He was born in Chicago, Illinois on January 23, 1880, and graduated from Princeton University in 1902. He worked as a journalist and was active in promoting social reforms including the ending of child labor.
His novel The Harbor (1915) is the work for which he is best known. It presents a strong socialist message, set among the proletariat of the industrial Brooklyn waterfront. It is considered one of the first fictional works to offer a positive view of unions. His portrait of a New York family titled His Family made him the first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1918. "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 founded 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)