Philip Van Doren Stern

Philip Van Doren Stern books and biography

Philip Van Doren Stern

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Philip Van Doren Stern (September 10, 1900 - January 29, 1980) was an author and Civil War historian whose story "The Greatest Gift" inspired inspired the classic film It's a Wonderful Life, which in turn inspired It Happened One Christmas.

Stern was born in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania into a family of humble means. His Pennsylvania-born father was a traveling merchant of Bavarian descent, who came to Wyalusing from West Virginia with his New Jersey-born wife. Stern grew up in Brooklyn, New York and New Jersey, and graduated from Rutgers University before becoming an author of some 40 books and editor most known for his books on the Civil War that a New York Times obituary called "authoritative" and "widely respected by scholars".

Itself inspired by a dream, Stern wrote a 4,000-word short story called "The Greatest Gift" in 1943 after working on it since the late 1930s but, unable to find a publisher, he sent the the 200 copies he had printed to friends as Christmas cards. He sold it to magazines and in 1945 to RKO Pictures for $10,000. RKO would sell the rights to the story to Frank Capra's production company for the same $10,000, which he adapted into It's a Wonderful Life.


  • Genealogy and History of Philip Van Doren Stern
  • Philip Van Doren Stern at the IMDB

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Life And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln

By Philip Van Doren Stern
American Presidents

Life And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln
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