Hermann Hagedorn

Novelist, biographer and poet Hermann Hagedorn was known for his work chronicling the life of Theodore Roosevelt, as well as for his novels, his biographies of other prominent Americans, and his books for children.

Photo: Hermann Hagedorn, from the book "German-American Intellectuals and the First World War" by
Phyllis Keller. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.4159/harvard.9780674181960.c4/html

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Hagedorn was born in New York on July 18, 1882 into a German-American family.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1907 and continued his studies at the University of Berlin and Colombia.  In 1908 he was married to Dorothy Oakly and in 1909, he was hired as an English professor and an assistant at Harvard, where he taught for two years.  After that, he focused on his own writing and wrote a variety of novels, plays and volumes of poetry, as well as lyrics for the Peterborough, New Hampshire pageant.

He was active in politics and founded a group of American writers in 1916, called the “Vigilantes”, which supported preparedness for the war.  He was active in the 1916 pre-convention campaign, where he met Theodore Roosevelt, with whom he formed a friendship and collaborated on a 1918 biography entitled: “The Boys’ Life of Theodore Roosevelt”.  Hagedorn remained fascinated by Roosevelt, even after the former president’s demise. Hagedorn became the executive secretary of the Roosevelt Memorial Association, continued to research and write biographies about Theodore Roosevelt and served as the director of the Thedore Roosevelt Centennial Commision from 1955 to 1959.

Hagedorn biographed several other Americans and compiled a collection of biographical sketches entitled “Americans: A Book of Lives”.  He also wrote books for children and several patriotic novels and books in verse.  His biographical memoire “The Hyphenated Family: An American Saga” highlights the life and struggles of his German-American family. Hagedorn died in Santa Barabara, California, where he had lived for much of his adult life, on July 27, 1964.

Antona Yost

This profile was created in 2022 as part of The Savvy Singer, an EXCEL Lab course at the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and a collaboration with the Hampsong Foundation via the Classic Song Research Initiative.


Hermann Hagedorn Papers. Syracuse University, Special Collections Research Center. https://library.syracuse.edu/digital/guides/h/hagedorn_h.htm#d2e94

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