Thurber is born on December 8 on a self-described "night of wild portent" in Columbus, Ohio, to Mary Fisher Thurber and Charles L. Thurber, the second of the family's three sons.

In Washington, D. C., where the family was living temporarily, Thurber is shot in the eye while playing a bow-and-arrow game with his brothers. This causes blindness in one eye; sight in his other eye continued to fail throughout his adult life.

Thurber attends Sullivant Elementary School in Columbus.

Thurber attends Douglas Junior High School, where he writes his Class Prophecy, featuring himself as an unlikely hero in an active world (hinting perhaps at a Walter Mitty character?).

Thurber attends East High School, where he is elected class president in his senior year and graduates with honor.

Thurber enters The Ohio State University, commuting by trolley from the family home at 77 Jefferson Avenue. He struggles with the required ROTC and gym courses, as well as in science labs, partly because of his poor eyesight.

Thurber begins his sophomore year again at age 21. He meets Elliot Nugent, who introduces him to fraternity and social life. Along with Nugent, Thurber reports for the college paper, the Lantern, and becomes editor-in-chief of the Sundial humor and literary magazine. Thurber leaves Ohio State in 1918 without completing his degree.

Thurber works for the State Department, first in Washington DC, and then at the American Embassy in Paris.

Thurber returns to Columbus and begins working as a reporter for The Columbus Dispatch. Also writes and directs musical comedies for the Scarlet Mask Club at Ohio State.

Thurber marries Althea Adams, Ohio State beauty with dominant personality who may have influenced the character of the "Thurber woman."

Thurber resigns from The Dispatch to try freelance writing.

Thurber returns to Paris and is a reporter for The Chicago Tribune. He is later transferred to the Riviera edition in Nice.

Thurber and Althea return to America in June and move to New York City, where Thurber begins working as a reporter and feature writer for the New York Evening Post.

At a party, Thurber meets E. B. White, who introduces him to Harold Ross. Ross immediately hires Thurber as editor-writer for The New Yorker.

Thurber's first book, Is Sex Necessary?, is published in collaboration with New Yorker office mate E. B. White.

With the encouragement of White, Thurber's first cartoons appear in The New Yorker.

Thurber's only child, Rosemary, is born on October 7.

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