Hemingway's "High Carnival Next" -- An Uncataloged (and Possibly His First) Newspaper Article

John Hargrove


Has what could very well be Hemingway's first contribution to a professionally published newspaper—and it's not the Kansas City Star—gone unnoticed all this time?

While rummaging through an archiveof Ernest's hometown newspaper Oak Leaves, of Oak Park, Illinois, I came across an article that the then seventeen-year-old Hemingway had contributed, titled "High Carnival Next." The article, printed in the December 2, 1916, issue, on page 14, bearing his byline, is about an upcoming carnival hosted by the Oak Park and River Forest High School that would be held on December 15 to benefit the school's two periodicals—The Trapeze and Tabula

Previously known as the Oak Park Vindicator, from 1881 to 1901, Oak Leaves was established in 1902 as a weekly publication serving the residents of the newly incorporated Oak Park, which had just broken off completely from the town of Cicero.2 It was not unusual for Oak Leaves to publish pieces submitted by students working on the school's newspaper The Trapeze. Hemingway's classmate Earle Pashley3 was a regular contributor during 1916 and 1917, most often detailing school sporting events.

In January 1916, at the start of the second semester of his junior year in high school, Hemingway began writing for The Trapeze, which operated under a revolving editorship by the students.4 As he experimented to find his own sense of style, he often mimicked the acclaimed Chicago Tribune columnist Ring Lardner, whom he greatly admired. Copying Lardner's pseudo-illiterate style, Hemingway took on the persona of "Ring Lardner Junior"5 as narrator for humorous pieces that were written in the form of letters,6 addressed to whoever was editing the newspaper that week. By the time Hemingway graduated, he had thirty-nine publishing credits in The Trapeze, five of which capitalized on Lardner's name.

In "High Carnival Next," though, Ernest's style was far from the laidback, mellifluous written-word wanderings of Lardner. Instead, what readers encountered could easily be thought of as a high school student utterly gushing—laying it on rather thick in describing the grandeur of the carnival. Foretelling a night of wild animals, fortunetellers, acrobatics, and a whole host of frivolities ranging from a bearded lady to an educated horse, Ernest promised it would be a night that would "put the Mardi Gras, Panama-Pacific Exposition and the Y.M. Circus forever in the shade."

It's his mention of the "Y.M. Circus" (the Y.M.C.A Circus) that lends a small clue toward understanding Hemingway's seemingly over-enthusiastic writing. Hemingway loved the circus, which would remain a passion throughout his life.7 It's quite possible that attending Oak Park's annual Y.M.C.A circus events had fostered his lifelong affection for the circus, and there's a high probability that he attended the 1916 circus,8 having mentioned it in his article. If so, this leads to a neat little bit of speculation that maybe Ernest himself, enthralled with the circus and all its spectacle, could possibly have been a driving force in the actual planning of the carnival's events, based on Y.M.C.A circus acts he had witnessed firsthand.

Albeit with a bit of dramatic flair, young Ernest had described the whole affair of the carnival quite accurately.9  More importantly, though, this article appears to be the only contribution Hemingway ever made to the newspaper, although after his wounding, in World War I, plenty was printed about him (including material provided by friends and acquaintances of friends, and even letters home from Ernest that had been forwarded to the newspaper by someone within his own family).

Unable to recall having encountered mentions of "High Carnival Next," yet wanting to know more, particularly what circumstances had led Hemingway to receive this single publishing credit in Oak Leaves one year before his first Kansas City Star article, I began scouring indexes and text from my library of over 300 Hemingway-related volumes to see what I could find.

The answer is nothing.

From Audre Hanneman's Comprehensive bibliographies, to Carlos Baker and Michael Reynolds and every other biographer in between, to the works of Matthew J. Bruccoli and journals such as Hemingway Notes and The Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual and The Hemingway Review and everything else possibly relevant right up to Brewster Chamberlin's Hemingway Log, it appears no one had written about this. Nor did Hemingway write about it (at least as far as we know from surviving letters of the time). This is something very old, yet totally new.

Over sixty years after his death, previously uncataloged Hemingway items continue to turn up to this day. The Hemingway Letters Project alone has prompted folks to search old trunks and drawers, looking for the familiar slanted penmanship or broken-machine-gun-spaced typewriter print from the prolific letter writer. Some letters have been found.

While nothing could ever match the thrill of discovering Hemingway's very first surviving bit of adolescent prose among a cache of goodies tucked away in Key West, or unfolding a yellowing sheet of paper in one's attic to discover "Finca Vigía. San Francisco De Paula, Cuba" printed across the top in red ink, finding an unknown artifact hiding in plain sight is still pretty exciting. 

To share in that excitement, I offer this clipping10 of what is likely Ernest Hemingway's very first professional credit, "High Carnival Next," published in the first semester of his senior year of high school:


Newspaper clipping of "High Carnival Next" by Ernest Hemingway 

1Made digitally available by newspaperarchive.com

2Because of this technicality, over the years the town of Cicero, IL, has tried to capitalize on being the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway.

3Pashley was one of the former classmates contacted by the Chicago Daily Tribune for a statement after Ernest's death. Pashley, who was a retired business executive, recorded Hemingway as being an "exceptionally good writer" during his school years. ("Genius Hinted by Hemingway as School Boy." Chicago Daily Tribune, 3 Jul 1961, p. 2.)

4Hemingway would edit the final issue of 1917. (Oak Leaves, 19 May 1917, p. 9)

5The real Ring Lardner Jr. was one of the "Hollywood Ten"—the ten screenwriters and directors who were convicted and imprisoned for contempt of Congress after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and were each subsequently blacklisted.

6Ring Lardner's book You Know Me, Al (1916) was about a minor-league baseball player, presented in the form of letters written to a friend.

7Hemingway even contributed an essay to the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus Magazine & Program, in 1953, titled "The Circus."

8Oak Park's annual Y.M.C.A circus had been held on April 9 and 10 of that year.

9A total of three articles about the carnival were published in Oak Leaves; Hemingway's was the first one. Earle Pashley wrote the other two articles, the first of which bore the same title as Hemingway's piece: "High Carnival Next" (9 Dec 1916, p. 49) and "The High Carnival" about the aftermath (23 Dec 1916, p. 6.)

10Hemingway, Ernest. "High Carnival Next." Oak Leaves, 2 Dec 1916, p. 14. Accessed via Open Athens (https://access-newspaperarchive-com.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/us/illinois/oak-park/oak-park-oak-leaves/1916/12-02/page-14/)


John Hargrove is a Michigan-based writer and Hemingway researcher; he is also thefounder of "Ernest Hemingway:  The True Gen," an online community of Hemingway researchers and aficionados hosted on social media.  He is the author or co-author of previous blog posts on "Hemingway's Pamplona Legacy," "The Saga of the Socket Photo," and "Adventures in Buffalo, Wyoming." 


John Hargrove 01/25/2024

How to cite this blog in MLA 8: 

Author's Last Name, Author's First Name. "Title of Post."  THR Blog, The Hemingway Foundation and Society, Date blog was published, Link to blog entry (omit http:// or https://).