He was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 23, 1880, and graduated from Princeton University during 1902. He worked as a journalist and was active in promoting social reforms including the ending of child labor. He was a correspondent for the American magazine The Saturday Evening Post in Europe before and during World War I. His novel The Harbor (1915) is the work for which he is known best. It is set largely among the proletariat of the industrial Brooklyn waterfront, and is sympathetic with socialism. It is considered one of the first American fictional works to present a positive opinion of trade unions.
His novel named His Family, concerning a New York family, made him the first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel (1918). According to one commentator: "The consensus is that it's the lesser of the two works, that the Pulitzer committee was really honoring Poole for The Harbor". 
After the war, Poole, Paul Kennaday, and Arthur Livingston initiated an agency, the Foreign Press Service, that negotiated for foreign authors with English-language publishers.
Ernest Poole died in Manhattan, New York on January 10, 1950.
- The Voice of the Street (1906)
- The Harbor (1915)
- His Family (1917)
- The Village; Russian Impressions (1918)
- His Second Wife (1918)
- The Dark People: Russia's Crisis (1919)
- Blind; a story of these times (1920)
- Beggar's Gold (1921)
- Millions (1922)
- Danger (1923)
- The Avalanche (1924)
- The Little dark man: and other Russian sketches (1925)
- The Hunter's Moon (1925)
- With Eastern Eyes (1926)
- Silent Storms (1927)
- Car of Croesus (1930)
- Destroyer (1931)
- Nurses on horseback (1932)
- Great winds (1933)
- One of us (1934)
- Bridge; my own story (1940)
- Giants gone; men who made Chicago (1943)
- Great White hills of New Hampshire (1946)
- Nancy Flyer, a stagecoach epic (1949)
- Dennis Drabelle. "Book World: Reissue of Ernest Poole’s ‘The Harbor’ long overdue", Washington Post, January 13, 2012.
- Works by Ernest Poole at Project Gutenberg
- Photos of the first edition of His Family
- Works by Ernest Poole at LibriVox (audiobooks)