Edgar Lee Masters, 1869–1950, American poet and biographer, b. Garnett, Kans. He maintained a successful law practice in Chicago from 1892 to 1920. Masters's Spoon River Anthology (1915), a collection of epitaphs in free verse revealing the secret lives of dead citizens, was acclaimed for its treatment of small-town American life. Less successful volumes that followed include Starved Rock (1919), Domesday Book (1920), Poems of People (1936), and Illinois Poems (1941). His Lincoln the Man (1931) is a bitter and prejudiced attack. Other biographies are Vachel Lindsay (1935), Whitman (1937), and Mark Twain (1938).
See his autobiography Across Spoon River (1936).
The work features such characters as Tom Merritt, Amos Sibley, Carl Hamblin, Fiddler Jones and . Blood. Many of the characters who make appearances in Spoon River Anthology were based on real people that Masters knew or heard of in the two towns in which he grew up, Petersburg and Lewistown, Illinois . Most notable is Ann Rutledge , regarded in local legend to be Abraham Lincoln 's early love interest though there is no actual proof of such a relationship. Rutledge's grave can still be found in a Petersburg cemetery, and a tour of graveyards in both towns, especially Oak Hill Cemetery , reveals most of the surnames that Masters applied to his characters.