Thornton Wilder

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, and educated at Oberlin, Yale (B.A. 1920) and Princeton (M.A. 1925), Thornton Niven Wilder was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works, exploring the connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of human experience, continue to be read and produced around the world.  Wilder is the only writer to win Pulitzer Prizes for both fiction and drama—for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) and two plays, Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1942). His other novels include The CabalaThe Woman of AndrosHeaven’s My DestinationThe Ides of MarchThe Eighth Day and Theophilus North. His other major dramas include The Matchmaker (adapted as the musical Hello, Dolly!) and The AlcestiadThe Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden and The Long Christmas Dinner are among his celebrated shorter plays. Wilder also enjoyed success as an essayist, translator, research scholar, teacher, lecturer, actor, librettist and screenwriter.  His screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) remains a classic psycho-thriller to this day.  Wilder's many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Book Committee's Medal for Literature, The Order of Merit (Peru), and the Goethe-Plakette (Germany).  In 1930, with royalties received from The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Wilder built a home for himself and his family in Hamden, CT. Although often away from it for as many as 250 days a year, restlessly seeking quiet places in which to write, Thornton Wilder always returned to “the house the Bridge built”.  He died here of a heart attack on December 7th, 1975. 

More information on Thornton Wilder and his family is available in Penelope Niven’s definitive biography, Thornton Wilder: A Life as well as on the Wilder Family website,