David Gaub McCullough (/məˈkʌlə/; born July 7, 1933) is an American author, narrator, popular historian, and lecturer. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian award.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, McCullough earned a degree in English literature from Yale University. His first book was The Johnstown Flood (1968); and he has since written nine more on such topics as Harry S. Truman, John Adams, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Wright brothers. McCullough has also narrated numerous documentaries, such as The Civil War by Ken Burns, as well as the 2003 film Seabiscuit; and he hosted American Experience for twelve years.
|Born||David Gaub McCullough|
July 7, 1933
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Alma mater||Yale University|
|Notable works||The Path Between the Seas (1977), Truman (1992), John Adams (2001)|
|Spouse||Rosalee Ingram Barnes McCullough (1954 – present)|
McCullough was born in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Ruth (née Rankin) and Christian Hax McCullough. He is of Scots-Irish descent. He was educated at Linden Avenue Grade School and Shady Side Academy, in his hometown of Pittsburgh. One of four sons, McCullough had a "marvelous" childhood with a wide range of interests, including sports and drawing cartoons. McCullough's parents and his grandmother, who read to him often, introduced him to books at an early age. His parents often talked about history, a topic he says should be discussed more often. McCullough "loved school, every day"; he contemplated many career choices, ranging from architect, actor, painter, writer, to lawyer, and contemplated attending medical school for a time.
In 1951, McCullough began attending Yale University. He said that it was a "privilege" to study English at Yale because of faculty members such as John O'Hara, John Hersey, Robert Penn Warren, and Brendan Gill. McCullough occasionally ate lunch with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder. Wilder, says McCullough, taught him that a competent writer maintains "an air of freedom" in the storyline, so that a reader will not anticipate the outcome, even if the book is non-fiction.
While at Yale, he became a member of Skull and Bones. He served apprenticeships at Time, Life, the United States Information Agency, and American Heritage, where he enjoyed research. "Once I discovered the endless fascination of doing the research and of doing the writing, I knew I had found what I wanted to do in my life." While attending Yale, McCullough studied Arts and earned his bachelor's degree in English, with the intention of becoming a fiction writer or playwright. He graduated with honors in English literature (1955).
After graduation, McCullough moved to New York City, where Sports Illustrated hired him as a trainee. He later worked as an editor and writer for the United States Information Agency in Washington, D.C. After working for twelve years, including a position at American Heritage, in editing and writing, McCullough "felt that [he] had reached the point where [he] could attempt something on [his] own."
McCullough "had no anticipation that [he] was going to write history, but [he] stumbled upon a story that [he] thought was powerful, exciting, and very worth telling." While working at American Heritage, McCullough wrote in his spare time for three years. The Johnstown Flood, a chronicle of one of the worst flood disasters in United States history, was published in 1968 to high praise by critics. John Leonard, of The New York Times, said of McCullough, "We have no better social historian." Despite rough financial times, he decided to become a full-time writer, encouraged by his wife Rosalee.
After the success of The Johnstown Flood, two new publishers offered him contracts, one to write about the Great Chicago Fire and another about the San Francisco earthquake. Simon & Schuster, publisher of his first book, also offered McCullough a contract to write a second book. Trying not to become "Bad News McCullough", he decided to write about a subject showing "people were not always foolish and inept or irresponsible." He remembered the words of his Yale teacher: "[Thornton] Wilder said he got the idea for a book or a play when he wanted to learn about something. Then, he'd check to see if anybody had already done it, and if they hadn't, he'd do it." McCullough decided to write a history of the Brooklyn Bridge, which he had walked across many times.
To me history ought to be a source of pleasure. It isn't just part of our civic responsibility. To me it's an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is.
– David McCullough
He also proposed, from a suggestion by his editor, a work about the Panama Canal; both were accepted by the publisher. Critics hailed The Great Bridge (1972) as "the definitive book on the event."
Five years later, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal was released, gaining McCullough widespread recognition. The book won the National Book Award in History, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, the Francis Parkman Prize, and the Cornelius Ryan Award. Later in 1977, McCullough travelled to the White House to advise Jimmy Carter and the United States Senate on the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, which would give Panama control of the Canal. Carter later said that the treaties, which were agreed upon to hand over ownership of the Canal to Panama, would not have passed had it not been for the book.
McCullough's fourth work was his first biography, reinforcing his belief that "history is the story of people". Released in 1981, Mornings on Horseback tells the story of seventeen years in the life of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. The work ranged from 1869, when Roosevelt was ten years old, to 1886, and tells of a "life intensely lived." The book won McCullough's second National Book Award[a] and his first Los Angeles Times Prize for Biography and New York Public Library Literary Lion Award. Next, he published Brave Companions, a collection of essays that "unfold seamlessly". Written over twenty years, the book includes essays about Louis Agassiz, Alexander von Humboldt, John and Washington Roebling, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Conrad Richter, and Frederic Remington.
With his next book, McCullough published his second biography, Truman (1993) about the 33rd president. The book won McCullough his first Pulitzer Prize, in the category of "Best Biography or Autobiography," and his second Francis Parkman Prize. Two years later, the book was adapted as Truman (1995), a television film by HBO, starring Gary Sinise as Truman.
I think it's important to remember that these men are not perfect. If they were marble gods, what they did wouldn't be so admirable. The more we see the founders as humans the more we can understand them.
– David McCullough
Working for the next seven years, McCullough published John Adams (2001), his third biography about a United States president. One of the fastest-selling non-fiction books in history, the book won McCullough's second Pulitzer Prize for "Best Biography or Autobiography." He started it as a book about the founding fathers and back-to-back presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; but dropped Jefferson to focus on Adams. HBO adapted John Adams as a seven-part miniseries by the same name. Premiering in 2008, it starred Paul Giamatti in the title role. The DVD version of the miniseries includes the biographical documentary, David McCullough: Painting with Words.
McCullough's 1776, tells the story of the founding year of the United States, focusing on George Washington, the amateur army, and other struggles for independence. Because of McCullough's popularity, its initial printing was 1.25 million copies, many more than the average history book. Upon its release, the book was a number one best-seller in the United States. A miniseries adaptation of 1776 was rumored.
McCullough considered writing a sequel to 1776. However, he signed a contract with Simon & Schuster to do a work about Americans in Paris between 1830 and 1900, The Greater Journey, which was published in 2011. The book covers 19th-century Americans, including Mark Twain and Samuel Morse, who migrated to Paris and went on to achieve importance in culture or innovation. Other subjects include Benjamin Silliman, who had been Morse's science teacher at Yale, Elihu Washburne, the American ambassador to France during the Franco-Prussian War, and Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the United States.
In 2015, McCullough's The Wright Brothers was published. On October 6, 2016, Simon & Schuster announced that they will publish David McCullough's new book, The Pioneers, in 2019. The Pioneers is the story of the first European American settlers of the Northwest Territory, a vast American wilderness to which the Ohio River was the gateway.
David McCullough lives in Boston and is married to Rosalee Barnes McCullough, whom he met at age 17 in Pittsburgh. The couple have five children and nineteen grandchildren. He enjoys sports, history, and art, including watercolor and portrait painting.
His son, David Jr., an English teacher at Wellesley High School in the Boston suburbs, achieved sudden fame in 2012 with his commencement speech. He told graduating students, "you're not special" nine times, and his speech went viral on YouTube. His son is married to the daughter of former Florida governor Bob Graham.
A registered independent, McCullough has typically avoided publicly commenting on contemporary political issues. When asked to do so, he would repeatedly say, "My specialty is dead politicians." During the 2016 presidential election season, he broke with this tradition to criticize Donald Trump, whom he called "a monstrous clown with a monstrous ego."
McCullough has taught a writing course at Wesleyan University and is a visiting scholar at Cornell University as well as Dartmouth College.
McCullough has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in December 2006, the highest civilian award that a United States citizen can receive. In 1995 the National Book Foundation conferred its lifetime Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. McCullough has been awarded more than 40 honorary degrees, including one from the Eastern Nazarene College in John Adams' hometown of Quincy, Massachusetts. McCullough has received two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, two Francis Parkman Prizes, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, New York Public Library's Literary Lion Award, and the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates, among others. McCullough was chosen to deliver the first annual John Hersey Lecture at Yale University on March 22, 1993. He is a member of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and the Academy of Achievement. In 2003, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected McCullough for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. McCullough's lecture was entitled "The Course of Human Events".
McCullough has been called a "master of the art of narrative history." The New York Times critic John Leonard wrote that McCullough was "incapable of writing a page of bad prose." His works have been published in ten languages, over nine million copies have been printed, and all of his books are still in print.
In a ceremony at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, on November 16, 2015, the Air University of the United States Air Force awarded McCullough an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree. He was also made an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa at Yale University in 2015.
|Title||Year||Subject matter||Awards||Interviews and presentations|
|The Johnstown Flood||1968||Johnstown Flood|
|The Great Bridge||1972||Brooklyn Bridge||Presentation by McCullough on The Great Bridge, September 17, 2002, C-SPAN|
|The Path Between the Seas||1977||Panama Canal, History of the Panama Canal||National Book Award – 1978
Francis Parkman Prize – 1978
Samuel Eliot Morison Award – 1978
Cornelius Ryan Award – 1978
|Mornings on Horseback||1981||Theodore Roosevelt||National Book Award – 1982[a]|
|Truman||1992||Harry S Truman||Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography – 1993
The Colonial Dames of America Annual Book Award – 1993
Francis Parkman Prize
|Booknotes interview with McCullough on Truman, July 19, 1992, C-SPAN|
Presentation by McCullough on Truman at the National Press Club, July 7, 1992, C-SPAN
|John Adams||2001||John Adams||Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography – 2002||Presentation by McCullough on John Adams at the Library of Congress, April 24, 2001, C-SPAN|
Presentation by McCullough on John Adams at the National Book Festival, September 8, 2001, C-SPAN
|1776||2005||American Revolution, American Revolutionary War||American Compass Best Book – 2005||Presentation by McCullough on 1776 to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, June 9, 2005, C-SPAN|
Q&A interview with McCullough on 1776, August 7, 2005, C-SPAN
Presentation by McCullough on 1776 at the National Book Festival, September 24, 2005, C-SPAN
Presentation by McCullough on 1776 at the Texas State Capital, October 29, 2005
|In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story||2010||Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Arcadia Conference|
|The Greater Journey||2011||Part one and Part two of Q&A interview with McCullough on The Greater Journey, May 22 & 29, 2011, C-SPAN|
Interview with McCullough on The Greater Journey at the National Book Festival, September 25, 2011, C-SPAN
Presentation by McCullough on The Greater Journey at the National Book Festival, September 25, 2011, C-SPAN
|The Wright Brothers||2015||The Wright Brothers||National Aviation Hall of Fame Combs Gates Award - 2016||Q&A interview with McCullough on The Wright Brothers, May 31, 2015, C-SPAN|
|The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For||2017||Q&A interview with McCullough on The American Spirit, April 23, 2017, C-SPAN|
|The Pioneers||2019||American pioneers to the Northwest Territory|
McCullough has narrated many television shows and documentaries throughout his career. In addition to narrating the 2003 film Seabiscuit, McCullough hosted PBS's American Experience from 1988 to 1999. McCullough has narrated numerous documentaries directed by Ken Burns, including the Emmy Award-winning The Civil War, the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge, The Statue of Liberty, and The Congress. He served as a guest narrator for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, a Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert special that aired on PBS in 2010.
McCullough has narrated some of his own audiobooks, including introductions for the anniversary edition of The Great Bridge and The Greater Journey and the entire audiobooks of 1776 and The Wright Brothers.
David McCullough graduated from Yale in 1955 with honors in English literature and began his career as writer and editor for Time Inc. in New York City.
1776 (released in the United Kingdom as 1776: America and Britain At War) is a book written by David McCullough, first published by Simon & Schuster on May 24, 2005. The work is considered a companion piece to McCullough's earlier biography of John Adams, and focuses on the events surrounding the start of the American Revolution. While revolving mostly around the leadership (and often indecisiveness) of George Washington, there is also considerable attention given to King George III, General Howe, Henry Knox, and Nathanael Greene. Key Revolutionary War battles detailed in the book include the Battle of Dorchester Heights, the Battle of Long Island, and the Battle of Trenton. The actual signing of the Declaration of Independence is treated as a somewhat minor detail, as the main focus of the book is on military rather than political events. The book includes multiple pages of full color illustrations, including portraits and historical battlefield maps made by British engineers at the time.American Heritage (magazine)
American Heritage is a magazine dedicated to covering the history of the United States of America for a mainstream readership. Until 2007, the magazine was published by Forbes. Since that time, Edwin S. Grosvenor has been its publisher. Print publication was suspended early in 2013, but the magazine relaunched in digital format with the Summer 2017 issue after a Kickstarter campaign raised $31,203 from 587 backers. The publisher stated it also intended to relaunch the magazine's sister publication Invention & Technology, which ceased print publication in 2011.Brooklyn Bridge (film)
Brooklyn Bridge is a documentary film on the history of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was produced by Ken Burns, Roger Sherman, Buddy Squires, and Amy Stechler in 1981. The film included interviews with personalities such as New York Times architectural critic Paul Goldberger and writer Arthur Miller plus film clips featuring Bugs Bunny (Bowery Bugs) and Frank Sinatra. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It was narrated by historian David McCullough who wrote the book the film was based on.The film was rebroadcast nationally twice: on January 29, 1992, preceding the then-new documentary from Burns, Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio, and on October 21, 2002, as part of Ken Burns: America's Stories.David McCullough Bridge
The David McCullough Bridge, commonly and historically known as the 16th Street Bridge, is a steel trussed through arch bridge that spans the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The 16th Street Bridge replaced the Mechanics Street Bridge which had been completed at the behest of the State of Pennsylvania in 1838. The 16th Street Bridge was constructed in 1922 with a length of 1,900 feet (580 m) and a width of 40 feet (12 m). The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The 16th Street Bridge is one of the more popular bridges in the city of Pittsburgh and provides easy access to the Strip District and the North Shore.
Days after the infamous St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936, reports spread on March 20 that the bridge had collapsed from the pressure of the receding flood waters and debris, prompting Pittsburgh Police Chief Jacob Dorsey to close all city bridges for fear of receding waters and debris weakening or collapsing them. However, the reports were soon discovered to be false.On July 7, 2013, the structure was named in honor of native historian, author and commentator David McCullough in a bridge ceremony sponsored by Heinz History Center.Huey Long (film)
Huey Long is an American documentary film on the life and career of the politician Huey Long. It was directed by Ken Burns, and produced by Ken Burns and Richard Kilberg in 1985. The film first aired on October 15, 1986. The film includes interviews with Russell B. Long, author Robert Penn Warren, and political contemporary and opponent Cecil Morgan. It was narrated by the historian David McCullough.John Adams (book)
John Adams is a 2001 biography of the Founding Father and second U.S. President John Adams, written by the popular American historian David McCullough, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. It has been made into a TV miniseries with the same name by HBO Films. Since the TV miniseries debuted, an alternative cover has been added to the book showing Paul Giamatti as John Adams. The book is available as both hardcover and paperback.Kelly McCullough
Kelly David McCullough (born 1967) is a contemporary American author of Fantasy and Science Fiction novels living in Wisconsin. His critically acclaimed WebMage was released in 2006, followed by Cybermancy in 2007, CodeSpell in 2008, MythOS in 2009, and Spellcrash in 2010, and other novels since, including the young adult novel School for Sidekicks. Some of his 20 published short stories include The Uncola, When Jabberwocks Attack, and The Totally Secret Origin of Foxman: Excerpts from an EPIC Autobiography, a Tor.Com original; he also has written a number of poems, including The Bees: An Edgar Allan Pooh Poem. His non-fiction work includes an illustrated collection that is part of a robust middle school physical science curriculum that was funded by the National Science Foundation and has been adopted by several state boards of education, the Interactions in Physical Science curriculum.Before succeeding as a published author, McCullough acted in the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, the Colorado Renaissance Festival, and the Arizona Renaissance Festival. He lives with his wife, Laura, and a number of cats.
Awards include the 2000 "Writers of the Future" winner, an international competition begun by L. Ron Hubbard.In 2008, he donated his archive to the department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University.Learning the hard way
Learning the hard way refers to learning by making mistakes through trial and error. The idiomatic expression refers to learning from bad, difficult or unpleasant experiences.Example:
"The Saturday Evening Post said charitably that perhaps every President had to learn the hard way. (Truman might have added that that was about the only way he had ever learned anything in his life.)" -- David McCullough, Truman.Mornings on Horseback
Mornings on Horseback is a 1981 biography of the 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt written by popular historian David McCullough, covering the early part of Roosevelt's life. The book won McCullough's second National Book Award and his first Los Angeles Times Prize for Biography.The Congress (1988 film)
The Congress is a 1988 documentary film directed by the Emmy Award-winning director Ken Burns. The Florentine Films production, which focuses on the United States Congress, aired on PBS in 1989. Narrated by David McCullough, the documentary features use of photographs, paintings, and film from sessions of Congress, in its implementation of the Ken Burns Effect. Scenes from the Academy Award-winning Frank Capra film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are also used. The work features numerous interviews from writers and historians including Charles McDowell, David McCullough, Cokie Roberts, George Tames, David Broder, James MacGregor Burns, Barbara Fields, and Alistair Cooke. Many congressmen are specifically referred to, including Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, Thomas Brackett Reed, Joseph Gurney Cannon, George William Norris, Jeannette Rankin, and Everett Dirksen. The film also includes focus on the Congress' work during pivotal periods in United States history, including the Civil War, Civil Rights Movement, and Women's suffrage. The documentary was released by PBS, on DVD in 2004. Footage of the Capitol from the film was later incorporated into Burns' later masterpiece, The Civil War.The Great Bridge (book)
The Great Bridge is a 1972 book about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge written by popular historian David McCullough. It provides a history of the engineering that went into the building of the bridge as well as the toils John A. Roebling, the designer of the bridge, went through with his son Washington Roebling to bring the bridge to its completion. The book went on to win two awards in 1973; the Certificate of Merit Municipal Art Society, NY, and the New York Diamond Jubilee Award.The documentary film, Brooklyn Bridge, released in 1981 by Ken Burns, Roger Sherman, Buddy Squires, and Amy Stechler drew inspiration from McCullough's work. He was also chosen to be the narrator for the film.The Greater Journey
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris is a 2011 non-fiction book by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough. In a departure from McCullough's most recent works, Founding Fathers like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, who spent time in Paris, are not covered. Instead, the book is about 19th-century Americans like James Fenimore Cooper and Samuel Morse, who migrated to Paris and went on to achieve importance in culture or innovation. Other subjects include Elihu Washburne, the American ambassador to France during the Franco-Prussian War, Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the United States, and American artists who worked in Paris such as George Healy, Mary Cassatt, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens.The Johnstown Flood (1989 film)
The Johnstown Flood is a 1989 American short documentary film directed by Charles Guggenheim about the Johnstown Flood. It won the Oscar at the 62nd Academy Awards for Documentary Short Subject. David McCullough, author of The Johnstown Flood hosted the series.The Johnstown Flood (book)
The Johnstown Flood is a 1968 book written by popular historian David McCullough about the Great Flood of 1889 which devastated the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. His first book, McCullough spent time speaking with individuals who lived through the flood on top of his other research in preparation for writing. Upon its publication The Johnstown Flood rekindled national interest in the flood and was the catalyst to McCullough's accomplished career. Following the success of his book, McCullough decided to devote his time entirely towards writing.The Path Between the Seas
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870–1914 (1977) is a book by the American historian David McCullough, published by Simon & Schuster. The 698-page book contains 80 photographs, two maps and extensive source references. It won the U.S. National Book Award in History, the Francis Parkman Prize, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award, and the Cornelius Ryan Award.The book details people, places, and events involved in building the Panama Canal. The title refers to the connection between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that the opening of the canal created.
U.S. President Jimmy Carter has said that the treaties passing control of the Canal to Panama would not have passed the U.S Senate had it not been for McCullough's book. “All through the Senate debates on the issue,” McCullough observes, “the book was quoted again and again, and I’m pleased to say that it was quoted by both sides. Real history always cuts both ways."The Statue of Liberty (film)
The Statue of Liberty is a 1985 American documentary film on the history of the Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). It was produced and directed by Ken Burns. The film first aired on October 28, 1985. It was narrated by historian David McCullough. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.The Wright Brothers (book)
The Wright Brothers is a 2015 non-fiction book written by the popular historian David McCullough and published by Simon & Schuster. It is a history of the American inventors and aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright. The book was on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Sellers list for seven weeks in 2015.Truman (book)
Truman is a 1992 biography of the 33rd President of the United States Harry S. Truman written by popular historian David McCullough. The book won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. The book was later made into a movie with the same name by HBO.