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George Ade papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSA 4

Scope and Contents

The George Ade papers (1878-1947; 29 Cubic ft.) document the personal and professional life of author, humorist, and playwright George Ade. The collection includes original writings, manuscripts, personal correspondece, photographic materials, and artifacts. Notable persons include: John T. McCutcheon, William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington, James Whitcomb Riley, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, Elsie Janis, Theodore Dreiser, "Chick" Evans, Orson Welles, Kin Hubbard, Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Major, and Purdue presidents James H. Smart, Winthrop E. Stone, and Edward C. Elliott.


  • 1878 - 2007
  • Majority of material found within 1890 - 1943


Access Information

This collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Portions of material in this collection are in the public domain. Other material copyrights held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

George Ade was born February 9, 1866 in Kentland, Indiana to John and Adaline [Bush] Ade. John Ade served as the first County Recorder of newly formed Newton County, which was organized in 1860. He was also a teller at the Discount and Deposit Bank of Kentland, where he became a partner in 1875. Adaline was a homemaker and cared for the couple's seven children: Anna, William, Alice, Joseph, Emma, George, and Ella. George Ade enjoyed a carefree childhood in the small rural community surrounded by family and friends. He was an average student; the high point came his senior year of high school when his essay, "A Basket of Potatoes," was published in the local newspaper. In 1881, John Ade was faced with a problem when his son graduated from high school; he realized that George had neither the aptitude nor the inclination for farm work. In Newton County, there were few opportunities outside of farming for a young man; college was considered a waste of time and money. One of George's high school teachers urged John to apply for one of the county scholarships that were being offered by the state to boost attendance at the state colleges. Much to the amusement of John's neighbors, George's application [which was the only one submitted in Newton County that year] was accepted by Purdue University in West Lafayette. Adaline felt that her son was too young to be that far from home, so George spent an extra year in Kentland High School taking preparatory classes. In the fall of 1883, at the age of seventeen, George Ade boarded a train for West Lafayette and entered Purdue University. Purdue University had been founded by John Purdue only fourteen years earlier and Ade would later comment that when he arrived the "plaster was still wet in the corners." The student body consisted of two hundred students; Ade's incoming freshman class had thirty students, out of which only eight would graduate. He chose Science for his major because it had the least mandatory math requirements of any major offered by the college. Ade joined the Sigma Chi fraternity, which had won a Supreme Court case allowing fraternities on campus earlier that year. Ade's affiliation with Sigma Chi would continue throughout his life; he served as Grand Consul in 1909, headed the Delta Delta Chapter House Building Association in 1912 and matched dollar-for-dollar all contributions raised to finance a new fraternity house. He also hosted the annual Sigma Chi Dinner at his estate. Ade's first two years at college went smoothly; he was an adept but not brilliant student. However, during his last two years his grades began to drop and Ade would later joke that he was "at the top of my class ... alphabetically." He received an academic alert in 1886 for his poor grades in Physics and Zoology. Ade's drop in academic performance can be attributed in part to his newly discovered love for the theater and also his growing reputation as the easy-going host of many college parties and outings. Incoming freshman, John T. McCutcheon, had heard of Ade's reputation and was eager to meet the tall, quiet junior. Ade brought McCutcheon into Sigma Chi and they soon developed a close friendship that would last a lifetime. Another freshman caught Ade's attention, Lillian Howard. Ade courted the fair-haired Lafayette girl for four years until she broke his heart by marrying a Baptist minister from Minnesota. Ade often claimed that he was a lifelong bachelor because "another man married my girl." Although Ade graduated in 1887, his affiliation with Purdue did not end. He became one of the largest donors in the University's history, personally donating funds for the construction of the Memorial Gymnasium and the Memorial Union Building. He was a tireless fundraiser for various university projects and programs and a staunch supporter of Purdue's athletic teams. George Ade served on the Purdue Board of Trustees from 1909 to 1916 and was an active member of the Purdue Alumni Association his entire life. Ade's writing career did not begin until after he graduated from Purdue. He briefly thought about becoming a lawyer and studied law for about seven weeks before he quit and joined the Lafayette newspaper, The Morning News, as a reporter. However, the News soon went out of business and Ade found work with another Lafayette newspaper, The Call. Ade soon developed a friendly newspaper rivalry with the Courier's star reporter, George Barr McCutcheon. George Barr, John McCutcheon's older brother, was also a Purdue alumnus, and would later gain fame as the author of many books including Graustark and Brewster's Millions. The two reporters enjoyed a playful rivalry; in order to amuse each other on slow days, they often inserted quotes from their favorite play characters into local news stories. Ade eventually left the Call in search of higher pay and went to work in a patent medicine business where he was in charge of promoting several products, among them a smoking cure called No-Tobac. The first instruction in Ade's promotional pamphlet was to quit using tobacco immediately. In 1889, John T. McCutcheon graduated from Purdue and moved to Chicago where he was hired as an illustrator for the Morning News, which later became the Chicago Record. McCutcheon repeatedly urged Ade to join him and the following year Ade moved to Chicago and began working for the Record as a weather reporter. Ade and McCutcheon shared a small furnished hallway bedroom in a rooming house which earned them the nickname the "hall-bedroom twins." Ade's big break as a reporter came in July of 1890 when the freight steamer Tioga exploded on the Chicago River. Ade was the only reporter in the newsroom at the time and was sent to cover the disaster. His story was well received by the public and he was soon covering large events such as the Sullivan-Corbett fight in 1892 and the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. Ade's colorful reporting style earned him a permanent column in the paper and he began to write a series about life in the city, Stories of the Streets and of the Towns. The public found Ade's use of everyday language and street slang innovative and refreshing and the series became an instant success. Ade fleshed out two of the stories, Artie and Pink Marsh, and published them as books, popularizing the series across the country. Ade began experimenting with stories written in fable form using modern day slang. The public loved the fables and by the late 1890s Ade was well known throughout America and had acquired many notable fans, including literary critic William Dean Howells and humorist Mark Twain. In 1899, Ade quit the Chicago Record and began syndicating his Fables in Slang column in newspapers across the country; the columns were also compiled and published as a book later that year. Broadway took notice of the author and producers begged Ade to write a comic script for the stage. In 1898, Ade had written a one-act farce for the actress May Irwin for $200 which seemed like a fortune Ade at the time. He felt that the skit wasn't very good and for many years routinely apologized to Irwin for taking her money. Irwin kept the play in a trunk for years before dusting it off and using it as filler in one of her shows. The play, Mrs. Peckham's Carouse, became Irwin's biggest hit and she made back her $200 many times over. Ade also had written a comedy, The Night of the Fourth, which had been so thoroughly lambasted by the critics that he never put his name on it and quickly sold all rights to it. Ade's rather questionable theatre debut notwithstanding, he decided to give Broadway another try. In 1901, he wrote The Sultan of Sulu, using the story idea given to him by John McCutcheon, who had heard about the real life Sultan of Jolo on one of his trips aboard. The Sultan of Sulu was produced on Broadway in 1902 and was an instant success. Ade quickly followed it with Peggy from Paris and The County Chairman in 1903, and The Sho-Gun in 1904. By the early 1900s, Ade had become financially successful and began sending his substantial earnings home to his father's bank to prove to the town that college hadn't been a waste of time after all. Ade trusted his brother William's investment skills and eventually ended up owning 2, 400 acres of productive farmland in the Newton County area. In 1902, one of William's purchases was 417 acres near Brook, Indiana (15 miles north of Kentland). Ade became attached to the grove of trees alongside the Iroquois River and envisioned a summer cottage where he could escape the ever increasing pressures of fame. With the help of a Chicago architect, his ideal cottage grew and eventually expanded into an estate with landscaped gardens, a pool, pool house, garage, greenhouse, barns, outbuildings, and a caretaker's house. In 1910, Ade added a golf course and country club. Ade christened the estate "Hazelden", a paternal family name. Over the years, Hazelden became the site of numerous political rallies, including the kick-off of William H. Taft's presidential campaign in 1908. Hazelden also hosted formal gatherings, actor retreats, golf tournaments, and Ade's famous annual party for local children. In 1904, when construction on Hazelden was completed, Ade moved in and wrote his next play, The College Widow, in three weeks. In 1904, The College Widow joined The County Chairman and The Sho-Gun on Broadway, making George Ade the first playwright in history to have three plays running simultaneously. The story of the high jinks revolving around the football team of the fictional Wabash College [Ade's pseudonym for Purdue] became his most successful play. The energetic football game in the last act received rave reviews from New York critics while the colorful dialogue peppered with slang delighted playgoers. A few years later, the play went overseas to the Strand Theatre in London, where it only played for a few weeks. The British audience found the American slang confusing even with the explanatory booklet that accompanied the playbill. In 1905, the stress of fame began to affect Ade's health and he returned to the Midwest, moving permanently into Hazelden. He frequently visited Chicago where John McCutcheon was working as an cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune. That year, the two, along with Edward M. Holloway, founded the Indiana Society of Chicago. At the time the Society was founded, Indiana was second only to New York in published authors. Many of the Indiana authors who were associated with the Society at the time included James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Meredith Nicholson, Kin Hubbard and George Barr McCutcheon. The Society's Hoosiers would gather from all across the country at annual dinners and outings, some of which were held at Hazelden. That year also saw the first of three Ade plays that would bomb, which marked the beginning of the end of Ade's reign on Broadway. Despite the declining popularity of his plays, Ade wrote four more; the last one, The Old Town, was produced on Broadway in 1910. During World War I, Ade served for two years as director of war publicity on the Indiana State Council of Defense. Besides using Indiana as the setting in many of his plays and fables, Ade wrote numerous essays promoting his native land. In 1922, Edward C. Elliott became President of Purdue University. Elliott, known throughout the country as an innovative educator, a recognized authority on education administration, and an avid college football fan soon developed a close friendship with George Ade. During the official welcome dinner honoring President Elliott, the university's largest benefactor, David Ross, formally announced that he and fellow alumnus George Ade had combined forces to purchase and donate the Tilt Farm to Purdue for the site of a new stadium and athletic field. The Ross-Ade Foundation was founded in 1923 to oversee stadium bond issues and assist the university. By this time Ade had retired from playwriting but continued to write essays, short stories, and fables for various magazines and newspapers. He also ventured into the relatively new field of moving pictures, where he wrote over a hundred silent movie scripts and directed ten films. In 1931 he produced one more book, The Old-Time Saloon. Vehemently opposed to the 18th Amendment (making Prohibition the law across the United States), he wrote the book as a gentle nostalgic reminder of an age when the town saloon was a gathering place for local characters. George Ade died on May 16, 1944 at the age of 78 from a heart attack.


30.00 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



The collection is divided into nine series: Writings, ca. 1881-1943; n.d.: The Writings series contains George Ade's creative writings and documents his professional writing career, activities at Hazelden Country Club, and his winter vacations in Miami, Florida. The series is divided into two categories: Manuscripts and Newsletters. Types of materials in Manuscripts include handwritten, typed, or published versions of Ade's poems, plays, scripts, skits, books, fables, short stories, editorials, essays, articles, speeches, radio broadcast transcripts, and cartoon strips; also includes notes, revisions, outlines, alternative titles and chapters, business correspondence, movie and play memorabilia, reviews, and clippings relating to his writings. All manuscripts have been arranged alphabetically by title. Newsletters are divided into two categories: Hazelden Country Club and Family and Friends. Types of materials include handwritten first drafts, mimeographed newsletters, business correspondence, brochures, flyers, admission tickets, badges, ribbons, and receipts; subjects include golfing events, Chick Evans, Ade's annual children's party, upgrades to the country club, membership information, and social events in Miami, Florida. All newsletters have been arranged chronologically. Correspondence, ca. 1882-1947; n.d.: The Correspondence series documents George Ade's business and personal life. Types of materials include: letters, telegrams, postcards, brochures, invitations, programs, cartoons by George Ade and John T. McCutcheon, membership cards, stories and fables by Ade, newspaper clippings, income tax forms, magazines, song lyrics, fan mail, and memorabilia. Subjects of correspondence include: copyright and publishing; book, play and movie deals; Purdue University; Purdue Alumni Association; the Ross-Ade Foundation; Sigma Chi Fraternity; Hazelden Farms; Hazelden Country Club; Will Rogers; Burt Lahr; Orson Welles; Washington Irving; Mark Twain; and James Whitcomb Riley. Major correspondents include Cyril Clemens, George M. Cohan, Theodore Dreiser, W.C. Fields, William H. Hays, Knute Rockne, J. Edgar Hoover, J.K. Lilly Jr., George Barr McCutcheon, John T. McCutcheon, Charles Major, James Rathbun, Will Rogers, David Ross, James H. Smart, Winthrop E. Stone, Edward C. Elliott, Julian Street, Louise Dresser, Sophie Tucker, Gene Stratton-Porter, Kin Hubbard, Meredith Nicholson, William H. Taft, Booth Tarkington, and Theodore Roosevelt. All correspondence has been arranged alphabetically by last name of correspondent. Printed Materials, ca. 1878-1944; n.d.: The Printed Materials series documents George Ade's personal life, professional career, and other areas of personal interest. It is divided into two categories: Collected Materials and Clippings. Types of materials include programs, business cards, lists of Ade's fables, stock analyses, illustrations, promotional materials, movie production books, reports, booklets, magazines, newspaper clippings, articles, stories, cartoon strips, fables, interviews, and reviews; subjects include Mark Twain, James Whitcomb Riley, John T. McCutcheon, and Booth Tarkington. Materials are arranged chronologically; oversized clippings were removed and stored separately for preservation purposes. Purdue University, ca. 1882-1941; n.d.: The Purdue University series documents George Ade's college career at Purdue University, his years as an active member of Purdue's Alumni Association, and his years as editor and columnist for the Purdue Alumnus. Types of materials include Ade's scholarship application, academic reports, certificates, handwritten and published articles, programs, clippings, and Purdue Alumnus magazines. All materials have been arranged chronologically. Indiana Society of Chicago, ca. 1904-1940; n.d.: The Indiana Society of Chicago series documents the early years of the Indiana Society of Chicago which was co-founded by George Ade, John T. McCutcheon, and Edward M. Holloway in 1905. Types of materials include handwritten and published speeches, invitations, programs, correspondence, pre-dinner arrangements, membership rosters, John T. McCutcheon cartoons, booklets, certificates, and Society memorabilia. All materials have been arranged chronologically. Photographic Materials, ca. 1878-1944; n.d.: The Photographic Materials series documents George Ade's personal and professional life. Types of materials include studio portraits, publicity shots, postcards, snapshots, and photograph albums; subjects include Orson Wells, John T. McCutcheon, Ade's family, friends, acquaintances, Sigma Chi, Purdue University, the Belle Meade Plantation Barbeque, the Taft Rally, golf, Hazelden, miscellaneous photographs, plays, movies, and various overseas vacation trips. Photographs have been arranged chronologically with oversized photographs and albums stored separately for preservation purposes. Scrapbooks and Diaries, ca. 1895-1915; n.d.: The Scrapbooks and Diaries series documents George Ade's early book writing career and overseas trips. Types of materials include book reviews, ticket stubs, maps, programs, daily handwritten travel accounts, and other printed memorabilia. Oversized Materials, ca. 1895-1944; n.d.: Oversized Materials contains materials separated from the other series due to their large size. Materials have been stored flat in large acid-free boxes or map case drawers. Types of materials include clippings, cartoons, posters, certificates, advertisements, promotional materials, magazines, newspaper front pages, maps, booklets, and photograph. The materials relate to George Ade's books, plays, movies, fables, Hazelden, Newton County, John T. McCutcheon, Mark Twain, James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington, Chick Evans, Purdue University, Indiana Society of Chicago, Broadway, golf, and World War I. Materials have been arranged chronologically. Artifacts, ca. 1900s-1920s; n.d.: Wood, metal, and glass negative plates used by Ade for publicity photographs and to make book plates for his personal library; stamp used by Ade to mark personal items and correspondence. The three-dimensional photographic materials have been placed in this series rather than the Photographic Series for preservation purposes.

Acquisition Information

Material in this collection was a gift from the Ade family and the George Ade estate, by way of James Rathbun (George Ade's nephew by marriage and business manager) and George Ade Davis (George Ade's nephew). It was acquired 1944-11-30.

Separated Materials

The George Ade Book Collection, Ade's personal library, is housed in the Archive's stacks. Oversized material, photographs, and artifacts have been stored separately for preservation purposes.

Processing Information

Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained. All materials have been housed in polyester sleeves, acid-free folders, and acid-free boxes. All newsprint has been photocopied and in most cases original newspaper clippings have been discarded. Some clippings containing images of people or front pages of newspapers have been preserved for display purposes, with photocopies made available for research.
George Ade papers
In Progress
Joanne Mendes, Amanda Rumba, and Adelle Rogers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition. Collection description first completed 2007-05-10 by Joanne Mendes.

Revision Statements

  • 2020-04-27: Collection description updated by Amanda Rumba to align with data entry standards.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States