Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) was a widely admired and award-winning American playwright and novelist. His characterizations of common people registered deeply with readers and audiences, and many of his plays remain in the modern canon of performed drama. His novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1928), and two of his plays, Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1943), won Pulitzer Prizes, making him the only author to win the Pulitzer for both drama and fiction.
Wilder was in residence nine times from 1924 to 1953. He worked on Our Town, thought to be based in part on life he observed in Peterborough, in Veltin Studio. As a testament to its universal themes, it is said that Our Town is performed at least once a day somewhere in the United States and it continues to be performed around the world.
During World War II, Wilder rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Air Force intelligence division, first based in Africa and then in Italy until 1945. Afterward, he served a year as the Charles Elliot Norton Professor at Harvard. Wilder continued to write award-winning pieces, receiving the Peace Prize of the German Book in 1957 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. In addition to his numerous plays and seven novels, he wrote two opera librettos, the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, and reworked The Merchant of Yonkers into The Matchmaker, which went on to great Broadway acclaim and was later the basis for Hello, Dolly! He won the National Book Award for his novel The Eighth Day in 1968.
He was awarded the inaugural Edward MacDowell Medal in 1960.