William Dean Howells 1837-1920

Born Martin’s Ferry, Ohio


William Dean Howells visited Ben-Yusuf’s studio in the fall of 1899, just weeks before embarking on a lengthy North American lecture tour. Despite a backbreaking travel schedule, Howell’s lectures were a triumph with both critics and audiences and another professional coup for one of American literature’s most celebrated writers. Like his friend Samuel Clemens, Howells was fascinated by the American character; he doted on mavericks, seeing them as validations of democracy, and detested what he saw as overly conventional, Europeanized Americans. In such famous novels as The Rise of Silas Lapham and A Hazard of New Fortunes, he examined the conflict between these two groups. A leading champion of literary realism, Howells wrote more than seventy books during his lifetime. He also supported numerous political and social causes, including the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.

Platinum print, 1899
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution