Secrets of Hemingway’s Michigan. Petoskey Was Once Cool?

While most young Americans are inducing mad quantities of Cocoa Cola and Hot Dogs, I am in Marquette Park on Mackinac Island reading about Ernest Hemingway’s life long love for Northern Michigan.

“I drink to make other people more interesting.” This famous Hemingway quote reminds me of Detroit but as it turns out he wasn’t writing about Detroit at the time. In fact, much like myself, Hemingway’s love of Michigan is almost exclusively dedicated to Northern Michigan. Not only does he have a Nobel Prize but the man has impeccable taste in destinations.

The Michigan Link

Hemingway’s father, Dr Clarence Hemingway had a motto he instilled in his children, “a good life is an active life” which in turn inspired (or forced?) their love of the open spaces, lakes and adventures Northern Michigan affords. Ernest’s parents bought Windermere on Walloon Lake (then Bear Lake) and spent their first family summer at the house in 1900. Windermere itself was designed by Ernest’s mother Grace and totaled $400. The Windermere was left to Ernest and remains in the family. It is not open to the public.

He met and later married his wife in Horton Bay and honeymooned at his childhood summer home, the Windermere. Many of his stories have vivid descriptions of his childhood memories in Northern Michigan. In The Snows of Kilimanjaro gives an elaborate description of adolescent memories of friends, the Bacon’s homestead in Michigan. Horton Bay is described in The End of Something, Three Day Blow and Summer People and Hemingway used Petoskey as a setting for his first published novel, The Torrents of Springs after he resided in Petoskey for a few weeks in 1919. He spoke at Petoskey Public Library to the Ladies Aid Society in 1919 after returning from the War. In 1928, his father committed suicide.

After his 1921 wedding he didn’t return to Michigan until 1947 when he stayed in Petoskey for one night. He was 265 pounds, married to his fourth wife and was a celebrity after The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms was received to acclaim.

Five years after his Petoskey visit he would receive a Nobel Prize for The Old Man and The Sea and fourteen years later he shot himself. This book is delicious.

The Book: Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan

The book, Picturing Hemingway’s Michigan by Michael R Federspiel (Professor of History, CMU) is a 200-page compendium of archival period photographs, captions and commentary compiled, organized, written to capture the imagination of the history buff and the Hemingway novice. The book contains vintage Hemingway family photos with excerpts from Hemingway’s writings and is a fascinating and informed reading for students, scholars, or those interested in Ernest Hemingway’s work.

“Ernest Hemingway never really did leave Northern Michigan. Instead he carried it with him and gifted it to the rest of the world.” p193.

Buy the book here.



  1. This was very, very good. I live in Michigan and have been to some of the spots that Hemingway wrote and talked about. One place that he even wrote a book about was “The Big Two Hearted River.”

    It’s a very, very beautiful place at the top northern edge of the Upper Peninsula.

    The book, ”Pictuing Hemingway’s Michigan” is at my local university library and I’m going to check it out.

    Another famous author, John D. Voelker, wrote the famous “Anatomy of a Murder” based in the U.P also. His pen name is Robert Travers and he was also an avid fly fisherman in Michigan. A friend of mine had actually met him one time on a fishing trip. My friend talked with him for about an hour about, what else, fly fishing. Robert Travers actually wrote several books about Trout fishing, one being called “Trout Madness.”

    Thanks again.

    • Thanks! Although I am Australian I have spent the last two summers living on Mackinac Island. Its very unique and beautiful. I have always been interested in Hemingway so I thought his personal history with Michigan was kinda neat, especially since I have spent some time here also. I have heard of the Anatomy of Murder..I will check it out:) Thanks again!

  2. As an author I love reading stories about the famous ones, so I found this post very interesting. I am writing a book about how our states got their goofy shapes, and my blog gives little peeks into what I’m finding in my research. The Upper Peninsula story is one of the most interesting because it’s not even attached to Michigan. You probably know the explanation, but if you’re curious, here is my post:

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