Above all else, John Steinbeck was a private man. Unwillingly cast into the spotlight by his gift for writing, Steinbeck most valued solitude.
Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California. His father was the county treasurer; his mother, a former school teacher. It was his mother who fostered Steinbeck's love of reading and writing. In 1919, after graduating from high school, Steinbeck attended Stanford University, taking primarily writing classes. A sporadic attendee, Steinbeck left Stanford in 1925, without a degree, to pursue a writing career in New York. Unsuccessful in getting published in New York, he returned to California.
His first novel, Cup of Gold, and two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To a God Unknown, were not well received. In 1935, Tortilla Flat marked a turning point for Steinbeck's career. It received the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal for best novel by a California author. In 1939, The Grapes of Wrath won the Pulitzer Prize.
Steinbeck's thirty-three major works included seventeen novels (three adapted for stage and thirteen made into films), three original screen plays, and four books of short stories. His most notable works include: Tortilla Flat, 1935; Of Mice and Men, 1937; The Red Pony, 1937; The Grapes of Wrath, 1939; Sea of Cortez, 1941; The Moon is Down, 1942; Cannery Row, 1945; The Wayward Bus, 1947; East of Eden, 1952; The Winter of Our Discontent, 1961; and Travels with Charley in Search of America, 1962. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "… for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and a keen social perception."
Steinbeck was married three times: Carol Henning Steinbeck Brown, 1930-1942; Gwyndolyn Conger Steinbeck, 1943-1948, mother to Steinbeck's two sons, Thomas Steinbeck, 1944 and John Steinbeck IV, 1946; and Elaine Anderson Scott Steinbeck, married in 1950, now living in New York.
Steinbeck was a charter member of Watsonville Chapter DeMolay in Watsonville, California, in 1921. He was inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on June 16, 1995.
A quote from the DeMolay Cordon in March 1969 says it all. "Although Dad Steinbeck was an unwilling celebrity who zealously guarded his privacy, modestly took little part in the public literary life of his time, and rarely served on committees, he retained interest in and regard for the Order of DeMolay. At the time of his death, he was serving on the Executive Advisory Committee of our 50th Anniversary."