George Ade (February 9, 1866 - May 16, 1944) was an American writer, newspaper columnist, and playwright.
Ade was born in Kentland, Indiana, one of seven children raised by John and Adaline (Bush) Ade. He graduated from Purdue University in 1887. Lafayette, Indiana is where he met and started a lifelong friendship with cartoonist and Sigma Chi brother John T. McCutcheon. Ade worked as a reporter for the Lafayette Call.
In 1890 Ade joined the Chicago Morning News, which later became the Chicago Record, where McCutcheon was working. He wrote the column, Stories of the Streets and of the Town. In the column, which McCutcheon illustrated, George Ade illustrated Chicago-life. It featured characters like Artie, an office boy; Doc Horne, a gentlemanly liar; and Pink Marsh, a black shoeshine boy. Ade's well-known "fables in slang" also made their first appearance in this popular column.
Ade's literary reputation rests upon his achievements as a great humorist of American character during an important era in American history: the first large wave of migration from the countryside to burgeoning cities like Chicago, where, in fact, Ade produced his best fiction. He was a practicing realist during the Age of (William Dean) Howells and a local colorist of Chicago and the Midwest. His work constitutes a vast comedy of Midwestern manners, and therefore, by logical extension, a comedy of American manners at a significant juncture in the development of indigenous American culture.
Throughout his fiction he dealt consistently with the "little man," the commonplace, undistinguished, average American, usually a farmer or citizen in the lower middle class. (He sometimes skewered women as well as men, especially women with laughable social pretensions.) His incessant attention to the common man or woman is undoubtedly a significant literary reflection of American democracy in process; it places Ade as one of the foremost humorists of American democracy.
Ade's followed in the footsteps of his idol Mark Twain by making distinctive use of the American language. In his unique "Fables in Slang," which purveyed not so much slang per se but rather the American colloquial vernacular, Ade pursued an effectively genial satire that is notable for its scrupulous objectivity. Ade's regular practice in the best fables is to present a little drama incorporating concrete, specific evidence with which he implicitly indicts the object of his satire--always a type (e.g., the social climber). The actual moral of his fables is virtually always implicit, though he customarily tacked on a mock, often ironic moral (e.g., "Industry and perseverance bring a sure reward").
As a moralist who does not overtly moralize, who is all too aware of the ironies of what in his day was the modern world, George Ade can readily be termed our first modern American humorist. Through the values implicit in the fables, Ade manifests an ambivalence between the traditional rural virtues in which he was raised (the virtues of Horatio Alger and the McGuffey Readers) and the craftiness he saw all around him in Chicago, where the population was exploding.
The United States, as it underwent the travail of a gigantic population shift and transfer from an agricultural to an industrial economy, suffered the even more agonizing process of shifting values toward philistinism, greed, and dishonesty. Ade's prevalent practice is to record, as on moving picture film, the pragmatic efforts of the little man to get along in such a world.
Ade propounds a golden mean, satirizing both hidebound adherence to obsolete standards and too-easy adjustment to new standards. His view is often an ambiguous, ambivalent, pragmatic reaction to the changing scene, but it remains an invaluable literary reflection of the conflicting moral tensions resident in our national culture at the turn of the century.
Ade was a playwright as well as an author, penning such stage works as Artie, The Sultan of Sulu(a musical comedy), The College Widow, The Fair Co-ed, and "The County Chairman". He wrote the first American play about football.
After twelve years in Chicago, he built a home near the town of Brook, Indiana (Newton County). It soon became known for hosting a campaign stop in 1908 by William Howard Taft, a rally for Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party in 1912, and a homecoming for soldiers and sailors in 1919.
George Ade is one of the American writers whose publications made him rich. When land values were inflated about the time of World War I, Ade was a millionaire. The Ross-Ade football stadium at Purdue University was built with his (and David E. Ross's) financial support. He also generously supported his college fraternity, Sigma Chi, leading a fund-raising campaign to endow the Sigma Chi mother house at the site of the fraternity's original establishment at Miami University. Ade is also famous among Sigma Chis as the author of The Sigma Chi Creed, one of the central documents of the fraternity's philosophies.
George Ade died in Brook, Indiana. He is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Kentland.