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Sinclair Lewis
(February 7, 1885 – January 10, 1951)

3028 Q St. NW, Georgetown neighborhood, DC.

The first American writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1930), Lewis lived and worked in DC during what would be his most productive period. He wrote his classic books Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922), Arrowsmith (1925), and Elmer Gantry (1927) while living in the capital. A number of his works are partly set in Washington, including Main Street, It Can't Happen Here (1935), Gideon Planish (1943) and Cass Timberlane (1945).

Main Street was awarded the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, but the jury's selection was rejected by the Pulitzer's Board of Trustees, who instead awarded it to Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Lewis later refused the 1926 Pulitzer when he was awarded it for Arrowsmith.

A number of Lewis's works were adapted in other forms. Arrowsmith was made into one film and three radio versions starring Ronald Colman, Helen Hayes, Tyrone Power, Spencer Tracy, Orson Welles, and Fay Wray in the lead roles, while Dodsworth (1929) was made into a 1936 film starring Mary Astor and Walter Huston. Most famously, Elmore Gantry was adapted into an multiple Academy Award winning 1960 film starring Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, and Shirley Jones. It was also adapted into an opera in 2007. Free Air (1919) was adapted into a 1928 symphonic work by the jazz-age composer Ferde Grofé. Babbitt was adapted into two silent films and inspired a Vachel Lindsay poem, "The Babbitt Jambouree" (1922), a George and Ira Gershwin song, "The Babbitt and the Bromide" (1946), and the English author C.E.M. Joad's satirical novel, The Babbitt Warren (1927). Lewis's anti-fascist alternate history It Can't Happen Here was adapted for the theater and radio. The heavily revised story later inspired the television miniseries V, which starred extraterrestrial aliens instead of terrestrial fascists and ran in 1983-1984 and a 2009 update of the miniseries.


1639 19th St. NW, Dupont Circle neighborhood, DC.

Author photo courtesy of Library of Congress.