George Cram Cook

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

George Cram Cook
BornGeorge Cram Cook
(1873-10-07)October 7, 1873
Davenport, Iowa, United States
DiedJanuary 14, 1924(1924-01-14) (aged 50)
Delphi, Greece
Other namesJig Cook
Alma materHarvard
OccupationTheatre Producer
Known forProvincetown Players
Spouse(s)Sara H Swain
Molly Price
Susan Glaspell
ChildrenNilla Cram Cook
Harl Cook

George Cram Cook or Jig Cook (October 7, 1873 – January 14, 1924) was an American theatre producer, director, playwright, novelist, poet, and university professor. Believing it was his personal mission to inspire others, Cook led the founding of the Provincetown Players,[1] the first modern American theatre company.[2] During his seven-year tenure with the group Cook oversaw the production of nearly one-hundred new plays by fifty American playwrights.[3] He is particularly remembered for producing the first plays of Eugene O'Neill, along with those of Cook's wife Susan Glaspell, and several other noted writers. As a professor at the University of Iowa from 1896 to 1899, Cook taught what is considered to be the first ever creative writing course.[4][5] Titled "Verse-Making," the course was continued by Cook's colleagues at the university after his departure where it gradually evolved[6][7] into the world's first[8] and most renowned[9] creative writing program, the famed Iowa Writer's Workshop.


Cram wrote: "I was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa, where my family was one of the town's oldest and most wealthy. My father, a corporate lawyer, strongly encouraged my education from a young age, while my mother instilled in me a passion for culture and the arts. I completed my bachelor's degree at Harvard in 1893."

He continued his studies at the University of Heidelberg in 1894 and at the University of Geneva the following year.

Upon completing his education Cook taught English literature at the University of Iowa from 1895 until 1899, where he would lay some of the foundations for what would eventually become the famed Iowa Writers Workshop. He was also an English professor at Stanford University during the 1902 academic year.

Wife Susan Glaspell with Cook wearing his fustanella. Pictured also is Cook's dog from which he contracted a fatal disease.

In Davenport Cook associated with other young writers to form what was informally referred to as the Davenport group. With his wife, dramatist Susan Glaspell, Cook left Davenport and established the Provincetown Players in 1915, an important step in the development of American theatre. The group would perform works by Cook and Glaspell as well as the first plays of Eugene O'Neill and Edna St. Vincent Millay, among others. Cook would lead the Provincetown Players until 1919, at which time he took a sabbatical. Although he returned to the group in 1920, internal wrangling and his own frustration led to his effectively abandoning the cooperative to move with his wife to Greece in 1922.

Cook and Glaspell lived at Delphi, where they spent the summers camped in spruce huts high above the village on Mount Parnassus. After a short time, Cook began to wear fustanella, the traditional Greek shepherd's attire. In 1924 he contracted a rare infectious disease from his pet dog and died. Cook's obituary appeared on the front page of the New York Times. He is buried at Delphi in a small cemetery just hundreds of feet from the ruins of the famous Temple of Apollo, home of the oracle. So beloved was Cook by the locals that the Greek government allowed a stone from the temple foundation to be used as his grave marker.[10] Years later his daughter Nilla would be buried beside him.

Partial bibliography[edit]


  • (1915) Change Your Style.
  • (1917) Suppressed Desires; co-written with Susan Glaspell.
  • (1921) The Spring.
  • (1925) Tickless Time; co-written with Susan Glaspell.
  • (1926) The Athenian Women.


  • (1903) Roderick Taliaferro: A Story of Maximilian's Empire.
  • (1911) The Chasm.



  • (1899) Company B of Davenport.

Further reading[edit]

  • Glaspell, Susan. The Road to the Temple. New York: Frederick A. Stokes and Company, 1927. (A posthumous biography of Cook.)
  • Ben-Zvi, Linda (2005). Susan Glaspell: Her Life and Times. Oxford University Press.
  • Sarlos, Robert K. Jig Cook and the Provincetown Players: Theatre in Ferment. University of Massachusetts Press (1982).
  • Kenton, Edna. The Provincetown Players and the Playwrights' Theatre, 1915-1922. McFarland & Company (2004).


  1. ^ Ben-Zvi, Linda. "Preface." Preface. Susan Glaspell: Her Life and Times. Oxford University Press, 2005. Ix.
  2. ^ Sarlós, Robert K. (1984). "The Provincetown Players' Genesis or Non-Commercial Theatre on Commercial Streets", Journal of American Culture, Vol. 7, Issue 3 (Fall 1984), pp. 65–70
  3. ^ "History of the Provincetown Playhouse".
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Columbia CTL" (PDF). Columbia CTL.
  6. ^ A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers' Workshop p226
  7. ^ s wilbers, the iowa writers worskop: origins emergence and growth 1980 p35
  8. ^ "About the Workshop - Iowa Writers' Workshop - College of Liberal Arts & Sciences - The University of Iowa".
  9. ^ Menand, Louis (June 1, 2009). "Show or Tell" – via
  10. ^ Sarlós, Robert K. Jig Cook and the Provincetown Players: Theatre in Ferment. 1982: University of Massachusetts Press.

External links[edit]