminine art of dressing – and runs to her hospital.

It was when she was making one of these lightning trips to her hospital under shell fire that Countess Mazzuchi was wounded the second time, and it was for her bravery on this occasion that she was made a lieutenant in the Italian army.

“There was very heavy shelling,” the countess says. “Forty-two bombs fell in fifteen minutes, killing many of the wounded in their beds. When the bells rang I ran out of my house and passed a soldier. He had a bicycle and I ‘swiped' it, because I needed to get there in a hurry.

“I was racing along when a bomb struck my bicycle and I was blown up and thrown forty meters back. My ribs were broken, but I quickly got to the hospital.

“When I entered the hospital I found that some of the men had been carried to the cellar and that the five attendants also had gone to the cellar, leaving many wounded entirely uncared for. Men with grave wounds had crawled under their little iron beds, seeking some protection, and were lying on the broken glass, which was splintered all over the floor. Many of them had one or both legs cut off or were otherwise incapacitated. I don't see how they managed to get under the beds.

“I called the five attendants up from the cellar. Then ‘called them down.' These are the words I said to them:

“'My children, you went to the cellar when the shelling began, leaving men with grave wounds uncared for. It is when there is danger that these wounded men need us, not when it is safe. Tomorrow all five of you shall start for the firing line.'

“The next morning I called up General Lombardi. Within an hour all five of the attendants had started for the firing line.

“They came back to me afterward among the wounded. Well” – for a moment Countess Mazzuchi looked stern – “that is war.” (Kansas City Star, 19 Oct. 1917, 10B).

Look at the ways the countess's tale ripples in the Hemingway record: She carries a bullet in her body. She was blown up at the Italian front. She was made a second lieutenant for her bravery and her wounds. She speaks of a boy with 122 pieces of shrapnel in his leg, a very specific number, but barely half of what Hemingway would boast.

Yet, if the countess made a lasting impression on Hemingway the budding writer in Kansas City, it remains, I regret, difficult to say. Hemingway fails to imbue his most famous fictional nurse, Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms, with Countess Mazzuchi's sort of bravado. And he doesn't muster even a walk-on role for a nurse in “In Another Country,” the most straightforward of Hemingway's Italian hospital stories. One might turn to real life then and look for traces of the countess elsewhere in Hemingway's experience. If the countess set a standard for Hemingway, then certainly Agnes von Kurowsky measured up. He fell head over heels for her, and she answered his letters, if not his prayers.[3]


On 25 October 1917, The Kansas City Star devoted six of its seven front-page columns to news about the war and liberty bond campaigns. The biggest headline, in the fifth column, announces a major movement in the action: “Break Italian Line/ The Austro-German Forces Advanced on Left Bank of the Isonzo./ Took in 10,000 Captives/ A Divisional and a Brigade Staff Are Included in the Prisoners Taken./ The Gain was Made Despite a Desperate Resistance, Berlin says/ In a Massed Attack/ Heavy Artillery Preparation Preceded the Concentrated Teutonic Offensive.” This is the Austro-German offensive that Hemingway returned to as a writer ten years later. He used the Italian catastrophe as the central military action of A Farewell to Arms, the catalyst for Frederic Henry's escape from the war. And it was unfolding for real in the earliest days of Hemingway's professional writing life in Kansas City. With his great desire not to miss the action, Hemingway must have been paying attention as the war took a turn for the worse. The story was datelined Berlin, 25 October (via London):

Heavy captures in prisoners and booty have been made by the Austro-German forces attacking the Italians on the Isonzo front, army headquarters announced today. The prisoners include divisional and brigade staffs.

The total prisoners taken exceeds ten thousand. The fighting on this front is continuing.

German-Austro troops successfully stormed Italian positions on the Isonzo front between Flitch and Tolimino, the war office official report continued this afternoon. The positions captured, the war office said, are situated on the steep mountain slopes barring the roadway to the surrounding valley. These were captured by Teutonic troops despite vigorous Italian resistance.

Reynolds is undoubtedly correct to conclude that whatever Hemingway may have read in The Star about the Italian retreat at Caporetto didn't matter much when he wrote Book Three of A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway did extensive research later, reading histories, interviewing veterans, poring over maps to recreate the sights and sequence of the action on the Bainsizza Plateau. But surely the eighteen-year-old Hemingway caught the weight of the momentous event. And the place names must have sounded exotic and alluring in the pages of the newspaper. Gorizia and Udine. Tagliamento and Monte San Gabriele. “The Teutonic gains, it was explained, were achieved by the enemy taking advantage of the bridgehead positions at Smara Slucca,” one of the earliest dispatches read. “In violent fighting the Austro-German troops carried the battle to the slopes of the right bank of the Isonzo” (“Break Italian Line,” Kansas City Star, 25 Oct. 1917, 1).

The coverage continued for several days as the enemy advanced. By Sunday, 28 October, The Star ran a map of the region (“Where Italy Has Met Disaster,” 3A). Did Hemingway study it and place himself there someday, literally or figuratively?


By late February 1918, Hemingway signed on as a recruit for the Red Cross ambulance service in Italy, and a month later he gave notice that he would leave The Star at the end of April (Sanford 275, Griffin 52). In his last few weeks on the staff, Hemingway wrote several stories related to the war effort. Most notable was the melancholy narrative known as “Mix War, Art and Dancing.” His editors and colleagues thought it was swell. “There were,” Charles Fenton writes, “enthusiastic prophecies about the eighteen-year-old boy's journalistic future” (46). Julian Capers Jr., who arrived in Kansas City in January 1918 to run the United Press bureau, once recalled in an unpublished letter that the young Hemingway also impressed his colleagues with an aggressive series of stories about a hospital's legal troubles.

For Hemingway, though, journalism was only a stepping stone to a loftier pursuit. He knew he would make more of a mark writing not for today, but for the ages. Even then, not yet nineteen, Hemingway often promised that “he would write the great American novel,” C.G. “Pete” Wellington, assistant city editor during Hemingway's stint, told Fenton (36). Said Russel Crouse, another Hemingway contemporary at The Star and a future playwright, “Every newspaperman I knew was secretly working on a novel.'' (qtd. in Fenton 37).

Fenton acknowledged that Hemingway left Kansas City with “a trained reporter's eye which would enable him to profit considerably more from his Italian experiences than if, for example, he had been able to enlist directly from high school the previous June. He took with him too a reservoir of material upon which he could draw when he began his serious writing in 1919” (49).

This reservoir of material – experiences of his own, tales he heard from colorful and forcefully independent colleagues such as Lionel Calhoun Moise, and, very possibly, his reading of The Star – shows up in the early vignettes of in our time and works as late as Across the River and Into the Trees. His Italian experience led directly to one novel, A Farewell to Arms, and to at least ten short stories. I don't believe it is far-fetched to conclude that some of the seeds of those works were also planted in Kansas City. Or that Hemingway's ambitions as a player on the front, as a man, as a war correspondent, and as a writer for the ages, began in the newsroom of The Kansas City Star.


I am indebted to Mark Zieman, the editor of The Kansas City Star, for supporting this after-hours project. His avid interest in Hemingway predated mine and led him to create the newspaper's first web site devoted to our most famous employee. The site was greatly expanded at the time of the Hemingway centennial in 1999. In addition, thanks to Ann Reynolds, for graciously granting me access to Michael S. Reynolds's files.


[1] Hemingway's tenure at The Kansas City Star (and its morning edition, The Kansas City Times) ran from 17 or 18 October 1917 to 30 April 1918. Scanning and reading six and a half months of newspapers on microfilm is a monumental task, and I've left much of it for future research. For this paper, I surveyed papers mostly at the beginning and the end of Hemingway's tenure. The first few weeks of Hemingway's apprenticeship turned out to be so fruitful that I have concentrated here mostly on that period. It makes sense that Hemingway would be most impressionable in his early days as an apprentice. For the first month or so, he was on probationary status as a beginner, so he surely wanted to make an impression. And clearly, too, in his last weeks at the paper, he would have paid close attention to the news from Europe, to which he soon would sail.

[2] In his memoir, Where My Caravan Has Rested (1939), Jenkins extols his experience as a journalist in ways that Hemingway also understood: “I remained equally convinced of the value of newspaper training for a man who planned a career involving writing or public speaking. Such experience brings knowledge of humanity more rapidly than perhaps any other type of work. It imparts brevity, conciseness, pungency of station, together with respect for facts, facts, facts, so essential to most forms of writing and speaking. Further, it gives one's style concreteness, vividness. It teaches one to ‘talk in pictures' as Beecher described that trait” (89).

Hemingway could have found similar guidance, a similar adherence to the simple rule of observation and reporting, in bylined dispatches from Henry Allen, a well-known Kansas journalist whose articles from Europe also appeared in The Star. (Jenkins had spent his two weeks on the Italian front with Allen.) On 24 October 1917, The Star's editorial page carried another paper's salute to Henry Allen's letters from France: “No exaggerated statements, but the truth simply told by a man who knows how to write. The truth about the present conflict is bad enough; no need to enlarge upon it. So much told is false that it has detracted, for many, from the terror of what is going on in France. Newspaper reporters should point with pride to Henry Allen's account of what he sees in France. He is one of them, and his letters are the highest type of reporting, accurate and truthful, with not the slightest tinge of yellow in one of them” (“A Great Reporter,” Kansas City Star, 24 Oct. 1917, 18). The fact that Allen was a regional celebrity would have come to Hemingway's attention again the very next day, when The Star published a one-column picture of him in a colonel's uniform, Casual Officers, U.S.A., sent recently from Rome (“Henry Allen in Khaki,” Kansas City Star, 25 Oct. 1917, 2).

[3] Hemingway never mentions Countess Mazzucchi in his letters. Nor does the woman show up in the memories or writings of Agnes von Kurowsky and Henry S. Villard, Hemingway's hospital mate in Milan. Credit goes to Laura Christensen, a Star librarian, who, while taking a preliminary stab for me at the microfilm machine, unearthed the countess's story.


“American Troops Training In France,” The Kansas City Star. 17 October 1917. 10.

“Angel of the Marne Here.” The Kansas City Star. 19 October 1917. 10B.

“Army Is Training Experts.” The Kansas City Star. 22 October 1917. 2.

Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Scribner's, 1969.

“Break Italian Line.” The Kansas City Star. 25 October 1917. 1.

“Burris A. Jenkins Dies.” The Kansas City Star. 13 March 1945. 1.

Capers Jr., Julian. Letter to Louis Henry Cohn. 18 March 1930. University of Delaware Library.

“Dr. Jenkins Home Today.” The Kansas City Star. 14 October 1917. 1.

Fenton, Charles. The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Young, 1954.

“A Great Reporter.” The Kansas City Star. 24 October 1917. 18.

Griffin, Peter. Along With Youth. New York: Oxford UP, 1985.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigía Edition. New York: Scribner's, 1987.

__________. “Crossing the Mississippi,” in The Nick Adams Stories. New York: Scribner's, 1972. 133-34. Also: Item 533, pencil manuscript, Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library. Boston, MA.

__________. Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961. Ed. Carlos Baker. New York: Scribner's, 1981.

__________. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner's Sons, 1929.

__________. Letters to Clarence and Grace Hemingway and to Clarence Hemingway. 17 October 1917 and 25 October 1917. Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Library. Boston, MA.

__________. “Mix War, Art and Dancing,” The Kansas City Star. 21 April 1918. 1.

“Henry Allen in Khaki.” Picture and caption. The Kansas City Star, 25 October 1917. 2.

Jenkins, Burris A. Facing the Hindenburg Line. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1917.

__________. “In a Land of Camouflage.” The Kansas City Star. 17 October 1917. 8.

__________. “Italian Front a Keystone.” The Kansas City Star. 24 October 1917. 6.

__________. “Italy, a Country of Song.” The Kansas City Star. 25 October 1917. 8.

__________. Where My Caravan Has Rested. Chicago: Willett, Clark. 1939.

“Peace Is Far Off.” The Kansas City Star. 22 October 1917. 1.

“Plan Big Drive on Italy.” Associated Press dispatch in The Kansas City Times. 25 October 1917. 3.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway's First War: The Making of A Farewell to Arms. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell, 1987.

__________. Hemingway in the 1930s. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997.

Sanford, Marcelline Hemingway. At the Hemingways, With Fifty Years of Correspondence Between Ernest and Marcelline Hemingway. Ed. John Sanford. Moscow, ID: U of Idaho, 1999.

“Starbeams,” humor column. The Kansas City Star. 22 October 1917. 14.

“Striking at Italy.” The Kansas City Star. 24 October 1917. 1.

Villard, Henry S. and James Nagel. Hemingway in Love and War: The Lost Diary of Agnes von Kurowsky. New York: Hyperion, 1996.

“Where Italy Has Met Disaster.” Map and caption. The Kansas City Star. 28 October 1917. 3A.

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