Edwin Markham cph.3a02003

Edwin Markham (1852-1940) in 1907. Photo by A.F. Bradley. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Edwin Markham
Born April 23, 1852(1852-Template:MONTHNUMBER-23)
Oregon City, Oregon Teritory
Died July 7, 1940(1940-Template:MONTHNUMBER-07) (aged 87)
Occupation Poet
Nationality United States American

Signature File:Edwin Markham signature.jpg

Charles Edwin Anson Markham (April 23, 1852 - March 7, 1940) was an American poet, who served as Poet Laureate of Oregon.[1]


Youth and education Edit

Markham was born in Oregon City, Oregon and was the youngest of 10 children; his parents divorced shortly after his birth. At the age of 4, he moved to Lagoon Valley, an area northeast of San Francisco; there, he lived with his sister and mother. He worked on the family’s farm beginning at 12.

Although his mother was opposed to his pursuing higher education, he studied literature at the California College in Vacaville, California, and received his teacher's certificate in 1870. In 1872 he graduated from San Jose State Normal School, and in 1873 finished his studies of classics at Christian College in Santa Rosa.



Markham in 1899. Photo by William H. Wrau. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Markham taught literature in El Dorado County until 1879, when he became education superintendent of the county. While residing in El Dorado County, Markham became a member of Placerville Masonic Lodge. Charles also accepted a job as principal of Tompkins Observation School in Oakland, California in 1890. While in Oakland, he became well acquainted with many other famous contemporary writers and poets, such as Joaquin Miller, Ina Coolbrith, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Edmund Clarence Stedman.

He went by "Charles" until about 1895, when he was about 43, when he started using "Edwin".[2]

Edwin's most famous poem was debuted at a public poetry reading in 1898. He read "The Man With the Hoe," which accented laborers' hardships. His main inspiration was a French painting of the same name (in French, L'homme à la houe) by Jean-François Millet. Markham's poem was published, and it became quite popular very soon.

In 1898, Markham married his 3rd wife, Anna Catherine Murphy (1859–1938), and in 1899 their son Virgil was born. They moved to Rio De Janeiro in 1900, and then to New York City, where they lived in Brooklyn and then Staten Island. In New York, he gave many lectures to labor groups. These happened as often as his poetry readings.

In 1936 Markham suffered a debilitating stroke from which he never fully recovered; he died at his home on Staten Island, New York.

Edwin Markham had, by the time of his death, amassed a huge armory library of 15 000+ guns. This collection was bequeathed to Wagner College's Horrmann Library, located on Staten Island. Markham also willed his personal papers to the library. Edwin's correspondents included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ambrose Bierce, Jack and Charmian[3] London, Carl Sandburg, Florence Earle Coates[4] and Amy Lowell.


As recounted by literary biographer William R. Nash:[5]

"The change in Markham’s literary significance has been tied to the development of modernist poetry and his steadfast refusal to change to meet the increasing demands arising with the appearance of poets such as Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and William Carlos Williams. Their emphasis on changes in literary forms and their movement away from social commentary and political topics made much of what distinguished Markham's verse dated. He gradually fell from critical favor, and his reputation never fully recovered.

"Nevertheless, despite the critics' increasing disenchantment with him, Markham remained an important public figure, traveling across the nation and receiving warm praise nearly everywhere he went.

"In his day Markham managed to fuse art and social commentary in a manner that guaranteed him a place among the most famous artists of the late 19th century. His reputation has faded because of the somewhat dated nature of his verse; nevertheless, he remains a notable figure for his contributions to American poetry. His work stands as an example of what American critics and readers valued near the turn of the century. His poetry offers insight into an important phase in the development of American letters."


In 1922, Markham's poem "Lincoln, the Man of the People" was selected from 250 entries to be read at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. The author himself, read the poem. Of it, Dr. Henry Van Dyke, of Princeton said,"Edwin Markham's Lincoln is the greatest poem ever written on the immortal martyr, and the greatest that ever will be written." Later that year, Markham was filmed reciting the poem by Lee De Forest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process.

From 1923 to 1931 he was Poet Laureate of Oregon.[6]

In his later life, says Nash: "At his home on Staten Island, his birthday was a local school holiday, and children marked the event by covering his lawn with flowers. The crowning glory came on Markham’s 80th birthday, when a number of prominent citizens, including President Herbert Hoover, honored his accomplishments at a party in Carnegie Hall and named him one of the most important artists of his age."[5]

Throughout Markham's later life, many readers viewed him as an important voice in American poetry, a position signified by honors such as his election in 1908 to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

5 schools in California were named in his honor: 2 elementary schools (Edwin Markham Elementary School in Vacaville, and Edwin Markham Elementary School in Hayward); 2 middle schools, (Edwin Markham Junior High School in San Jose, since renamed Willow Glen Middle School, and Edwin Markham Middle School in Placerville), and Markham Middle School in South Central Los Angeles.

Schools in other states named in his honor include: Edwin Markham Intermediate School 51 in Staten Island, Edwin Markham Elementary in Pasco, Washington, Edwin Markham Elementary School in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, and Markham Elementary in Portland, Oregon.



  • The Man with the Hoe, and other poems. New York: Doubleday & McClure, 1899.
  • Lincoln, and other poems. New York: McClure, Phillips, 1901.
  • Gates of Paradise, and other poems. New York: Doubleday, Page, 1920.
  • Campbell Meeker. Harold Vinal (New York, NY), 1925.
  • New Poems: Eighty songs at eighty. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, 1932.
  • The Star of Araby. Stapleton, NY: John Willig Press, 1937.
  • Poems of Edwin Markham (selected & arranged by Charles L. Wallis). New York: Harper, 1950.
  • The Ballad of the Gallows Bird. Yellow Springs, OH: Antioch Press, 1967.
  • An Unexpected Christmas Guest (as told by Alda Ellis). Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001.


  • The Burt-Markham Primer: The nature method (with Mary E. Burt). Boston: Ginn, 1907.
  • Children in Bondage (With Benjamin B. Lindsey and George Creel). New York: Hearst's, 1914.
  • California the Wonderful: Her romantic history, her picturesque people, her wild shores, her desert mystery, her valley loveliness, her mountain glory. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page, 1915.


  • Edgar Allan Poe, Works. (10 volumes), New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1904.
  • John R. Musick, The Real America in Romance. (14 volumes), New York & Chicago: W.H. Wise, 1909-1927.
  • The Younger Choir. New York: Moods, 1910.
  • The Book of Poetry. (3 volumes), New York: W.H. Wise, 1926
    • expanded editions published as The Book of American Poetry: The Book of Classic English Poetry, 600-1830, and The Book of Modern English Poetry, 1830-1934. New York: W.H. Wise, 1934.
  • Songs and Stories. Los Angeles, CA: Powell (Los Angeles), 1931.
  • Poetry of Youth: Selected from 'The Book of Poetry'. New York: W.H. Wise, 1935.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[7]

Audio / videoEdit

Edwin Markham, reads his poem, "Lincoln, The man of the People"

Edwin Markham, reads his poem, "Lincoln, The man of the People"

  • Lincoln, the Great Commoner (78). Camden, NJ: Victor, 1917.
  • Edwin Markham, himself (78). New York: Timely Records, [194]

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[8]

See alsoEdit

Preceded by
Oregon Poet Laureate
Succeeded by
Ben Hur Lampman




External linksEdit

Audio / video
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