Born Ringgold Wilmer Lardner on 6 March 1885, in Niles, Michigan, the youngest child of wealthy parents Henry and Lena Phillips Lardner; 1890-1897 is taught at home, first by his mother and later by a private tutor; even though he has physical problems with one of his legs, he is active in sports, especially baseball; shows an early interest in music and theatricals; 1897-1901 attends Niles High School, where he sings in a quartet and plays football; graduates at age 16 and writes the class poem, reportedly his first published work, which appears in the Niles Daily Star (14 June 1901); 1901 goes to Chicago, where he works briefly as an office boy; returns to Niles and finds employment with the Michigan Central Railroad; 1902 at his father’s urging enrolls in Armour Institute in Chicago to study engineering; fails all courses except rhetoric and is forced to leave at the end of the spring semester; 1903-1905 returns to Niles, rests for a year, and works about a year and a half for the Niles Gas Company as a bookkeeper, bill collector, and meter-reader; is active in the Niles American minstrel group; acts in and writes the music and most of the lyrics for a two-act musical comedy, Zanzibar (14 April 1903).
1905-1907 works as a sports reporter for the South Bend Times; 1907-1908 works successively as a general sports writer for the Chicago Inter-Ocean and as a baseball reporter for the Chicago Examiner, where he writes under the alias James Clarkson and travels with the White Sox on their spring tour; 1908-1910 is employed as a baseball reporter for the Chicago Tribune; 1910-1911 works as managing editor and feature writer of the St. Louis Sporting News, sports editor of the Boston American, and as copyreader for the Chicago American; marries Ellis Abbott of Goshen, Indiana, on 28 June 1911; 1912 once again works as a baseball writer for the Chicago Examiner; his first son, John Abbott, is born 4 May; 1913 rejoins the Chicago Tribune staff and begins writing the daily column, “In the Wake of the News,” a collection of sports tidbits, humorous verse, observations, and stories.
1914 begins his long association with The Saturday Evening Post, publishing ten busher stories, first-person epistolary baseball stories written in the slang vernacular, in the magazine his first year; in collaboration with Edward C. Heeman, publishes a souvenir booklet entitled March 6th: The Home Coming of Charles A. Comiskey, John J. McGraw and James J. Callahan, commemorating the return of the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants from an historic world tour; his second son, James Phillips, is born 18 May; 1915 publishes more busher stories in The Saturday Evening Post; writes a series of Fred Gross stories in Redbook; publishes Bib Ballads, a collection of humorous verse about children, derived mainly from his “Wake” columns; his third son, Ringgold Wilmer Jr., called Bill, is born 19 August; 1916 publishes You Know Me Al, a collection of his busher stories from the Post; 1917 publishes Gullible’s Travels, Etc., the first of his so-called wise boob collections; makes a brief trip to France as a war correspondent for Collier’s; 1918 publishes My Four Weeks in France, a collection of his Collier’s work, and Treat ‘Em Rough, a collection of Jack Keefe (the busher) war stories with the conspicuous absence of the stories in which Jack tries to avoid the draft; 1919 publishes The Real Dope, another collection of busher tales, Own Your Own Home, a collection of the Fred Gross stories from Redbook, and Regular Fellows I Have Met, a book of comic verse poking fun at current Chicago celebrities; resigns from the Chicago Tribune and begins writing a weekly column for the Bell Syndicate; moves his family from Chicago to Greenwich, Connecticut; his fourth son, David, is born 11 March; 1920 publishes The Young Immigrunts, a parody of The Young Visitors by Daisy Ashford, it recounts the family’s trip from Chicago to Greenwich as seen through the eyes of four-year-old Ring Jr.; 1921 publishes The Big Town, a series of stories that had appeared in the Saturday Evening Post the previous year, and Symptoms of Being 35, a comic essay about “old” age; 1922 begins contributing sketches, with mixed results, to the Follies; 1923 begins a three-year job of writing continuity for a comic strip based on You Know Me Al.
1924 after Fitzgerald had pressured him to release a collection of his short stories, publishes How To Write Short Stories (With Samples), which is met with popular and critical success; 1925 publishes What of It?, a collection of humorous pieces and nonsense plays; Scribner’s re-releases You Know Me Al, Gullible’s Travels, The Big Town, and What of It? in matching bindings, which prompts critics to evaluate Lardner’s work as a whole; 1926 publishes The Love Nest and Other Stories, the second major collection of his short fiction; is diagnosed with tuberculosis; 1927 publishes The Story of a Wonder Man, a comic autobiography; stops writing for the Bell Syndicate in order to devote more time to the theater.
1928 collaborates with George M. Cohan on an unsuccessful play, Elmer, the Great, based on Lardner’s short story “Hurry Kane”; 1929 publishes Round Up, a collection of 35 stories, 14 of which were previously uncollected; collaborates with George S. Kaufman on June Moon, Lardner’s only theatrical success; 1930 writes a column for the Bell Syndicate; 1931 contributes a series of autobiographical articles to The Saturday Evening Post; 1932 writes a new series of busher stories for The Saturday Evening Post.; begins contributing a series of radio columns to The New Yorker in which he speaks out against, among other things, what he considers pornographic and inane lyrics and jokes; 1933 publishes Lose With a Smile, a collection of the new busher stories from the Post; dies 25 September of a heart attack.